Even though I was the absolute perfect age when the first three Mortal Kombat games were released in arcades and on home consoles, I never really found myself getting into them beyond a few afternoons with friends or the occasional match at Wunderland. Therefore, when I learned that NetherRealm Studios was going to try yet another modern take on the series, I was entirely indifferent. But upon seeing enough footage and learning what’s really happening here, my perspective has changed drastically. Now I suddenly find myself desperately wanting to play Mortal Kombat as soon as my bloodthirsty paws can get a hold of it. Why is that? Read on for the review.
Mortal Kombat is the perfect definition of a full remake of a classic game. Those familiar with Mortal Kombat 1, 2, and 3 will be pleased to discover that this new title is actually a retelling of the original trilogy, including all the characters and stages, with HD graphics and serious control-balancing. What gets my interested peaked is the story mode, in which the convoluted and somewhat confusing tale is retold with cutscenes in such a way that it’s nearly impossible to get lost.
Why the story mode gets me so excited has to do with my usual feelings towards fighting titles. Fighters surprisingly have some of the best stories in video games with characters that have interesting backstories worthy of their own games, but the fashion that all fighters play out- one match at a time, sometimes in just a tournament format- doesn’t leave the story much room to explain itself, if any. I’m always sad when I can’t get into a fighter purely because of this handicap, so knowing that Mortal Kombat is doing everything in its power to alleviate my frustration is wonderful news to me.
Regardless of story, the winner here comes down to the fighting mechanics. Mortal Kombat games in the past emphasized shock value over strong gameplay, relying more on the novelty of the Fatalities rather than precise controls. At last we have both the shocking gore fused with extremely solid gameplay in the perfect fusion, meaning that you can eat your cake and have it as well. Assuming your cake has blood for frosting. And limbs for candles. And is filled with souls. I’m getting off track. My bad.
Part of the improvement to the gameplay comes in the form of a new super meter on the bottom of the screen. As players perform well, their meter will fill up into three sections. Filling up the first section will allow you to affect your special attacks and make them stronger, filling two sections allows you to break opponent’s combos (which you’ll want to do now that air-juggling has been improved), and filling the meter entirely lets you unleash X-Ray Mode, a game-changing super attack that will steal the show for most players.
In X-Ray Mode, your character will grab their opponent and pulverize them with ridiculously powerful attacks while showing you the physical breakdown via X-Ray of how much damage is being done. For instance, Jax will grab an opponent and break his back over his knee, zooming into their backbone with an X-Ray perspective to let you see the bones break. It’s like adding another Fatality to all the characters, making you want to see every character’s X-Ray Mode attack as well as all their Fatalities. The only drawback I see is that it sort of breaks the believability as characters don’t instantly die from these mini-Fatalities. Baraka stabs characters through the eye socket, but they aren’t dead unless their health meters are chipped away by the end of their attack. Not a deal-breaker by any means, but it’ll make you chuckle. Then again, you’re fighting in an otherworldly tournament in a place called “NeatherRealm,” so realism isn’t where your priorities should lie.
Exclusive to the PS3 version is the inclusion of Kratos as a character. You know, the star of the God of War series, as if you needed a reminder. My initial reaction was to recoil at the sound of Kratos’ name (as we’re not on very good speaking terms right now), but upon seeing how well he fits in with the game itself, everything makes sense. He’s allowed to be overly violent and decapitate opponents in just the way you’d prefer, so his inclusion is great. It is saddening that the Xbox 360 version doesn’t have a special exclusive character, but then again who else besides Kratos can get away with being in Mortal Kombat-levels of violence?
For a fighter, there’s also a ton of extra content to keep you going, most prevalent of these is the Challenge Tower, a series of 300 challenges that range from matches with funky handicaps to all manner of mini-games, such as Test Your Might or a variation of Three-Card Monty with skulls. The purpose of playing through is to win coins that can then be used to purchase concept art, alternate costumes, and new Fatalities for characters. Simply, you’ll have a lot to keep you going.
Mortal Kombat is definitely set to please the fans, both as a single-player experience as well as a multiplayer experience. Naturally, this is one of the best titles available for couch play with friends, but the online component is just as rich. In fact, you can even spectate online matches, something that should really be standard in all fighters these days.
Those waiting for a winning Mortal Kombat update, here it is. Pretty much every aspect is running at top efficiency here, allowing you to feel confident in your purchase. Go forth and buy Mortal Kombat with the knowledge that you will be pleased in your choice. Right now though, I need to go brush up on my Fatalities.
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