Playing through MK's story mode gives you a great appreciation for how Boon
and his boys at NetherRealm Studios
have taken the time to painstakingly take MK back to its roots. All of your favorite aspects to the 2-D combat are there from Dan Forden's 'Toasty!' to Scorpion's 'Get over here!' The transitions between cutscene to fight and back again occur with no load times. Though there is at least one moment (in about the third act of the story) where the audio hitches up a bit and the subtitle timing gets thrown off, but these are minor issues to a game that is otherwise pitch perfect in terms of its presentation.
But there are some flaws nonetheless with MK's gameplay that, given how well put together it is, stand out due to the stark contrast with the rest of the content. As an example, every fighter, regardless of your personal preferences or go-to characters, is engineered to not just feel different, but also play strongly in the hands of a player that has an adequate grasp of kombos and move sets. This being said, its sad that MK's bosses don't test your skill (you like what I did there?) more than your ability to recognize patterns and moves with your chosen fighter that allow you to cheese your way through a boss fight. The most notorious of these fights is none other than Shao Kahn
who is the end boss (no surprise there!) for both the story mode and the arcade ladders. While I suppose it could be said that the story mode tests your ability to adapt and use different characters as the narrative progresses, ultimately the boss fights you face always fall into the pattern recognition trap. Its a real shame, especially when one considers this with respect to the amount of time, thought, and care that went into the rest of the game's production.
Another design choice that I take issue with is the lack of any real character based tutorials within the story mode. Indeed, the general game tutorial gives a pretty good overview of the two main modes of play, 1-on-1 kombat and 2-on-2 tag kombat, while also introducing the basic moves available for first time fighting gamers. Unfortunately, that's pretty much where the tutorializing ends unless you count the character specific fatality trainer. Something character specific would have been fantastic in the context of the story mode. As the game progresses you are dumped cold into a new fighter as you make your way chapter by chapter for the 16 chapter long story mode. During the course of the 4-5 hour long story campaign there are no real tutorials or hints given as to how to play some of the new characters as you take control of them. This can be a huge problem especially when confronted with kombatants that move much faster than your current fighter or take advantage of the weaknesses in your character. Further to this, certain battles in the story mode require you to take on tag teams with only one character. One particular fight setup this way that gave me a huge amount of frustration was a fight where you have control of Cyber Sub-Zero
and have to fight a tag team consisting of Goro
. Then again, I suppose that I may have been making that battle harder on myself than I should have, as that fight again goes back to the pattern recognition game that you have to play with respect to all of the game's boss characters.
Now while I haven't played online yet I have heard a lot about how Smoke
are used predominantly by players. Initially, I thought that this was due to the fact that Smoke and Scorpion are really popular amongst MK enthusiasts. However, upon closer inspection and a playthrough of the story mode it seems that the real reason they are used so much is that both have a teleport punch, a means of closing distance with an opponent very quickly, and both have a limited set of moves that are very intuitive to utilize. Additionally, the dial-a-kombos for both Scorpion and Smoke appear to be easier than most of the other characters in the game. My last complaint with the story is that you never get to play as any of the fighters from Outworld or from Shao Kahn's personal forces. Now, I can realize the narrative reasons for this, but it doesn't really help later on when people want to jump online. One of my favorite characters, Ermac
, is also one that I'm struggling to master because his juggle
kombos are absolutely insane. However without any real tutorial or hints on how to use him effectively, I find myself at a bit of a loss regarding how to string together some of his more powerful attacks into the devastating kombos that I know his character is capable of doing.
I will admit that these thoughts are my initial impressions having not played online yet. Also I suppose that I should mention that MK is the first fighting game in a very long time that I've actually decided to take the time to master and get good at. To be completely honest, my list of fighting games that I have mastered can be counted on one hand and in the grand scheme either played differently or are not considered to be seminal titles within the genre (Masters of Teräs Käsi
anyone?). In fact, the last fighting game I played really seriously was Super Smash Bros.
on the N64
. So against human opponents, who also may be better fighting game players, I have no idea where my skills stack up. I'm curious to see how badly I get my ass handed to me when I step into the online arena with total strangers. I'm also curious to see how match making works as I will be entering that arena with a completely clean record. Needless to say, MK has an exceptional amount of content for its single player experience that I can barely scratch the surface of here. That content is very well put together, but is partially marred by either some strange design choices that scream that NetherRealm decided to take the easy way out or that lack any real thought at all with respect to player experiences. Still it does say something that I own it and am still playing it despite these shortcomings. I'll have a full review of this up later once PSN is back up and I can really have a go at the online.