Originally published December 1, 2008 at 1:10 p.m., updated December 1, 2008 at 1:10 p.m.
When I was in fourth grade, I remember running around at recess telling all of my classmates about this incredible arcade game I discovered at a gas station. I told them about how you could literally rip your opponent's heart out of their chest, tear out their spine, knock them into a pit of spikes, and even punch off their head. Being ten years old, I couldn't even fathom any game being cooler than Mortal Kombat. I saved up my allowance every time a new MK game was about to be released, and always bought it on day one. Even today, I have a Mortal Kombat II arcade cabinet in my living room. I've always loved the Mortal Kombat series. While they didn't always feature the most advanced fighting engines, they always had a twisted sense of humor and some colorful characters. Of course, the real selling point of the series has always been the over-the-top fatalities. As everyone knows, the newly released Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is rated Teen, and features some very toned-down finishers. Granted, this doesn't make it a bad game, but it takes away one of the franchise's trademarks that made it so unique.
I will say that watching the MK and DC characters sparring throughout the story mode is surreal and oddly entertaining. It's nice that they included separate stories for both factions, as they're both fun to watch. It helps that the cartoonish DC heroes and villains fit right into the ridiculous MK universe. It's jarring at first to see MK mainstay Scorpion plunge his spear into the Joker, but these DC characters really help to add a new element to Midway's franchise.
Unfortunately, these DC characters come with a price, and that's the toned-down violence. Understandably, DC didn't want to see its characters get brutally torn apart or decapitated, so instead of fatalities including humans getting smashed in giant trash compactors a la Sektor in MK3, you'll have to settle for Baraka jumping on his enemy and briefly plunging his blades through their chest. It's still violent by nature, but the over-the-top gore and creativity in the fatalities is what made them so great, not just the fact that you were killing someone.
The core gameplay is still fun, however, and it omits some of the more cumbersome elements of the past few MK games. No longer will you have to memorize attacks for three different fighting styles, as it's down to just one. Characters have a variety of standard combos (I'm sorry..."kombos") and a handful of special moves each. It amazes me that Boon and Co. are still managing to make new, interesting moves for old-timers like Sub-Zero and Scorpion, but they pull it off once again. While I didn't like the multiple fighting styles for each character in the previous games, I did like the elaborate death traps introduced in Deception. It was hilarious being able to kick your opponent into giant grinders or spinning spikes, and I miss that feature in MK vs. DC. Instead, we get new close-combat and free-fall fights. I could do without the awkward close-combat fights, but the free-falling brawls are great. You'll pummel each other, trading offense and defense until one of you fills a meter enough to perform a special attack. At this point, you'll unleash a powerful move that slams your opponent hard into the ground below.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is certainly a fun fighting game. It's not Soul Calibur or Virtua Fighter...you won't see any insanely intricate counters or combos here. It's just goofy, cartoonish brawling between Mortal Kombat characters and the best DC has to offer. The toned-down fatalities will understandably irk some, but there's enough interesting characters and special moves here to warrant giving it a chance.
First Play: 8.5
Replay Value: 8.0