Review: Mortal Kombat
A more robust story mode, exciting new moves and a host of content makes Mortal Kombat a welcome, and worthy, return of the franchise.
- Worth The Time?Definitely, there is no time wasted when busting enemies heads and pulling off Fatalities.
- Things LovedThe accessibility and easy pick up and play nature of the game. The ability to pull off fantastic and beautiful looking combos with a fair amount of ease. The fully fleshed out story mode. The vast roster which is full of variety. Tons of content. X-ray moves. FATALITIES!
- Things HatedThe handicap the story mode sometimes hands you. The occasional unresponsiveness of button inputs. The sometimes cheesy and predictable plot. The odd graphical degrade during cut scenes. The unbelievably cheap nature of Shao Kahn.
- RecommendationFans of fighting games and Mortal Kombat lore will eat this game right up. It has a fully-fledged story mode that revisits classical Mortal Kombat folklore while putting a new twist on certain events. Newcomers to the franchise will also be welcomed by an accessible fighting system, as well as an entertaining story. There is tons of replay ability, even after the story has concluded, with multiplayer, tons of unlockables and minigames. The online is robust and smooth, and also offers some interesting new features. all in all, this is an amazing package which is full of value, and is well worth the money spent.
- Name: Mortal Kombat
- Genre: Fighting
- Players: 1-4
- Multiplayer: Online Multiplayer, Splitscreen
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
- Developer: NetherRealm Studios
- Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Price: R599.95
- Reviewed On: PS3
The fighting game genre is a very tricky genre to create games for. On the one hand you want to please hardcore fans of the franchise by including hard and exquisite combos and special moves that they can learn and master, while on the other hand you also want to make a fighting game accessible enough for newcomers, so that they may be able to pick up the controller and be eased into the world of fighting games. This often leads to messy games, ones that are over complicated or too dumbed down for fans. Mortal Kombat does a brilliant job of finding that sacred middle ground, offering a robust fighting system that allows anyone to pick up and play, as well as offering advanced combos and gruesome difficulties to the hardcore fan base.
Mortal Kombat fans around the world have been screaming out for a decent Mortal Kombat game for years, following a string of sub-par spin-offs and toned down violence (Yes that is you Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe). With mixed feelings leading up to the release, Mortal Kombat was both a pleasant surprise and a gasp of fresh air for suffocating fans. The game returns to its roots, with the return of a 2D fighting plane, gruesome and gory special moves and Fatalities, as well as some well included new features such as the “super bar” and X-Ray moves. It also features one of the best story modes ever included in a fighting game, which helps the game feel more like a proper console game rather than the same old arcade style of recent fighting games.
The story follows the events of Mortal Kombat 1, 2 and 3, though do not be alarmed if you are a Mortal Kombat guru, as there are enough twists and changes to keep everyone entertained through the 6-7 hour Story Mode. The story starts out in the future, with all of Earthrealm’s (Earth) warriors having been defeated, along with many Outworld warriors as well. Raiden, God of Thunder, is the last remaining hope for Earthrealm, though he is getting one hell of a beat down from the Emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn. Shao Kahn wants to merge his realm with Earthrealm, which will consequently kill everyone on Earth. The Elder Gods (Dragons in the Sky) forbid this to happen unless Outworld win ten consecutive Mortal Kombat Tournaments, though Shao Kahn has completely disregarded this after many failures, and instead decided to just kill everyone and do what he wants. Realising that Shao Kahn has won; Raiden sends a message into the past to himself, in the hope that Raiden in the past may change the course of events, thus saving Earthrealm.
The story then begins at the 10th Mortal Kombat tournament, with Outworld needing only one victory to merge the two realms. Shang Tsung, loyal follower of Shao Kahn, is overseeing the tournament being held on Earth when Raiden recieves the first visions of the future. Unsure of what these visions may mean, Raiden oversees the battles between many fighters from both earthrealm and Outworld, in the hope that these visions may indeed help him secure safety for Earthrealm. The story takes you through various chapters, and does a good job of introducing you to the various characters, as well as giving a good background on each. You will take control of various fighters throughout the story, which gives a nice sense of progression as you will constantly have to learn new characters moves and strategies. The story follows the good guys, so it is a bit disappointing that you will not be able to use a number of awesome bad charaters throughout the entire campaign. Despite this, there are many characters you will take control of, and the developers created a decent learning curve throughout the campaign, letting you play with characters with fairly simple moves and combos at first and then progressing the difficulty slowly.
While this learning curve is fairly gentle, there are various points during the campaign that cause a major spike in the difficulty level. One instance of this is when the game throws you into 2 on 1 match with a clear disadvantage. What is more annoying is that these fights happen frequently, meaning that your frustration levels can sometimes reach boiling point. While some are fairly easy (Kitana and Jade) others can be extremely difficult and annoying (Goro and Kintaro), sometimes forcing you to resort to cheap methods in order to gain victory, which is never fun. It just seems out of place that the developers would throw that into the game just to raise the difficulty of the campaign. Another annoyance, which is rather big in fact, is Shao Kahn. It is normal for a fighting game’s main boss to be stronger and much harder to defeat, but Shao Kahn also resorts to extremely cheap methods of winning. For example, he may win a match by constantly throwing his massive hammer at you, which becomes annoying as you cannot block it and the stun time allows for him to throw another without you having time to avoid it. Most of the time, the only way to defeat him is to constantly spam ranged attacks, which takes all strategy and thought out of what is meant to be the most exciting fight of the game.
Graphically, Mortal Kombat is beautiful. It trades the flashy design style, seen in games like Street Fighter 4 and Marvel vs. Capcom 3, for a more realistic and darker aesthetic. The 3D model characters are great, and it is evident that a lot of work went into designing costumes for characters such as Scorpion, Quan Chi, Cyber Sub-Zero, Reptile and many more. The developers also did a fantastic job in designing the injuries for each character, which can be seen unfolding in real-time during matches, based on the amount of damage you take. Large gashes, torn costumes, bruised ribs, missing eyes and much more can be seen as you beat down on your opponent. Another great art direction is the different locations and backgrounds that you will be fighting in. A lot of fan favourites return such as the Evil Forest and The Pit, and these backgrounds are bursting with life and activity. While fighting players can see another battle unfolding on a ledge in the distance, or see the faces of trees move and animate, and even see some poor prisoners executed in pools of acid. All of this creates a dark a gritty feel to the game, and also immerses the player in the environment that surrounds their fighter.
As for the gameplay, Mortal Kombat features a fighting engine that is without a doubt the best in the series, and maybe a good contender for one of the best on the fighting game genre. While some hardcore fans may be put off at first by the slower paced gameplay, the brilliant hit detection and stylish combos more than make up for it. While Mortal Kombat does not contain endless combo strings, it does employ a mechanic that allows skilled players to string together varied combos and special attacks in order to effectively “juggle” their opponent. I know what you are thinking, endless combos and flawless victories by skilled players with no way to break a combo? Wrong. The developers have added an awesome game feature, in the form of a “super bar”. This bar is visible at the bottom of the screen, and fills up when performing special moves, or receiving them. The bar is split into three segments: Using one segment will enhance any special move, using two bars will perform a Breaker, giving you a chance to break out of combos, and using all three bars will unleash a devastating X-Ray move, which is the most satisfying and damaging move in any characters arsenal. When performing an X-Ray move, players will be treated to an X-Ray view of their opponents skulls cracking, spines breaking, organs being crushed and more. This “super bar” adds another layer of depth to the fighting, as skilled fighters will learn when it is best to take advantage of it. The best strategy is not always to wait for all three bars to fill, and players who constantly try this will find it difficult to beat a player you mixes its uses to full effect. The bar also comes into play in tag team matches, enhancing special tag outs and partner attacks.
Your 4 main buttons on your controller act as your primary attack buttons, and are mapped to a specific limb of the body, similar to the Tekken series. By combining this with directional buttons allows you to pull of various different moves and combos. This is all normal by fighting game standards, so there is not really much to point out. One thing that can be mention is the ease at which you can use the “super bar”. By simply pressing R2 or RT at the end of a special move, you automatically enhance it. R2 and RT are also used to initiate a Breaker when used in conjunction with the forward direction button. X-Ray moves are so flashy and amazing that you’d probably expect a long string of button press to precede it. Luckily you are able to unleash these brutal moves with the simple press of R2 and L2 or RT and LT at the same time, allowing you to easily include them in a combo string. I feel I have to note that, although it was rare, there were times when button presses were not recognised by the game. Though infrequent, it is highly annoying when it happens.
Sound design is also a stand out performance in Mortal Kombat. Characters are voiced by appropriate actors and while there are not any noteworthy performances, each voice actor does his/her job to add a personality to each character on the roster. The sound design on the other hand is fantastic. From bone crunching punches to grunts of extreme pain, the sound is magnificently directed and captured and really adds to the immersion experience. Some examples include the sound of Kitana’s fan blades as they cut the air, Scorpion’s spear as it pulls a hooked opponent, and even the weird sound that is produced when Noob Saibot detaches a clone from himself.
Mortal Kombat is bursting with content. Even after completing the 6 hour campaign, players can look forward to hours of multiplayer fun, whether it be online or local. With the inclusion of 4-player local support, it is always fun to beat down on mates, and occasionally rip each other’s spines out. Online multiplayer requires a pass to play online, which is included with new copies of the game, but will have to be purchased off Xbox LIVE or PSN if you buy a second-hand copy. Online play is smooth and streamlined, although there are some points of noticeable lag, which will probably be fixed by a patch soon. Included in online play is the all new “King of the Hill” mode, which allows up to 8 players to spectate a match, and then vote on the winner afterwards. So, basically, if you feel a player was spamming the same move, or if you feel the match was boring, you can show it. It is like being on an interactive forum while watching a game, which is pretty cool.
Multiplayer aside, there is still the usual Ladder that one can play, as is usual in fighting games. There is also a training room, which acts as a tutorial and a free sparring room. There is even a specially assigned Fatalities training room, in order to learn all the different character Fatalities. By far the meatiest extra is the Challenge Tower. In this mode, players assume the role of different characters and are presented with various different and sometimes funny challenges. Some include simple fights with rules, such as Reptile only being able to take damage when not invisible. Others may include keeping a wave of zombies at bay with Stryker’s gun and Johnny Cage’s energy ball. This mode is both extremely long and highly entertaining, and goes to show that a game does not always have to take itself seriously to be entertaining. During these challenges, and in the campaign, players earn Koins which can be used in the Krypt to unlock alternate costumes, more fatalities, concept art, soundtracks and much more. On top of all that there are some minigames which are familiar to the series, such as “Test Your Might”, “Test Your Sight”, “Test Your Luck” and the new “Test Your Strike”. All of this creates a massive amount of replay ability.
In conclusion, Mortal Kombat is not only an amazing fighting game, it is an amazing game overall. The developers fully realised the need for a change in the series, and they have certainly delivered on all fronts. While there are a few minor technical hiccups, they are not enough to draw you away from a decent story, an amazing fighting engine, classic characters and tons of content. Mortal Kombat is exactly what it needed to be and more, and fans of the series, and even newcomers, will be over joyed at the amount of blood, guts and gore this game has on offer. In the words of Shao Kahn, “Ready? FIGHT!”