Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe Preview
Regardless of how it turns out, there’s no doubt that pitting one group of superheroes against another is always a big draw for the fans. Perhaps it’s erroneous to categorize the fighters in Mortal Kombat as “superheroes,” but can we really deny they’re superheroes in the realm of video games? Midway has decided to bring the DC and MK universes together in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, in a surprising move that may result in one of the most entertaining and innovative fighting titles in history. That may be setting the bar a bit high, but after seeing a bunch of new media and gathering up as much information as we can, we have to come to the conclusion that this is a supremely ambitious project. If they fall short, we’ll just chalk it up as a failed experiment, but if it succeeds, it could be the start of something new… Street Fighter vs. Soul Calibur? Marvel vs. Virtua Fighter? Who knows? It’s a brave new world.
The game has already been on display at both E3 and San Diego’s Comic-Con event, and several great characters have participated in preliminary battles. If you check the screenshots here, you will notice all kinds of fighters – look, there’s Superman; shouldn’t he always win? – and pitting the masked DC heroes against the plethora of brutal MK contestants will be the spice of the game. At Comic-Con, Midway previewed a battle between Shang Tsung and Catwoman, which is one hell of a pairing. First off, for all you MK fans out there, you should probably know that your favorite fighters are going to be more capable than ever; considering the competition, they kinda have to be. In Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Shang Tsung’s skill where he absorbs an opponent’s soul comes to the forefront: you can wrench souls from your foe in the form of green health, and as a nasty byproduct, the sufferer will begin to grow sickly and gray. We know the green souls replenish a bit of the dark sorcerer’s health, but we’ll just have to assume that losing your souls results in weaker and maybe even slower attacks.
Shang Tsung can also toss flaming skulls and teleport all over the place, giving him several big advantages when locked in mortal kombat with a super-powerful fighter. Catwoman is, as you might expect, a very quick and agile character with the ability to use her whip in all sorts of intriguing ways. In addition, we just have to talk about one unique aspect of the game that you won’t find in other fighters: the Falling Move. It may have been Dead or Alive that pioneered the destructible arenas, and later MKs allowed you to knock fighters up and down levels (uppercut!), but this time around, you can actually continue the battle when the two of you tumble from a great height. When this happens, you can continue to punch each other as you’re falling and if you can manage to fill up the Super Meter, you can rip off a colossal attack before the two of you hit the ground. This attack will deal severe damage and your opponent will most certainly receive the worst part of that fall. Cool idea, no?
Now, here’s one other interesting detail that some old-schoolers may appreciate: obviously, the ol’ d-pad is all we had when playing fighters on consoles, but with the advent of the analog – a mini-joystick of sorts – nobody really uses the d-pad, anymore. However, you will have the option of using it in this game, as it will keep all the fighter movements and attacks within the classic 2D world. On the other hand, there may be more incentive to use the analog to embrace the 3D world you’re in; you can sidestep attacks and rotate your fighter in different ways. In other words, if Scorpion flings that spear at you, it may be a whole lot easier to avoid by using the analog instead of the d-pad. But even so, if you want to relive the golden days of the genre with a few friends, perhaps all of you could impose an improvised “d-pad only” rule for when you do battle. It’s never a bad idea to include more in the way of gameplay options, and given the hardcore following of MK, it’s a good plan to let those veteran fans relive the glory days. Of course, the analog should offer more maneuverability; it’s only logical.
Falling from great heights is only one of the interesting spins Midway is putting on this title, as other aspects of the environment may play a role as well. There’s no word on this yet, but in looking at some of the screens, it seems like the ability to utilize certain background objects to your advantage is a distinct possibility. Remember the likes of Fighting Force and other fighting/adventure titles? Heck, you could pick up weapons in archaic Double Dragon games, so why not institute this same concept, here? We’ve been using weapons for years in the genre – thank you, Soul Calibur! – but why not give us a fighting game that lets us use pieces of the environment in battle? Shouldn’t Superman be able to pick up cars and fling them at his opponent? And while we’re on the subject, just how big will the arenas be? Will they be large enough to put significant distance between you and your opponent, thereby allowing you to scrounge for weapons? Or are we just going too far with the theory? Maybe this really is nothing more than a straight-up fighting game, and if so, we can accept that.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is indeed an ambitious project, and if Midway nails it, they could redefine a genre that has been around for decades. If not…well, it was an interesting idea, anyway. The game will be facing some seriously stiff competition when it arrives on November 10 of this year, so the pressure is on to deliver a game worthy of our holiday wish lists. Let’s hope!
8/5/2008 Ben Dutka