Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe is made by much of the same team that brought us the original MK back in 1992. Their faithfulness to fun and accessible brawling still shines through, as does the developer's obvious respect for its cast of colourful and popular fighters.
As strange as it sounds, the addition of DC comics characters like Superman and the Joker actually complements the MK franchise. On paper, the pairing of heroic do-gooders with characters that used to rip each others heads off shouldn't work.
Fortunately, Midway was onto a winner when it signed DC writers Jimmi Palmiotti and Justin Grey to blend the contrasting universes together.
Their storyline is a classic comic book contrivance, pitting hero against hero under the influence of evil sorcery. There are actually two intertwining story modes, one told from the DC point of view and the other from the forces led by MK's lightning god Raiden.
These modes last about four hours each and are pleasingly varied. Rather than play through with a single character, each chapter features a different lead. It's good encouragement to try out all the fighters and their easy-to-execute special moves.
Each fight is bookended with a short cinematic. There aren't really any intriguing plot twists, just an introduction to characters you might not be familiar with. The best-known characters like Superman and Batman are a treat to play, and the character models are really chunky and solid.
Even the less popular characters like Captain Marvel and Catwoman are treated faithfully and no one comes across as a throwaway inclusion.
The one thing hardcore Mortal Kombat fans will really hate is the lack of extreme bloodletting.
Unsurprisingly DC doesn't want you to rip Catwoman's spine out, so the MK fatalities have been toned down, and the heroes don't do them at all. Instead they perform 'heroic brutalities'.
Batman, for example, throws a sonic emitter at his opponent to have them swarmed by his nocturnal rodent buddies.
Although this was a franchise borne of gore and controversy, the lack of all that doesn't spoil MK vs DC. Punches and kicks hit their marks with a satisfying crunch and it still feels like a solid fighting engine.
What it lacks in complex moves, it makes up for by keeping the action flowing back and forth between the fighters. There's a rage meter that allows you to become super-damaging for a limited time, as well as a couple of mini-games that can completely turn the tables when it looks like you're going to lose.
When knocked off the top of one of the multi-tiered arenas, a short timing-based mini-game enables you to throw your opponent underneath you to break your fall. There's also a button-bashing game where you damage a foe by smashing him through a series of walls.
It looks dramatic and is a great way to humiliate your mates when they least expect it. Although nowhere near as technically advanced, the combat here is at least better paced than the likes of Soul Calibur IV. The two story modes are great but you'll only play them once.
That leaves you with the rather sparse lineup of standard arcade, kombo challenge and Xbox Live versus modes. Admittedly, there's only so much you can achieve in a one-on-one brawler, but this would have benefited from more unlockables and a tag team or time attack mode.
This game is at definitely its larger-than-life best with two players, but doesn't have the longevity to make it an essential purchase.
Classic Mortal Kombat, minus the controversy
- Pacey back and forth combat
- Superb characters
- Fun, over-the-top storyline
- There aren't enough modes
- Combat isn't very advanced