Mortal Kombat Review

April 30, 2011, By Christian Davis

Amidst all the first person shooters, action adventure, and role playing games filling the industry, the fighting game genre has been making a rapid rise back to the top of our must play lists. It has been quite a while since we’ve had that nostalgic arcade feel that many of the young gamers today will not be able to experience. Thankfully, NeatherRealm Studios has resurrected our love for the arcade fighter with the new and vastly improved Mortal Kombat.

The franchise’s past installments have taken quite a few interesting turns. Weapons have been introduced, players given the ability to battle with different martial art styles, and they even got the chance to fight against DC Comics super heroes and villains in a less than stellar and bloodless battle. Though some ideas were greater than others, the game just wasn’t what we’ve grown to love. NeatherRealm Studios realized this and went back to the basics and ditched all the superfluous additions to the game.

Mortal Kombat is back to a 2D or “2.5D” plane and is a big welcome home to veteran players of the series. This switch from a 3D playing field allows Mortal Kombat to feel like a classic while being new and revamped. Two dimensions isn’t the only thing the team at NetherRealm Studios has brought back. The Arcade ladder mode has returned which has players going through several matches before defeating the boss, Shao Kahn. This is where the game should come with a disclaimer and maybe some aspirin too; like most classic fighting games, the final boss is a bit on the cheap side.

For instance, Shao Kahn throws a hammer at you that is unblockable and stuns your character. He threw said hammer at me literally six times in a row. It’s not really a huge problem, but gamers should know that this game isn’t holding back any punches…or hammers. It also doesn’t help that the levels you’re playing on are some of the best we’ve ever seen. The world behind the battle is lively and energetic. I even caught myself focusing on the backgrounds more than the actual match, getting me killed in the process. Dragons engaging in firefights with helicopters, blood filled rivers, and coliseums with slaves fighting monsters are just a few things in the background grabbing your attention.

Not only does Mortal Kombat come with one cheap boss, there’s another cheap difficult mini boss before you reach him. You’ll have to fight the four armed minion, Goro, before you even get to see Shao Kahn in action. It is somewhat relentless t0 go from Goro to Shao Kahn and it really brings that “are you serious?” feeling. It can lead you to feel a bit defeated going from battle to battle.

Usually, in fighting games there’s only the arcade ladder mode. In Mortal Kombat, there’s some great variety available for gamers who are only interested in the single player experience. The story mode in this game for example, is actually worth talking about. The general consensus towards stories in fighting games usually don’t go further than forgettable. Hopefully Mortal Kombat will set a new trend. The game takes players through a fun and action filled journey centering on “altered realty” versions of the original Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, and Mortal Kombat 3. It’s surprisingly deep and unexpectedly long which is not a misstep at all. Characters are interesting and have their own motives for being in the deadly tournament, the transition from cutscene to gameplay is essentially seamless, and the cheesy approach to the game’s story fits perfectly with Mortal Kombat.

We can tell that there was a lot of effort put into the single player experience and it shows. There are some exceedingly difficult parts in this mode as well however. You’ll encounter a lot of two vs. one matches with some heavy hitters and that can be a bit tedious, especially later on in the game.

Along with the story mode, you have the highly addicting Challenge Tower. This has you go up through 300 various challenges that will really test your skill at Mortal Kombat. Yes, 300. Don’t go and think this is going to be easy either. The first 20 you can sort of blow through but then that will stop abruptly and you’ll be stuck on several of the challenges.

With 300 challenges you’d expect an insane amount of variety and there are definitely are some fun game variations here: Johnny Cage and Stryker have to shoot zombies, Mileena wants to give Scorpion a teddy bear and he doesn’t want it, so naturally they have to fight, or Sektor has to survive against two characters until Cyrax is rebuilt, so the player must avoid them for a certain amount of time. And the list goes on and on. Test Your Might and Test Your Sight are also back and are even more challenging than ever. The Challenge Tower is so much fun and will easily take 10 hours out of your day. You’ll love every second of it.

While you’re playing through all of these modes, you’ll be racking up Kombat Tokens. This is the in game currency that you’ll use to unlock a lot of cool items in the Krypt. Seen in previous Mortal Kombat titles, the Krypt contains hundreds of unlockables for the player to purchase. Hidden amongst the various tombstones and torture devices are new fatalities, concept art, alternate costumes, music, and a whole lot more.

The single player experience is deep and highly enjoyable. There was so much more added here than any of us expected.

What’s Mortal Kombat without multiplayer though? That’s what the game is really known for and that’s what will keep you playing for a long, long time.

First off, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Mortal Kombat’s multiplayer. It just has different degrees of good. The game has gone back to its roots and you will notice it the second you enter into a standard multiplayer match. The combat is intense and there’s quite a bit of depth. Creating your own combos is part of the fun especially when you end it with one of the brutal and gut wrenching X-Ray attacks.

The newly introduced X-Ray moves are an excellent way to make a comeback if your butt happens to be getting kicked during that game. Landing hits and combos will fill your three part power meter. The first part of the meter gives you an enhanced special move which will enable you to shoot two fireballs instead of one for example. Fill up two parts of the super meter and you’ll receive a breaker. This breaker does what it implies and breaks the other player’s combo, giving you more momentum in the match. Fill up the third part of the meter and you’ll be enabling the X-Ray moves. Each X-Ray move works differently for each person. Some are counters, others can only be done in the air, and a few are actually projectiles.

Once the attack has landed, prepare for you and all your friends to scream “ooooh” and various profanities. Each blow landed in the X-Ray attack shows the character’s bones crush and shatter in the most gruesome ways. You’ll wonder how they’re even standing after these. Stabs to the eye, spines breaking, and necks cracking are all fair game during these visceral and ever so violent moves. The X-Ray attacks are great, but nothing compares to the franchise signature Fatalities.

There are several types of “alities” in the game. Each character starts off with one and the others you either need to purchase in the Krypt or figure out on your own. These are definitely the goriest in franchise history. Rip off someone’s leg and beat them with it until their head breaks? Check. Tear someone’s skin clean off? Check. Squish someone’s head into a messy bloody pulp with your bare hands? Check. The gore in this game is incredible. Over the top violence is what the franchise is known for and was definitely missed in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.

Literally tagging along is the newly implemented Tag Team battles. You can play this mode solo or have up to four friends each control a character. Instantaneous hilarity. Coordinating character switches and trying to string together combos with another person is not only challenging but very fun and practice will definitely pay off.

The most addicting multiplayer mode is the brand new Test your Luck mode. Players are pitted against each other in an off the wall fight with variations on the match. Before the fighting begins a slot machine will spin and randomly choose what changes will take place. Some are positive such as an instantly charging super meter, infinite super meter, more damage or more health. Others are negative like being poisoned for the match or not being able to jump. While those are nice additions, the best ones are the zany alterations. How about armless combat? This disables your ability to shoot fireballs, do X-Ray moves, and block. Why not give a player narcolepsy and have him fall asleep during combat and give the other player increased speed and regenerating health?!

The changes in gametypes give nearly endless variety to the game. Hardly is it ever a boring match and you can even change how many variables can take place in a match. Up to 7 are allowed and that can bring some hectic and almost frustrating matches. Add that many at your own risk.

Online play is a lot of fun and that’s due to the King of the Hill mode. Recreating the nostalgic arcade feel, players literally line up and spectate during the current match. Avatars will be able to cheer and boo during the match and even give a rating on the fight when it ends. Combine King of the Hill with a full lobby of friends and you’ve got hours upon hours of enjoyment.

This is the best Mortal Kombat game in the franchise’s history. Each mode could be a game on its own and we’ll gladly take it all bundled into one. Story wise, the game is solid and will set a standard for any upcoming fighting games. The multiplayer is fun, intense, addicting, and boasts a variety of modes. Despite its mature rating, this is an excellent party game. The reactions of your friends seeing an X-Ray hit land or a gut wrenching fatality performed gives the game an entirely different experience. Even though this is the 9th Mortal Kombat game in the series, there’s no number in the title. It’s presented simply as Mortal Kombat because the series has received an incredible rebirth.

 

 

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