The latest Mortal Kombat game is one whose self proclaimed aim is to bring the franchise back to its bloody roots. Ed Boon, the semi-reboot’s project lead, has also stated that he wants the newest Mortal Kombat game to stand up to the test of tournament caliber players. Along with these goals, Mortal Kombat also tries its best to please fans with a plethora of unlockables and tons of retro-style Easter eggs.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Mortal Kombat review
Mortal Kombat‘s first major change is the transition back to a side-scrolling fighting engine. The characters also move much faster than their Mortal Kombat: Armageddon counterparts, much like the original speed of the arcade games. Secondly, moves have been changed around and simplified somewhat to help newer players find their way around the controls faster. Although it might seem as though that change alone could turn this game into a button masher, anyone who is experienced with the characters could still dominate a match.
To add yet another tactical wrinkle to the mix, Mortal Kombat has introduced what’s called the Super Meter. The Super Meter doesn’t exactly reinvent the fighting game gauge tradition, but it’s implemented so well that it is certainly one of the highlights of the game. It’s simple: every time your character gets hit, the meter builds. If the meter gets 1/3 filled, players can pull off an enhanced attack (so for example, Scorpion throws two flaming spears instead of one regular spear). Two-thirds filled and your character can interrupt a combo or reverse any non-projectile hit. Finally, with the Super Meter completely filled, players can pull-off slow motion “X-Ray” moves. When the X-Ray moves are engaged, the camera actually zooms in and shows the opponent’s bones being smashed from dramatic angles. Although X-Ray moves can be blocked or dodged, if you manage to land one it can dramatically turn the tables. It’s especially satisfying when you are playing a tag-team versus match; I’ve actually made a comeback with an X-Ray move and beat the entire opposing team.
Aside from the sweet fighting engine, Mortal Kombat has tons of other modes. There’s the mini-games such as “Test Your Might,” where your player has to punch through boards as well as the aforementioned two to four player versus modes. There’s also online fighting capability. My experience online so far has been mostly lag-free, although one match on launch night was basically unplayable. There is even a mode where Kombatants can get in line and watch other players duke it out. Just like the old-school days, the winner stays and spectators’ avatars can even rate the match on a scale of one to ten. The single-player campaign is actually surprisingly well told through pre-rendered cutscenes and loosely (for reasons I won’t spoil) follows the original Mortal Kombat through Mortal Kombat 3 stories. Although the story is engaging, the single-player fights can get extremely cheap. Trying to get past a two-on-one match started to become a chore for me though the game isn’t unbeatable. It just disappoints me that Mortal Kombat does occasionally resort to lopsided fights or bosses who know what you’ll do before you do it.
Finally there is what’s known as the Challenge Tower. This is one mode that I fully expected to be cheap and brutally difficult, but it very much delivered. The Challenge Tower consists of 300 challenges that can only be beaten by adhering to what are sometimes outlandish rules. Some involve only being able to use kicks in a match or having to defeat zombies by using only ranged attacks. These challenges are pretty fun and even though you sometimes complete a “filler” challenge, most have interesting rules. Strangely enough, the fact that many of these will require dozens of attempts to complete is part of the fun. I would even recommend that BitHeads (GamingBits readers) invite a friend over and just pass the controller around while trying to complete challenges. It’s a heck of a way to kill time with friends, trust me.
Overall, NetherRealm Studios nailed the presentation. Mortal Kombat is certainly one of the best looking fighting games I’ve ever played (sports fighters like Fight Night or UFC not included). Lighting changes dynamically, damage accumulates on your character over time and blood stains everything convincingly. Mortal Kombat is chock full of eye candy with copious amounts of costumes, beautifully rendered levels and unlockable characters. In fact, there’s even a way to enable each level’s original theme music. Not to mention that each character’s insides are modeled as well, making for some insanely brutal finishing moves. You know a game is extreme when the significant other in your life is worried you’ll be scarred mentally. The sound certainly helps the macabre visuals, with every decapitation and impalement getting the sonic treatment you would expect from the Mortal Kombat series. This game without a doubt rewards those with a good quality home theater system. My only tiny nitpick with the presentation is that there’s a stark contrast between static shadows and each level’s fantastic lighting effects. It almost seemed as though player shadows and level shadows didn’t occupy the same dimension which was jarring at times.
Mortal Kombat is a fighting game the way they used to make fighting games. The design and presentation makes you feel every crushing blow and the fighting mechanics are smooth. Lastly, the game (thanks to its lengthy development cycle) has bucketloads of content to keep you coming back. If you liked the earlier Mortal Kombat games, then this is an absolute must buy. However, if you have a special place for the later games in the franchise (like I do), it still has a modern feel in many ways. Either way, I highly recommend Mortal Kombat.