Mortal Kombat User Review
Ed Boon takes the helm once again and leads his team, NetherRealm Studios, under WB ownership, in this latest and hotly anticipated MK entry. The sequel has been a long time coming as the MK vs DC outing from a few years ago had MK fans a bit conflicted and even a little upset. Now back in it's proper form and fully realized purpose, this latest release is the strongest in the long running franchise, and it's one of the greatest values found in any fighting game today.
Mortal Kombat has shed it's 3D game playing skin, revealing a return to it's 2D playing core from earlier years--the long lost prodigal son returns. Gone is the side stepping evasive maneuvers and the full directional movement, and, in it's place, a more linear fighting plane on just the X and Y axises. Sorry Z. Street Fighter 4 proved that this decidedly old school approach to modern fighting game design can work. And work well it does as MK makes the transition back to 2D nicely.
Many of the classic MK characters are here: Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage, Sonya, Jax, Kano, Goro, Kintaro, Shao Kahn and many more. They all look superbly detailed and well realized. You'll appreciate the added level of personality to many of the combatants. Characters like Johnny Cage and Jax will make entertaining one liners during play, “Gotcha!” Kano's primal nature will manefest itself vividly when he grabs a fighter's neck and violently shakes them while laughing. I found it all too compelling to become skilled with more than just a couple characters because there's just too many who are likeable.
The play action in MK is solid. You'll feel the familiar MK ebb and flow during combat. Like any good fighter, the control is razor sharp and responsive to your inputs. Aside from the usual projectile attacks and uppercuts, attack properties have been upgraded or refined: 60fps timing, throw breaks, tech rolls, wake ups, off the ground bounce, varied mid attacks, dial up and custom combos, and more. There's more than enough technical detail here for a dedicated player to study it to their playing advantage. There's now an inclusion of a special ability "Super Meter," not too dissimilar from the one found in Street Fighter 4. This 3 tiered meter builds up during combat. It allows for enhancing existing special moves, or combo breakers, or for executing an X-Ray move. This X-Ray ability uses a full bar of meter energy to unleash a single devastating attack, dealing heavy damage to the poor sap who gets clocked by one.
The MK cast also brings back their trademark moves consisting of projectiles and various super human maneuvers, and, of course, their fatalities. You'll be treated to a big assortment of ultra gory, hyper detailed fatalities, arguably the series best. Adding to that, stage fatalities and babalities—aww so cute--make a return here as well.
One of the more significant updates is the introduction of the fully fleshed out tag team mode. Players can square off in 2 vs 2 combat, tagging in and out during the match. A player has the option to call upon their tag partner to momentarily step out onto the stage and perform a special move, or swap tag right into combat with a high powered attack, or tag into play to finish out an existing combo. It's a unprecedented new addition to the series, as some publishers will package and sell a standalone “tag” version of their game; whereas, MK gives you both play options out of one box. Excellent.
All of these characters and details wouldn't amount to much without a solid online mode. It's the competitive nature of these games that can make the online play seemingly infinite in gaming value. You'll get to fight in ranked or player matches. Where the game automatically assigns you a competitor. There's also chat rooms. Where players can socialize or send challenge invitations to other players. 2 vs 2 tag team battles allow for up to 4 online players, paired up into two teams for a match.
The story mode is another significant element of the package. A player is presented to a cinematic story, taking the player right into the thick of MK's rich mythology. As hard as it is to believe a tournament of fighters conglomerating together to battle it out in mortal combat, the game does a great job immersing the player into a theme and setting that makes for a richer than the norm story experience for the genre. I couldn't help but admire the several hour experience that seamlessly blends the plot elements directly into the interactive battles. It's a welcome addition and a step forward for the genre.
There's also a whole lot of other modes and content within the game. The Challenge Tower has you working through a series of custom challenges that are actually pretty entertaining and fun to do. You'll do anything from shooting down droves of zombies with projectiles, to fighting without arms. All of the various special conditions make for some entertaining play. There's also an expansive Krypt. Where you spend your earned koins (gained during other modes of play) and spend them on various “unlockable items.” Many of these items aren't especially significant and are typically a MK novelty of sorts. Other than that, you'll encounter rare items that are more than worthwhile. And for the sake of not making this review too long winded there's other modes, like Ladder (arcade mode), Test your Might, Sight, and Strike.
Visually MK is a strong looking game. It draws a lot of artistic stylization from MKII and MKIII. You'll see many of the stages from those earlier games revisited, looking better than ever. The characters and stages are all quite detailed. You'll spot lavishly detailed backgrounds, rich with animated effects and highly realized themes. It's evident the team spent a lot of time making these BG's the best in the series, and dare I say, the most detailed and lively backgrounds outside of a DOA game for the genre as a whole. Characters are rendered and animated well, and at a higher standard of quality than former MK games. Some of the models can look a little stiff and lacking a certain living, breathing quality when observing them up close. For example, Johnny Cage's face and clothing articulation looks just a bit too synthetic to be believable. But overall, during the course of play, the overall attention to artistic detail and atmosphere is a very strong strength of the game and genre in general. This quality carries over to the fatalities. Lots of care went into their visual execution and it really gives the game that added feeling of polish. Just take a look at something like the acid room stage fatality and you'll definitely get a sense of the quality I speak of. Though, I have to say, the game has a slight blurriness to it that makes me wish it could've looked just a little tighter at the pixel level.
MK sounds just as you'd expect from an MK game. Loud and dramatized sounds and effects are frequented during battle. Bone snapping, blood splattering, taunts and various effects convincingly sound the part; though, I wish the uppercut sound effect would have more oomph! The music continues to offer an interesting blend of Asian instruments and mystical sounds that fittingly set the spiritual tone of atmosphere.
This latest MK is the real deal. I can't help but feel impressed by the level of effort that went into this package, not just for MK, but for the fighting genre in general. Netherealm Studios really nailed the stylization and personality of the series. It offers dozens, possibly hundreds, of hours of playing value with all of the modes and inherent depth and value of a competitive online fighter. NetherRealm Studios has successfully re-established their long running series with this MK entry, and, hopefully, we see their continued success moving forward.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.