Mortal Kombat Review

by on May 5, 2011

Mortal Kombat ReviewGame: Mortal Kombat

Developer: NetherRealm Studios

Publisher: Warner Bros.

Available on: Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3 (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)

Mortal Kombat. Just the title of the series creates images in most gamers’ head. Images of a time when we would run to the nearest arcade that was giving off the distinctive soundbyte, just because you’d heard from a friend of a friend how to pull off Kano’s fatality, only to have your hope and dreams dashed when it didn’t work.

When Midway Games went bankrupt in 2009, fans weren’t sure if they were ever going to get another game in the popular franchise, that was until Ed Boon (creator of the franchise) opened up a brand new studio and began work on rebooting the franchise.

The reboot, simply called Mortal Kombat, reintroduces players to the tournament with all the characters we’ve known and loved coming back to take on Shao Kahn and his Outland forces again. Does it live up to all the previous games? Does it have what it takes to be the best fighting game on Earthrealm?

STORY: Normally, when talking about a fighting game, there wouldn’t be much of a story to talk about. When it comes to the story what we usually get is the tried and true method of picking a character, fighting a slew of people (for no apparent reason) until we can fight the end character and get a little bit of a story, usually in text, but in a movie form if we’re really lucky. Mortal Kombat changes all of that.

If you’re familiar with the story of Mortal Kombat then you’ll know that Shao Kahn has threatened to take over Earthrealm if Raiden can’t put forward a champion that can beat his. The way this story used to play out was like every other fighting game, you picked a character and fought your way to beating Shao Kahn. In this new Mortal Kombat game the very first thing is changed drastically, you don’t pick a character, instead you play through a series of chapters, each with a different character. Each of the chapters tie together to form a complete, and in depth, storyline which allows the player to see everything that’s happening at the tournament from every possible angle.

All in all the story mode is about 6 to 8 hours long, which, considering the genre, is outstanding, along with the quality of the storyline itself.

GRAPHICS: When the first Mortal Kombat came out back in 1992 it was one of the best looking games around. Mostly because it used photographs of real people as the sprites but still, one of the best looking game of any era is no mean feat. This new Mortal Kombat is, once again, one of the best looking games of it’s era.

There has to be a lot of respect shown towards a game that puts as much effort into the background of a stage as the foreground and the character that are fighting on that stage. Each of the stages are developed to a high standard, so much so that it can often be difficult to concentrate on what you’re supposed to be doing and who you’re supposed to be hitting, because you’re too transfixed on what’s happening behind you.

The fatalities are also polished to a high quality, and each one of them (once you’ve figured out how to pull them off) are visually magnificent and make it so that you’ll never want to finish a match without one. There’s nothing better than seeing the screen go dark, knowing you’ve input the correct set of button combinations, and that what you’re about to see will be gruesome and glorious at the same time. Mortal Kombat certainly doesn’t disappoint.

SOUND: When it comes to Mortal Kombat, “Fatality” is the single most glorious word in the entire English language. When it’s said you feel like you’ve done something well, something special. The audio quality on that singular word would be enough for most people but NetherRealm Studios went above and beyond making that and all of the other sound effects to a really high standard. When you punch somebody hard in the face, it actually sounds like you’re punching somebody hard in the face, and when it comes to a fighting game you can’t really ask for more than that.

The story mode is acted well throughout with all of the characters sounding realistic without sounding over the top, which would be really easy to do considering the setting of Mortal Kombat. The only complaint about the sound overall would be that sometimes the sound effects in Outworld can sometimes overwhelm the speech, making it difficult to hear at times.

GAMEPLAY: For the most part, as with any other fighting game, Mortal Kombat’s gameplay revolves around it’s fighting mechanics and some of the best in the genre are on display here. There are plenty of special moves for the player to learn for each of the characters, as well as all the usual basic moves and throws. The addition of the X-Ray moves are something really special that’s never been seen before. Fill up your meter until it notifies you that you’re able to perform the X-Ray move, pull the two trigger buttons and sit back and watch as your character unleashes hell on your opponent, all while the camera peels back their flesh to let you see bones cracking and skulls smashing. Yes, it’s gruesome. Yes, it’s gratuitous. Yes, it’s AWESOME!

Most people will go straight for the ladder mode, which is what players are used to when it comes to a Mortal Kombat game, pick a character and fight your way as far as you can up the ladder. While there’s certainly nothing missing from this mode, it isn’t the main focus of this new reboot of the Mortal Kombat universe. This time there’s a fully fledged story mode that lasts as long as any other game, one which might only have that story mode. Take that story mode, throw in the usual ladder mode and then add a hefty chunk (10+ hours) of a challenge mode and you’ve got yourself a pretty massive game.

This new reboot of the Mortal Kombat franchise is also the first game in the series to include a tag team option. Now you can pick two fighters and swap them out at any point throughout the match, using special tag moves to pummel your opponent while you swap if you’d like. This new simple addition gives a whole new depth to the game, and with the amount of characters available and the new tag team option there are now literally hundreds of character combinations to choose from.

On top of all those modes there’s also the Krypt, which has been a staple of the Mortal Kombat games for a few years now. Basically every time you win a match, in any mode, you’re given some coins. These coins are used in the Krypt to unlock things. Sometimes you may unlock a piece of music, sometimes some concept or background art. Sometimes however, if you’re lucky enough, you may just unearth one of those elusive alternate costumes. All these items are scattered randomly around the Krypt, so you’ll want to try and unlock everything, just to get those costumes!

MULTIPLAYER: The online portion of Mortal Kombat is also something that’s had a lot of time, effort and love poured into it. It’s got the basic, run-of-the-mill one-on-one matches that we’ve come to expect from fighting games with online capabilities, but what really makes Mortal Kombat stand out from the crowd is the addition of the King of the Hill mode.

This mode basically fuctions like the arcade cabinets of our youth. We’d all line up, put our 20p on the cabinet to ensure our rightful place in the line, and then take turns fighting against the current champion. The winner stays on and the loser goes to the back of the line (providing they had 20p left, of course). If you’re one of the people not fighting, just like in those old arcades, you can watch the battle as it takes place, learning your upcoming opponent’s weaknesses and looking at which moves they always seem to do. This feature allows you to formulate a defence before the fight begins.

The other available modes serve their purpose well, that is when you can find a fight (I’m putting those issues down to the PlayStation Network still being a tad temperamental), but it’s the King of the Hill mode that will keep people coming back for more. The online statistic tracking is also a nice little feature but at the moment, it seems to be a little off. Consequently, there is also no real point in doing it at the moment, as it feels like it still needs to find its feet.

LONGEVITY: As with any fighting game since the dawn of gaming, the longevity of a title is directly linked to how you play it. If you’re the type of person who plays alone then it’s not going to have as much of a lifetime as somebody who plays with friends locally or online. That being said, Mortal Kombat still has excellent longevity for even those who play alone. The story mode itself is 6 to 8 hours long, which is unheard of with this genre, and once that’s done there’s the Krypt. Unlocking all of items available will take a great deal of time and greatly increases the lifetime of the game as a whole.

VERDICT: In the same way that the first Halo game showed gamers the world over that a first person shooter should do more than just lead a player down a similar looking hallway, instructing them to shoot anything that moves, Mortal Kombat does the same thing for beat ’em up games. No longer is the story an afterthought with every single scrap of development time being spent on the fighting mechanics and multiplayer modes. Mortal Kombat is a very accomplished title which deserves to be in every gamers repertoire, if you play it just with friends locally, online, or if it’s something that you put on to play on your own, there’s something for absolutely everyone. It’s practically impossible to call a game perfect but Mortal Kombat is right up there.

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