Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe


STORY:  After Shao Kahn's invasion of Earthrealm is defeated by Raiden's forces of light, Raiden destroys Kahn by blasting him through a portal. At exactly the same time on Earth, Superman stops Darkseid's Apokoliptian invasion by blasting Darkseid with his heat vision as he enters a portal. These acts do not destroy either of them, but merges them into Dark Kahn, and causes the DC and Mortal Kombat universes to merge.

As the worlds merge, the characters' abilities fluctuate, causing violent "rage" outbreaks that are actually the feelings of Dark Kahn being fused into the characters from afar. Because of this, certain characters either gain strength or vulnerability. This allows things such as the possibility of Superman being defeated due to his vulnerability to magic, and giving the Joker the ability to fight Raiden. With each world thinking that the other is responsible for the merger, they fight each other in Mortal Kombat.


Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe character select screen.

REVIEWThe Mortal Kombat franchise has stayed to itself for 16 years now, a lone wolf among the pack of more "social" fighting game franchises if you will. After the lackluster MK: Armageddon, Midway needed something "big" to re-ignite the franchise. Well, it really doesn't get much bigger than the likes of Superman & Batman, so when Midway got the opportunity to collaborate with DC, they took it (and they took it fast). Midway was also heading towards bankruptcy at that time and had high hopes for MK vs DC to pull them out of their financial slump. Alas, MK vs DC Universe wasn't in development for very long at all, which unfortunately shows through quite clearly in the final product.

In Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe, you can play through two separate storylines in the game, one from the MK side and one from the DC side. 11 of Mortal Kombat's biggest names meet 11 of DC's most recognizable super heroes & villains, and overall, the developers made good (yet obvious) choices for the roster. Mortal Kombat characters were slightly re-designed this time around and arguably look better than in the most recent prequels. DC characters look like they should, proudly sporting their bright, skin-tight spandex and original attire, but they also appear slightly out of place when fighting against the MK combatants... just to state the obvious.

MK vs DC Universe features large, decently-rendered character models which look impressive overall, but they also appear a bit too "plasticy" for their own good. Ripped clothing and physical damage on character's bodies is also done well, but special effects, lighting effects, hair, and animation seems to be stuck in the last-gen. The multi-tiered stages have some considerable depth, but visually, most backgrounds lack polish and have an overall blurry appearance to them. In short, MK vs DC's visuals look rushed and rough around the edges, even at the highest graphics setting (1080p).

Raiden showing Superman his "braahdeedeedeegaaah!"


Boon and the Midway dev-team opted to completely revamp the fighting system for MK's next-gen debut... yet again The headlining features of this gameplay engine include: Klose Kombat, Freefall Kombat and stage interaction. Klose Kombat is a mode that players can initiate during gameplay, which pulls in the camera in close and has its own separate fighting mechanics. Klose Kombat has its moments of looking cool, but it's more of a lucky guessing game than it is an effective fighting game mechanic. Freefall Kombat is a sequence initiated when a player is kicked or thrown off of a stage, as both fighters continue fighting on the long fall downward. Although it's a good idea in theory, the fighting mechanics for Freefall Kombat are also a gimmicky guessing game, and it's visually a bit too cinematic for it's own good. Characters appear to be on a "2D track" as they're falling downwards and overall the effect could've been better animated, but there are some cool character-specific animations to be seen.

Several stages feature breakable walls... but unfortunately, every character uses the same animations for these sequences, so it gets old pretty fast.  Kombo Breakers add some variety to the gameplay but, in my opinion, they end up being an annoyance more than anything else. The newly introduced Rage Mode allows characters to walk through any attack without being stunned and grants them the ability to break their opponent's guard (and damage them easily). Rage Mode is actually pretty cheap and it's yet another more-annoying-than-enjoyable gameplay mechanic... it really just comes off as an afterthought, to be honest. In hindsight, Midway always seems to do something "drastic" to the gameplay system with every new MK game, but a truly good fighting game system shouldn't have to change that much to bring the players back.


Not so fast now... are ya? 


Even though MK vs DC Universe is a 3D fighting game, it actually plays more 2D than anything else. You use the d-pad to move in 2D, and holding L2 will allow you to move in 3D, or sidestep. Like earlier 3D iterations of Mortal Kombat, sidestepping in this game feels slow and unless you're sidestepping a projectile, it isn't very effective during gameplay. After playing the likes of Tekken 6 & Soul Calibur 4, any 3D fighting game player would expect the sidestepping game to be a lot smoother, faster, and more rewarding.  Holding down L2 to move in 3D is very awkward to say the least, and players are more rewarded when sticking to 2D plane anyway (which is not how 3D fighting games are played these days). Someone please tell Ed Boon it's not 1995 anymore.  The control scheme overall is an odd mix of 2D and 3D, and really doesn't do a whole lot of justice to either gameplay style. At least "running" has returned, but it's certainly not enough to save MK vs DC's unforgivably slow and stiff gameplay system. If that's not enough for you to steer clear, MK vs DC is also terribly unbalanced and is even plagued with unfixed gameplay glitches and infinite combos.

As you might've expected, character-specific fatalities have returned, well... kind of. To get a "T for teen" rating, MK's trademark bloody & gory finishing moves have been toned down significantly, which didn't have to be a bad thing. Unfortunately, many finishers fail to be creative or even the least bit entertaining. More than not, the fatalities of MK vs DC offer a cheap laugh at best, and many are poorly executed, featuring last-gen animations and graphical effects. Adding insult to injury, every character starts off their finisher in the exact same fashion... "throwing up their arms and yelling "Uuuaarrrrrrgggh!" Then they do something silly to beat up their helpless opponent and afterwards, they just stand there, as if they're waiting for applause. (And I don't hear anyone clapping.... only crickets chirping.) 

Someone's masochistic....


The truth is... old-school fighting game gimmicks, such as fatalities, have little relevance in this next generation of technical, more sophisticated fighting games. And comparatively to the top 3D (and 2D) fighting games in recent years, MK vs DC falls very short on a technical level and a "fun" level. Much like the overall pace of the game, the combo system is sluggish and unrefined. More effort was obviously put into the Story Mode than the actual gameplay system, and thus, hardcore fighting game players have nothing else to do but scoff at MK vs DC Universe. The Story Mode should appeal to casual gamers and is considerably long & drawn-out, but also has its moments of being dull, repetitive, and evoking unintended laughter at times. The voice acting actually is pretty solid for the most part, but unfortunately you have to actually play the game to further advance the Story Mode... which feels like a chore since the fighting mechanics aren't very fun.

One of my biggest (and returning) gripes about the "3D era" of Mortal Kombat games is the animation. Lo and behold, nearly all characters in MK vs DC have their fair share of "stiff" moments. Non-martial arts enthusiasts might not catch the stiffness, but to those of us that know what "good technique" is, MK VS DC's fighters seriously look like they need to take a few karate lessons. There are a few cool looking moves and specials here or there, but overall, the fighters of MK vs DC fight pretty sloppily, and offer very little in the way of creating an impressive-looking battle. Well, at least characters have stiff animations to go along with the stiff gameplay, so it all kinda works out in the end... (yeah, just kidding). Also worth pointing out, the running animation (which awkwardly occurs automatically after random moves) looks absolutely terrible... I swear it's one of the goofiest-looking running animations I've ever seen in a video game. Horrible.

Other flaws worth mentioning? I've got plenty. How about NO ALTERNATE COSTUMES.... Period. Each character has their default color and a generic palette swap... that's it! Alternate costumes would've suited this game nicely, but Midway really stiffed the fans on that one (no wonder they went bankrupt! Ouch!). Another stupid thing I noticed is during Arcade Mode, if you hit circle (on Playstation controller) you'll automatically be sent back to the Main Menu? Uhh... that's just sloppy game design right there. Character endings in Arcade Mode are comprised of one lonely artwork with some text & narration... even though the artwork is well done, obviously not much effort was put into the endings. The combo information displayed on screen also looks like it's ripped straight from a crappy PowerPoint project... yet another detail that appears to be an afterthought.

Finally, some of the 3D rendering really doesn't cut it for a next-gen title... hair and skin looks like "plastic," and some characters just look plain funny from certain angles. For example, Sonya seems to have unfortunately acquired a bit of "man face" in addition to the rare disease known as "fish lips". And can someone tell me why the faces of Mortal Kombat characters change in every damn game? Hmmm... I'm guessing the MK characters need to have surgical facial reconstruction after all those fatalities and such? I get it.

Page Updated: January 15th, 2021
Developer(s): Midway Games, Warner Bros. Games
Publisher(s): Midway Games
Distributor(s): Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date(s): Nov. 16th, 2008      
Nov. 20th, 2008
Nov. 21st, 2008
Characters Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Sonya Blade, Shang Tsung, Liu Kang, Kitana, Jax Briggs, Kano, Raiden, Baraka, Shao Kahn, Batman, Superman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Shazam, The Joker, Green Lantern, Deathstroke, Lex Luthor, Darkseid, Dark Kahn

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Related Games: Injustice: Gods Among Us, Injustice 2, Justice League: Task Force, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat 3 Ultimate, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Mortal Kombat 4, Mortal Kombat Gold, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Mortal Kombat: Deception, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Mortal Kombat 9, Mortal Kombat X, Mortal Kombat 11, Street Fighter 4, Tatsunoko VS Capcom, Virtua Fighter 5 R, Tekken 6, Soul Calibur 4

Gameplay Engine  5.5 / 10
Story / Theme  7.0 / 10
Overall Graphics  7.0 / 10
Animation  6.0 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  6.0 / 10
Innovation  6.0 / 10
Art Direction  7.0 / 10
Customization  2.5 / 10
Options / Extras  4.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  6.0 / 10
Replayability / Fun  3.0 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  6.0 / 10
Characters  7.5 / 10

 5.8 / 10

 Review based on PS3 version     


Final Words:

You'd be better off calling MK vs DC Universe "entertainment" rather than calling it a fighting game. It's true, most of us have been spoiled with better fighting games in the recent past, both 2D and 3D. It's not being biased, it's just knowing what a good fighting game engine is. It's also true that most people (casual gamers) don't know the difference. People like that will simply look at the iconic characters in MK vs DC, then mindlessly clap their hands like fat children when they see an ice cream truck.


MK vs DC seems like it can't really make up its mind whether it wants to be 2D or 3D... and either way, it sucks. While most serious fighting game players will avoid this game like the plague, this is a semi-acceptable package for the casual fighting game player. I just hope casual fighting game players realize there are far superior, far more mentally stimulating fighting games that they could be playing in 2008.

On a side note, MK vs DC actually kind of gives 3D fighting games a bad rap since it's such a high profile title. It may even mislead some "beginner/casual" fighting game players into thinking that all 3D fighting games are this slow, and stick to a 2D plane most of the time. Yeah... then, those same noob players try out the latest Soul Calibur or Tekken, thinking they can just do random "tap tap" combinations, not sidestep, not worry about range, and win... which of course will never work.

MK and DC fans, your favorite characters are most likely here, so this game was made for you (and to pull Midway out of its financial slump). So "as a fan-service," you might say MK vs DC actually delivers. However, the character selection is on the small side and character movesets aren't very deep. The trademark special moves that you'd expect are intact, but many characters also share similar mannerisms & moves at times... which is slightly disappointing, and yet another flaw that has plagued the MK series over the last decade or so.

In closing, MK vs DC Universe is not a terrible game, but it is a terrible fighting game. The stiff animation might pass for a overrated, mainstream 3D action platformer, but fighting games in the last couple of years have really raised the bar. It's actually hard for me to do as much as to watch this game after playing fighting games with superior animation & gameplay engines (like Tekken 6, Soul Calibur 4 & Street Fighter 4). I'm actually not a fanboy. I'm just stating the obvious.
~TFG Webmaster | @FIGHTERS_GEN  

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