Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe

Kontroversial.

"Worlds will collide. The fate of the universe will be decided." And the Internet will explode with indignant fanboy rage. Yes, Mortal Kombat is back, and this time it's teen-rated, which means no spine-ripping fatalities. Blunting the brand's trademark happy endings is inevitably going to unseat a few spleens, but that's the price series creator Ed Boon is prepared to pay for shacking up his "billion dollar fighting franchise" with Warner Bros. to bring the two famous brands together in one star-studded beat-'em-up package.

Officially unveiled at Midway's Gamers Day in Las Vegas last week, in it a "cataclysmic force merges conquerors from two universes", meaning that MK staples such as Sub Zero and Scorpion find themselves facing off against DC superheroes, including Batman and Superman and "other iconic and powerful DC Super Heroes" yet to be confirmed (but known to be another eight from each side, featuring all the favourites). "How can either side prevail when rage blinds them to the dark threat poised to destroy them all?" Bring a coat, maybe.

There's no doubting MK co-creator Ed Boon's assertion that "The DC Universe characters are some of the most popular and enduring characters in the world." This move alone will help sell the brand to a whole new audience, and take Midway's biggest cash cow to a new level of commercial viability - but at what cost to the brand's credibility among its most vocal followers? By chasing the teen market, many fans perceive Midway's "reboot" as a risky one which could totally alienate the very audience that helped make it the "billion dollar fighting franchise" in the first place. Will it be enough to combine the DC characters with the Mortal Kombat mythology to get people excited or will it be written off as a gimmick? Will it even work as a game? With Midway electing to keep the game firmly under wraps for now, so much remained unanswered, with only fleeting glimpses of actual gameplay in the title's teaser trailer.

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The last MK game of any note, Armageddon, did okay critically.

Still, subsequent mining of all the available information has revealed this to date: comic writers Jimmy Palmiotti (Painkiller Jane, Marvel Nights, Jonah Hex, 21 Down) and Justin Gray (Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, JLA Classified, Punisher Red X-Mas, The Resistance) will be "crafting" a "completely unique storyline" from two opposing perspectives. Meanwhile, Boon and co. have come up with a Freefall Kombat system that takes advantage of the multi-tiered environments. So unlike, say, Dead or Alive, where falling vast distances is just a cosmetic effect, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe will allow you to smack each other around in mid-air as a giant skyscraper speeds past behind you. Another mode briefly touched upon was Klose Kombat, where you'll be able to grab your opponent and enter a boxing-style mode and trade blows in wince-inducing close-up - with one on the offensive and the other on the defensive.

So, switching perspectives and a frantic pace are all but assured, but what about the lack of fatalities and toned-down violence? At this stage, not even Boon seems to know exactly what Midway can get away with these days in terms of blood and gore at a teen-rated level. It seems fair to assume there will be some splatter, but certainly nothing remotely shocking, and a total abandonment of the spine-wrenching, blood-drenched fatalities that caused such a stir back in the brand's mid-'90s heyday.

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