Back in 1991, Street Fighter began the whole fighting game craze with Street Fighter 2. In 2008, they reignited it with Street Fighter 4 making fighting a dominant game genre once again. Just like in the 90s, other game companies are looking to capitalize on the craze by bringing back their heavy hitters. Street Fighter’s biggest challenger for the king of fighting games title has returned to once again begin the epic rivalry.
Mortal Kombat has had its ups and down as a series, but for the past decade, the franchise has pretty much been a joke. The ninth installment, simply called Mortal Kombat , was directed by series co-creator Ed Boon with the intention of going back to its bloody origins. It has done that and so much more.
Bloody Beautiful - Back in the beginning, Mortal Kombat was breaking new ground with use of digitized actors as game characters, but the series really began dropping the ball once it went to 3D. In this Mortal Kombat , the series former glory is restored. Every character is incredibly detailed, from their outfit to their facial expressions. What I loved most was how your character would begin to show the effects of kombat: cuts, bruises, ripping of the skin, and outfits would appear the more damage you took. Not only do you have a flawless looking character when you get a flawless victory, but after those long drawn out fights, your character actually shows how much of a bloody mess they are. The stages also look incredible with so much going on in both the background and the foreground. Backgrounds show other fighters, crowds, and even dragons that will be sure to distract you as you try your best to focus on the action. In the foreground you have fire, acid, and even streams of blood that splash on you covering your character with blood. I can only think of one miniscule flaw in the game’s visuals: for some reason, Johnny Cage looks very, very strange when he smiles. Aside from that small problem, Mortal Kombat is a treat to watch.
Deep Kombat - Throughout the development of the game, Ed Boon and Neverrealm Studios made it known that they wanted Mortal Kombat to be a serious fighting game. They achieved this feat by creating a fighting game system that’s easy to pick-up, yet has enough depth that fighting game fans will want to play. While the characters are not totally balanced with some characters being a little cheaper than others, *cough* Ermac *cough*, this is not an incredible cheap fest like earlier Mortal Kombat games that had only a small number of characters that were actually playable in competitions. Built into the system are various ways that will prevent you from spamming the same combos and moves after a set amount of times. Netherrealm Studios has also said that there will be future patches to stop any cheap moves in the game. A new addition to the series is the X-Ray meter that will fill during a fight whenever you take damage, have the opponent block, or do special moves. Similar to the EX bar in Street Fighter 4, the X-Ray meter is split into three sections. Filling the first section of the meter will enhance a character’s special move, again just like an EX move in Street Fighter 4, by either making the move do more damage, changing the properties of the attack, or adding armor to the attack that will absorb an opponent’s move. With the second section of the meter, you can do a Kombo Breaker that will stop your opponent from completing a combo. When completely filled, you can unleash an X-Ray move that will do some severe damage to your opponent. X-Ray moves are unique to each character each having different properties and ranges. Skilled players will have to use their meter strategically during a match deciding whether to sacrifice health by not using the Kombo Breaker and waiting for the X-Ray move to become available. Tag mode has also been added letting players pick 2 characters then swapping them in and out during a fight. Surprisingly, it works incredibly well making for some epic battles, and there are even special tag moves for each character. Finally, Fatalities have returned and they’re as gory, bloody, and disturbing as ever. Not only do you have that satisfying feeling of a playing with a fighting system that up to snuff, but then you get to revel in your win by slaughtering your opponent.
Krammed With Stuff To Do - Recently, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 received tons of grief from gamers and reviewers because of the lack of content in the game, and it shined a light on how fighting games have not provided enough substance in the game to warrant their $60 price tags. You will NOT have that problem with Mortal Kombat : it is filled to the brim with stuff to do. Story mode is about 8 hours, then there is the arcade ladder that has the traditional progression to the final boss as back in the original games, a Challenge Tower that has 300 challenges to complete from the typical beat an opponent, the fondly remembered Test Your Might games, killing zombies, and other tasks that run the gamut from painfully difficult to completely outrageous. Completing challenges, the different modes, and ladders will earn you points that can be traded in for various unlockables in the Krypt including concept art, theme music, alternate costumes, and even additional Fatalities. All that content is just in the offline mode, not including practice and tutorials. Online you have various kinds of matches you can fight online. One great aspect online is the King of the Hill mode that has multiple players join a room where those not fighting in a match can watch the match in a little theater that has their avatars watching. With 27 characters available (28 on the PS3 with console exclusive Kratos, along with DLC characters on the way) whether it’s online or offline, you will get your money’s worth with Mortal Kombat .
A Mortal Tale - Storyline has never been any fighting game’s strong suit. You’d be lucky to have a plot for a character that had more than a minute ending that actually tied the storyline together. Instead, most developers have gone the route to make for quick endings for each character. Mortal Kombat has that in the arcade ladder, but in Story Mode, a whole plot has been woven together for you. It starts off with Raiden being defeated by Shao Kahn, and sending a message to his previous self letting him know what is needed to be done to prevent a future where all the fighters have been annihilated and the Earth Realm has been lost. It’s here that we’re once again introduced to the first batch of Mortal Kombat fighters that were from the original game as the Story Mode plays out the plot from each game in sequential order creating this remarkably cohesive plot that acts as a crash course in Mortal Kombat lore. Each of the original 3 Mortal Kombat games is split into five chapters. Every chapter has you play as a particular "good" character that has you face-off against different enemies, namely all the "bad" characters. One small gripe I have is that because you will fight against the bad guys most of the time that means you will fight the same bad guys over and over again (namely Reptile and Baraka). It becomes a little boring when you fight them for the seventh time. However, the change of characters in each chapter, as done originally in Mortal Kombat vs. DC, really lets you get a real feel for these fighters that you normally wouldn’t have. In another exceptional move, Story Mode is several hours long, and can be difficult as hell at times. Regardless, fans of the series will enjoy revisiting the characters they’ve known of for so long, and new players will get a great introduction to the cast and story.
WEAK AND PATHETIC
Deadly Lag - As of this writing, Mortal Kombat is horrendously slow on Xbox Live. Online matches range from slightly laggy to simply unplayable. In a time where online play is such an important factor to a fighting game, it’s simply unacceptable to have such horrible lag. What worse is the time it takes to find a ranked match. Multiple times I’ve waited for more than 15 minutes for a ranked match to be found. I’m hoping that this is simply launch day lag and it’ll be cleaned up over time when fewer people are playing all at once.
Pay For What? - Announced a few weeks before release was the mandatory Kombat Pass needed to play online. Similar to what many sports series have done as of late, a Kombat Pass is in every new copy of Mortal Kombat . If you buy the game used and the Kombat Pass code has been used, you cannot play online unless you pay for a new pass. You can do a trial for 48 hours, but after that, you will have to pay $10 to play. Now I do understand the need for it from a developer standpoint; the used game market has caused a hit to their revenue. My problem is that a franchise returns after a long decade of suck, pleads with their fans that THIS time they’re doing everything right and it’s ok to come back, and then to have them throw THIS in the face of their fans is a bit upsetting. It’s like the ex-girlfriend who started off great, became really annoying and you left only to have her come back a changed woman, but she’ll only come back with you after you buy her a new purse to get on her good side. Yes, I know it’s a sign of the times, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Is Mortal Kombat everything fans have been dreaming about for years? Yes it is. It has a fighting system that has depth, enough content to make it worth the sixty bucks, and all the blood and guts that made you love the original. Mortal Kombat is back, and you need to get it.