Reminiscent of MK Trilogy for this Generation. MK Return to FORM!
It's been a LONG LONG time since I have been interested, at all, in a fighting game. The most recent fighting game I actually paid for (not played) was probably... Tekken 2. Anyway, I've been a fan of Mortal Kombat since i was a little tike putting quarters up on the arcade game's screen trim to reserve my spot in line to play against other arcade patrons. So you can believe me when i say that this is Mortal Kombat's return to form and back to their 2-D roots.
The new Mortal Kombat is very much like a re-imagined version of Mortal Kombat Trilogy with up-to-date graphics, tweaked mechanics, and additional game modes. MK Trilogy was basically a compilation of MK 1-3. This new MK takes place after the events of MK: Armageddon, but time travels back to the start of the Mortal Kombat competition of the first stand-up arcade game. The story mode, for a fighting game, is surprisingly done very well. Exempted, there are obviously weak moments that are like "Hey...you're a jerk...let's fight", but com'on IT IS a fighting game and that is kind of the point. Besides that, the story is very well done and introduces newcomers to the past franchise while simultaneously retelling and recreating the events of MK 1-3 for veterans.
Returning player Kombatants from the past franchise installments will see many familiar faces and places. The places where the game's duels commence are really superb. The backgrounds are lively and made with great detail. Stage deaths have made a return and everything here and far in between about the stages is aesthetically pleasing.
Stages are not the only thing that look great in Mortal Kombat. The character models are aesthetically wonderful and special move animations sound, look, and feel great. The sound is simply superb. The sound of crunckling bones or when Goro slaps his hand on your face to toss you around like a rag doll is supremely satisfying. Also, the animations for special moves have been reinvented or upgraded to fit the new age of gaming. During combat characters get brutally beaten and as the matches go on the character's appearance is obvious to such assaults like; eyeballs exposed from missing eyelids, flesh and or wires dangling, exposed brain matter, sections of lips missing to reveal gums and teeth, etc. If you like, or have liked, Mortal Kombat for their stapled franchise of gore and disgust you will not be disappointed.
The addition of the new X-Ray moves amplify these qualities that indorse brutality and gore. Each player, played or adversary, has a new meter that is broken up into thirds. Once you have 3/3s of the meter filled you can perform the new X-Ray move, in which the camera zooms-in and the skin can be seen through to show the carnage unfold in vigorous detail. Skulls splinter, organs rupture, femurs shatter from penetrating knifes, and so on, during these X-Ray encounters. Though many fatalities have been removed (as fatalities) it is impressive the way the developers have incorporated old fatalities into these X-Ray moves instead. For example, for Liu Kang's X-Ray move he does his patented cartwheel-to-uppercut fatality from the old games as an X-Ray move now instead of taking the place of one of his fatality spots.
FATALITY...welcome back my friend. Fatalities are back and better than ever. The fatalities are all pretty top notch and almost none of them seem idiotic like a spars few from the past seemed to be. Like Kabal's mask removal to "scare" his victim to death…woooooo. Those have been removed and replaced with tangibly (tangible inside the MK fantasy realm of course) and gorily satisfying multi-angled cut-scene-esque carnage fests.
Combat is a mixture of MK 2 and 3. Nothing from farther down MK's road comes into play here from a combat aspect. Meaning, changeable fighting stances and pulling weapons out for long-time use are absent. This MK's fighting is all about short combos, special moves, and franchise staples. The combos have been dumbed down from 3, but in a good way. There are no 15-hit combos unless you get extremely creative. This is why the combat feels like it takes a lot from MK 2. There ARE small several-hit button combo attacks, but the real fun is in creating your own combinations from the use of combining special abilities mixed with combat standards like; sweep, uppercut, roundhouse, and drop kicks mixed with teleport abilities and special moves to string together longer more damaging attacks. Almost all of these old simple, yet good, fighting mechanics have made a return and are as simple to operate as they were back-in-the-day. Down plus an attack for an uppercut and Back plus a kick for a sweep are amongst some of the old franchise standbys that make a return. Fighting is as fun and fast as ever. At times, when fights might get a little crazy, I would think to myself…"man, I can't believe I used to be really good at this". Although, old muscle memory and motor functions set in and in no-time you feel right at home and are getting flawless victories like you used to. Also, with something like 28 playable characters in Mortal Kombat you will have plenty of time to master and refamiliarize yourself with the fighting mechanics.
Some of the worst parts of the game have to do with fighting mechanics…only against one character though…Shao Kahn. Granted he is the last boss, Shao Kahn doesn't feel like he is beating you because he is better than you or stringing together his abilities in an intelligent way to defeat you. For example, Shang Tsung actually feels like he is a really good fighter. Shang might use his fireballs and other abilities to juggle your character around like he is a hacky sack to underminedly destroy you. Ermac is also an exceptional combatant. Whereas, Shao Kahn only feels as though he is beating you because he does not follow or abide by the same game mechanics or rules as you. His animations for skills and recovery are quicker than yours, he is nearly unable to be staggered, and your undaunted connecting attacks go unchecked as he blows through them to do whatever move he has in mind to crack your face with instead. I understand he is the last boss, but he doesn't feel intelligent or like he has a keenly superb fighting technique…he just feels as though he is a cheat. Not to mention, but obviously I am, his X-Ray move removes 52% of your total health in a single move and basically all of his abilities are special moves so his special ability meter fills quickly.
An additional downside of the game is that the character ending cinematics (NOT related to the story mode) are not that great. Not since MK4 have the developers used cinematic CGI endings for every playable character's conclusion of the tournament and ever since then they have yet to be as good. In this new MK the endings look like a style of illustration I am sure you have probably seen somewhere before which is a single illustrated image and the figures on the image move or barely interact with one another as the screen pans over the next-to-motionless graphic novel-like illustrated image. This style of animation is fine, but feels lacking since one of their games had better cinematic endings previously and that was in 1997…14 years ago. They should at least live up to the standard that they created for themselves.
I reviewed this game on PS3 and gave it a it 4.5 / 5 stars (or 9 / 10). The reason for this is that the D-pad on the Xbox is awful. It hinders your experience and makes the game frustrating. I know it is not the game's fault because i have played it on both consoles. SO, Mortal Kombat does deserve a 9/10, but unless you have one of those new Xbox controllers (Where you can turn the little mechanism under the D-pad to make it transform into the more conventional and precise "+" shape D-pad.) I would suggest getting MK on the PS if you have the choice. Also, yes, the directional pad is worth downgrading the score an entire point to an 8 / 10 especially in a fighting game where the controls hold the utmost importance. Keep in mind though, the game was virtually unnoticeably different from a technical standpoint, the graphics, load times, and all of that were basically the exact same.
An additional shortcoming to the Xbox version in comparison to the PS3 version is that the PS gets the "God of War" character Kratos as an additional exclusive combatant. Whereas, Xbox got no one. I don't understand this. If they were looking for an Xbox exclusive character who also is know for mutilating people the way Kratos and the Mortal Kombat franchise are know to do then I thought they need look no further than "Ninja Gaiden's" main protagonist, Ryu Hayabusa. Ryu is known for turning enemies into mincemeat in a visceral fashion and he has a variety of different weapons in his arsenal same as Kratos does. Another 'dink' in the score for the Xbox version.
============ALL IN ALL===============
I will go out on a limb and say that this is the best Mortal Kombat ever made. Ed Boon and friends have reinvented the stone wheel into a nice rubber tire. They take some old great ideas and improve on them by bringing them into the current generation. The game supports a plethora of exhilarating moves and fatalities that are easy to execute because of great controller-to-game precision. The game looks absolutely fabulous from; characters, fatalities, special moves, level design, and so on. Fighting with friends and mutilating them has never been so much fun. The only way it could be better is if this current Mortal Kombat was not nostalgic to me and I was a kid right now and that many years from now (when I am playing MK 18) that this Mortal Kombat right now would be the one inducing nostalgia. I don't know if I would ever trade waiting in line to fight people with my quarters up on the arcade machine for the modern social videogame conventions…so scratch that, I wouldn't have it any other way.
In the end, take it from an old Mortal Kombat veteran. I personally never buy fighting games anymore, BUT If you're a fan of the old arcade Mortal Kombat games I would highly suggest picking this game up. If you're into fighting games, especially ones that are in the flawlessly developed 2-D genre I would take serious considerations into buying this game. At the very least, rent it…this Mortal Kombat is worth your time.