Mortal Kombat 4 is a 3D fighting game developed and released by Midway on October 1997 for arcades. The game makes a significant shift to 3D while introducing weapon-based combat to the franchise. The setting reverts from the gritty, Western look of Mortal Kombat 3 to mythical, Eastern look of the first two Mortal Kombat games.
The game has three revisions within a year, fixing various bugs and adding new secrets, bugfixes and features. The game was also ported to the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 in late June 1998, the PC in late July 1998, and was a launch title for the Sega Dreamcast under the name Mortal Kombat Gold. These home versions added exclusive content, including new characters and FMV intros, biographies, and endings. The game was also ported to the Game Boy Color in 1998 by Digital Eclipse.
Taking place after the events of Mortal Kombat 3, the plot of Mortal Kombat 4 revolves around the war between the God of Thunder Raiden (along with the warriors of Earthrealm) and the fallen Elder God Shinnok (along with the evil sorceror Quan Chi and their army of darkness).
Despite the transition to 3D, the game plays very similarly to Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Players have four attack buttons (High Punch, High Kick, Low Punch, and Low Kick), a Block button, and a Run button. Players have a Run Meter to prevent them from abusing the Run button, which gives them a quick dash forward for offensive manuevers. Players can now sidestep left and right (by tapping the Run button twice), allowing them to dodge projectiles and move the camera so that other players can not pick up items on the ground as easily.
The "chain combo" system is still intact, where players use strings of normal attacks to perform a pre-programmed combo. However, Mortal Kombat 4 has added a "Maximum Damage" cap, automatically breaking off combos (in a similar vein to Killer Instinct's " Combo Breaker").
One main concept introduced to the Mortal Kombat franchise in Mortal Kombat 4 is weapon-based combat. Players perform a specific button and joystick combination and the character would equip a weapon (usually a sword, an axe, or a club). The weapon deals more damage and changes certain attacks (Fujin's Crossbow, for example, can fire bolts). The weapon is knocked out of the player's hand on the first attack landed by an opponent, in which that weapon can be picked up by either player by pressing down on the joystick and the Run button. Some stages have objects (such as rocks in Goro's Lair) scattered around that can also be picked up and thrown at opponents.
Some mechanics from Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 were scrapped, including Friendships, Babalities, Animalities, the ability to show " Mercy", eight-player tournament mode, and mid-match stage transitions. There are no Endurance Matches, instead bringing back 2-on-2 mode.
This is the first Mortal Kombat game to not include palette swaps, as each character is visually unique. This also marks the first game to include the ability to select an alternate costume (by holding the Start button while selecting a character).
Mortal Kombat 4 included 15 playable characters in the original Arcade release, 7 of which are new additions to the series. It is the first main entry in the series where both boss characters are playable.
With the exception of the handheld Game Boy Color version, all Home versions of the game added additional characters, all of which from previous Mortal Kombat games. This brings the grand total to 17 in the N64 and PS1 versions and 23 in the DC version.
In addition, later Arcade and Home console releases included a secret easter egg that changes the player character's model to a bloody skeleton that was used in certain Fatalities (sometimes dubbed "Meat"). A new original character was made based on this appearance in later Mortal Kombat games.
- Fujin - One of the last remaining Gods in Shinnok's war on the Elder Gods, Fujin is the God of Wind and an ally of Raiden.
- Jarek (not available in the GBC version) - Believed to be the last remaining member of Kano's criminal organization, the Black Dragon, Jarek is a ruthless criminal who reluctantly assists Sonya and the other Earth warriors in defeating Shinnok's forces.
- Kai (not available in the GBC version) - A skilled African-American martial artist who trained under the White Lotus Society with Liu Kang before learning from great masters throughout Asia.
- Reiko - A former general of Shinnok's army who, after believed to be killed during Shinnok's war on the Elder Gods, resurfaces to fight the forces of Earth hand-to-hand.
- Tanya - The daughter of an Edenian ambassador, Tanya unknowingly let Shinnok invade Edenia for his base of operations. While she appears to assist Earth's forces, her true motives are unclear.
- Quan Chi (sub-boss) - A dark sorceror who uses his abilities to free Shinnok from his imprisonment in exchange for being his second-in-command.
- Shinnok (final boss, unplayable in the GBC version) - A fallen Elder God free from his banishment to the Netherrealm, waging a war against the Elder Gods (particularly Raiden). His specialty is the ability to mimic the fighting style of any other character (similar to Shang Tsung).
- Liu Kang
- Johnny Cage (not available in the GBC version)
- Sonya (not available in the GBC version)
- Reptile (made a secret character in the GBC version)
- Jax (not available in the GBC version)
- Goro (sub-boss and secret character, only available in home console versions)
- Noob Saibot (secret character, only available in home console versions)
- Kung Lao (only available in the Dreamcast version)
- Kitana (only available in the Dreamcast version)
- Mileena (only available in the Dreamcast version)
- Baraka (only available in the Dreamcast version)
- Cyrax (only available in the Dreamcast version)
- Sektor (secret character only available in the Dreamcast version)