Developer: NetherRealm Studios / Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language)
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If you’re the sort of person that has the Mortal Kombat theme stuck in your head all day, you know the one–nah nah nah nah-nah nah nah nah–then you’ve been waiting for this Mortal Kombat for over a decade. It’s full of kontent (spelled with a K, of kourse…which is also spelled with a K), violent as hell, and generally fucking awesome.
MK is absolutely packed with modes, fighters, challenges, and unlocks. You can play the plain ol’ standard ladder, which is just arcade mode–a set of ten matches that lead to a boss battle and terse ending for your particular fighter. Story mode, on the other hand, lasts several hours and picks up right after the events of Armageddon. With nearly the entire MK cast dead and the world on the brink of destruction, Raiden uses his mystical lightning powers to send his past self visions and messages. From there the story replays the events of Mortal Kombats 1-3 with Raiden having the benefit of hindsight. If you enjoy the amusingly convoluted story of MK, this gives you some neat glimpses into the world like seeing human Cyrax and Sektor, or pre-robot arms Jax.
Challenge Tower is the other big single-player mode, providing a series of bizarre challenges. It starts simply enough, with instructions like “Hit this guy so many times in a time limit,” but gets fucking bonkers later on, like fighting zombies or flipping the entire screen upside down. There are hundreds of these challenges, and they get hard as hell, so you can easily spend hours here. On top of this, you earn koins for nearly everything you do, which unlocks concept art, music, and alternate costumes in the krypt.
And that’s just the single-player. The multiplayer in Mortal Kombat sets new standards for online functionality in fighters. You can create rooms, view leaderboards, and even chat with full text support – uncommon to most online console games, though admittedly clumsy with a controller. My favorite mode is King of the Hill, which replecates the winner-stays arcade setup. Unlike recent versus themed fighters, you can actually view matches in progress and cheer with your on-screen avatar. However, the game’s netcode can’t be truly evaluated until the game releases, and the masses start hammering the servers.
When you add up the story mode, the challenge tower, robust online features, over 300 unlocks, four-player tag matches, and lord knows how many hidden secrets, you have the most packed and feature-complete fighter ever. Yes, it’s that incredible.
Gameplay and Control
Mortal Kombat’s mechanics are slow, deliberate, and weighty, focusing more on positioning and mindgames over dextrous skill, meaning they may not be to your taste if you prefer the fast and technically intensive systems in Street Fighter or Marvel vs. Capcom. Most specials are two direction inputs and a button, and the combos are dial-a-combo button sequences. The explicitly defined combos are never more than three or four hits, but the juggle system means you can string together canned combos and specials to execute combos that can reach 50-60 percent damage.
Luckily, you’re not stuck in combos provided you have meter to break out of it. You earn meter by taking damage, performing specials, or having your attacks blocked. Attacking a blocking opponent is the fastest way to build meter, so the game is clearly designed to discourage turtleing. You can use a full meter to bust out an X-Ray move that knocks off a third of your opponent’s life if it connects. Aside from giving you a huge advantage, they also look fucking awesome. The first time you kick a guy in the stomach so hard he barfs all over your leg is pure magic.
From the characters to the stages and menus, Mortal Kombat looks incredible. Most of the Mortal Kombat 1-3 cast is in the game, all recreated with incredible detail and loads of character. Johnny Cage shouts “CUT” when he tags out, for example. Klassic stages likewise return with loads of detail, including the awesome subway level from Mortal Kombat 3. The game’s X-ray feature sets new standards in fucking guys up. It not only allows some amazing X-ray moves but disgusting fatalities involving skin melting off and innards becoming outtards.
Everything that hits your ears in Mortal Kombat is gorgeous and gruesome. Hits intone a meaty bassiness that make them feel solid and painful. The game’s music is the same energetic, aggressive electronica from past Mortal Kombats you’d expect, though even at maximum volume I couldn’t crank the jams to an appropriately thumping level. I also can’t believe I’m saying this about voice acting in a Mortal Kombat, but the work performed in the game’s story mode is great. Cage’s lines will make you laugh, and you might actually care about the fiction of Mortal Kombat by the story’s end.
Mortal Kombat is not only back, it’s ripping off heads. This reboot has an unprecedented amount of kontent (with a k), unlocks, charm, and raw fun. Even if you haven’t liked previous Mortal Kombats, believe me, you’ll be hooked the first time you triple dick punch someone. If you’re a series regular, then join me in celebrating that it took nine Mortal Kombats to give this one a…