Giant Bomb Review

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Mortal Kombat Review

5
  • PS3
  • X360

Mortal Kombat is fantastic fun whether you're looking to take on the world or if you just want to see the story unfold in an all-new way.


Raiden and Liu Kang stop to chat about hats and lightning and stuff.
Mortal Kombat, the reboot-friendly title of the ninth core game in a franchise that spans nearly two decades, manages to contain something for just about every sort of Mortal Kombat fan. If you're the type that just wants to see video game guys kill each other in gruesome and often-hilarious ways, MK has plenty of that. If you're interested in an approachable, well-designed fighting game that offers a variety of wild moves that are easy to execute but are tougher to work into timing-based combos, you're totally covered. And if you care about the lore of Mortal Kombat--bear with me here, I know how weird it is to talk about the story in a fighting game as a strong point--this game takes you through the early parts of the MK story, before it got too crazy and littered with more characters and realms than you could shake a loose spinal cord at. With its shockingly terrific solo components and a multiplayer offering that gives you plenty of options, Mortal Kombat might just be the most complete fighting game ever released. Oh, and yeah, it's a lot of fun to play, too.

The fighting style in Mortal Kombat builds upon the relatively recent past, with some of its ideas coming out of the previous release, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. But that game was still set in a 3D environment, allowing players to sidestep out of the way of incoming spears, fire, and ice projectiles. The new Mortal Kombat flattens the action back down to a 2D plane, just as it was in the original trilogy of arcade releases. This change makes an immediate impact on the action, returning the game to an in-your-face, offensive style, where the best way to stop your opponent from teleporting behind you with his fist out is often to just do it to him first. Projectiles are truly dangerous again, and the game feels a bit more active than its immediate predecessor did.

The game also returns to the uppercuts and sweeps found in the original trilogy. You can start combos with jump-in punches, juggle them up into the air, and do what you can to keep them there, delivering damage all the while. That's not to say that there's no defensive aspect to Mortal Kombat, as there's definitely value in turtling up, trying to poke, and baiting out someone's X-ray, a bone-crunching move that requires a full super meter to attempt. But at times it feels like the fights are best when two players are simply going for it at all times. It's a thrilling game with a lot of flashy moves and combos, many of which can be sussed out by newer players. The specials are easy to perform, and once you wrap your mind around the logic of getting someone into the air and keeping them there, figuring out the most damaging moves you can is half the fun (at least until someone does the math and tells you which combos, exactly, do the most damage). While it goes out of its way to recall some of the fighting mechanics popularized by MKII and MK3, the game doesn't play like some total throwback, either. Carefully considering when to use the moves that drain parts of your super meter and timing those juggles just right are both pretty key.

Johnny Cage, playing the minigame from Tapper... but with SKULLS.
That style of fighting drives the entire game across all of its modes, but you can opt to play it in both a traditional one-on-one fight or in a two-on-two tag battle. The game actually lets up to four humans play at once, if you're interested in tag-teaming with a real person. The tag battles add some extra moves to the game, letting you call in your partner to perform quick special moves or tagging out in the middle of a combo with fast switches between fighters. Personally, I prefer the classic one-on-one style but tagging in and out makes for a fun variant.

Mortal Kombat probably contains the best collection of single-player elements of any fighting game, ever. Its largest piece is the story mode, a chapter-based tale that takes you from one playable character to the next as the events of Mortal Kombat's first three games unfold in an alternate timeline that allows the developers to change some pretty interesting things about the state of the Mortal Kombat universe. By the end, some characters are left in a completely different state than they were in the "normal" timeline, which is pretty cool. But the best part about the story is the way it's conveyed. The game seamlessly weaves from fight to cutscene and back again, loading the battles in the background as you watch the story scenes unfold. Each match even ends with a custom win quote specific to that situation. The flow of the story really sucks you in, and other than having to deal with some annoying boss AI near the end of each tournament (but especially at the very end), it's really outstanding. It's also pretty long, too, with over a dozen chapters that, if I'm counting, probably takes somewhere around seven or eight hours to finish, provided you aren't skipping cutscenes. In addition to the preset story mode, you can also take on an arcade ladder mode with each character, which gives you a quick batch of fights that culminate in character-specific endings.

The other big single-player mode is the Challenge Tower, which is a collection of 300 tasks that vary up the rules of the fighting in a lot of different ways. Some are simple changes, like tag battles where the tagged out partner recovers health, or fights that must be finished with a fatality in order to be completed, or endurance battles that have you outnumbered. But some of them get way crazier, like one where instead of using normal attacks, each button press launches one of your limbs at your enemy. The limbs grow back over time, giving you a steady stream of heads, arms, and legs to launch. Others have the whole world tilt from side to side as hits land, with the fighter on the "low" side of the screen taking steady damage. There are a lot of inventive twists on the standard MK fight in the Tower, though a few types repeat a little too frequently as you rise to the final battle. Some of the tasks even come with a bit of dialogue, some of which gets pretty silly, such as one that has Mileena trying to give a teddy bear as a gift, or another that has Shang Tsung and Shao Kahn fighting over a gurgling baby that sits in the background as you battle. It really keeps you guessing in the same way that Soul Calibur's similar Mission Mode did.

Test Your Luck spins the reels and gives you random gameplay variants to keep you on your toes.
The Challenge Tower and the story mode force you to play specific characters, giving you plenty of time to try out most of the 27 fighters and figure out which are your favorites. Being that the game is set during the first three games, the vast majority of the roster comes from that era, from the MK1 classics like Scorpion, Liu Kang, and Kano to the MK3 upstarts like Kabal, Nightwolf, and Stryker. Each character gets at least two outfits and two fatalities. Those second outfits, methods to perform the second fatalities, and loads of concept art and music are unlocked via the "krypt," which behaves much as it has in past MK games. There's only one type of coin this time around (as opposed to six), and sinking time into the story mode will earn you enough coins to unlock a lot of stuff. Like past games, most of the concept art isn't really worth dwelling on for very long, so versus screen "kombat kodes," costumes, and fatality instructions are the most important things to get out of the krypt.

Online, the game plays mostly how it plays offline, provided the network conditions are just right. The structure of the online mode starts with the same sort of lobby system used in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, giving players a spot to swap text with one-another as challenges are passed around and battles are fought. If you don't want to mess around with chat rooms, the standard ranked and unranked options are also present. Both regular and tag battles can be played online, and a new mode called King of the Hill rounds things out pretty nicely. This is MK's take on the "quarter match" or "endless battle" mode, allowing up to eight players to join a room and spectate fights while they wait for their turn to take on the current winner. The loser of each fight goes to the back of the line. MK's take on the mode includes a visual lobby, of sorts, where avatars stand around and watch the battles. You can emote with your avatar using different button presses to express your joy or rage during a fight, or you can just hit the select button and make the fight take up the entire screen. After a fight, the spectators and the loser are asked to rate the match, which gives "respect points" to the winner. The avatar presentation is a cool way to present the concept, and there are even hidden emotes in there for players to figure out, proving that the team behind Mortal Kombat will stuff secret moves into just about anything they possibly can.

Reptile wants to see your insides.
Visually, the game is a big step up from the last Mortal Kombat game, with far more detailed characters and backgrounds. If I had to guess, I'd say that locking down the perspective to a fixed 2D battle helps make this possible, and there's a great amount of detail to be found in the graphics. As in the previous game, the characters' costumes get torn up over the course of a battle, resulting in bloody scrapes and cuts in the sides of faces, ripped clothes and masks, and so on. It's a great effect that looks even cooler when the fighters are also covered in blood at the end of a fight. It's pretty extreme and, well, pretty funny, too. Maybe I just have a weird sense of humor.

Though the look and feel of the game is roughly identical across platforms, the PlayStation 3 version of Mortal Kombat offers some additional features that make it the better version of the two. Specifically, the PS3 version has support for 3D televisions and also has an additional character, Kratos from God of War. The extra character and stage are nice, and Kratos has a pretty cool ending, but it probably isn't a make-or-break addition unless you're a huge fan of the God of War series. The game's 3D mode looks quite nice. I certainly found it easier to follow than the typical 3D first-person shooter, though that says more about the differences in presentation between the two genres than anything about the quality of any one game's 3D support.

Mortal Kombat has a broad appeal that I think will work for players from a variety of skill levels. There's a passable tutorial in place to teach you the basics, but no one thing in the game is that tough to accomplish. The game gets tricky when you start to put all of those things together into combos, but by the time you're thinking about that, you'll probably be ready to handle it. As for top-level play, I'm not the guy to judge any fighting game from the "is this game tournament-worthy?" angle. But MK feels solid, with enough depth and guessing games in place to work, provided that it's as balanced as it feels after a week of solid play. But even if, for some reason, the competitive aspects of the game didn't work out, there's so much great single-player material in Mortal Kombat that it's still worthwhile even if you aren't looking to fight others.    



Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
207 Comments Refresh
Posted by RIDEBIRD

Damn, looks like a ton of work and love was poured into this. Never been much of a MK fan nor a fighting game fan, but good to see a game getting taken care of.

Posted by Napalm
@cximran said:
" @Damian said:
" Yay! MK haters in full force today.

Just like old times *wipes tear*.
"
It's pretty heartwarming to see all the Street Fighter / MvC fans come out and staunchly oppose the very idea that a competitor's game could begood. Street Fighter IVwas a watershed moment in fighting games, and the MK team really stepped their game up to compete with MK9. "
Hey duder, I love Street Fighter, but don't lump me in with these idiots and their bile-spewing bullshit.
Posted by Dan_CiTi

I don't think I'll be buying it any time soon but...looks great. 

Posted by Tornac

I'm so happy this game turned out as good as it did. I cannot wait to play it. I've loved MOrtal Kombat since I played the original as a kid. I can't wait to play this.

Posted by dbz1995
@MichaelBach said:
" @MysteriousBob said:

" @MichaelBach said:

" I have a question for MK fans. I am kind of on a limited budget and MK vs DC also got 5 stars but is half the price here. Is MK9 so much better than MK vs DC or would I be fine with the latter?

I appreciate any help!
"
MK vs DC is a piece of shit that should never have gotten five stars. Hell yes MK9 is a million times better.
There, happy?
"
Very passionate answer, can't argue with that, guess I will spring for MK9 then :)     "
Whilst I don't agree with him with everything, MysteriousBob is completely right in my opinion about MK vs DC being absolute trash. The MK demo is more entertaining. Also, question to MysteriousBob-do you still think that MvC3 is the best fighting game this generation?
Posted by XChairmanDrekX
@MysteriousBob said:
" @MichaelBach said:
" I have a question for MK fans. I am kind of on a limited budget and MK vs DC also got 5 stars but is half the price here. Is MK9 so much better than MK vs DC or would I be fine with the latter?

I appreciate any help!
"
MK vs DC is a piece of shit that should never have gotten five stars. Hell yes MK9 is a million times better.
There, happy?
"
This is really part of the reason I have trouble taking Jeff's opinions on fighting games seriously.  He gives MK vs. DC a 5 yet a much more polished balanced fighting game, Blazblue, a 3.  This game may be deserving of 5 stars, but those 2 reviews Jeff did way back, really rubbed me the wrong way.
Posted by Veektarius

It looks like a good game.  But I don't like gore, so it's not for me.  Shame.

Posted by kaiyouske

I don't agree with MK vs DC getting a 5 stars review, but I'm really looking forward to this game.  I really hope it delivers.  

Posted by Timdj84

I just picked this up after work and might I say it already has me by the  throat. It is incredibly fun and  the simple controls means everyone can play. Even so, I can definately see how strategy can be implemented in online matches. I mean babalities, fatalities, all of the characters...awesome game.
Posted by MistaSparkle

Great review! I hope i get some money to play it soon.

Edited by EeTMeeL
@Floppypants: I never said I preferred one to the other.  I just liked the direction the game was going.  Granted, Deception was less a Mortal Kombat game and more a Tekken style game:  With less focus on special abilities like fireballs and more focus on combos and counters. Call me what you want, but my friends and I really enjoyed MK: Deception.  I guess it just feels more like a fight when you can shift to one side to avoid something that some one has thrown at you.
audiosnag : Perhaps you are right: Outdated may be too harsh a term for the overall genre. I base my "button mashy" opinions on my own experiences with SF4 - a game where I beat a good majority of my friends by spamming the throw button or furiously running my thumb across the buttons. That does not mean it is outdated, just not my cup of tea.  But I do believe that Mortal Kombat 2 is outdated.  And this game bears a striking resemblance to that title.  That title was fun to play, but there was rarely a fight that went without the deafening "clickclickclickclick" of people banging out buttons. Back in 1993, that over the top gore and  cartoony  finishing moves were ahead of their time.  But in today's gaming market?


I would love to see the days of Arcade fighters come back.  "Put your  Quarter  Up" was my favorite phrase.  But games like this represent a step backwards, away from progress and  innovation .  Is it a  necessary  step?  Perhaps.  But let's not try to pretend that this game brings anything new to the the table.
Posted by Detway81

Excellent game, very hard to put down.

Posted by razielrioux

I have not been this excited for a fighting game, and I LOVE Street Fighter. This looks so amazing and just plain fun. I hope it does very well.

Posted by doublezeroduck

Mortal Kombat vs DC also got 5 out of 5 from Jeff, so I'm renting this first before I drop $60.

Posted by Zol

Is this coming to PC?

Otherwise I won't be able to play it, I don't wanna buy crappy obsolete consoles just to play one game.

Posted by Malakhii
@Zol said:
" Is this coming to PC?Otherwise I won't be able to play it, I don't wanna buy crappy obsolete consoles just to play one game. "
They're considering it, but I wouldn't hold your breath. It would be fucking awesome though. 
Posted by Maclintok

Wow, only played for an hour before stopping to check out the Canucks-Hawks game and I am positively itching to get back to MK.  There seems to be a bucket load of content here. This may be the first time I don't have to feel guilty playing a fighting game offline.

Posted by gizmo88

The score seems a bit padded to me. Their (Mainly Jeff's) relationship with Ed Boon became a bit incestuous in my opinion. I definitely still trust his opinion on every other genre.

Posted by Bloodgraiv3
@XChairmanDrekX said:
" @MysteriousBob said:
" @MichaelBach said:
" I have a question for MK fans. I am kind of on a limited budget and MK vs DC also got 5 stars but is half the price here. Is MK9 so much better than MK vs DC or would I be fine with the latter?

I appreciate any help!
"
MK vs DC is a piece of shit that should never have gotten five stars. Hell yes MK9 is a million times better.
There, happy?
"
This is really part of the reason I have trouble taking Jeff's opinions on fighting games seriously.  He gives MK vs. DC a 5 yet a much more polished balanced fighting game, Blazblue, a 3.  This game may be deserving of 5 stars, but those 2 reviews Jeff did way back, really rubbed me the wrong way. "


You forget its all opinion..


 

Posted by TekZero
At first I wasn't too excited about this game.  Then I saw Kung Lao and Kabal.  

I'm all in baby. 
Posted by Brendan

Oh fighting game review comments, you always make me smile :)

Posted by m2cks

Thank God it's finally out and reviewed. Hopefully the MK talk will cease on the Bombcast (until the end of the year awards, most likely). Don't get me wrong- it looks like a good game, but it just seemed like Jeff and co. wouldn't STFU about it. Also, I can't fully trust Jeff's review- after all, he gave MK Vs. DC 5*.

Posted by Max_Hydrogen

Jeeze, I must be getting old: I'm actually squeamish about the gore and over-developed scantily clad women. I'm starting to see what our parents were worried about. But, after ten years of crap, I'm glad MK is getting the overhaul it deserves and I'm exited about its release (SFIV, MK; is it time for me to feel like I'm 11 again?). What's great is that people can relive the arcade hit experience from home and play against people from all over the world; the changes of the past two decades are really starting to show.

What else can I say: Jack Thompson, YOU CAN SUCK MY COCK!!

Posted by Siphillis

You could argue that this is the first, and only, actually good fighting game in the series.

Posted by LiquidPrince

This looks amazing!

Online
Posted by Hotcakesman

I now want this game... great review!

Posted by Slaker117

This game is treating me weird. While I'm playing it I recognize it to be well done, but I'm not that engaged in it the way I am when I play most games. But once I put it down, I want to be playing more of it. It's addictive, but the experience itself is somehow subdued. Thinking about MK as I write this has made me want to fire it back up, though I know once I'm playing I'll quickly become detached to it.

Regardless, it's a fine game, and I know I'm going to end up playing a lot more of it. I'm just not sure it's enjoyable in the same way as my normally preferred titles.

Posted by LordKisame

This game is absolutely brilliant

Posted by nindoten

epic review :]

Edited by JackSukeru

As a very casual fan of fighting games, the focus on singleplayer content in this game has me positively delighted. I had almost no contact with this series prior to MK vs DC. and I'll admit I mainly got interested in it from hearing these guys' talk excitedly about it. So while I enjoyed the single player portion of the game, playing it with friends was never fun for long.


Judging from my time spent with the demo this game fixes that particular grievance so it looks like I'm all set to have a good time. Really looking forward to picking it up tomorrow.
Posted by SneakyPenguins

Awesome review. So pumped to get this, payday cant come fast enough 

Posted by PLWolf

Definitely getting this soon. Can't wait to play as Kratos.

Posted by Lucidlife

It's MK.  It's Jeff reviewing it.  It was a guaranteed minimum of 4/5.


It's too bad he can't give other deserving games these kinds of scores.
Posted by helloGEEK2345

wow this is gonna be awesome out of ALL the mortal kombats i played i saw previews awesome

Posted by Nomin

Why do Kung Lao and Liu Kang look so Asian? Those are some brutally Asiatic Asian faces if I ever saw one.  

Posted by MAST
@XChairmanDrekX said:
" @MysteriousBob said:
" @MichaelBach said:
" I have a question for MK fans. I am kind of on a limited budget and MK vs DC also got 5 stars but is half the price here. Is MK9 so much better than MK vs DC or would I be fine with the latter?

I appreciate any help!
"
MK vs DC is a piece of shit that should never have gotten five stars. Hell yes MK9 is a million times better.
There, happy?
"
This is really part of the reason I have trouble taking Jeff's opinions on fighting games seriously.  He gives MK vs. DC a 5 yet a much more polished balanced fighting game, Blazblue, a 3.  This game may be deserving of 5 stars, but those 2 reviews Jeff did way back, really rubbed me the wrong way. "
MK vs. DC deserved every star it got. The game was great. Blazblue was the actual middling game. Seriously, that game was so "meh." I might have liked it if I was 13-16 years old, way into anime, and had no notion of what a fun, intuitive game is really like, but thankfully I'm older and know better.

There's a reason why they went back and revisited MK vs. DC a couple weeks ago. It's because a ton of people asked for it, and because it's a great game.

Honestly, I'm sick of all the comments for this review. There are comments suggesting that Jeff and Ed Boon are lovers, and that's the only reason he gave MK vs. DC, and this MK five stars. Or that Jeff pocketed money to give it five stars. Or that he's just too blinded by his love of fighting games, and all things MK, to give a reliable review. For real, all you conspiracy theorists just need to eff off. You know when the Giantbomb guys talk about how the forums/comments are full of delusional idiots? Well, you're the people they are talking about.
Posted by JoelTGM

thanks for the video review!  the game looks AWESOME!

Posted by SnakeEyes327
@Siphillis said:
" You could argue that this is the first, and only, actually good fighting game in the series. "
Sure you could argue that. You'd be wrong. But you could argue it.
Posted by Godzilla_Sushi

I think you summed it up perfectly, Jeff. A fantastic fighting game.

Posted by detectivepbert

I didn't know that mortal kombat had a story.

Posted by MichaelBach
@MAST: Bought the new MK, and I agree on 5 stars, AWESOME!
Posted by DeadManRollin

Sounds great, been waiting for a good MK game on the xbox360...will get it soon.

Posted by NondoX

ive got a trouser tingle and boy it feels greaaaaaaaatt!

from what ive played already its Mk at its original best with extras, extras that ARE worth playing.

Posted by blake_brown

the shitty cheapness of this final boss fight is making me fucking hate this game.

Posted by Godlyawesomeguy

I shouldn't have, but because of how many great things I've heard, I had to go out and get this. I FUCKING LOVE IT. I am already doing tournaments with my friends, getting my ass kicked, but gradually improving on my main, which is Sub Zero. So much fun.

Posted by dietrich

Just finished the story mode, Jeff is absolutely right.

Posted by Protonguy

Great review Jeff. You made me care about mortal kombat for the first time since number 3.

Though the look and feel of the game is roughly identical across platforms, the PlayStation 3 version of Mortal Kombat offers some additional features that make it the better version of the two.



Reading this line with whats going on with PSN after the review went up made me laugh.
Posted by obanana1

reminds me of the good-oll dayz...lol

and lucky me because last month was my 17th birthday and when PSN comes back up ill open so many canes of wupasses  the entire comunity will spin..ROFL
Posted by SuperSambo
@Lucidlife said:
" It's MK.  It's Jeff reviewing it.  It was a guaranteed minimum of 4/5.

It's too bad he can't give other deserving games these kinds of scores.
"
Like?
Posted by Creciente

MK9 feels quite solid. It's smooth and clever. Incredibly fun. More people need to play it.