Monday, December 1, 2008
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe: A DC fan's perspective
I'm not ashamed to admit that, though we had our regular football crowd over for Thanksgiving, we ended up watching hardly any football at all. Nope, we devoted our time, instead, to beating the virtual crapola out of each other via the surprisingly fun video game, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.
Now, here's gaming, in general, from my point of view: For the most part, I'm just a typical, run-of-the-mill fortyish female who likes to play a few video games. (Yeah, how many of THOSE are out there, huh?) Though I do play video games on a fairly regular basis and am the proud owner of a PlayStation Portable (PSP -- my current favorite game system), I am by no means a video game expert or aficionado. My experience with playing video games DOES go ALL the WAY back to the original Atari game system, and over the years has included various computer games (Mac AND PC platforms), a SuperNintendo system, and every PlayStation system you can think of. (Yes, I've tried the Wii, and it's okay, but I'm too much of a graphics snob to fully appreciate it.) I tend to prefer Playstations due to their versatility. And online games -- forget it. I'm way too busy for that sort of thing.
I'm also usually not a huge fan of Mortal Kombat or rockem'-sockem' "pound-your-opponent-into-oblivion" games. Admittedly, the sole reason I acquired Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is because I'm a DC fan who wanted to see how some of my favorite characters fared in this game. So, my report here is strictly from the DC fan side (sorry, Mortal Kombat fans), for the PS3 version of the game:
Games, modes, settings, arenas
This game can be played in several ways. First, there's the good ol' arcade mode (1- and 2-player), whereby you match up characters to fight each other, from an all-Mortal Kombat perspective, or an all-DC perspective, or a nice mix of the two. The gameplay is pretty much akin to classic Mortal Kombat gameplay, complete with combos you can perform to finish off your opponents in truly gruesome ways. (Ridiculously enough, though the Mortal Kombat characters and DC villains are allowed to finish off their opponents with fatalities, the DC heroes instead finish off their opponents with what are called "heroic brutalities" -- most which WOULD be fatal, anyway.)
There's also story mode (1-player only), which involves a plot you can follow, from either the DC perspective or the Mortal Kombat perspective. The game presents players with a story that would have been perfectly at home in an old JLA comic, whereby a cosmic accident has caused the Mortal Kombat and DC universes to start merging (messily) with each other. Heroes and villains on both sides battle each other (and battle against being mentally controlled by an outside force) to save their respective universes. Magic is involved, which explains why some characters (like the Joker) are better at hand-to-hand combat than usual, and why Superman doesn't just wade in and clean house for everyone else. Hey, it IS an awfully convenient and stereotypical setup -- but for the purposes of the game, it works.
Kombo mode allows you to test and refine button combinations to get the characters to do certain moves. It's handy if you want to learn how to do fatalities and heroic brutalities.
Then there's practice mode, where you can also totally disregard the arcade setup and the plot, and just set specific characters against each other. THAT's a helluva lot of fun, especially in 2-player mode.
All game modes can be played from a Very Easy setting to a Very Hard setting.
NOTE: The game is a total thumb-killer, so be prepared to nurse some bruised thumbs after playing for a while.
Background settings/arenas are a nice mix of Mortal Kombat and DC locations. Locations from the DC side include Metropolis, Gotham City, Themyscira, Oa, the Rock of Eternity, the Batcave, the JLA/U.N. satellite, and Darkseid's palace. Oa is a lot of fun. Not only do three Guardians make an appearance (and Ganthet gets a small speaking role), the Book of Oa is featured prominently in one room. Overall, the graphics are nice. I give 'em an 8 out of 10.
Who's who from the DCU
The DC characters in this game are obviously based on Alex Ross's designs, which translate VERY well to computer graphics. Included in the DC lineup are:
HEROES: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain (Shazam!) Marvel, Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan, and Barry (The Flash) Allen. (Yes, that's right -- BARRY, in a spiffy new variation of his old uniform -- NOT Wally.)
VILLAINS: Lex Luthor (in battle armor), Catwoman, The Joker, and Deathstroke. Darkseid is also available as an unlockable character.
The heroes' costumes in most instances have been redesigned slightly to make them more armored. Hal's costume is probably the most altered. It took me a while to get used to it, but once I did I decided it's actually a nice design, one that would probably look good in a live-action film.
The women in the game (Wonder Woman, Catwoman, and the two Mortal Kombat chicks) are definitely evidence that the designers and animators are probably heterosexual males. All four women are as well-endowed as Power Girl, and I kid you not, they jiggle when they walk. Not only that, Catwoman has a ridiculous amount of cleavage.
(In one scenario, we pitted Catwoman against Hal Jordan, and I swear he was staring at her cleavage the entire time. It's probably why she tried so hard to beat the crap out of him. Zip up your suit, girl!)
In all fairness, though, Hal Jordan is designed (as he should be) with an absolutely FABULOUS backside -- definitely the best in the game. And there is one very-well-built Mortal Kombat character (who looks kinda like a VERY young Jackie Chan) who runs around completely shirtless.
The voices in story mode are okay, except I really don't like Hal's voice. I can't help thinking he and Captain Marvel need to trade voices. Catwoman also sounds a bit too "slinky." She sounds like the voice actress tried very hard to imitate Eartha Kitt -- and failed miserably.
Behaviorally, for the most part, the characters are VERY much in character. Luther is appropriately arrogant and snarky; Wonder Woman is regal and compassionate -- even when she's trying to beat the crap out of someone; when Batman loses a fight, he never REALLY loses; etc., etc.
In my opinion, the best character in the game (story mode) is the Joker. I swear, the voice actor was channeling Mark Hamill from Batman: The Animated Series. Throughout the game, the Joker proves once again that he's the world's most entertaining (fictional) homicidal maniac, at one point even throwing in a Willian Shatner imitation. That, and Deathstroke is a perfect straight man for the Joker. OMG, they're hysterical together -- the Joker and Deathstroke should be TEAMED UP MORE OFTEN! Are you paying attention, DC?
Fighting styles and damage
Aside from the oddity of seeing all the DC characters following the Mortal Kombat mantra of engaging in kung fu (which works fine for Deathstroke; not so much for Superman), the designers did a great job of tailoring appropriate fighting styles to each character. Superman, for example, delivers truly ponderous punches, Deathstroke is a weapons marvel, and Green Lantern relies primarily on his ring. Hal, in fact, has THE best long-range attack in the game, involving a giant green sledge hammer (and, yes, the big green boxing glove is also an attack option).
(In the aforementioned fight between Catwoman and Hal Jordan, Catwoman surprised us with one manuever in which she wrapped her legs around Hal's waist and then started clawing at his face. It was pretty funny, actually. There were a lot of jokes along the lines of, "That's right, baby -- treat me rough!")
Upon playing the game for the first time in story mode, the scariest damn thing in the game, to me, was Captain Marvel. Holy moly, he is intimidating in battle, even moreso than Superman!
However, after playing the game a bit longer, and playing in the various other modes, it became clear that there's another character in the game even more intimidating than Captain Marvel. Believe it or not, that character is the FLASH. The Flash uses super speed, all right, and when he gets going on a series of super-speed attack combinations, it becomes darned near IMPOSSIBLE to break free from him long enough to get a punch in edgewise.
Yes, you can have the heroes fight the villains -- BUT you can also have villains fight villains, and HEROES fight HEROES. And -- oh, my -- talk about some nasty battles! As I mentioned earlier, the game doesn't allow the heroes to actually kill their opponents (though the villains are certainly allowed some kills in arcade mode) -- but just HOW the heroes manage to avoid killing anyone is beyond me, because these fights are NOT NICE.
During battles, blood gets spilled (though this is a game function that can be switched off), costumes get torn, and faces get covered with cuts and bruises. (This game is definitely NOT for the squeamish.) In one scenario, we pitted Green Lantern against the Flash. After a VERY long fight (almost an hour, folks), Hal's costume sported a few tears but was essentially intact, whereas BARRY's costume looked like it was about to fall off of him. Characters can also punch each other through buildings (and a series of walls). They can also punch each other off of cliffs and balconies and engage in free-fall -- and you can make them beat the crap out of each other in the air on the way down!
In other words, the game gives a rather unrelenting view of just HOW MUCH these characters really can hurt each other when engaged in a total slugfest.
My only real complaint is that, with the exception of Superman, characters who can usually fly (Captain Marvel, Green Lantern, etc.) really aren't given options to do so. That was kind of a bummer.
All in all, though, for me it was a ridiculously fun game -- so much fun that I didn't even mind seeing personal favorite Hal Jordan get the stuffing beat out of him. Other players visiting during Thanksgiving also greatly enjoyed it, even those who didn't know a thing about either the Mortal Kombat OR DC characters. I definitely enjoyed it better than the previous DC character group game, Justice League Heroes. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is definitely recommended if you like this sort of fighting game.
Now, if only someone would do a Marvel vs. DC game like this ...!