Mortal Kombat ReviewJune 7, 2011
Does the newest entry in the near 20 year old Mortal Kombat series deserve your attention?
Mortal Kombat offers a deep gameplay experience that very few fighting games can claim. NetherRealm Studios has raised the bar in this entry, and wiped the series’ spotty history clean again.
Mortal Kombat brings the series back to what made it popular and infamous back in the early ’90s: hyperviolence and extreme gore, which will be a welcome change to those that still have a bitter taste in their mouths from the enjoyable yet sterilized Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe. MK cuts away the fat the franchise has built up in its last few 3D entries, such as 3D-plane movement, weapons fighting and multiple stances. While the last few Kombat games may have seemed gimmicky and notable only for their violence, Mortal Kombat steps into the realm of the great, legitimate fighters, such as Street Fighter 4. This Kombat is a lean, well-oiled machine.
The story mode in Mortal Kombat stood out as unique in my eyes, at least compared to other fighting games. This is the first fighting game I have played with a very lengthy story mode. It intertwines multiple characters and relives/reboots the history of Mortal Kombat 1, 2 , and 3. I found it to be very enjoyable, and I found myself actually interested in MK’s strange yet cool roster once again. Demon warrior Scorpion’s backstory is fleshed out, and he is humanized as you relive the anguish he experienced when Sub-Zero and his clan destroyed Scorpion’s village, and killed his wife and son. You will find out why Jax has metal arms, why Cyrax and Sektor are cyborgs, what the hell Mileena is, and more. The story mode has more than 15 chapters, and all of its cut scenes are skillfully produced.
Mortal Kombat not only re-imagines the original trilogy of Mortal Kombat 1, 2, and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, but also shares most of those games’ roster and arenas. The great story mode is complimented by a healthy amount of additional content in the form of multiple single-player and multiplayer game modes. In addition to the substantial story mode, there is Challenge Tower, which is a 300 level, very cool mix of fights and mini-games that are actually entertaining. Challenge Tower mode is partly a tutorial, offering up, for instance, matches where you can’t use your special moves, or more comically, fights where you have no arms.
There is also the standard Ladder arcade mode, where all characters also have the requisite intro and outro movies. There is also Tag Ladder mode, where MK shows off its brilliant tag team fighting, which is even more fast and furious than the singles mode. There is a Fatality Training mode, where you can skip right to mutilating bodies to your heart’s content. Returning from the series’ past is the Krypt, an awesome stockpile of unlockable goodies, where you can spend Koins earned in all the other game modes.
Mortal Kombat’s return to the 2D plane is a very welcome one in my eyes. The game feels stripped down in a good way, and you never feel like you lost a round because of wonky controls. The game has a new meter that fills up in three stages as the rounds go on. Fill up the first stage, and players can perform an enhanced special move. Fill up the second stage and you can use a “Breaker” to break an opponent’s combo. At stage 3, you can unleash a devastating X-Ray move, which can be avoided, but if it connects, expect a near 50% health drain (alongside a brutal animation). Executing the staple moves like uppercuts, leg sweeps, and fireballs is easy, and the crunching sound of bone and sinew clashing is satisfying.Likewise, special moves and Fatalities are simpler to perform than ever, with Fatalities even appearing on the games start menu move list. If you lose a round online in this game, it’s because you need to practice more, not because the controls needed more QA time.
That’s not to say this game is without flaws. The controls may be fine tuned and the story mode may be interesting, however not all of the skeletons of Mortal Kombat’s past have been swept away. The boss characters’ AI is still insanely cheap and very frustrating, and can still only be beaten by stooping to its level, and using your character’s cheapest moves over and over again. Granted, this particular problem plagues other fighters as well, such as Tekken and Street Fighter, however this problem has been practically married to this series since its inception, and I would love to see it fixed in the next entry.
Mortal Kombat is a beautifully rendered, back-to-basics brawler that is packed to the brim with awesome content. Yes, it has its flaws, but with its refined fighting system, stunning graphics and hours upon hours of fun gameplay, I find it very hard to not recommend this game to fighting fans, and those that left the series behind after MK3.