MK Trilogy 2: Ultimate Fan Service
Armageddon tells the story of the end of an era in the MK universe. As the tale goes, the Elder Gods foresaw a day when the Mortal Kombat tournaments would create a population of fighters so large and with powers so strong that another tournament would tear the realms apart. To save the universe they governed, the Elder Gods built a pyramid guarded by a fire elemental named Blaze, who would rise as a beacon to all warriors when the time came. Every kombatant from Shao Kahn to Mokap would gather for one final, apocalyptic showdown to determine not only the ultimate fate of each fighter, but the fate of the realms themselves.
Once again, the game features several different modes of play including online play, a kart racing mini-game called Motor Kombat, a huge Kreate A Fighter system, and most importantly the all new Konquest mode that goes in-depth with the Armageddon storyline with two brand new characters to tell you how all of this came about in much more detail.
The character models are essentially the same as Deception, which came out two years ago. They're still good, but not much effort was put into updating many of the characters. Almost any character that appeared in Deception or Deadly Alliance utilizes the same outfit they did in those games. Characters returning from long hiatuses like Shinnok, Stryker, and Rain have brand new wardrobes, which is nice. With about 10 male ninja characters on the roster, it's an achievement in itself to have them all completely unique in their appearances.
While the character models are somewhat stale, the backgrounds are excellent. Every stage is loaded with hellacious death traps and lots of stuff going on in the background. Once again, many classic stages have returned including The Soul Chamber and The Subway from MK3 and The Prison from MK4. Overall the game still looks good, but a lot of rehashed models brings it down a bit.
The AI is better and can be very challenging for veterans even on the default setting. The overall control of the game has not changed much since Deadly Alliance. The fine tuning in Deception improved the responsiveness and feel of the game, but Armageddon seems to take a step backwards in this department. It could be that the engine is showing its age or that they changed something subtle, but one way or another the game feels a bit clunky (some characters more so than others). Ed Boon has repeatedly said how much he loves Tekken, and you can see little things working their way into the game such as the ability to stay on the ground after getting knocked down as well as the option to attack as you're getting up on your feet to knock back your opponent. The parry system is a Tekken-ish addition as well.
Each character now has just two fighting styles (except some of the boss characters who only have one). Most have one hand-to-hand and one weapon style. Some complained about this cutback, but with 62 characters, memorizing that many styles would be a bit absurd. The combo breaker system is still available and works well, but they've also added a parry system that requires you to time your blocks properly. Air attacks have been revamped completely with all new mid-air combo system that brings jumping into 3D fighting like never before. Jumping truly feels like a 2D game and that's a great thing.
The other big addition (and subtraction) is the Kreate A Fatality system. For the first time in Mortal Kombat history, no one has unique fatalities. When the winning round ends, you create your own by utilizing button combinations that result in step-by-step mutilations of your opponent including kidney removal, snapped neck, spine rips, and many more. After each step you only have a couple seconds to enter your next attack. Certain maneuvers are flagged as ending moves, which will stop the entire process. You can get up to 10 steps in the process for an ultimate fatality. The concept is great, but the problem is that it makes all 62 kombatants feel the same. Fatalities are synonymous with Mortal Kombat, and when everyone has the same arsenal of finishers, it takes alot away from the game. If they had implemented this option in addition to the traditional setup, it would have been great.
Once again for the MK franchise, the soundtrack is excellent. The retro stages are especially good with their new tracks that still pay homage to the games that made the stages famous. The voice overs in Konquest mode are better, but still not necessarily good. They still have a chessey kung-fu feel to them in some instances, but that's not necessarily bad either.
With 62 characters alone, you'd have a tough time putting this one down for a while, but the game does offer a lot more. Kreate A Fighter is quite possibly the best creation mode in any fighting game so far (not counting wrestling). Not only are there hundreds of clothing parts to make your fighter unique, you get to choose each and every attack in your fighter's arsenal individually. You don't just pick a style and be done with it. Rather, much like a wrestling game's creation tool, you pick and choose what attack you want assigned to every button and combination for your guy. You can even name the styles whatever you want. Of course you get to name your kombatant, but you can also write a short bio for them as well as a winning phrase. The only drawback is that you can only have one created fighter per profile.
Motor Kombat is the new mini-game, which replaces Chess Kombat and Puzzle Kombat from 2004. This kart racing game is quite simplistic, but fun nonetheless and is a decent distraction from the main portion of the game. Don't go into it expecting Mario Kart or even Crash Team Racing, but it does feature five courses and about 10 characters with custom vehicles and special abilities to choose from.
Konquest is the most important mode aside from the standard fighting. Konquest is much improved in many ways over the rather disappointing appearance in Deception. Armageddon's Konquest revolves around two brand new characters, brothers in fact. You play as Taven, the son of a god named Argus. Argus is given the responsibility of protecting Edenia much in the same way that Raiden was once the protector of Earth. Argus' wife Delia is a sorceress with the ability to see the future, but a mortal nonetheless. She is the one who foresees Armageddon coming many millenia ahead of time. When Argus informs the Elder Gods of this vision, they issue Argus the responsibility of devising a plan to protect the realms. This is when Delia creates Blaze and the pyramid, but Blaze's purpose seems to be in debate. Argus believes that when the kombatants converge that they should simply be slaughtered to end the problem, but Delia sees that many of the fighters are heroes that should be spared and decides that the fighters should be stripped of their skills and special abilities. To decide which version will come to fruition, they encapsulate their two sons Taven and Daegon. They kept separately in different regions of Earthrealm and each are guarded by a dragon. The dragons are to awaken the brothers when the time comes, and whichever son can defeat Blaze will determine the future of all the realms as well as becoming a true god and protector of Edenia. What happens if a kombatant defeats Blaze instead? Well, that's part of the story. The tale is told quite well, and rather than having characters randomly wandering around for no real reason like in Deception, the characters that show up in Konquest now have a real purpose. Overall though, the journey is too short. Many times characters you meet will swear revenge upon you, only to never see them again. You can complete the quest in 4-6 hours your first time through. The whole story is completely linear, unlike Deception which allowed you to backtrack and wander. So, if you miss something like the 60 relics scattered throughout the game, you'll have to start over when you finish.
The Krypt is still in the game but luckily there is only one brand of currency in the game. No more multicolored koins to collect. Just gold. Finding the 60 relics in Konquest unlocks everything in the Krypt though, so save your money for buying Kreate A Fighter gear.
In the end, Armageddon is quantity over quality. It's almost as if they couldn't really decide whether they wanted to make the next chapter of the franchise or just make Mortal Kombat Trilogy 2 (this is the seventh game). If you're a Mortal Kombat fan from the early days and even somewhat enjoyed Deadly Alliance or Deception, this game is a no-brainer buy. With 62 fighters including many returning characters some of whom we haven't seen in over a decade, the nostalgia factor alone is worth a buy. The Konquest mode is fun while it lasts and the kart racing is a fun diversion. I recommend this game to any MK fan, but if you're simply a fighting game fan and not so much an MK enthusiast, there's not much new here to entice you. I can't wait to see what they come up with for next-gen.
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the release of the game. ***