After ten years of Mortal Kombat games that were slowly diminishing the franchise, Ed Boon and cohorts in NetherRealm Studios decided to go back to MK Basics: gore, simplicity and endless entertainment to play with friends. If you enjoyed Mortal Kombat in the ’90s you will fall in love at first round, if not then…just stop reading. This is not Tekken or Street Fighter or anything from the V.S Series, it’s Mortal Kombat so don’t expect anything drastically new to the formula. Does the game stand up on its own merits?
The story starts where the last game in the franchise, Armageddon, ended. Everyone is dead except for Shao Kahn and Raiden. The latter is losing the battle so he decides to send a message to his past self warning him of future events in hope of changing them. This is how they get away with doing a reboot and, in all honesty, it works. The last ten years of the franchise have skewed the mythos with silly story modes and even crazier characters (This will explain what I mean by that). The plot here is presented in a simple yet very impressive way; sparingly using cutscenes that lead you directly into the fights. Overall, the story can feel campy, or a bit like an Enter The Dragon knock-off if you’re new to the franchise, but if you have invested yourself in the series over the years then you’re going to love it. Lots of plot changes from the original story lead to a lot of really interesting moments but I won’t spoil them here.
Before I begin on graphics I would just like to say I’m not someone who can nitpick small things. I tend to look at graphics from a general consumer’s point of view. The central idea behind the game and the series as a whole is brutality and it lets you know it at every waking moment. From the stages to the menus it just bleeds with its ruthless and savage nature. All of the Kombatants are built from a skeletal structure that is meant to show you how destructive the things you do to one another are. Each attack is so fluid due to the fantastic animation work that they all feel like they hurt more than anyone could ever fathom. The blood splatter and the damage that is inflicted on your fighters looks incredible up close but all of that is still outshone by the stages themselves. Most if not all of them were recreated from Mortal Kombat 1-3 in amazing HD detail with a ton of amazing tweaks to them. Take the rooftop stage from Mortal Kombat 3. It has three versions: morning before Invasion, where it is just a regular city rooftop; Night during the invasion, where you have a dragon fighting a blackhawk, as well as another world merging into it; then the stage afterwards, where the city is destroyed. This is the same for almost each and every stage and every one of them looks glorious. The game looks fantastic and to top it off, it runs at 60 frames-per-second as well!
I have to say that this is one of the most well-rounded and easy to pick up fighting games in years. You can say that is one of the reasons the series is still around today. All special moves use either up, down, left or right with no diagonals so you don’t have to swing your thumbs around, while combos are all laid out in the menu, but a little bit of ingenuity can take you a bit farther with making your own. From my point of view the Kombatants seem balanced but I haven’t had a chance to play with too many human opponents at time of review. All of the characters play uniquely apart from one that you will understand if you unlock him. There is a simple tutorial for the actual gameplay but also one for Fatalities so you can get them memorized for that one brutal victory you get over your friends later down the line. To give the game a more competitive edge they introduced a super meter, with three stages to it. Stage 1 allows you to enhance a special move, like making Kung Lao’s hat throw also stun and damage over time. Stage 2 allows you to break out of a combo and hit them back and, most of all, stage 3 allows you to do an X-Ray move. The X-Ray moves are what make combat even more brutal with its bone-breaking animations, literally. If one connects, the game stops and you get an x-ray view of the victim’s bones and other things getting crunched. Because it does thirty percent damage it can be a complete game changer mid-round. NetherRealm also introduced three things very unique to this Mortal Kombat, those being three gameplay modes. I enjoyed them so much I’m giving them their own paragraph.
First up is King of the Hill mode. Basically, if you played Mortal Kombat in an arcade then you will fall in love. It’s kinda like the Netflix part of your Xbox 360 where you watch a film with your friends and you can do things with your avatar, it works the same way but you watch two people fight with the loser stepping down for someone else to replace him, just like in the arcade. It recaptures that feel from the heyday of Mortal Kombat. Number two would have to be Test Your Luck. If you look at the image above this you will see a Roulette wheel. When you spin it the wheel will choose your enemy and quite a few modifiers such as No Specials, No Jumping, Full Super Meter or Unlimited and they also have some funny ones such as Headless Combat and Explosive Combat (lots of blood and the loser of each match explodes). There is a lot of potential for fun but sometimes a player can be hit with a ton of disadvantages or vice versa but, again, that’s the appeal to the mode so it’s an individual thing. The best new mode by far is the Challenge Tower. There are 300 levels to the tower and it starts off easy but gets crazy as you earn your way up. One of my personal favorites is a scenario where you play as Scorpion and Mileena wants to give you a Teddy bear; with Scorpion being the bad ass he is, he refuses by whooping her ass! Some of the harder ones are just as nutty, such as where you have to murder Johnny Cage and Stryker, which eventually leads to you fighting Jax and Sonya Blade at the same time. These new features are just a fantastic addition and I believe they will stick around for future games in the franchise due to their popularity.
This game is packed full of Kontent. Much like past MKs it has a ton of unlockables via ‘The Krypt’, a place where you use the Koins you earn through the various modes to buy random plots and unlock all kinds of things. Most of the time you will find concept art and every so often a new item for Test Your Luck, but if you’re lucky you might find another Fatality or, even better than that, an alternate costume. It’s a blast to play the game and unlock them as you go. There are two secret characters to unlock by finishing the story mode and they’re a lot of fun to use, on top of the already stacked list of playable fighters (27 on Xbox, 28 on PS3). With the PS3 version you get yourself a rather neat inclusion to the franchise: Kratos. Due to his brutal nature he fits right in and makes for a great Kombatant to play with or against.
All in all it’s a very solid package. The game has a few faults in its AI when you get into the harder difficulties but is just a blast to play with friends. If you loved Mortal Kombat before, you’re going to be infatuated now that it’s gone back to its roots. Go pick this one up, guys, it’s damn well worth it.
Developer: NetherRealm Studios.
Time: I got 8 hours or so out of Story mode but you have unlimited with versus.
Gripes: Some AI issues later on in higher difficulties.
Get it for the: Kontent. Bottom line, you won’t find another fighter with as many options.