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Platform

Playstation 3

 

Genre

Fighting

 

Publisher

Warner Bros.

 

Developer

NetherRealm Studios

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

April 19, 2011

 

 

- Ridiculous content, gameplay modes, unlockable bonuses
- Revolutionary story mode that bridges the conflicts between characters
- Bone snapping gameplay and mechanics

 

 

- Crushing AI difficulty
- Small learning Curve for mastering every fighter

 

 

Review: Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (360)

Review: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (360)

Review: Tekken 6 (PS3)

 

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Mortal Kombat

Score: 9.5 / 10

 

mortal kombat          mortal kombat

 

It always seemed rather strange that whenever fighting games are brought up, the names “Mortal Kombat” and “Street Fighter” are usually the first titles that come into people’s minds. Strange, because while the former’s gameplay has consistently remained competent and often entertaining, it arguably pales in comparison to the tightly refined mechanics of the latter, which continues to hold dominance over the fighting game genre.

And yet, stranger still, Mortal Kombat remains possibly the most recognizable of all fighting games. This is primarily due to its heavy violence and gore, which became a hot button issue in the 1990’s, and is still remembered (fondly by gamers, not so

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much by parents and activist groups) today. In the time since then, Street Fighter continued to evolve, while the MK series risked losing relevancy among gamers, especially when (former publisher) Midway flamed out.

From the company’s ashes comes a new development studio, NetherRealm, helmed by series creator Ed Boon, determined to bring the series back to life with its

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ninth entry, simply titled “Mortal Kombat.”

Contrary to the number-less title, this new addition of Mortal Kombat is indeed a sequel…but it’s also a remake.

Taking place at the end of Mortal Kombat Armageddon, the forces of Outworld and Earthrealm have been completely obliterated (ironically foretold but never taking place during the actual game), leaving only Raiden and Shao Kahn as the two remaining fighters. As the former is about to lose to the latter, the thunder god uses his last ounce of strength to relay a cryptic message along with the events of the last battles to his past self.

By “past self”, it means Raiden during the events of the first Mortal Kombat tournament. With his images of the future, Raiden attempts to change history by meddling in the events of the first three MK games, which results in a mixed timeline of penultimate events (such as the fated battle between Scorpion and Sub-Zero) along with new outcomes (none of which will be spoiled here, but suffice to say, many lives are affected by the changes, and some don’t live to see the future at all).

While story modes in fighting games tend to consist of Arcade-style ladders leading to a boss fight and a short ending sequence, Mortal Kombat goes above and beyond with an epic and lengthy campaign that no other game in the genre has ever attempted; rather than having players choose each character individually, the game instead places you in the point of view of each MK character, one after the other, in an intertwining story that spans several locations and battles that make up the entirety of the first three MK games. The final 1/3 of the campaign, taking place during MK3’s invasion of Earthrealm by Shao Kahn’s forces, ramps things up to eleven and serves a cinematic style of cutscenes that exceed the fan favorite first film, and completely dwarfs all other fighting games’ attempts at a story; of course, this is still a tongue-in-cheek series that features the likes of 90’s movie spoof Johnny Cage and comic book-ish villains like Reptile and Baraka, but fans who have dedicated entire wikis to MK’s mythology will be in for a treat, with many shout-outs and references to nearly every iteration and spinoff of the MK series (including beloved spin-off Shaolin Monks, not-so-beloved spin-off Mythologies: Sub-Zero, and even a cleverly hidden reference to the DC Universe crossover).

 

mortal kombat          mortal kombat

 

The only stumbling block to such an ambitious story mode is the borderline frustrating difficulty. This is due in part to some deadly AI-dominant boss fights (an MK staple), but also due in part to the constant switching of characters. As the story progresses, players are literally thrown into battle with each new character while given no time to learn their individual moves and fighting styles. To do that, you would either have to memorize the commands on the pause screen or try them out for yourself in the tutorial mode. Fighting game enthusiasts could skip either and just learn each character by reaction, but for newbies the frantic changing of the guard could be a little cumbersome.

For those preferring an old fashioned Arcade mode, the game has you covered, with the typical ladder of AI opponents leading to a final boss battle along with endings for each character (many go beyond established continuity and go for epic, often amusing outcomes). In fact, there is a plethora of additional kontent (sorry, only doing that once) in the form of game modes and unlockables, but the one that deserves the biggest mention is the Challenge Tower, a 300 mission tower climb that features a different objective with each mission. These missions partly range from typical battles between rival characters, but mostly involve unique and often insane objectives. Some involve extra handicaps, like battles where players are unable to block or use special moves or a rapidly deteriorating health bar; others require a bit of forward thinking, such as enemies that can only be hurt by meeting a certain condition (such as knocking them into a pit of fire); and some are just plain wacky, such as fighting while the entire screen is flipped upside down or the loss of limbs that offer additional handicaps (headless kombat means no X-ray attacks, legless means no kicks, etc.).

Much of these missions are taken straight from the game’s other mode, Test Your Luck. This feature takes a gamble with both opponents by spinning a wheel that offers extra status effects that can favor one opponent (extra damage or health), hinder another (slower speed, the removal of throws), or something that puts both fighters at risk (falling meteorites). While this mode isn’t available as an online feature, each of the above effects can be inputted prior to battle with the correct on-screen code commands (but must be successfully punched in by both players). In addition, Test Your Might makes a long awaited return, along with new mini-games like Test Your Strike and Test Your Sight. There is also a mini-game involving zombies….

To get to the point, Mortal Kombat is one seriously beefy game, but how about the most important part of the meal, the gameplay? Despite featuring full 3D graphics, NetherRealm has wisely chosen to follow Street Fighter IV’s footsteps and retain its classic 2D perspective, but also tightens up the gameplay to suit today’s fighting game standards. The result is a mix of old and new, with a combat system that feels familiar to MK vets but also revised so it feels weightier and with more room to experiment with personalized combos and techniques; It doesn’t go for Street Fighter’s precision, nor does it go to Marvel vs Capcom 3’s insanely flashy lengths. In fact, this is a game that discourages button mashing and rewards cool-headed players who also take the time to learn how to maximize each of the combatants (27 in all, virtually everyone from MK 1 through 3, plus a few additions including God of War’s Kratos for the PS3 version).

The biggest addition to the kombat (okay, once more, but can you blame me?) is the Super Meter given to each character. As the meter fills up due to damage given or taken, certain attacks become available that can instantly make or break each battle when used wisely. These included enhanced attacks (which add an extra bit of damage and flair to each character’s special move), breakers (which can instantly stop an opponent’s combo from finishing) and the ultimate tide turner, the X-Ray attack, a gruesome string of bone-crushing combos executed at the push of a button (or rather, two). This attack can only be used once the Super Meter is completely filled, and if it misses, then you’re SOL. If it connects, however, you’ll take out nearly 50% of the opponent’s life bar, and are treated to a slow motion x-ray crush that’s almost more painful to watch than the Fatalities themselves.

Oh yes, the Fatalities have indeed returned, and are far more gruesome and gory than the stuff that shocked parents back in the ‘90s; many classic finishers make a return appearance in addition to some new and creative executions, but all benefit from the highly polished 3D visuals. This graphic fidelity isn’t exclusive to the graphic content, either, as characters and stages have been greatly enhanced (particularly the females, who now sport Dead or Alive-levels of absurd cleavage) but also carry a familiar charm for fans of the classic trilogy of games. In fact, entire levels and music are directly lifted and remade for the modern crowd while also serving as a love letter for MK fans of old. And of course, it wouldn’t be Mortal Kombat without some bizarre background occurrence that leads to a few hidden battles once certain conditions are met….

It took nearly a decade, as well as the death-knell of the company that spawned it, but at last Mortal Kombat can competently stand toe-to-toe with the other fighting greats due to its gameplay, rather than its gore. With more content, modes, unlockables, and many other as-yet undiscovered secrets, this killer komeback (okay, one more for the road) is heaven for fighting game fans, and hell for competitors of the same genre who must now quickly catch up.

 

- Jorge Fernandez

(May 18, 2011)

 

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