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PLATFORM: Xbox 360, PS3

ESRB RATING: Teen (Yes, Teen)
DEVELOPER: Midway Amusement Games

PUBLISHER: Midway Games

THE PITCH

“The stupidest crossover ever!”

Yes, it’s real. There is a game available in stores tomorrow (the usual Mortal Monday) that lets you face Mortal Kombat “Kombatants” against DC Universe superheroes and villains. This means that you can finally realize battles that only existed before in your happiest, most glorious dreams, like what would happen if Lex Luthor fought Baraka, or how sexy it would be if Wonder Woman and Sonya Blade really got into it.

Midway made a big deal out of the fact that they got comic writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray to pen the story that pits these two completely different universes together, but you’ll soon find out that they failed, completely and utterly, to tell even the most basically coherant story.

It’s pretty much the reason why I don’t read super hero comics anymore. There really are no words to describe the horrible, exposition filled-dialouge that you’ll have to sit through during each of the many (many, many) cutscenes you will have to sit through. I tried writing a few of them down as I laughed and laughed but I felt myself actually get dumber as I typed them out. But they all go something like this-

Superhero #1- “What, what are you doing here?”

Superhero #2- “What are YOU doing here?”

Superhero #1- “I asked you first! Prepare to fight!”

Think I’m kidding? Check out the opening cinematic-


So how did all these characters meet? Both worlds have collided due to Dark Kahn… a horrific (read: stupid) mix of Darkseid and Shao Kahn. Both guys were thrown into a magic portal or some crap and now that they’re in a new, more powerful form they want to merge the worlds as well. All the heroes and villains of both dimensions become infected with uncontrollable rage and start fighting each other, seeing old friends as foes and attacking people from the other realm. Dark Kahn’s magic also somehow affects the fighters, which is how the game gets away with explaining why Superman can’t just punch off Scorpion’s head. They’re all about the same strength now.
 


CHUDTIP- The Joker’s not much of a fighter, but his weird moves can catch you off guard. Try and keep close to him, but watch out for his joy buzzer.


Anyway, they all keep fighting amongst themselves until they realize who’s behind it and of course team up to take Dark Kahn down.
 
The story is absolutely atrocious, and I’m not sure if it isn’t a joke being played upon us. These are professional comic book writers? You wouldn’t believe it. Add some sex and it could be some 12-year old’s fan fiction.
 
If you play through the Arcade mode you’ll find an ending for each character, which consists of one still picture and an emotionless narrator talking about what happened to them. It’s beyond lame, and completely pointless because there’s no story for the Arcade mode. And it’s not a good thing when Twisted Metal puts your endings to shame.


CHUDTIP- If you want to play through the story mode- have something to read on hand, and just look up to the screen when a fight starts. You won’t miss anything.

  
THE PLAY
 

But you know what? The game plays pretty well.

It’s not going to change anyone’s opinion of the series but it’s more fluid than any of the others, and the superhero powers do add a lot to the fun of the game. The new characters control very differently, and you’ll have to adopt different tactics to take each one out.

Let’s get the elephant in the room out in the open first- this is a Teen-rated game, the first Mortal Kombat one ever made. What this means is that the fatalities you knew and loved are no more. It makes sense, cause DC would probably balk if they saw someone disembowling Catwoman, but it’s a real detriment to the game, since the blood and gore was the reason all of us started playing Mortal Kombat in the first place (it sure wasn’t for the gameplay).
 
There are a couple of new fight mechanics that can be alternately fun and frustrating. During a match you can get knocked through railings and fall down to a lower level, which initiates “Free Fall Kombat”. While you’re falling the person on top gets to try and land as many blows as he can (using the face buttons on the controller) and the guy underneath has to block. If you successfully hit the same button as your opponent you’ll flip around, and he or she will be on the receiving end of all the damage instead. It’s fun when you’re on top, but on the bottom it’s a frantic game of rock-paper-scissor as you try to flip around. It doesn’t help that the maximum damage you can take is 30%, a nice chunk of that life bar that can easily swing a fight.


CHUDTIP- When you’re on the bottom try and keep calm and just hold down a button, trying to anticipate your opponent’s moves. You’ll only have a few seconds to flip it around on him but it’s oh so satisfying when you do.


Another new mode is “Klose Kombat”, which is a manuever used like a grab. When you successfully grapple with your opponent the camera will zoom in on the Kombatants as they perform close combat moves. It’s similar to Free Fall Kombat, in that you’ll be slamming buttons while the opponent tries to block.

But wait, there’s more! There are also moments where you can grab an enemy and run with him right through a building, initiating “Test Your Might” as you smash through every wall on the way. This is probably the most fun new mode, as you have to smash the buttons as fast as you can, trying to inflict as much damage or protect yourself from damage, depending on what side you’re on. It’s frantic and has a nice tug-of-war kind of feel to it.

There’s also a new meter up on top under your life bar, the Rage Meter. It’s got two bars that fill up- you can use one of them to perform a Kombo Breaker and parry an enemy’s attack, or you can wait till both are filled up and hit both triggers to initiate Rage mode. It makes your eyes glow yellow and makes you almost unstoppable, much more powerful and able to knock through opponent’s blocks.


CHUDTIP- Wonder Woman’s “PMS  RAGE” move (Down, Back, Punch) is pretty handy at scaring off any male Kombatants.


But otherwise, it’s mostly the same as before. There aren’t too many standard attacks, there are plenty of special moves, and lots of hard, intricate combos to learn. The gameplay’s a little slower this time but it works in the game’s favor.

But one last issue with the game is that the AI’s not always that great. Sometimes your computer opponent will be easy and easily destroyed, only to seemingly wake up in the last few second of a match and absolutely decimate you with a few giant combos. The bosses are also typically completely overpowered, and cheap as hell. But I have to admit to being completely stunned with how well this one plays, and how much fun you can wring out of it.
 
THE PRESENTATION
 
The use of the Unreal Engine 3 means that this is easily the best looking Mortal Kombat ever made. The characters all get bruises and cuts as you play on, and it’s fun to see Supes getting a beating. While there are plenty of blood sprays it’s too bad there’s no real gore, because it would be interesting to see the game try to one-up games like Dead Space in the brutality department. The levels are fine but somewhat repetitive…. there are no real standouts, it’s just circular arena after circular arena.


CHUDTIP- The Flash is a BITCH to fight against (and I love using him) because of his speed, but he doesn’t do much damage. Block and time your parries carefully and you’ll be able to stop him. Unless you’re playing me, of course.

 
THE REPLAY


There’s an online multiplayer mode, so you’ll never have to worry about finding someone to battle.

Unlike the last few console Mortal Kombat games, there isn’t a weird minigame (chess or kart racing or some crap) to kill time with, and besides the Campaign mode (which can be tackled as either the Kombatats or DC characters) and an Arcade mode, there’s nothing else to keep your interest.

But it is a fighting game, so if you can keep your friends interested you can keep playing it forever. As long as you don’t own a better game that ryhmes with Mole Excalibur Tour, of course.
 
THE VERDICT
 
A decent fighter whose gimmicky premise actually works in its favor, depiste everyone’s expectations. Mortal Kombat as a series has long ago gotten old and stale (admit it, fanboys, Mortal Kombat 2 is still the best and most playable of them all) and while this is a nice step in the right direction, it hasn’t completely gotten there yet.


7.5 out of 10