E3 2008: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe Hands-On

We finally get our hands on Midway's fighter mash-up featuring Mortal Kombat and the DC Universe.

With the initial shock of its announcement now gone, Midway's upcoming Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe stands as one of the most anticipated entries in the Mortal Kombat series in quite a while. The promise of a revamped fighting system, a graphics makeover, and the chance to play as DC Comics characters, such as Superman and Batman, definitely has undeniable appeal. The big question now is: How does it play? We finally had the chance to start formulating an answer to that question thanks to some time with the E3 demo of the Xbox 360 version of the game. The demo gave us a modest slice of what the final game is going to offer; enough to keep us hopeful of the game's direction.

The E3 demo of MK vs. DC is very much a work in progress and features a handful of fighters and environments to try. We go to choose from six fighters total, three from each side. The Mortal Kombat characters on tap in the demo were Sonya Blade and BFF's Scorpion and Sub-Zero, while on the DC side, we had Batman, Flash, and Superman. There were three environments to choose from: a graveyard, hell, and Superman's hometown, Metropolis.

It's legend-on-legend violence in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.

Before we start waxing poetic on how sexy the game looks--and it does--we'll give up the goods on how it plays: pretty well. Game director and MK creator Ed Boon told us that the development team is taking a back-to-basics approach to gameplay, which, to our eyes, has some heavy MKII influences. Characters have a set amount of special moves that you can mix together into combos of your choosing. You won't find MKIII-style chain combos that will clock up hit counts in the double digits; instead, you'll find combos in the three-to-five hit range. This is still being tweaked so it may change, but we have to say we kind of like how it's working.

Combat has a tighter feel to it, and it definitively feels like you have a lot of butt-kicking options. This time out, the team isn't thinking of the attack types in the same way it has previously. The low and high system that's been used before isn't quite as prominent. At the moment, the attacks are simply numbered one through four, with each one corresponding to a face button. The right bumper is used to grab and enter into the close combat fighting mode, while throws or attacks that knock you back a good amount appear to be what's needed to push you through the walls and kick off freefall combat.

Speaking of those new variations on combat, we had the chance to see how they worked, as well as try out a new "test your might" minigame (more on that in a bit). First, however, let's cover freefall and close combat. Freefall combat engages when you throw opponents through specific points in a level, sending them falling to a low part of the stage. As they fall, you'll automatically follow and get the chance to beat the stuffing out of them. Your attacks will fill a super meter. The interesting wrinkle to it is that hitting the right trigger will unleash a special super attack unique to the freefall mechanic. The damage it does is based on the fullness of the meter. While this sounds straightforward, the catch is that if your opponents get their timing right, they can swap positions with you and be the attacker, which lets them unleash their super move. Sneaky but cool.

Scorpion gets a face full of heat vision, courtesy of the Man of Steel.

Close combat has changed a bit from when we first heard about it. You engage close combat with the right bumper, which has you grab your opponent and causes the camera to come in close. You'll have a short span of time to either attack or dodge attacks; it seems like it's about three or four blows. Each of the face buttons does a unique attack, some of them awesomely brutal, which can be dodged if you time it right.

As far as the new "test your might" minigame goes, we have to say we're very pleased by how it fits in to the action. We stumbled on it in the Metropolis stage when we'd backed an opponent into a wall. After knocking him through the wall, our character, Superman, grabbed him and started running to the right, slamming through wall after wall. The sequence required us to mash face buttons, which upped the damage. Much like the sequences we just mentioned, it's a quick break in the fight. While the timing is being tweaked, we're liking how it works. You're not pulled out of the fight for too long and it all keeps you on your toes, adding a welcome unpredictability to battle.

As cool as these different fighting modes are, the battles in MK vs. DC are going to live or die by each character's various attacks. As we mentioned, characters will have basic and special moves. As always, the basic attacks all cover the same standard ground for the characters. The special moves, however, are where the characters differ radically. Mortal Kombat characters have now gained some abilities to make the playing field more level, and both sets of fighters have a neat new way to enhance their special attacks. But first, we'll give you a rundown of everyone's abilities. As with every MK, you'll perform a character's special moves by doing a mix of controller motions and button presses. In some cases, you'll even charge attacks by holding down the attack buttons. Scorpion has his trusty spear attack, flame summons, leg takedown, teleport, and a new fire attack that radiates around him while he stands in place. Sonya Blade has her energy ring projectile, leg grab, bicycle kick, a cartwheel attack, and her trademark poison kiss. Sub-Zero has his ice ball projectile, a slide, teleport, a falling ice block, and a parry that freezes opponents when they connect.

It's nice to see that this version of MK is going to be bloody.

The DC characters' super moves were what you'd expect and in line with what you'd expect. Batman tossed batarangs on the ground and in the air, used his cape to block, had a leg takedown, and a flying kick. The team is also working on giving him a smoke bomb-powered teleport that we got a look at and hope makes it into the game. The Flash had several speed-powered punch flurry attacks, teleports that dizzied his opponent, uppercuts, and various dash combos. Superman was, unsurprisingly, a bit overloaded with power moves, so we'll see how he gets tweaked. We used his super breath to pull in or freeze opponents. His heat vision could be used to burn opponents while on the ground or in the air. He also had powerful shoulder charge, ground pound, and toss-up moves. As if all that weren't enough, he could even hover and perform different attacks based on the attack button you push while he's in the air. So, yes, you could say he's a little on the overpowered side at the moment.

While the special moves are all straightforward, Boon and the team are adding timing-based variations on them, which are tentatively being called "pro moves." For example, if you perform Sonya's energy ring move and can get a controller and button motion in during a specific window of time, she'll fire off a second shot in rapid succession. The goal is to have every special move have a "pro" variant. While not every character's move had a variant in what we played, we were very much liking how it all worked. Besides adding some depth to the combo system, the moves definitely added a new facet to combat we liked and should present a meaty challenge for veteran players to master for incorporation into their combos.

With all the initial drama that surrounded the game's announcement back in April, it might be easy to lose sight of the fact that MK vs. DC is, in fact, the MK franchise's first appearance on the current generation of consoles. This is a very good thing judging by the quality in the work-in-progress demo. The dev team is clearly having some serious fun with the Unreal Engine and the power of the new platforms. The level of detail on the characters and their animation is impressive, as is the way they take damage during combat.

As we've mentioned before, the MK crew has never looked better with the trio of fighters featuring some very nice touches. Sonya is lean and taught, with plenty of cleavage. Sub-Zero has trails of cold air and rocks some sweet ice effects when he uses his powers. Scorpion has his trusty spear and flames to give him some flair. On the DC side, Batman, Flash, and Superman look great. The art style the team is going for has hints of fan favorite Alex Ross' gorgeous painted art style, with some new design touches to the heroes' classic look that gives them a slightly darker edge that's a good complement. Of the three heroes we saw, Flash had the most departures from his classic look, but it worked fine. The heroes also benefitted from a number of different special effects that complemented their unique abilities, with Flash and Superman benefitting the most. The Flash's speed lines and assorted motion blur effects played up his speed, while the impact waves and lighting effects highlighted the Man of Steel's raw power.

Do all heroes wind up in hell? In MK vs. DC, the answer is yes.

Audio is obviously still coming together, and, at the moment, it's pretty basic. We heard the usual amount of grunts and the like, which is what you'd expect from a fighter. However, the collision effects were solid and definitely sold the brutality of combat. The bits of music we heard had a nice epic feel to them, which is about what we expected.

Based on what we've played, MK vs. DC seems to be headed in the right direction. The fighting system tweaks have a good feel to them and definitely give the action a comfortable feel. At the same time, the new pro moves--or whatever they wind up being called--add a nice skill element to the action we like. Overall, we're pleased by what Midway is doing and anxious to see more, especially the Story mode, to see how it all comes together. Midway reps told us that new members of the roster would be announced in the months leading up to release and tossed us two to reveal in this preview: Captain Marvel and Liu Kang. In addition, it sounds as though more characters are set to be revealed at Comic-Con. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is slated to ship this fall for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Check back for more on the game in the coming months and tune into our live E3 show next week where we'll have Ed Boon showing off the demo.

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421 comments
jake-lutze
jake-lutze

Baldur, there will be blood, adn there will be arm ripping, but DC characters wont kill. There are still fatalities, and there is still blood, but less I think.

Baldur3272
Baldur3272

ok ok look, Mortal Kombat is all about the blood, fatalities, and the characters. Introducing the DC universe into MK is not a bad idea at all but there will be no blood, no fatalities, but lots of characters. DC characters...will not rip off arms as well as a couple of skulls and scapulas. great idea but not yet in time.

drknessfeeds
drknessfeeds

Now that I warmed up to the idea behind this game...Can't help but wonder and dream about a straight up next gen Mortal Kombat with all the gory fatalities.

ooNaruto
ooNaruto

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kingliono
kingliono

The Joker isn't a fighter, but Bane would be awesome!

paRRyfiEnd
paRRyfiEnd

I can't wait for this game,.... Bad or Good it's still a must have for any fan MK or DC

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

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Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

DarkSmokeNinja
DarkSmokeNinja

DARN IIIIIIIT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WISH THIS GAME WAS ALSO FOR WII BECAUSE I LOVE MORTAL KOMBAT AND SCORPION IS MY FAVORITE CHARACTER

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

jharding94
jharding94

I wonder if their will be the joker?

bleedgreen2-1-5
bleedgreen2-1-5

man this game looks phat! i thought it was gonna be whack at first with the dc characters but after seeing it..........................im blown away! cant wait

Pillar9
Pillar9

Cant wait to play this, does anyone have an idea what month its being released?

icym
icym

Watching its demo on stage, it looks like a good add to the series of MK games. I really hope to see more DC characters open up the roster more.

lettuceman44
lettuceman44

MC with DC universe? That is kinda weird.

grambyte
grambyte

Edit: Well as I was amazed with the stage demo it looks NICE! I'm keeing myself posted on this one... Better than I expected it to turn out.

Agulf
Agulf

needs more marvel

grambyte
grambyte

Hmm, Mortal Kombat kiddy-style... euhm... wonder how that will work.

Gedddy_lee
Gedddy_lee

still no word on Fatalities? I heard some rumor mongering that they are out but that would be the fall of epic proportions

Zerobeam
Zerobeam

I think the biggest problem with this game is going to be the superhero balancing. If it were done correctly, it wouldn't be much of a game. Flash would be so fast you couldn't hit him, and Superman wouldn't even have a life bar, but of course it won't be done this way. And for that reason, all you're really getting is a new skin for a character that's gonna play just like every other MK character...seems like something you could do yourself using the same kind of character creator from MK: Armageddon, just with expanded clothing options.

GM-Lucra
GM-Lucra

Looks cool. this type of game is always worth a try because for all we know this could become the next hit fighting game.

MajorBrian
MajorBrian

This looks pretty cool. I may give it a try. FINISH HIM!!

gamah_killah
gamah_killah

Wow, I can't wait to beat Superman with those MC characters

sMeAgOl_VaDeR
sMeAgOl_VaDeR

i seriously can't wait for this game! the gameplay sounds awesome... the visual effects look very promising... and the brutality of the attacks sound so intense!

Night_Frost
Night_Frost

Too bad you can't rip Batman's head off, though I never expected to actually see Scorpion take on the Dark Knight in the first place, but this looks and sounds like a solid fighting game, though when the demo arrives and the game itself is shipped is when we'll see if this is the best decision Midway made or end up MK Special Forces...oh the horror, the horror

Da_HeAdBaNgA
Da_HeAdBaNgA

i have seen some pretty good remarks toward this game and some thoughtless ones as well. I wish more people would give stuff a chance before they cast judgement on something they haven't even played yet. I would have thought to use Marvel characters instead of DC, but hey I guess in this case change is good. The trailer looks awesome. A lot of people want to see Batman do more, unfortunately giving him anything extra superhuman would be false. Hopefully they will give him strictly brawler moves to go with his utility belt. I am also very happy to see that they might have brought back real fatalities again instead of the other nonsense.

CGoku_4
CGoku_4

4sho i mean i dnt y they wud make dis game it goin b waste of money rite plus superheros r not NO killers jus dnt get it but it sud ben Marvel vs DC i jus sayin doe ya digg

Testament
Testament

i agree with Element_Seraph, I wish MK could widen there engine-driven combo based combat like that of Dead or Alive or Killer Instinct 1, then maybe we can have some were excitment. Add in some hella super high air muilty-hit combos and you may just have yourself a good game. I personlly didnt see anything wrong with the MKIII combos, in fact i think is was a very huge step up, and the brutailities were off the chain. Slowin down the combos dont make a game better, its speedin them up!!!!!

Element_Seraph
Element_Seraph

Mortal Kombat always had a very clunky engine-driven combo-based combat system which is a real turn off. In every game, characters move slowly and combos are decided only by what the engine will allow as an 'acceptable' follow up, otherwise, you create an opening by using a slower to start follow up move which your opponent can easily punish. I don't know what to say, but while DC characters sound cool, it would sound better if it was just a pure DC character game. Remember Super Dragon Ball Z for PS2? It was an original pure DBZ character game that ran on a Street Fighter combat engine. Sounds fun, and it was. It'd just be very awkward for a game to be DBZ vs. Street Fighter on a Street Fighter engine, which is the feel I'm getting from this game. Seeing the Flash, secret identity to Wally West, being constricted to a clunky battle system seems very awkward. You'd expect him to be... fast? No, but rather he treads slowly like all other MK characters and even stands in a similar stance. DC characters just don't seem aesthetically pleasing in a MK fighter engine. My guess is that'll it'll turn out to be a game that really only attracts pre-existing fans of MK or DC but die out in the shadows of other games quickly. I don't see this game breaking any game innovation ice, so it just seems a fairly substandard sequel to a game series that peaked on its initial release in the 90s, but has been on a sharp decline ever since then. Only difference is the character roster. The game doesn't bring any sort of innovation to the fighter genre of games, so it'll die as a result.

edwardorito
edwardorito

WHOA! i expected Superman to kick some Ass but he was bleeding WTF id wrong with this?!?!?!?! I LOVE SUPERMAN! i betcha the developers does'nt even kno about superman they just think he's a guy in spandex's HEY WOLVERINE HAS SOME TO!!

mitu123
mitu123

If it's really good then there's proof that Midway can make a worthy 3D fighting game(because the 3D Mortal Kombat games aren't that impressive).

BlakkSteel
BlakkSteel

This is better than what I thought it would be.

jakeboudville
jakeboudville

Sounds weird but i guess it could do better after all

courtneya3
courtneya3

@dragonlife thank you! After reading the previews before the E3 trailer, i decided to give the game the benefit of the doubt seeing as how NOBODY has played it yet. However, after looking at the trailer, the graphics look great, bet the characters all seem to move the same way. It is a very interesting concept, and i hope it does well, but for me this is very disappointing. I also agree with Habimana....Unless Doomsday bursts up from the ground and literally beats Superman to death again, i cant fully get behind Superman losing by fatality or by any other means...

Habimana
Habimana

Can't wait to see how it turns out. How the heck are they gonna beat superman though lol. What about that pic of catwoman, Meow!! ;-P

Tandem_Toad
Tandem_Toad

The thing I don't like about previous MKs is the out dated button patterns that have to be memorized to execute special moves. Also, character animations and response time has always been clunky. If these get fixed, then it may turn out to be a pretty cool game.

dragonlife29
dragonlife29

Was it just me or do all the characters move the same? In the trailer, their stance movement was just very...similar. It looks as if they're going to implement some new mechanics into the fighting genre. I'm interested in seeing how that beat-them-while-dropping-a-level and tackle-through-walls segments will work.

KRAUTMcFRIEND
KRAUTMcFRIEND

First of all, if this game is good, it is such an AWESOME idea. Second, Mr. "Big-Z" of course GameSpot treats every game like it COULD be cool, neat, etc. because I don't think it would be too much of a fun time, reading cynical previews...are you slow or something?