So… Is It Good?

A blog featuring the various writings of E. H. Lau.

Archive for October, 2009

Of Fatalities and Heroic Brutalities (Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe Review)

Posted by cyberpfalcon on October 25, 2009

Welcome to the first post here on “So… Is It Good?”, where I try to provide an in-depth look into a video game each review and basically answer the question that is the title of this blog. For the first review, I’ll be taking a look into Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, a fighting game which crosses over characters from the Mortal Kombat and DC universes.

Let me first state that I am not a Mortal Kombat fan. The first game from this series that I played was Mortal Kombat for the SNES, and I thought that it was choppy and too gory for my tastes. However, over the years, I saw the the series got smoother (not less gory though), and when I saw that Mortal Kombat was going to face off against the DC Universe, I thought that maybe it was finally time that I gave Mortal Kombat  a chance again. So I went out, and bought the game for the PS3, which is the version of the game that I will review.

So I unwrapped the game, opened the case, took out the disc, and inserted it into my PS3. Excited at seeing some of my favourite DC superheroes and the Mortal Kombat characters that I’ll newly encounter fight it out in 3D, I awaited the opening movie… which was non-existent.

Of course, a good game doesn’t HAVE to have an opening movie, so let’s move on. First, let’s take a look at the core of any fighting game, the fighting system.

Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is the type of fighting game where certain button combinations allow you to pull off a special move (like the Street Fighter series) instead of the other type where you pull off preset combos based on what buttons you press (like the Virtua Fighter series). That said, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe generally falls into the camp of fighting games where you try to chain normal moves and special moves together to make long combos.

In the game you have your four basic attack buttons, a block button, a grab button (that initiates Klose Kombat, which will be explained later), a throw button, and a 3D movement button. The 3D movement button is used so that when you hold it, the D-Pad allows for 3D movement. The D-Pad is normally for 2D movement, meaning that up is jump, and down is crouch, while the L-Stick is used for 3D movement, so up means to go away from the screen, and down means to come towards the screen. The 3D movement button basically allows you to do the 3D movements with the D-Pad as well. And so, those are the buttons for this game, and while that’s all fine and nice, the main problem I have with this is the fact that they decided to name the attack buttons the following: Attack 1, Attack 2, Attack 3, and Attack 4. This is a rather lacking description of the buttons, however, it is actually quite fitting, because there isn’t a theme that is visible when trying the same buttons for the characters. For instance, Attack 1 for Batman and Sonya Blade are quite different. Some would say that this provides variety for the characters, which is a good thing. I would agree, if only there was actual variety! After going through some of the characters, I found that even though the visual effects are different for the buttons pressed and the character chosen, many of them provide basically the same effect, with the same range, and the same time frame with only little variation between the characters. Of course, everyone has the classic Mortal Kombat uppercut.

Even though the basic moves for the characters are quite similar, the characters are different from each other because of their unique special moves. These special moves are the moves that allow each character to be different, because the moves produce different effects and are used differently, which mean that each character has to combo them with different moves. Special moves are fairly easy to execute in this game, since most of them consists of very simple button presses. For example, to throw Batman’s Batarang, one simply has to press down, forward, and then Attack 1; Liu Kang’s Bicycle Kick is back, back, forward, and then Attack 4. The special moves are also easy to pull off before you’re allowed a lot of time to input them, unlike many other fighters where the buttons must be pressed in rapid succession.

There are also “Pro Moves” in this game, which are moves where a Special Move gets extended; for example, Batman can throw two Batarangs in quick succession instead of just one. These Pro Moves are harder to pull off than the regular Special Moves, because your button presses much be timed exactly right. For example, to do Sonya Blade’s Bicycle Kick followed by an Air Bicycle Kick, one must perform the Bicycle Kick, and just before the last kick connects, one much input the buttons for the Bicycle Kick again. In my opinion, these Pro Moves are a good part of the system, and adds a lot more depth into each character’s movesets. Now, most of these Pro Moves aren’t listed in the Command List of the game, leaving us to figure out what they by observing the CPU or by trying different combos ourselves. Now, this would fine, however, some of the Pro Moves have nonsensical button combinations! For example, you’d think that to get Batman to throw his Batarang twice you’d input that move twice, right? However, in this game, they decided that it’d be better if throwing two Batarangs was done by inputting the buttons for the Batarang, followed by the buttons for the Smoke Capsule! And this isn’t just for one or two Pro Moves, it’s for a fair amount of them, so you’d be better off looking at a guide for these Pro Moves instead.

The fighting system of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe also includes Kombo Breakers and Rage. Basically, throughout a match, your rage bar fills up. When it fills up halfway, you get a Rage counter, so when it fills up fully, you get two Rage counters. These Rage counters can be used to do two things. The first thing is a Kombo Breaker, which allows you to break your opponent’s combo at the cost of one Rage counter, allowing you to counter attack and quite possibly turning the tide of the battle. The other thing that you can do with Rage counters is activate Rage mode temporarily for the cost of both your Rage counters. Rage mode basically makes you immune to being stunned. This means that while you’ll take damage for your opponent’s hits, you won’t be stunned by any of them, and can counterattack at anytime. This can also be used to turn the tide of battle in your favour.

One last thing to note about the general fighting system is that there is chip damage for any move (chip damage is damage taken when blocking a move, in some games, you only get chip damage for blocking certain moves, however, as I just mentioned, any move can cause chip damage in this game).

Now that we’ve gone over the basic system, it’s time to go over what I like to call the “mini-games”! There are three mini-games in the fighting system, and each can be initiated by certain actions during a match.

The first mini-game is called Klose Kombat, which is initiated by using the grab button when the opponent is close enough. This brings the two characters close together and the initiating player gets to attack with one of the first buttons, while the other player tries to getting which button the initiating player will press and press it before he/she does, thus countering the attack and ending Klose Kombat mode (if the initiating player attacks successfully a few times, Klose Kombat mode automatically ends).

The second mini-game is called Free-fall Kombat, which is initiated when one player pushes the other off a ledge (this is not available in all the stages) and they fight in mid-air. It’s a button guessing game just like Klose Kombat except that if the player guesses correctly, the roles are then flipped around. Also, in this mini-game, successfully attacking fills up a bar, which when filled up to at least half-way, pressing R1 will start a special attack. This game ends when time is up (at which point, the two players crash into the ground) or when the special attack is used.

The third mini-game is Test Your Might, which is initiated when one player slams the other into the wall (also not available in all stages), the initiating player will then proceed to slam the other player through the wall and through the walls inside that building. The players then mash all four attack buttons in a tug of war that will determine how much damage is dealt to the player being slammed through the walls of the building.

So generally, while many characters play similarly, their special moves and pro moves provides them with their uniqueness. The Rage system also gives the players a way to change the tide of the battle. The mini-games also provide another way to change the tide of the battle. The fighting feels a bit slow-paced, since characters rarely move when attacking. In my opinion, the mini-games make the game feel a bit “party-ish” since they can result in the loss of a lot of health, and this is from something that depends a lot on luck.

Moving on, let’s examine the roster that Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe provides. Like I mentioned before, the characters mostly play the same in the basics, but their special moves make them different. This is actually quite nice, since it allows for players to easily learn the basics first, and then move on to the special moves of a characters, without having to start over at the basic moves again when they are learning a new character. The special moves for the characters are done quite well, and there’s quite a variety amongst the characters. However, I must point out that there are characters who are quite imbalanced in the game. For example, Superman, Darkseid, and Shao Kahn’s ground stomps cannot be blocked, only jumped over. There’s also the Flash, who’s been agreed on as pretty imbalanced. From what I’ve seen, Superman, Darkseid, Shao Kahn, Flash, and Raiden are fairly imbalanced… advantageously so. (For those of you that say that Superman should be all-powerful, I point the the Hulk from Marvel vs Capcom as an example of how to balance a supposedly all-powerfull character.)

Of course, I can’t mention a Mortal Kombat game’s fighting system without mentioning the Fatalities, now can I? Of course, they aren’t mentioned anywhere in the game, so you’re supposed to figure them out, but how on Earth anyone suppose to figure them out is quite a mystery to me, so you’re better off with an online FAQ or a guide. For the most part, most of the Fatalities and Heroic Brutalities are fairly average. However, there are some pretty lame ones (such as Superman just freezing the loser of the most and then hitting the frozen block of ice) and some pretty cool ones (such as Batman’s sonar Batarang). My favourite one though, is Liu Kang’s one where he summons a Mortal Kombat machine and drops in onto the loser.

Now, that I’ve gone over the fighting system quite thoroughly, let’s look at the different modes available in the game.

First, there’s the Story mode. The story of the game is that the two universes are merging together somehow, and the two universes think that it’s the other universe’s fault, which causes them to fight each other. Now while the story seems to be a standard crossover story, it is actually executed quite well in Story mode. In Story mode, you pick either the DC side or the Mortal Kombat side to play out, and you go through the story, using most of the characters from the side you picked, and getting cutscenes between each fight. I find this kind of story mode to be quite welcoming, since it tells a coherent story, rather than having to go through each character’s story and piecing the story together from whatever bit of story I get, if this game has done anything right, it’s the story mode. However, I must point out that there is this infuriating bug for Story mode. If you finish both the DC side and the the Mortal Kombat side, then the next time you play Story mode, and you choose one of the sides, it just plays the ending for that side. The only way around this bug is to have at least one side’s story still running while playing the other side. For example, I finish the DC side, then I play the Mortal Kombat side, but before I finish the Mortal Kombat side, I start the DC side again and finish at least one fight for it; this way, after I finish the Mortal Kombat side, I can still play both sides. Of course, you can just make a new profile too (for PS3 users, I don’t know if this is the same for the XBox 360 players).

Next up is the Arcade mode, which is where you get to choose a character and be pitted in a series of matches against the CPU. This is your standard arcade mode. You can also get endings for the individual characters. I fairly enjoyed some of the endings; some of them build on the story, and some pay homages to the DC Universe or the Mortal Kombat games.

There is also a Kombo Challenge mode, where you basically try to finish a combo for a character that the game gives you. It’s a nice mode, which tells you some of the combos that you can pull off for each character.

Of course, there’s a VS mode and a Training mode.

Now, onto the Multiplayer mode. Multiplayer mode in this game is done by having a lobby, where you can then challenge anyone that’s logged in (who can choose to accept or not) or get challenged by someone else. Should someone accept your challenge, or you accept someone else’s challenge, you then enter a room with that player, and continously play matches against him/her until This is an okay way to do it, except that if I want to play other players rapidly, its quite a bother. The main problem with multiplayer is that it lags… a lot. I estimate that at least 40% of all the games I’ve played on multiplayer have lagged. This is, of course, very upsetting when you’re in the middle of a fight. (Of course, this might be just for me, but I was using a fairly good Internet connection, and there is barely any lag when I play SoulCalibur IV, Street Fighter IV, or any other games for that matter).

Overall, I feel that Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is a decent game. Its has a nice variety in its roster of characters, and the fighting system is solid, if a bit “party-ish” because of all the things that can turn the tide of the battle due to luck. The story mode is quite good, and the arcade mode is quite nice (and its gives new spins on the story told in Story mode), and both modes give some replay value to the game. However the bug in Story mode is frustrating and the lag in multiplayer is appalling. For me though, this game was not worth the full $70 CAD that I paid for it, and although I enjoy the game a bit, the fighting system just isn’t one of my favourites. However, I highly recommend this game to people who are fans of Mortal Kombat already. I would also recommend this game to people who’s never played a Mortal Kombat game, but only if they can find it for around $40 CAD.

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