Review: Mortal Kombat
It makes me feel old to say this, but Mortal Kombat has been around for almost two decades now, and it is easily one of the most recognizable and iconic videogame franchises of all time. Introduced in 1992, it is now 2011 and Mortal Kombat has now reached up to its 9th installment of the series’ canon (8th if you dismiss Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe as a spin-off). As a long time fan, it is safe to say that for myself, Mortal Kombat has fallen off to the side as a game not up to the standard the series has set for itself so many years ago. The last 4-5 games I purchased and played simply out of respect from how much fun I had with the first three games. Now with the latest installment, can Mortal Kombat redeem itself? Heck, we’re already halfway there with a title that is exactly the same as the original. So far, the game gets a 10/10 in the category of “potential to confuse your grandchildren.”
Mortal Kombat is a fighting game, and by nature, it is a pick-up and play experience that you can have in bite-sized pieces. The standard for fighting games has always been to have a mode where you fight through about 7-10 computer controlled opponents and eventually reach the end with an epic boss battle. Mortal Kombat has this, but a lengthy story mode experience is thrown in as well. In the past, Mortal Kombat games have tried to throw in story modes that usually strayed away from the actual fighting game aspect. This time, they nailed it. The team at NetherRealm Studios have taken the rich and interesting stories of Mortal Kombat and put together some great cutscenes for some awesome storytelling. These cutscenes tie together predetermined match-ups between fighters, and although it forces you to use characters you may not necessarily like, the story keeps you wanting to play more.
The back and forth from fights and cutscenes continues for a long 10+ hours, but doesn’t feel that way at all. The magic behind this is due to how seamless the transitions are. There are no load times, loading screens, delays, or anything of the sort. One moment the characters are talking smack to each other, the next moment you hear “Round 1, Fight!” and thrown immediately into a fight. I think what fans of the series will also appreciate very much is the heavy amount of references and nods to Mortal Kombat history throughout. I think what has made Mortal Kombat so popular in the past was the fan appreciation, and this game has too much of it. It’s fantastic. I only say too much, because every character (outside of unlockables and/or DLC) is a character we know and love. That’s great and all, but brand new characters would have also been nice.
Mortal Kombat features one-on-one versus matches and up to four player tag-team matches. The tag-team matches are especially fun, because, unlike some other fighting games, you can actually tag and have a friend control the second character. You can also journey through arcade mode with a friend for a co-op experience. When playing, the characters and environments are fully 3D, but the fights are fought on a 2D plane. This means that Mortal Kombat has finally gone back to its roots. It started as a 2D fighter, and it should never step outside those boundaries again.
Even more so than its fan service, Mortal Kombat’s popularity is mainly due to the violence and shock value it had so many years ago. The last installment just didn’t feel quite like a true Mortal Kombat game with its T for teen rating; you truly felt like they were limiting themselves and their creativity. Now that they’ve learned from their mistakes, this is definitely the most violent and graphic Mortal Kombat since…forever. In this day and age, it’s hard to feel uneasy about seeing blood and guts, but they were able to pull it off. In a nutshell: Fatalities are in again! Those few seconds after a match has been finished and has nothing to do with the win or loss of a match is back for sheer enjoyment purposes.
Added to the fighting experience is a new meter that allows you to pull off enhanced moves, breakers, and the all-new X-ray moves. Enhanced moves are more powerful versions of every character’s special moves, and breakers help stop your opponent from dishing out a total beat down as they begin their 17 hit combos! (I’m exaggerating) X-ray moves are the most unique addition to the Mortal Kombat series, and if you haven’t seen any of them yet, I suggest Youtubing a couple! When the meter is full, each character has an X-ray move that inflicts a lot of damage if landed on an opponent. Bloodthirsty fans will enjoy watching moves and body parts crumble as these moves are being pulled off. Each character’s X-ray moves are different in the way they need to be done to be executed on an opponent, so watch out for the unblockable ones. These moves do get a little boring at times, because once you’ve seen it once you don’t really need to see it again.
While playing through the game, you earn coins to purchase content in the game’s Krypt. This adds a big incentive to continue playing the story and the arcade modes over and over again, because who doesn’t enjoy buying things with virtual money? Fatalities and artwork is some of the many things you will find here, and it’ll surely take you some time before unlocking everything. There are also mini-games are some whacky gameplay modes that keep you entertained, and they will add a good couple of hours to your price to value ratio. Online is also present, but can be a little sluggish. Since fighting games are all about timing, the game suffers a lot because of lag spikes.
Graphically, the game looks phenomenal. The amount of detail on not only the characters, but the backgrounds is truly incredible. Characters are also seen bleeding and have their clothes ripped apart by the end of a battle, and this adds an awesome effect to how raw and visceral this game is. Of course, I know this isn’t the first fighting game or Mortal Kombat game for that matter to use this effect, but worth pointing out because of how much it is complemented by an all-around good game this time around. The music is also better than some of the previous titles, but still not the best. There is an inconsistency throughout the game that has you loving and enjoying the tracks one moment and then not even notice it the next.
Overall, I feel that Mortal Kombat has truly returned to the place where we first found it, and that is on top of the fighting game mountain. With so much content, a great fighting engine, and amazing story mode, you can’t go wrong with Mortal Kombat, especially if you’re a fighting game fan. There may be some hiccups here and there with balancing issues and online lag, but it’s nothing to get worked up over. The point is finally, we now have a game again that makes us proud to say we are Mortal Kombat fans! Welcome back, Mortal Kombat! We’ve missed you.
- Game: Mortal Kombat
- Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
- Developer: NetherRealm Studios
- Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Studios
- MSRP: $59.99
- Release Date: April 19, 2011
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this title was purchased by DualShockers, Inc. for the purpose of this review.