Mutually Assured Destructionby Kavish Chetty / 19.05.2009
It’s difficult to conjure up a more imaginative, unlikely fusion than Mortal Kombat and the DC Universe. Yet, eager to hark back to the days of arcade mix-matches like Capcom Vs Street Fighter, that’s exactly what Midway have done: torn open portals from the sun-glistened skyscrapers of Superman’s Metropolis to the fire-lashed sanctums of Shao Kahn’s hell. And they’ve written a fairly tenuous, though nevertheless engaging narrative to go along with it.
What this means to the casual game-player is twenty-four fighters plucked from two illustrious galleries, battling it out in sixty-second skirmishes. Representing the MK side are such familiar visages as Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Raiden, and on the DC Front, Superman, Batman and the Joker. The brawling has also taken a nostalgic turn, favouring the almost-2D, speed-based punches and kicks of Mortal Kombat 3 and 4, while the fighting styles are cosmopolitan and entertaining. The Joker drops smiley-faced grenades and Flash runs circles around his opponent; dazing them with vertigo and then unleashing a flurry of blows. Raiden electrocutes his nemeses and Sub-Zero freezes them solid, before battering them into a thousand shards.
The gorgeously designed backdrops make for unique battlegrounds, while the characters themselves (particularly of the MK persuasion) have been carefully drawn with that edged, dark aesthetic that realised Mortal Kombat 2, and yet was comically absent in Deadly Alliance and Armageddon. Fatalities, however, have been emasculated; instead of celebrating an unholy aestheticisation of violence, with syrupy-red corpuscles flying left, right and centre, you’re treated to a toned-down series of finishing moves, which somewhat rob the franchise of its traditional ‘fuck you’ to the Ratings Board.
It all culminates with the fusion of Dark Seid and Shao Kahn (into Dark Khan), which combatants (or ‘kombatants’ in the MK tradition) must join forces to take down. Enemies can be whipped with traditional kicks and punches, the chaining of some merciless combos (you’ll need to be quick and nimble-fingered), Klose Kombat (the camera zooms right up to savour each well-connected facial shot) and Free Fall Kombat (smash through the walls of an arena, and go for a tumble with your opponent, beating them non-stop on the way down) and a host of visually-impressive character-specific special moves, like bicycle kicks, spear-throwing, face-scratching and so forth.
Altogether a highly impressive side-scrolling beat ‘em up. A wonderful tribute to the arcade brawlers of days gone by.
Title: Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe
Consoles: PS3 and X-box 360