The history of Mortal Kombat is long and interesting. Opinions about which game is the best in the series vary according to taste. Some gamers like only the old 2D Mortal Kombat games, while others find the newer, 3D ones decent enough. But after the bomb that was MK vs. DC Universe, and a history of fun-but-not-brilliant sequels, Mortal Kombat was in desperate need of something to remind fans why we loved it in the first place.
The recently released and aptly titled Mortal Kombat is just that – a reboot of the entire franchise that combines the best elements of the old games with the better innovations of the new ones. I’ve even noticed a fair amount of hype surrounding this title. Judging from how quickly it’s selling out everywhere, it’s almost as if just a whiff of the original, maniacal bloodlust has returned – but unlike the old days, there’s a strict rating system in place now, and Mortal Kombat has been branded with a much-needed 18 age restriction – so tough luck, kiddies.
To further the effort of returning to the series’ solid roots, the developers have included only the original trilogy characters and completely disregarded the 50-plus other jerkwads they’ve created willy-nilly over the last decade. So no more obscure tosspots like Hsu-Hao, Li-Mei, Shujin, Mavado and Drahmin, whoever they were. No, thankfully, we’ve got only the old cast from MK 1-3, characters we know and love like Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Sonya, Nightwolf, Kitana, Mileena and the two cyber ninjas, Cyrax and Sektor. The only additions from beyond are Ermac and Quan-Chi – oh, and Kratos, if you’re playing the PS3 version.
But I know what you’re just dying to find out – how does it play? Fantastically. That’s what you want to hear, right? Well, you’re in luck, because it’s true. Gone is the mostly vestigial third dimension from the last five. This game returns to the old 2D beat-em-up gameplay that endeared the original games to millions. They’ve also re-introduced the old school sweeps and uppercuts. Don’t worry though, apart from that each character has a unique arsenal of combat moves and combos – which is one of the better new-school inclusions. On top of that, each character has their mandatory arsenal of special moves that, when combined with their normal moves, allow players to create impressive and devious combos. The developers have also finally included a few basic amenities they should have put in 15 years ago, like throw escapes, tech rolls, dashing and mid-level attacks.
For the first time ever, MK characters have a super power bar at the bottom of the screen. This bar is divided into three segments and fills as players fight. Players can expend one segment at a time to enhance one of their special moves, a-la EX moves from Street Fighter IV, or they can blow the entire meter at once to perform a visually stunning, massively damaging move called an X-ray attack. Every character’s X-ray attack works differently, so figuring out the best way to trap your opponents with it is part of the joy. Every character also has a couple of Fatalities, standard MK stuff, but this time, they’re included in the move list, which is good, because MK’s market share of blood of and gore isn’t so exclusive any more that we need to go to special lengths to see some – like hitting the ‘net to find out how to perform the finishing moves. If you fancy doing so, you can do all of this in Tag Team mode – which is basically the same idea, just with two characters at once, allowing players to switch between the two, juggling their hapless opponents around like volley balls.
I terms of value, there’s plenty to do, from the standard arcade mode to the Challenge Tower where players can attempt to clear 300 bouts with special conditions. Story Mode is tons of fun, fighting through a movie, essentially, controlling different characters at different points – if the actual MK movies were more like this, they’d have been a lot better. All of these modes reward players with Koins, which can be spent in the Krypt to purchase concept art, music, new fatalities and so on.
So yes, all of you hardcore MK fans can finally stop holding your breath. Mortal Kombat succeeds in blending the best of the old and the new, packing it with attitude, and making it all tons of fun to play. The fact that it looks and sounds fantastic doesn’t hurt either – so go and buy it.