Mortal Kombat: Kanon isn’t set in stone
Having been away from fighting games for a long time, I missed out on the MK series’ previous instalments, later in the series, so I never really knew that Mortal Kombat had a storyline other than a bunch of ninjas, monks and skantily-klad women beating the krap out of each other. I was surprised to learn that, in fakt, it did have a storyline that was interesting and fun, but had waned in later instalments of the series. When MK was released with this reboot/retkon, I had to get my hands on it, in order to diskover what I had missed out on, and I was not disappointed.
Mortal Kombat has a very simple story, mixed from the first trilogy of titles. I won’t be giving anything away here, as all you really need to know is that the fate of the Earth-realm, as it’s kalled in this game, is at stake, and it will take the combined force of some of the greatest fighters on the planet to defeat the evil Shao Khan, lord of Outworld, who seeks to kontrol earth realm and konquer it as he has done to eight other realms…so you know…no pressure or anything.
This is all dealt with in the storymode, which in itself is actually quite long. It allows the players to engage in several fights with different kharacters, through a range of chapters outlining the tournament. It’s a nice system, and easily the best choice for a game with such a large roster of characters to play as, though in this mode, you won’t really play as every single one of the available kharacters. However, the only real issue here is that you’ll be thrown into other kharacters shoes, when you’ve already gotten comfortable with the previous characters move sets. It can be daunting, and may put some players off, as some of the fights in the mode are cheap, placing you in situations where you fight 2 on 1 against enemies who you’ve never faced before. Still, all the main plots are there, Johnny Cage is an idol, an asshole, and one of the most hilarious members of the cast, while Lord Raiden, proper title for a proper god, is portrayed as having the weight of a world on his shoulders…which he does, so it makes sense.
Arcade mode is the section of the game where the player kan choose either a single characters, or use a tag-team, to work their way up the ladder in order to fight Shao Kahn…who is yet another member of the cheap boss family. The one thing that people playing this game might not enjoy, and might aktually get angry and perhaps throw their kontroller at the screen over, is how lazy this fight is. Spamming is the word in these fights, and the game pretty much breaks down into hit and run tactics when fighting bosses like Shao Kahn or Goro. The sad thing is that these fights work against the fighting mechanics, which are fun and flow very well together. The pacing is immediately lost, and the game falls into mediocrity that doesn’t suit it.
Along with training mode, players can also access the Challenge Tower, which is exactly what it sounds like. Here, players can participate in challenges which grant them koins…I like to abuse the ‘K’ joke, so sue me…which can then be used to buy concept art, alternative costumes and fatalities from the Krypt…but really you’ll only want the costumes, and maybe the fatalities, the concept art is everywhere, in greater abundance than anything else, and this becomes annoying as it holds no use in a fighting game practically. The Krypt limits the player to only knowing a code for each stone, so unless you have a guide, it’s a guessing game, and an expensive one at that. The tower is fun, ranging from some variants of side-scrolling shooter ideas to slapstick fights between Scorpion and Mileena, who wants to give Scorpion a teddy bear, much to his dislike…so you can ram her head into an oncoming train. There are 300 different challenges in the tower, each one being unlocked after the previous ones completion, so there is always something to do when it comes to MK.
Of course, Multiplayer is the supporting structure of any fighter these days, so we delve right into this section of the game…only to be kicked out 30 seconds later. The worst thing about this mode is that it’s so well thought out, but has such bad net coding that the player is immediately booted from many one-on-one matches. This is depressing, as MK gives the player a choice of player created rooms to join, and several different variants of fights to participate in. Normal 1Vs 1 matches are available, there are also tag matches, and a variant called King of the Hill, where up to 8 players can join, watch and participate in matches, ranking winning fighters with scores from 0-10. This allows players something to do, and makes them feel like they’re actually important to the room. It really is a nice, fresh system, and a lot of fun, as a group of friends can get together and play, with everyone having something to do. Unfortunately, the main issue is the bad net code, which can cause lag, right before everyone is kicked from a room. It isn’t as bad anymore, with patching, but it still isn’t great, and can really kill the game for the player.
Now, since you’re now aware that this game is bursting with content, we can talk about the kombat mechanics. The mechanics of MK are flawless at times, to say the very least. Each character has a set of special moves and combos that they can unleash on an opponent, ranging from low, medium and high attacks, to combos tied together with special moves. The player can also grab enemies, which is handy for controlling the fight. When attacking, or being attacked, the player will see a gauge at the bottom corner of their screen slowly increase. There are three sections to this gauge. The first allows the player to execute more powerful special moves, the second allows the player to perform a Breaker, which can break an enemy’s combo, granting your ass some respite from being kicked, and the final section is the X-Ray move. When activated, the entire gauge drains, and the player is entered into a kind of cutscene of their character performing a brutal, literally bone-crushing move on their opponent, taking a large sum of health from the enemy. Each character has a specific X-Ray move, and while it may get a little boring to see the same thing over and over, the game can always pull it back, especially when the X-Ray is used to turn a match around. Finally, we have the finishing move, the Fatality, of which each character has three, and each level has one specific move based on its design. While Fatalities are designed to score more koins in arcade mode, they’re used online to humiliate enemies…if only the button combinations weren’t so finicky. Some characters have easy to use moves, like down, down, forward, punch, while others have moves that must be activated from a distance, which you have to enter the fatality practice to figure out. This seems a little counter-intuitive, as the opposing player has already lost…so why make things more complicated. With an xbox controller, this simply falls apart, as the game can’t seem to register the movements, so forgive me if you’re playing on ps3 and pulling them off without an issue. Blocking is also simple, available at the push of a button, though it doesn’t negate all damage. Overall though, the gameplay mechanics of MK are simply breathtaking, combining speed, ease of control, and finesse which hasn’t been seen in a fighting game in a long time.
Character rosters are important in a fighting game, and MK doesn’t skimp on that section of its content either. 27 characters are available without DLC, though all are unlocked through playing the story mode. Each character is diverse with individual abilities. No character is left unbalanced…well not anymore, after some patches, and each character has limitless potential in the right hands. Because each character controls differently, players have a choice in the type of character they want to play, and while some may be slow, dealing large some of damage, but only at short range, they may be given a weak long range attack to help fend off faster, long distance characters. Combos for each character vary in difficulty, but again, different players adapt to different characters, and experimentation is the key to figuring out just which characters are for you.
Level designs are nice and varied, and are anything but static backdrops. More often than not, each level has a specific fatality the player can use, and the backgrounds are often filled with beautiful backdrops and amazing scenes, such as dragons blowing up cities, and a hellish, nightmare world where bodies scream as they burn in pits of lava…oh and rivers of blood, while players get pelted with fountains of blood. Yes, MK is all about the blood, so the levels are designed to reflect that.
The voice acting is top-notch, and the narrator is simply badass. You won’t care whether you win or lose, hearing that voice will make everything better. Voice actors actually sound like they’re interested in doing their jobs, and dialogue actually has a lot more depth to it than other fighter games. The music is also quite cool, with all the epic rises and falls of an orchestral score, followed by an almost apocalyptic-like rock theme.
Finally, graphically, MK is amazing. Characters are rendered beautifully, and well detailed, blood spills everywhere the harder you hit, and the body damage is amazingly well detailed, especially when you can see the brain of a guy you just froze, then stabbed with an ice sword, and then kicked in the head. The game is very, very gory, as you’ve probably figured out by now. Head will be ripped off, necks with be snapped, groins will be punched, and you will see it all in glorious HD. Overall, everything in MK looks sublime…both to its credit and detriment, because ripping someone’s skin off is just kind of over-the-top, in an awesome yet gross kind of way.
In the end, Mortal Kombat is the game that most fighting games should aspire to be. Its combat is fluid, its characters are all unique, and its over the top nature defines it as a great spin on an old idea. Unfortunately, some questionable design choices and bad net coding drag the game down from the throne of skulls, made from its competitors, that it should be snugly sitting on, but nonetheless, Mortal Kombat is an awesome game, violent to a fault, and just good, old fashioned fun.
- Excellent graphics
- Characters are diverse
- Kombat is fluid and fun
- Character models display damage gained throughout the fight
- Incredible amount of content
- Unlockable content galore
- Controls are easy to get the hang of
- Character roster is large
- Level designs are well crafted, and never static.
- Story mode can have cheap matches
- Challenge Tower , while good, can sometimes ask too much of the player
- Online net code issues prevent smooth online play
- Shao Kahn
Despite some flaws, Mortal Kombat shines brightly as one of the best fighting games of the current generation…though that could only be because it’s covered in gallons of blood, siphoned from its enemies…
WTF? Moment: So we’re taught how to tag team…but it never comes into play in the story mode?