Ever wondered what would happen if Sub-Zero battled Batman?

No? Too bad. “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” dream-matches the martial arts masters of the fighting game giant with the heroes and villains of the venerated comic book company.

There are several complaints to be fired at the concept. You could call it a senseless crossover for novelty's sake, or a transparent attempt to mimic the success of the “Marvel vs. Capcom” series. You could scoff at the incompatibility between the murderous Kombatants and the virtuous DC heroes, or how the game's gore quotient was dialed down to address that dilemma. But anyone who plays the game can't deny that “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” manages a decent amount of success.

A story mode explains the universe-melding reason for the crossover, which at least conveys more effort than Capcom's explanation that the Marvel superheroes and the publisher's characters simply occupy the same time and space. The story mode can be played from either the DC or Mortal Kombat perspective. Both string together fights with brief scenes of silly dialogue that ultimately reveal how the universes merge - and why their inhabitants' eyes yellow with rage when they throw down. But I won't spoil the full explanation, or else you'd have little reason to endure the scenes.

Standard arcade, practice, two-player and online match modes round out the “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” menu. The roster contains no painfully glaring absences, but even its modest size can't prevent some poor balancing in favor of DC heavy-hitters like Superman.

The fighting itself is mechanically shallow and rewards repeat players with little depth. Against the AI, the wisest strategy is gracelessly bludgeoning the opponent with brute force. If they put up a fight, simply wait for them to inexplicably go limp in the next round and let you maul them en route to a flawless victory.

The design's main success is its friendliness toward new players who'd rather mash buttons than practice combos. Free-falling and close-quarters combat also refresh the “Mortal Kombat” fighting formula with new dimensions that match “Universe” itself in overall merit: mildly fun, if somewhat flat.

If you play

Game: “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe”

Score: C+

Parental rating: Teen for blood, suggestive themes and violence

Publisher: Midway Games

Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Price: $56.99

Play: Single, multiplayer

The final boss: The simple fighting mechanics of “Universe” don't measure up to the megaton scale of its roster, but some fun can be found in the game's action.

Answer this ‘Call'

Following its successful spin on “Modern Warfare,” the “Call of Duty” series returns to World War II in “World at War.”

The game's plentiful multiplayer offerings and next-generation realism freshen up the European and Pacific Theatres enough to make you forget those settings also hosted the first three “Duty” games - and the “Medal of Honor” games, and the “Brothers in Arms” games, and so on.

“World at War” tells the survival stories of a U.S. Marine and a Red Army soldier during World War II with top-quality voice acting from Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman. Advancing each tale are levels of “Duty's” signature first-person combat, which steers players toward wave after wave of foes in war-torn jungles, farms and cities.

The combat rewards inventive approaches to hostile situations. Stealth, strategic weapons and a diversity of shooting locations are at your disposal in determining how to mow down the Japanese and German forces of “World at War.” The action can grow redundant - shoot, advance, rinse, repeat - but the single-player campaign doesn't draw itself out under the pretense of adding value to the package. (It adds zombies instead, through a game mode unlocked when the campaign is completed).

Extending the life of the “World at War” - almost infinitely - are its multiplayer features, such as online co-op, deathmatch, capture the flag and more. A ranking system rewards frequent players with more modes and privileges in arranging matches.

“World at War's” design handily lives up to the grand scale suggested by the title of the fifth “Duty” game. The war zone maps are densely detailed with wreckage and carnage. Their size and complexity makes them conducive to the strategizing that marks the best competitive multiplayer action. Through the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, the world will indeed be at “War.”

David Wilcox

253-5311 ext. 245

If you play

Game: “Call of Duty: World at War”

Score: B+

Parental rating: Mature for blood and gore, intense violence and strong language

Publisher: Activision

Platform: PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, Wii, Xbox 360

Price: $59.99

Play: Single, multiplayer

The final boss: The “Call of Duty” franchise returns to World War II with a fiery bang in the form of inspired action and a battery of multiplayer options.

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