When Mortal Kombat first appeared in arcades 16 years ago, it set a new standard for both fighting games and computerized violence. Since then, the series has spun off endless sequels on nearly every platform with occasional moments of greatness (Mortal Kombat: Deception) and numerous embarrassing missteps (Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, anyone?). And while the recent attempts to revive the series have been met with yawns, the latest move to jumpstart MK is a smart one. Taking a cue from the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise, Midway’s latest pits Sub Zero and Scorpion against Superman and Batman in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.
Featuring 12 characters from each side (including Green Lantern, The Flash, Baraka and Kano), Universe is an enjoyable fighter, which mostly works thanks to the novelty of having Raiden fight Captain Marvel. The game’s convoluted story mode, which concerns a portal that links the two universes together and a struggle to close it before the worlds collide, feels slapped together and hokey even for a video game. Of course, the one-on-one Kombat mode is why this game will sell and it doesn’t disappoint. Thanks to creative special moves (The Joker throws bombs, Green Lantern shoots a fist with his ring), the brawling feels fresh for the first time in years. But don’t expect to see Scorpion decapitating Wonder Woman. DC would not allow their characters to be killed in the game, so “heroic brutalities” (basically, bloodless fatalities) are performed instead. A more kid-friendly Mortal Kombat feels strange at first, but the chance to see The Joker uppercut Liu Kang makes it all worth it. – Ryan Murphy
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is in stores now.