2011 has without a doubt been the year for Mortal Kombat. With the release of their reboot title, a popular web series, and the classic arcade collection we have seen a plethora of MK material this year and I couldn’t be more excited. Mortal Kombat was the franchise that drove me so deep into video games and is the first game I ever played in arcades. I probably pumped more quarters into the original MK cabinet than any other machine in an arcade. Spanning from 1992 to 2011 Mortal Kombat has still managed to wow its fans with every release and somehow manage to keep everyone wanting more. There have been a lot of fighting games throughout the years and next to Street Fighter Mortal Kombat has managed to stand out among its competitors as one of the best.
Mortal Kombat first burst onto the scene in 1992 and was highly controversial for its extreme level of violence. It’s easy to understand how people could be upset about a game where you can rip off your opponents head after you just finished beating them into the ground. While the violence was argued upon it didn’t stop the game from pulling in a lot of attention or keep it from winning awards. Thus a legacy was born and Mortal Kombat turned into a thriving franchise that still pushes strong today. Mortal Kombat was developed by Midway (now NetherRealm Studios) and created by Ed Boon and John Tobias. Midway had previously already created some of the most memorable arcade games of their time and continued to dominate with the success of the Mortal Kombat series. With a colorful cast of characters and amazing special moves, it was not easy to forget a series such as this that only continued to improve over the years.
Mortal Kombat II and III only improved upon the franchise with introductions to new characters and game mechanics such as the ability to run and the implementation of a combo system. However after the first three games Mortal Kombat proved that it too could suffer. Mortal Kombat 4 was the series first introduction into 3D and was the least successful of the franchise to date. MK4 was also the last title to be released in arcades with the company moving onto console version with the next iterations. Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance and MK Deception improved on the 3D fighting and brought the violence to a whole new level with updated graphics and more gruesome fatalities.
One of the most interesting things to me about the MK franchise was all of the rumors that circulated about the original arcade games. Supposed secret characters or glitches that were passed around by word of mouth by kids who had sworn they knew a guy who had a friend whose brother had unlocked. Midway never turned a deaf ear to any of these rumors and in the ultimate fan service some of these characters have such been created and added into the games. Ermac and Skarlet are two examples of characters that were rumored to be glitches and were later inserted into a game.
Mortal Kombat established itself as a franchise that could move beyond the realm of video games with the release of the first movie in 1995. Being well received and in my opinion one of the best video game movies so far Mortal Kombat expanded into a television series (Mortal Kombat Conquest), cartoon (Mortal Kombat Defenders of the Realm), a horribly made sequel film (Mortal Kombat Annihilation), and in 2011 a ten episode web series (Mortal Kombat Legacy) that may possibly expand to a second season. While all of these are worth watching except the second movie the biggest downside is that the television series has not been released on DVD in the United States so getting a hold of it is pretty difficult in the States.
In between the creation of the fighting games there were other MK games developed that were trying to take the series in a new direction. MK Mythologies Sub-Zero was the first in what was supposed to be a series of MK games that would focus on singular character stories, however it was poor received and only led to one other character game based on Jax called Mortal Kombat Special Forces which performed even lower and thus canceling any more character specific games. That wasn’t the end of adventure style MK games however because 2005 saw the release of Shaolin Monks which was a retelling of MK II following the characters of Lui Kang and Kung Lao. Shaolin Monks became the most successful Mortal Kombat game that wasn’t a fighting game and went on to sell over a million copies.
While MK Deadly Alliance and Deception were still well received they still received some backlash from fans. In 2006 we saw the last release of the previous console generation with Mortal Kombat Armageddon which was the end of the MK story as it stands now and featured every character featured in an MK game up until that point and even a couple of new ones. Armageddon did well and even expanded on the story mode known as Konquest from the previous two games and allowed Mortal Kombat to have its last hoorah in the PS2 and Xbox era. It was only two years later when we finally saw the return of Mortal Kombat on the PS3 and Xbox 360 with Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, a much different MK game that combined Mortal Kombat with the DC characters in a battle to save both of their worlds. It introduced new mechanics and updated the combat and was an excellent fighting game and a welcome introduction into the series with its online play.
2011 saw the most recent release in the reboot simply titled Mortal Kombat which is a retelling of the first three games. Mortal Kombat brings back the 2D fighting from the original games in a big way and pulls it off perfectly with the 3D character models. With the new game being such a success it only begs the question what is in store for the future of Mortal Kombat? It has been said that NetherRealm hopes to produce a Mortal Kombat game every year and I say bring it on. With new possibilities for games and the hopeful continuation of the web series Mortal Kombat could still be a driving force in years to come.
I have never been more excited than to know the Max Payne franchise is going to return of another round. The Max Payne series has always been one of my favorites and I have been anticipating a sequel for some time. Max Payne 3 was expected to release originally in 2009 but had dropped out of the public light for some time and had resurfaced mostly through rumors in the last year. However in September of 2011 it was announced that Max Payne 3 would finally see a release in March of 2012. Even with all of the great games coming at the end of this year and even more big titles still on the way in 2012 this is still the most exciting announcement to me. There aren’t many games that play in the vein of Max Payne anymore and some would argue that that style of gameplay is dead but I think it just needs some improvements and hopefully with this game we can see a resurgence of good double gun fisting shooters in the future.
Not a lot is known about Max Payne 3 other than it takes place after Max Payne 2 and it seems like it is mostly set in South America. Max has fallen on some hard times and is working private security for a rich family whose daughter gets kidnapped and it’s up to max to get her back. This will be the first game of the series to feature any kind of online play and it has been said that the players will be able to affect the levels somehow which I can only hope means destructible environments. From some of the released screenshots it seems the gameplay will remain the same but there may be a cover system added to the mix. The first trailer release shows that Max is going to look a little different as one point he shaves his head is going bald sporting a rather bushy beard.
The Max Payne franchise has always given me some of my favorite game play. There aren't many games that allow you to duel wield pistols and machines guns while diving in slow motion taking down bad guys. The first Max Payne is one of the most well presented stories in a game I have ever seen and Max Payne 2 followed that Tradition. While there have been other games to try to emulate the game play such as Stranglehold and Wet, they have all failed to capture the magic that is max Payne.
My main hope is that they can keep what made the last two games great and that when you are playing it still feels like a Max Payne game. Sam Lake was originally announced to not be doing the voice work but with this reemergence has been confirmed to not only be doing the voice work but also motion capture for the character. With all of the proper elements in place this has the potential to be a great 2012 release.
It seems we are at the point in the gaming industry where there are at least eight different first person shooters coming out every year. I don't know about anyone else but I'm getting sick of gunning down bad guys from a first person perspective. Not to say I don't enjoy those games from time to time but I'm just ready for something a little different. I don't think the first person genre should be left behind completely but there is plenty of room for advancement. While any game that has a first person perspective is more than likely going to involve a gun and the player shooting dudes but that doesn't mean there isn't room for other features.
In the last couple years we have seen an advancement in the genre with realistic animations (which may bother some but I really enjoy as it gives a sense of character) and varied game play features. The first games that come to mind are The Darkness and The Chronicles of Riddick. These games introduced some interesting concepts such as experiencing every day things (watching a movie and kissing your girlfriend) and hand to hand fighting from a first person perspective. I found these games to be highly unique and a great fun experience when they came out and I am glad to see sequels to these games being released. Far Cry 2 and 3 seem to be good examples as to how you can take a standard first person shooter and make it a little more interesting with dynamic character animation. I feel like varied animation can give a lot to a first person character even if it is a silent protagonist you can still get a feel of how this person thinks or feels in the position that they are in. Some people find this distracting to game play and that it slows them down but I am more than welcome to embrace good character animation in my first person shooters just so I can have a little more variety.
Prey 2 is on the horizon and this game is giving me a lot of hope for the future of first person shooters. While it has the makings of most standard shooters it is also far more in depth with the fact that there are choices to make in the game and traversal elements for making your way around the environment (something Brink tried to implement, but well . . . yeah.) The one thing about Prey 2 that is most interesting to me is living through the life of a bounty hunter in first person. This is something that I wouldn't mind seeing more of in future games. All of the different things you can do in Prey 2 make this game so fascinating to me (aside from the fact that this seems like an awesome sequel to a terrible game) such as the option to play through your missions differently and the world they have created for the game.
I can only hope to see more variety in first person games in the future. There have been plenty of attempts with games like The Darkness, Riddick, Prey 2 and even fatal frame with the camera mechanic. I would even be interested in a first person puzzle game with no weapons (a first person horror puzzle games could be pretty fun.) I'm not saying the average Call of Duty game should disappear but a break might keep the series from going stale.
I have been playing video games since I was a small child and I will probably play video games until I am an old man and my fingers won't hold a controller anymore. From the days of the NES to now I have played almost every system I can get my hands on and have more than likely pumped thousands of dollars into this industry over the span of my lifetime. I know I'm addicted to video games, that has never been a doubt in my mind. I know it's a problem because I spend way too much money on this hobby when I have other responsibilities that go neglected just so I can buy one more game. With games becoming more expensive and me becoming more of a collector my bank account has needlessly suffered so I could by one more games that I may not even like just because I heard something cool about it and want to try it for myself.
I will play a lot of games that aren't necessarily that good but just because they feature a character or an art style that I really like. But one thing I do demand of my games is a very in depth and well developed single player campaign. I love very story driven games such as Metal Gear Solid or Uncharted. I have played through the campaign of Metal Gear Solid 4 and Uncharted 2 countless times and It is still a great experience. I buy my games for a great single player experience but I do appreciate a good multiplayer experience. For my multiplayer gaming I tend to turn towards the classics like modern shooters such as Call of Duty, but I am loving the emerging and unique multiplayer experience provided by Assassins Creed Brotherhood and Uncharted 2. I think more multiplayer options need to be explored and can bring a lot to the market of video games and maybe draw in a larger online audience. Multiplayer is getting tacked on to a lot of games now days and most of them don't seem to be worth it, such as Dead Space 2, but are a welcome addition to the mutiplayer experience. I definitely think that every game should have a gripping single player mode before they are finished and shipped but a tacked on multiplayer is not the worst thing in the world. I think if more games are getting a multiplayer function than we may see some more interesting and innovative multiplayer styles in the future and that is a great concept to me. Infamous 2 was a great addition to the multiplayer experience, as it doesn't have a traditional multiplayer, it does allow community creations that add a lot to the game play and keeps the game interesting for a lot longer and I hope to see more community style creation multiplayer experiences in future games.
I'm trying to restrain my video game buying to only games that will keep my busy for a long time, and going back to play older games that I can pick up for a lot cheaper and save some money. Multiplayer is a good way to stay invested in one game and with more games getting multiplayer, for an addict like me, it gives me the hope that I will be spending less money by buying fewer games because one game can keep me invested long enough that I wont get bored and want to buy more games. The ability for a game to last more than just a couple of days is one of the biggest factors in me buying it and a great innovative multiplayer and single player will probably be the biggest factors that will make me stick to a game for longer than a week and help me stave of my addiction.