The latest Mortal Kombat seems designed to appeal to those select group of people who say "why can't they make <insert game here> anymore?" The series hasn't exactly been starved for new releases but after the lukewarm reception to "MK vs DC Universe", a refresher course was kind of needed, to almost remind people what made them feed so many quarters into arcade machines way back when. Granted, nothing much has changed and what has is either thankfully absent (stances, weaponry and 3D arenas) and the combat, for once, actually feels like a fully fledged out fighter. Granted it's not the technical "easy to learn, hard to master" of Street Fighter or the over-the-top craziness of Marvel vs Capcom but as a game, Mortal Kombat is insanely fun to play. That's not even the start of it as NetherRealm has added so much stuff to the game that this game can literally last you months if you want to do anything. In fact it's one of the few games where I don't have much complaints about it but the game occasionally runs into a weird stumble but like Bulletstorm this year, Mortal Kombat is one of the biggest surprises this year.
In addition to the standard arcade ladder with an ending for each character, the biggest and most impressive component in the game's arsenal is an incredibly fleshed out story mode, retelling the events of the first 3 games as Raiden, the last alive in the fight against Shao Kahn's minions, sends out a message to his past self about their impending fates and it's up to him, Liu Kang, Kung Lao and many others to win the Mortal Kombat tournament and defeat the sorcerer Shang Tsung and his master, Shao Kahn. With full voice acting and animated cutscenes, the story of the game may be a little silly and has its share of either groan-inducing dialogue, laughable voice acting or both at once, it's the presentation that really impressive. The days of the animated sequences bookending Street Fighter IV or the static 2D portraits of Blazblue just doesn't really compare to MK's offering. Only downside is there's no retry option if you know you're going to lose, an overkill on 2 vs 1 battles at times and some bosses that are downright cheap and clairvoyant. There's no branching options and you might stumble when you switch characters and have to re-learn new combos and moves but the mode is a highlight regardless.
From there we have things such as Test Your Sight/Might/Luck/Strike which are nice little distractions but the funnest is definitely Test Your Luck which adds random modifiers to battle such as no blocking, no special attacks, or no heads. The game also adds a Tag team battle option so like MvC 3, you can call in another character to fight for you which adds some good strategy and options for nice combos. Probably the one feature you'll spend the most time into is the Challenge tower, a staggering 300 of them which can range from incredibly easy, the bizarre to controller throwing. These can range from using range attacks to stop zombies from touching you, fighting someone that can only be harmed in a specific spot on the stage or in some of the more frustrating ones, fighting more than one guy, some of which involve 3 Shao Kahn's, the cheapest boss in the whole thing. Thankfully you can skip them if you have the coins but if you want the special bonus (and the achievement/trophy) for beating all 300, you're gonna have to man up.
Those "coins" (or are they "koins"?) are won by completing story mode, winning matches, doing combos and performing fatalities and they can be spent either in the tower to skip stages or the biggest reason for them: the krypt. Separated into different sections, the krypt contains different items that can be bought which can range from concept art, music tracks, additional fatalities or alternate costumes. Unless you're a diehard MK fan, or you're a big completionist, the krypt will either sound like an addicting end goal you have to fully complete or having all the coolest stuff with no way to find what you're really after (such as the extra fatalities and costumes). Although story mode completion got me half of the krypt's items, it's a cool feature to have nonetheless.
The game naturally has an online feature, bringing its lobby system from DC Universe over and this is where the personal experiences will range as people will say the game is fine online while others will say it has atrocious lag. Well, I've kind of had both with matches going flawlessly in terms of connection (yet I lost) while others were so bad, a simple jump in the air looked choppy and took ages till I finally landed. I'm sure patches will come down the line but so far it's been fairly hit or miss as far as the connection is concerned.
I'm not really into fighting games at all, not only for the lack of a fight stick which hampered my enjoyment of certain games thanks to either the useless Xbox d-pad or the stiff one on the PS3, Mortal Kombat does have a bit of depth and complexity but ultimately, this is a great fighter to just jump in and go. The de-emphasis on "dial-a-combo" is welcomed after the repetitive combo strings I saw in Marvel vs Capcom 3 and some there's some experimentation to be had for finding some good ones. Not sure how huge the community will be in the long run but this is still a surprisingly awesome game for one I was thinking would be good anyway.