Available on Xbox (reviewed) and PS2
Distributed by Midway Games
You may be wondering why we’re reviewing a fighting game here on Dread Central. If you really have to ask, then you’ve never played Mortal Kombat. Let’s see, we have monsters, lunatics, zombies, and buckets upon buckets or gore. Sounds like reason enough to me.
It was the fall of 1992. Some friends and I were getting some chow while hanging out at our favorite pizzeria in Brooklyn, New York. I heard it from way across the room. A booming voice had just bellowed the words “Finish Him”. I turned to look and saw a ninja dressed in blue tear out the spine of another ninja dressed in yellow. There I stood in disbelief. Without even thinking I left my food, went to the counter, dropped a handful of bills down on it and asked for as many quarters as I could get. I fell in love with a game that day, Mortal Kombat be thy name. Holy shit was it violent! I had never ever seen such brutality in a video game. It wasn’t just the gore that had me hooked either. MK had a rich story line as well. It played like those old Kung-Fu flicks we all grew up watching on those rainy Saturday afternoons. As with any successful endeavor sequels followed along with some horrid spin-offs. Everyone was hooked. Some still are. Myself included. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since that day, but here I sit writing a review for what will be the last game in the franchise on current generation systems. Armageddon has arrived.
Before we get to it, let’s get in a little recap of current events, shall we?
The fifth game in the series, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance more or less changed the battlefield for fans. The series had abandoned its two dimensional roots for a fully interactive 3-D experience (let’s try and forget MK4 OK? Good!). Fighters could now dodge, and had a full 360 degrees of motion to explore. The most important addition to the franchise however came in the form of game play that allowed each fighter to switch between three different fighting styles (two hand-to-hand, one weapons based) at any time. This made for some insane combos and of course more over-the-top ways in which to dispatch your opponent.
The next game, Mortal Kombat: Deception retained all of what was right about Deadly Alliance and added bonuses like an RPG type mode dubbed Konquest, along with some pretty cool mini-games. It seemed as if the series had finally peaked. This game was packing! Still, fans wanted more. Midway listened.
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon marks a unique time in the franchise’s history. Every single character ever in an MK makes an appearance and is fully playable. It’s impossible to look at the character select screen and not marvel at the sheer number of choices. My black little heart fills with demented glee as I think about the carnage to be had. But has the game changed any from Deadly Alliance or even Deception? You betcha! The biggest difference lies in the fact that the then available three fighting styles have been cut down to two. This has made some fans cry foul. Some have stated that this is regression and not progression. Me? I think of it as a much needed trimming of the fat.
Having only two styles to worry about (one hand-to-hand, and one weapons based) enables the player to concentrate more on the in-game fighting and less on the constant tricky switching of styles as a means to string along combos. It’s leaner and meaner. After playing for a while, gamers will also come to notice the presence of an unofficial third style — air kombat. Once you pop another player up in the air you can jump in and begin a series of air based moves that are without question super damaging. It takes a few seconds to pick up, but a long while to master.
The counter system has also changed a bit. In addition to blocking and combo-breaking, you can now parry their moves. While all this may seem a bit overwhelming I can assure you it’s pretty much cake. After a few minutes any player, regardless of skill, will be able to start dishing out the beat downs on the way to the series trademark — the fatality.
In past games fatalities have been pulled off by pressing a specific sequence of buttons on the controller. While this remains for the most part the case, Midway has turned doing a fatality into a mini-game in and of itself. Gamers now must perform a series of different moves before killing their enemies. For example, with the initial series of button presses you’ll see your character smack the shit out of the loser. With another you might rip off his arm. With yet another you may just beat him over the head with it. Then with yet another you’ll finally reach the gory goods. This can lead to any number of demented ways to fall your foes including decapitation, evisceration, kidney tearing, etc. The results can be pretty much different each time, so be sure to spend some time enjoying the sickness.
That’s the gist of single and multiplayer Kombat, but of course Midway has a couple of more modes for players to mess around with. First up is the returning Konquest mode. Here you will follow the exploits of a new MK character as he spends his time dispatching baddies and unlocking secret content in the games Krypt. Just like in Deception you’ll find everything from new costumes to new arena’s while playing this mode. It’s not very deep and usually consists of little more than some well timed button mashing, but its goofy and violent fun for sure.
Next up we have something called Motor Kombat. Essentially this is Mario Kart with gore and MK characters. Personally I dug Deception</i>’s Tetris-like Puzzle Kombat a hell of a lot more than this, but just like that and the other mini-games, you probably wont be playing this all that much any way.
There is another reason why gamers have been mucho stoked for Armageddon. Yeah having access to tons of characters, etc is pretty fucking cool, but there ain’t nothing like having the ability to create your own fighter from scratch. Behold the create a kombatant feature. Honestly, I feel a bit short changed here. While there are tons of options to tweak how your character looks, they’re all kind of generic. You can only make either a skinny fighter, an average build fighter, or a body builder type fighter. I wanted to make a fat opera singer with huge bigguns in a thong. Oh the joys of suffocating my opponent in the huge crack of my created brawler’s ass! Alas, it was not meant to be. Maybe next time?
Rest assured there WILL be a next time. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see a next generation chapter of Mortal Kombat on the Xbox360 or PS3 as early as next year. In the interim, we have some current generation closure that sends out the series with one hell of a bang.
4 out of 5