Originally Published: November 29, 2008, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com)

Most felt that the Mortal Kombat series had suffered one of their own fatalities; they thought the previous installment in the series would mark a possible end to one of the most successful fighting franchises of all time. The genii at Midway would need something big, some twist, to rejuvenate the series and keep it fresh.

Enter one of the most enduring pop-culture franchises ever created, DC Comics. With the likes of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and many others, you had instantly recognizable names, faces, places, and powers that had just recently been rejuvenated themselves through blockbuster box office returns and are in the midst of one of the largest comic story arcs ever where evil is supposed to win in the Final Crisis.

So, what happens when two beloved pop-culture dynamos come together? They FIGHT! I present to you ladies and gentlemen: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.

If you are going to get one fighting game this holiday season, this is the one. From a storyline that actually makes sense, to brand new features like “Testing Your Might” in the middle of a battle, and mid-air and special “Klose Kombat” fighting sequences and the series has successfully been renewed.

In terms of the combat, the old Mortal Kombat system has returned along with a few new twists. There are now expert moves, moves that, if timed correctly, are automatically done twice and done more powerfully the second time. However, so small is the window to pull off these moves that even the better experts will have difficulty performing them every time. Mix this with the potential for some old school 10 hit combos, the new mid-air and up-close fighting systems, and some revamped fatalities (and brutalities for the DC Heroes since they cannot kill) and the gameplay is on par with the best of the series.

The addition of DC’s greatest heroes and villains adds depth to the game by allowing you to play a deep story mode from both points of view (and you have to if you want to unlock both of the game’s hidden characters). You play through the story mode and get a chance to try almost every character to see their strengths and weaknesses. (I am still a dominating force with Sub-Zero.)

The big change to the story mode from previous games is that, even though it worked for a short while, there is no more third person action adventure. The story plays out for you in-between character-specific fights. For example, when Batman meets Scorpion and the two have words with each other, there is no third-person take on this. We go to an old school, best of three rounds, Kombat scenario. I personally enjoyed the third-person adventuring, but this was the only possible way to pull off a story mode in this game considering how many great characters are available to you. And, of course, the story mode leaves it open-ended enough so there is a possibility for a second MK vs. DCU.

Those are the game’s positives, but there are a few negatives. One of the big negatives is there are no level specific fatalities like in previous games. In the last installment of the Mortal Kombat series, you could knock your opponent into a lava pit or a giant meat grinder by hitting them up against certain walls or boundaries. Even in the old school games, with the right mashing of buttons at the end of a battle, you could knock your opponent into a spike pit or acid bath. These have all been removed.

Another issue I had was the lack of unlockables. The Krypt has been removed and the only things you can unlock, aside from story and arcade endings, are two bonus characters added to the twenty you start out with. I liked the Krypt, even if it was nearly impossible to get everything in it, because I enjoyed looking at extra movies and concept art and getting alternative costumes. You’re telling me you couldn’t give me black suit Superman from when he came back after being killed by Doomsday? How about an old-school blue Batman suit? The Joker in his Hawaiian vacation outfit is always hysterical. A lack of unlockables is a sore point with me and it damages this game’s replay value.

Even with a couple negatives, this was a great game. The spectacle of my favorite DC Heroes and Villains kicking butt was great. Add in the return of some of my favorites from the Mortal Kombat universe and then mixing in some old school, button mashing and I was one happy gamer from this. If there is one fighting game you are going to get this holiday season (because you should have gotten Super Smash Bros. Brawl back when it came out) this is the one.

If you want some more information on the new fighting mechanics and the storyline of the game, take a listen to my interview with Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe Lead Designer Brian LeBaron. CLICK HERE

Ratings are based on a system of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest.

Graphics: 9.0: Blood and guts galore are always the visual gem that a Mortal Kombat game provides and this one does not disappoint. A nice detail was how good Sub-Zero’s Ice Ball/Superman’s Ice Breath looked when the opponent was frozen solid. A point was removed because some of the interactive environment looked a little blocky and faded from the screen too quickly. Aside from that, this is a beautiful looking game.

Audio: 10.0: The voice acting was crisp and the SFX were all solid. The voice script was a little over the top, but its comic book characters fighting Mortal Kombat characters, I think I would have been more disappointed if it wasn’t over the top. This game delivers a great sounding experience.

Plot/Plot Development: 8.5: It was actually a plausible plot for these respective universes to somehow meet. Written by comic book veterans Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, the story kept in tune with both the Mortal Kombat and the DCU story lines. The time period was set happening sometime after the second Mortal Kombat game and before the Identity Crisis of the DCU and it fit well with the original plot. Some things were a stretch for both universes though and a few of the pop culture references were funny, but unnecessary.

Gameplay: 9.0: Like every Mortal Kombat before it, this was easy to pick up, but difficult to master. Some of the combos are simply impossible to complete and there were a couple of glitches if you liked to use Scorpion’s, Sub-Zero’s, Batman’s, or Raiden’s teleportation moves a lot. Still, this game was mostly smooth and not very frustrating.

Replay Value: 7.5: The lack of unlockables and extra characters keeps you from coming back to the single player story and arcade modes very often. The multiplayer and online features are solid, but won’t keep you coming back unless you need a constant dose of bloody, brutal fighting.

Overall (not an average): 8.5: This game is a great new entry into both Mortal Kombat’s and DCU’s respective mythos. The game gets a little repetitive after a while, but that’s the same for every fighting game. New in-battle Kombat systems, old-school characters, a revamped story mode, and old-school Mortal Kombat brutality makes this a must have if you are a fighting fan and/or a DC Universe fan. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is out now for XBOX360 and PS3.

-Ray Carsillo