Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Superhero video games are pretty hit or miss. They either tend to get it right and really capture your imagination, or fail pretty miserably. For my money, it’s been the X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance series that have really taken gaming and comic books to the next level. There’s this certain kind of action in comic books. It’s difficult to verbalize. I mean, it’s violent, but in this kind of “I hit you so hard you slam into the wall ten feet behind you way.” I’m no artist, but I can imagine that the task of drawing comic book art and evoking action is actually a difficult task. I mean, all you're drawing is still pictures, but you’re still kind of trying to give your readers the sense that Superman just whacked Mongul across the room. Don’t know if my experience is universal here-but for me, I think back to some of my favorite comic book stories, and in my mind’s eye I don’t actually see flat, still images framed in a panel. I actually have a memory of action-of somebody getting whacked around the room, or flying, or running in. Kind of funny how our mind sort of “connects” the dots for us about these things? Okay, this isn’t a lecture on Gestalt Psychology (obscure reference, I know). The point is, making a game that the fans are going to feel right about the action that they see on camera can’t be easy-because there isn’t a template for movement, or motion, to work from. Like, for a long time you read comics with Spider-man swinging around-but what does that really look like, to see him “ride” his own webbing? Anyway, there have been a couple of high notes in gaming in this end. And some real flops. Batman: Dark Victory comes to mind. I spent money on that game. I’ll be taking that regret with me to the grave. I mean, there are 8-bit Nintendo games better than that game. And I’m not talking about the first string, GOOD Nintendo games-I mean the weird ones that you had lying around and only played a couple of times, and sometimes weren’t even translated very elaborately. Let me put it this way-The Magic of Scheherazade, released by Famicom in 1987, is a better game than Batman: Dark Victory. That was a real game. I have it, somewhere. Well, as you’ve probably heard- the latest addition to the attempts to bring the media of comic to the growing, cinematic library of video games is Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. When this game was announced? I was skeptical. I mean, most people have the same statement plastered all over the internet. What, was Wonder Woman going to rip somebody’s heart out and stomp on it, or something? As I’ve explained many times, I’ve had some real trepidation about some of the business moves DC makes with their licenses. Marvel just markets their stuff so much better. DC gets involved with projects that makes me go- man, who is steering that ship? What are they thinking? Lately, things seem to be turning around for the old-school team. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe exemplifies this. Following on the heels of Marvel vs. Capcom, most people assumed the game would be a cheap knock-off. Worse, it was hard to just picture it. Fantasy martial arts (oh, and I do mean FANTASY martial arts, when it comes to Mortal Kombat) and superheroes. Weird. Well, I guess DC finally anted up and decided-if we’re going to do this, we’re going to make sure it’s done right. Of course, I would be remiss to not mention that Midway isn’t the new kid on the block when it comes to making hit games. So here it is, if you haven’t heard the news- it’s a GOOD game. Fun. Easy to play, hard to master. All that stuff. Now, I will say this-the game's biggest asset is exactly what it sounds like. By that, I mean, the coolest thing about the game is the fact that the DC characters are appearing in a Mortal Kombat game…and it doesn’t feel out of place, or too bizarre. The graphics, of course, look fantastic- I’m really impressed with the character designs for the entire DC roster, and I’ll get to that. But the point I’m trying to convey here is- if you’ve played a Mortal Kombat game, you already know what this game has to offer you. Button mashing, beating the crap out of your friends, and grisly acts of humiliation to herald your triumphant victory (or defeat). So, I’m not saying there’s a lot of ground covered here that hasn’t been covered before. They throw in a couple of neat new features to mix things up- in this case, sometimes the combat slows down and you and your opponent kind of go into this “rock, paper, scissors” button mashing guessing game where you try to outthink each other. The end result is watching your characters get up close and personal with some graphic violence. It’s fun. Still- it’s a fighting game. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve played these. Now, for the hardcore DC fan? Excellent, excellent entertainment. Seeing how each character fights is tons of fun. Like I said earlier, it’s hard to “capture” comic book-esque action. But the designers have done it, all while keeping it in the context of feeling like you’re playing the Mortal Kombat you’ve known and loved. And if you’re really paying attention, they’ve thrown in some nice little touches. Like Captain Marvel. My favorite thing about all of his attacks? Is that it literally sounds like thunder crashing down whenever he hits you with them, just like the lightning bolt that activates his powers. Of course, he’s got his trademark over-the-top move he’s started to get known for (I guess since Kingdom Come, kind of) where he grabs you, puts you between him and the sky, shouts Shazam and lets magic lightning fry your ass like Kentucky fried chicken. I’m really impressed with the game's rendition of Green Lantern, too. Usually, most games depicting Green Lantern just give him the kind of standard gimmicks you’d expect. He pulls back, and something flys out of his ring and hits you. Now, I’m not saying you don’t get the same in this game- but what I love is how fast his gear comes at you. I mean, the ring runs on willpower, right? So in theory, it’s going to form attacks at the speed of thought. A nice compromise, you get a split second to react when you see Hal Jordan hold his fist up and there’s a twinkle of emerald. After that? Jackhammers and giant fists are not your friend. Of course, most of Flash’s moves double as a dodge and a strike making him pretty dangerous- and if you time it just right? He’ll zip around and keeps the pressure on his opponent so fiercely that they can barely react. Wonder Woman’s fighting style is totally direct- not one to screw around, she just comes right at you. Usually her first strike is so powerful it knocks you off balance, giving her a chance to lay into you. Batman’s got a few neat tricks from a distance, but like you could probably imagine- don’t let him get close unless you like lots and lots of pain. I could go on. Joker’s moves are unorthodox and deceptive, Superman is really well balanced…Lex’s power suit is heavy and slow, but hits like a frickin' tank. All around? Excellent work here. In fact, this might be the best “feel” to the DC characters I’ve ever seen represented in a DC video game. And let’s not rule out the fun of seeing Superman bash his opponent into the pavement, or Green Lantern break bones by putting someone in a circular field and condenses it. Ouch. I admit, the term “Heroic Brutality” is kind of ridiculous- but Luthor, Joker, Deathstroke, and (I’m a little surprised here) Catwoman? Killing spree galore. Watching Lex’s targeting scope line up on his victim and calling in air to ground missiles is disturbing. Last bit? The story isn’t even half bad. I mean, okay, little cheesy here. What do you expect. But those familiar with the DC canon will probably be excited to find that the entire plot is kind of an homage to Crisis on Infinite Earths and other surreal, but fun, storylines. Oh, and I hate to spoil anything for you, so stop reading here if you need to, but I gotta say- Seeing Shao Khan spinning through space in that phantom zone disc-thing from Superman II? Freaking hilarious.