Back in the 1990s when I was still a kid, I used to play Mortal Kombat a lot with my buddies. Mortal Kombat along with Street Fighter were easily the best fighting games then. But let’s admit it; the series has had a mix twenty years ever since its debut in 1992. The first decade was breathtaking but the next ten years were not up to the mark at all, leading some fans to believe that the series is finished for good. But when Mortal Kombat was shown at last year’s E3 it promised that it will return to its roots, the same essence that made people go crazy all those years back. Fortunately the latest entry in the long running franchise does exactly what it needs to do, a pure Mortal Kombat, free of any baseless characters and a return to the legendary gameplay.
Let’s talk about one of the most surprising elements of the game: the Story. Story mode is not a new addition in the Mortal Kombat franchise, but the way they were depicted in the last four to five games were downright pathetic. Much to my surprise, Mortal Kombat is not a sequel to the last game, but it is an altered re-telling of the events that took place between Mortal Kombat 1 and 3. Raiden is about to be killed by Shao Kahn, but just before he faces death, he sends a message to his former self, the Raiden who exists during Mortal Kombat 1. The story picks up from there with the introduction of Shang Tsung starting off the tournament with classical fighters like Liu Kang, Reptile, Johnny Cage, Jax and Sonya Blade. As the player progresses through the various chapters focussing on a number of characters, we get to see how Scorpion Kills the original Sub-Zero, the transformation of Sektor, Cyrax and Sub Zero in to robots and the altered events of Liu Kang winning the first two tournaments. What is surprising is that every character in the story mode has been depicted the way they should be. For example Cage is cheesy and will lay jokes on Sonya, Jax is serious and bad ass and emotions of Scorpion are portrayed in a manner like no other game in the past did. The only down fall of the story mode is its length. Experience fighters can run through it in about four to five hours, which I think is pretty short considering the fact that it is covering three canonical games in the franchise.
NetherRealm have been smart enough to include some insane amount of content in the other modes you will find in the game. First up is the legendary Ladder mode where you will have to fight through the tournament and defeat Shao Kahn. There are five difficulty levels available here, so experience players will have a lot of fun if they wish to choose the Expert mode, which in my opinion is ridiculously difficult. You can also team with your buddy and go for the Tag Ladder mode, which is just an extension of the Ladder mode I described above. The developers have also included a number of extra modes which are:
- Test Your Luck: This is where the player can spin a slot machine and depending on some internal game logic your opponent will be decided, the advantages that you and your opponent may get and the type of combat. There are numerous combinations here and based on your luck, you will come across some interesting battles. You may have people far away from you; ejecting ice balls and freeze you, giving your opponent a chance to take an advantage. You may also come across fights where you will have to do without your head or arms, giving rise to some never seen before combat.
- Test Your Might: A pretty basic mode where you have to power up a meter and smash through objects. The difficultly will increase as you progress.
- Test Your Sight: Now this was a pretty interesting mode where the player has to find an object underneath a skull. Those skulls will then be randomly shuffled and the player with the best eye and mind will be able to select the one which has the object.
- Test Your Strike: A mode which is pretty similar to Test Your Might, but instead of smashing through the entire object, the player has to time the shot so that only a particular portion of the object gets smashed.
Now all of these modes are also available through the Challenge Tower, where the player can undertake literally hundreds of missions and depending on the type of character the system throws at you, you may end up fighting against zombies as well. One of the fantastic things about this mode is that it also restricts some of the players depending on the power they possess. In one of the challenges for Night Wolf, the player can inflict damage on the opponent only when he/she is under a ray of light or Reptile will only be able to avoid damage if he goes invisible just when your opponent is about to attack you. Overall the Challenge Tower is deep and will easily add hours and hours of gameplay.
All these gameplay modes give the player Kurrency which can be used to buy alternate costumes, fatalities, concept art, music and more in the Krypt, a place where you have to sacrifice people in a gory manner. Then there is the Nekropolis where you can check bios of different characters and media that you unlocked in the Krypt.
No game can be Mortal Kombat if there are no fatalities. Fatalities are back with a bang with some of them being extremely gory. Some really gory ones are Noob Saibot taking the help of his inner self to pull your opponent and rip it in two pieces or Sheeva ripping off your opponent’s skin. There are also stage fatalities which we have seen a lot in the previous games, but this time NetherRealm studious have taken it a step ahead. One particular stage fatality that stands out is the one that takes place in the sub way where the player will smash the opponent’s face in a running train. All in all, fatalities feel extremely satisfying, although some of them are not for the light hearted. Each of the players has a number of basic and stylish moves. Your basic moves are nothing but your common kicks, punches and combos but the real fun obviously lies in the style moves where you can perform moves that the characters are known for. New to the franchise are the X-ray moves which are insanely disturbing and satisfying at the same time. Taking a leaf from the power moves found in other fighting games like Marvel versus Capcom 3, a meter has to be filled before one can execute them. Each player has only a single X-ray move which does not get old at all, although I wished there were a set of them for each player.
Mortal Kombat utilizes the Unreal Engine and as such it is expected to look good with real time damage to the characters with their eyes popping out or skins being ripped, but for some reason some of the characters like Liu Kang look a bit bland. However the design of the environments is breathtaking to say the least. The blood and the gore looks amazing and add to that some sparkling effects for each of the character’s trademark moves, then you have a game that is visually stunning. But more than the visuals, the sound element of the game is top notch. Especially in the story mode, the voice acting is something special and it feels that we are watching a Mortal Kombat movie rather than playing a game. The background score which is an addition of some new and old ones do a great job of getting the adrenaline pumping.
The online mode is not ground breaking but it’s pretty solid. You can enter in to an existing chat room or make your own and challenge other players. This is a pretty neat idea in my opinion since if the Mortal Kombat online community builds, then finding a match should be pretty quick. If you are not a gamer who likes to wait then you have the quick match mode as well. But the real icing on the cake is the ‘King of the Hill” mode where the winner stays on and fights on other challengers. The other players in the meanwhile will fill up a stadium and either cheer or boo the other players fighting in real time and rate the players on the scale of 1-10 hence giving rise to Respect Points. The queue for this mode is pretty long and you have to wait before your chance arrives.
The PlayStation 3 version is superior to its Xbox 360 counterpart because of the content. The PS3 version comes in with an extra character in Kratos and the game supports 3D, provided you own a 3DTV. Other than that there are no differences between the two versions. But if you are a gamer that has both a PS3 and 360 then I would suggest picking up the PS3 version and that is if you care about Kratos and you should, since he has some amazing finishers.
I have been playing this game for days now and it’s a testament that Mortal Kombat has truly returned to its roots. With an arcade style feel to it, awesome finishing moves, a story that makes sense and a solid online mode, fighting games don’t get any better and bigger than this.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Back to what defined Mortal Kombat games in the 1990s, Challenge Tower mode provides hundreds of missions, Tag team is a great addition, Playing with 3 of your buddies will make the experience unmatchable, Fatalities are pretty gory, Online mode is solid, “Get Over Here!” still sounds amazingly fresh, Kratos’s addition and support for 3D are plus points for the PS3 version.
Story mode is short and leaves you wanting for more, Some characters don’t look great close up.