At first glance, the new Mortal Kombat crossover from Midway seemed like a wee bit of an attempt to cash in. After all, MK's hay-day has since passed, and the fighting franchise all but ended itself with the PS2's massive Kombat mash-up, Mortal Kombat Armageddon. Adding superheroes seems like a surefire way to get anything relatively noticed by the public at large, but look into fighting games' past, this isn't the first superhero foray into the fighting genre, and certainly not the first crossover. Mortal Kombat vs. DC is a thoroughly enjoyable fighting experience that re-invents the formula for Mortal Kombat, but a lack of compelling modes, terrible online play, and difficulty of entry for newcomers makes MK vs. DC a difficult game to whole-heartedly recommend.
The story for MK vs. DC is very much a "What If?" comic book scenario. Essentially, at the same time as Superman defeats Darkseid and sends him hurtling through a boom tube, Raiden defeats Shao Kahn and casts the evil ruler into a dark portal. This simultaneous destabilization of portals causes the two worlds to begin merging. As such, characters from both worlds start duking it out as each thinks the other is responsible for the destruction of their various realms. It's a bit hokey and it's way over the top, but both are perfect considering the properties. There are some genuinely "cool" moments in the story, and it helps drive forward a narrative that could otherwise be completely absent.
As for game modes, this newest MK is a bit light. Aside from the aformentioned story, which is somewhat short despite two separate sides to play as, there is a traditionally ladder-ed arcade mode. There are also general trials that ask you to execute moves and combos in order. This latter mode isn't very fun at all, and even its intention, to teach you to be a better fighter doesn't work out too well. Besides this, there is only really online play to be had, which would significantly help out the game's replay value, but this too suffers from flaws in execution. Not only is there not really any reward or rank to pursue online, but the lobby system is flawed and even when finally getting into a game, the lag even with a moderate connection is so bad, the game becomes unplayable.
And as far as playability, MK vs. DC is two steps forward and one step back. This newest iteration has ditched the system of the newer games in the franchise in favor of one more archaic. This generally works in its favor, as the game is more about exploiting specials into combos and vice versa, and the game is very fun to play. Added into the mix are mini games that take place during fights whenever a grab is initiated or opponents are knocked off the stage or through a wall. These Klose Kombat, Free Fall Kombat, and Test Your Might mini games respectively do a nice job of breaking up the Kombat and making fights interesting and unpredictable. However, it is with this strange mix of new that the archaic system begins appearing a bit TOO old school. While the mid fight mini games are fun, they stress twitch gameplay and button mashing. The main combat, however, requires a mastery of timing and a new thumb punishing variant of supers called Pro Moves, as single special attacks and combos are too sluggish alone to be effective. The difficulty of these moves to pull off, yet ridiculous necessity of one to do them to be a successful fighter makes the game feel punishingly frustrating at times. Unless one has a group of skilled friends to constantly push one's fighting skills, expect to hit a wall and fast.
On the presentation front, MK vs. DC has a very action figure-y look. All the characters are recognizeable, although some on the DC front suffer from the MK asthetic, and some on the MK side aren't sporting their coolest duds. The moves look impactful enough, though a lot of the animation looks stiff at times. What you'll hear in MK vs. DC is some hammy voice acting and moody stage music. On both fronts, some performances are forgettable, but they'll satisfy for the most part.
MK vs. DCU will satisfy those hardcore fans of both franchises with its fun and engaging story modes, and old school fighting fans may find it scratches just the right itch. However, some anachronisms in the depth of modes, the online gameplay, and even the core fighting system itself means the game certainly isn't a must-own.