Almost a Flawless Victory...
My personal experiences with Mortal Kombat are far from what most would consider the "golden age". At the end of the day, although I'm sure some have fond memories of Armageddon and MK vs. DC (yes, I'm sure they exist), they don't really put me in the Mortal Kombat "butter-zone". When people started talking about the new MK and how it reminded them of the good old days, I personally couldn't relate. I didn't know what a classic Mortal Kombat experience was like.
I'm still not sure if I know what that's like, but I DO know that the new Mortal Kombat is as good as any fighting game on the market, and though it's not without its flaws, it advances the genres in many simple ways.
STORYSurprisingly, Mortal Kombat is a fighting game with a full-fledged story attached to it. Mortal Kombat starts at the very end of the MK universe during Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Everybody's dead, and Raiden himself is on the brink of biting the big one at the hands of uber-baddie, Shao Kahn. However, in desperation, Raiden uses the remainder of his powers to send a telepathic message to his past self in hopes of averting this disastrous faith. What follows is Raiden and his allies' path through the first three games in the Mortal Kombat franchise. However, with Raiden possessing new memories and characters being around who once weren't, the events flesh out much differently, to the point that even those familiar with the MK mythos might be surprised. It's cheesey, and it's not the deepest story, but the way it unfolds is always entertaining.
CONTENTWhere Mortal Kombat first shines through as something special is with the amount of content it puts forth. Not only are the number of modes in MK pretty impressive for a fighting game, but just in terms of video games period. Aside from the natural Arcade ladder, Versus modes, and an impressive number of tutorial modes, MK also brings a pair of uniquely awesome modes in the form of its Story mode and its Challenge Tower. The Story mode, naturally, has you traversing the story I just laid out, and this'll take you about 6 hours. The Challenge Tower, on the other hand, is 300 individual tasks you must take on in order which range from simple fights, to mini-games like Test Your Might, to wholly more ridiculous missions. I'm a month into the game, and I'm nowhere near completing all the challenges, so I can't even gauge how long this thing is. Rounding out the package is a huge roster, a full multiplayer suite with lobbies, ranked matches, etc., and several tag battle features that permeate most modes throughout the game.
In short. This game is stacked.
GAMEPLAYMK is a traditional 2D fighting game, and as such, there are things you likely can expect. However, unlike Street Fighter, MK typically takes a more offensive-minded approach to its fighting. Juggles and big combos are key, and even blocking won't do you much good for long as chip damage is dealt out for each and every move. It's still important to know each fighter's capabilities and to exploit fighting game strategies like zoning out, turtling up, etc. Luckily, there's a good tutorial here for new players, and the early goings of things like the Challenge Tower certainly favor new players. Tag battles also do a good job of mixing up this basic formula by throwing in even more madness with assists and quick tags, and even throws in the ability to have four live players going at it in a single match. It's not the most balanced or refined fighting system, but Mortal Kombat is always fun to play.
Of course, fighting games in this generation require a solid online foundation, and it's only here that MK falters. The amount of modes and ways to play online are certainly there, but the netcode is shaky at best. Too often are you dealing with lag or noticeable latency. It's playable, and getting together with a buddy with a solid connection makes it nearly perfect, but playing randoms is a bummer. If NetherRealm Studios, the dudes behind MK, can't get fix this up with future patches, I fear the game's true potential will never be reached.
Mortal Kombat certainly impresses visually. Whether it's the character models themselves or the nauseatingly detail on the blood and gore, MK is a good looking game. The highlight is certainly the uber-detailed stages, which feature multiple moving elements, distractingly huge scale, and some neat lighting. The soundtrack, though not necessarily as memorable as other fighting games, does have a retro feel that fits in with the game's tone and setting. Lastly, the voice-actors, though hammy, all do a good job. You'll never doubt that these competitors are going to rip each other apart.
THE FINAL VERDICTThere is just so much in Mortal Kombat to love, and even more that I feel I can't cover in a simple text review. Fans of fighting games can't overlook this entry, and anybody looking into the genre has their best chance right here. It may be a bit disappointing that the online isn't more solid, but the amount of content available for just the single-player experience itself is worth the price of admission.
Mortal Kombat easily gets 4.5 stars out of 5. Grab some friends and start dismembering each other. You'll be glad you did.