After a slew of less-than-great releases, Mortal Kombat is back on its game with a fighter that can bring in people of all skill levels. Mortal Kombat is easy to learn, but proves difficult to master. Characters have similar moves at their disposal, but the ways those attacks can be strung together and the distinctive way each character controls can separate the pros from the newcomers. A character like Scorpion has shown to be easily accessible for people who may have never picked up a fighting game before and may allow them to complete the at times brutally difficult story mode, but when taken online that same person will still be dominated by more skilled combatants. With 25 characters initially available and two more to be unlocked, it is easy to find a fighter that suits your play style.
The game offers a breadth of content, including a story mode, challenge tower, arcade ladder (both single and tag), various training modes, and online play. The story mode is delightfully corny and proves relatively long, especially for a fighting game. The ways in which fights are initiated is generally absurd, with one of the first fights the player encounters starting because Sonya Blade doesn't appreciate Johnny Cage's advances. These ridiculous situations prove entertaining and help move this mode along at a reasonable pace. There is not much downtime in the game, as the fights load during cut scenes, a smart implementation on NetherRealm's part. One of my only gripes about the story mode would be that the cut scenes are unable to be skipped or paused, which can leave the player in a difficult situation if they do indeed find themselves needing to pause the game during a cut scene.
The challenge tower is enormous and the degree of difficulty ramps up steadily, allowing players to hone their skills without being dumped into what might seem like an unfeasible task. There is a large variety of challenges, ranging from a standard "kill this guy" to the sometimes hilarious Test Your Luck, in which the player spins a slot machine and random elements are added to the fight, which can results in the fighters having no arms, a steadily depleting health bar, or even the screen being flipped upside down. The challenge tower is a daunting task that will require quite a bit of skill to complete, but it looks like there is enough variety for the 300 challenges to not feel too similar to one another.
For the more traditional arcade players, there is the arcade ladder, which includes 10 opponents, a rapid difficulty spike, and a unique ending for each character. There is no exposition in this mode, just fighting...and glorious fatalities, which as far as I have seen to not appear in the story mode. These three main modes are all great fun to play, and they offer enough content to make the game hard to put down.
Visually, Mortal Kombat is gorgeous. The stages have depth and the characters look as cool as ever, taking persistent damage to reflect the horrors they have had to endure throughout their fight. X-ray moves slow down time and take a closer look at the abuse dealt out by showing organs being ruptured and bones being broken, and each fatality is uniquely bloody and brutal. There are also unlockable costumes for each character, some of which are unfortunately retailer specific. While the character design is good, it's too bad that the female characters seem to have forgotten that they are in a fight to the death and not a lingerie show. The lack of clothing for the female characters can make the game a little uncomfortable to play around a spouse who may already be put off by the abundant violence the game offers.
All negatives (of which there are few) aside, Mortal Kombat appeals to what most people are looking for in a game, it is FUN. I've gotten flawless victories and had my ass handed to me on multiple occasions. It's not fun to lose, but it's great when a game can make you have fun while you are losing, and that's just what Mortal Kombat does. Mortal Kombat is too impressive a game to pass on, even for someone who has never picked up a fighting game before.