SMidway's Ed Boon and Paulo Garcia, game designers on Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, stopped by the Kotaku "offices" yesterday to give us a near-final look at the upcoming PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 fighting game. Having already played the game at E3, Comic-Con and the Leipzig Games Convention, we were pretty familiar with how the game plays. That doesn't mean it was a wasted visit, however, as Boon and Garcia showed us aspects of the game we'd never seen before. Not only did we get to see every character in action, like Raiden, Lex Luthor and Kano — and many of their Fatalities — we got a peek at the spectacular single-player story mode, a look at the new Combo Challenge feature and serious eyes-on with Sonya Blade's in-game model, thanks to the included model viewer.Boon and Garcia first showed us two of the newer characters, Mortal Kombat II's Baraka and DC's Deathstroke, in action. Both deviate from the rest of the line-up by having weapons, with Baraka's familiar arm-blades matching Deathstroke's beefy sword. These are the only two characters that we know of that have weapon and stance options, not unlike what was introduced with Mortal Kombat 4, then later explored in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. Boon seemed particularly excited to show us Deathstroke's fatality, one that starts with a nasty sword slice to the torso, then a quick neck-breaking twist of the head. Expect lots of shattered spines in MK vs. DCU, as you won't see decapitations and dismemberment. Yes, those Fatalities — and the "Heroic Brutalities" performed by DC's good guys — are more tame than what we've come to expect from the past seven games. Catwoman will break necks with her whip and Jax will finish you off with his sub-machine gun, both of which are noticeably bloodless. The T-rated finishing moves may turn off the more superficial Mortal Kombat fan, but it's likely the engaging story mode will rope them back in. It's surprising how well integrated the storyline is into the head to head fighting. Garcia kicked off the DC version of the single-player mode — each side is expected to take 2 to 3 hours to burn through — which starts with players controlling The Flash. He goes head to head with Deathstroke after a cut scene, which is then immediately followed by a fight with Kano, after the two are introduced by another cut scene. These cinematic portions are certainly of higher quality than expected — no offense, MK team. They flow nicely into the action, with not a moments pause between someone issuing a challenge and the two kombatants squaring off. The voice over work and visual direction aren't too shabby either. The story mode also helps explain exactly why the Mortal Kombat and DC universes are crossing over. That "Rage" mode, the reason why Captain Marvel and Green Lantern would ever fight each other, and just how Scorpion winds up in the Batcave are all explained rather elegantly through these scenes. After playing as the Flash, who has a dust up with Batman, we transitioned to playing as Batman. The whole thing is wonderfully seamless and we genuinely look forward to seeing how it all works out. What's potentially more interesting is that, as the world's crossover, we'll get to see how it plays out in both universes at the same time. The entirety of the plot should be considered off-canon. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is a standalone entry, similar to DC's own Elseworlds line of comic books. And speaking of Elseworlds, Boon brought up, when we asked about alternate costumes, that they're trying to secure some of those alternate reality outfits for the DC side. We should just expect palette swaps for now, Boon said. Trying to get Superman's Soviet costume from Superman: Red Son, for example, was a bit of a challenge. Perhaps as DLC? Boon says they're having internal discussions now to figure that out exactly which alteranate looks and costumes they want to go after. After the story mode, we got a look at the Combo Challenge, a series combo completion tasks that's not just excellent practice, it's its own mini-game. The concept isn't new, by any means, just a bit more streamlined. You'll see the combo string for your character as a supertitle that you'll need to perform. Any failed attempt to pull it off can be quickly restarted with the Select or Back button. Mostly painless. Captain Marvel looked to have about a dozen combos of increasing complexity. Fortunately, the player can just bounce around the list — they don't have to be completed sequentially. Another nice bonus is the model viewer, located under the Extras option in the main menu. It's extremely straightforward fan service. You simply have a flexible camera with which you can pan, zoom or rotate around each character's 3D model, sans HUD, to see all their details. Again, not groundbreaking, but a nice feature that we wish every game would include. We've said many times before that we're eagerly anticipating Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, even as lapsed fans. Our most recent hands-on time made us want it that much more. We'll let you know how the final release, due November 16, ultimately pans out.
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