Mortal Kombat (Video Game)
Rated M for Mature
Developed by Netherrealm Studios
Published by Warner Brothers Interactive
In a world populated by colorful fighters with no real bite, the Mortal Kombat franchise has always stood out like a sore and bleeding thumb. It didn't waste time with weapons that didn't sever limbs or anything that could even remotely be deemed family friendly. This was a world populated by warriors, monsters, demons, ghosts, and bloodthirsty cyborgs. A world in which the loss of a match meant certain violent death. It's been around a decade since the last M-rated Mortal Kombat game (we'll just forget about the toothless MK vs. DC Universe), and the franchise is back on its gore-splashed grisly track and clearly redefines the term no-holds-barred.
Just about all of the needless bells and whistles added to the gameplay starting with Mortal Kombat 3's addition of a run button have been officially removed, and the delicious 2D mechanics we grew to love in Mortal Kombat II are back and feeling as familiar and sweet as ever. Like an old friend. In their place we can now do enhanced special moves (i.e., Nightwolf can now fire three arrows instead of just one), break combos, and engage in close-up x-ray kombat that will have your teeth jangling while you whoop and wince! All of these extras can be pulled off via a special meter at the bottom of the screen that fills as you fight. Simple. Plain. Not confusing and totally easy to pull off. Nice.
That's not to say that Mortal Kombat isn't in 3D. In fact, it's very much so, even literally on the PlayStation 3 version. Everything has been rebuilt here from the ground up. Familiar fighting arenas have been revamped. Character models redone. Simply put, the game looks as good as it plays, and nowadays that's no easy task. Even though everything is rendered in 3D, the playfield is strictly 2D. Think Super Street Fighter 4 or Marvel vs. Capcom.
For fans of the franchise story mode is an absolute home run. During it you play through the events of Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, and Mortal Kombat 3. For those familiar with the mythology this feature is nothing short of heaven sent, glorious, and completely badass. Even more surprising? The storyline is pretty long and rife with secrets about characters that you'll learn for the first time. You think you know all about the Mortal Kombat universe? Trust us when we say you don't. All questions are answered and no stone is left unturned. Stellar.
Once you've kicked the story mode's ass, there are several other single-player options for you to dig on ... Test Your Might, Test Your Strike, Test Your Sight, and Test Your Luck. The newest feature here is Test Your Luck as the others have been seen before in older iterations of MK. Basically what you're doing is pulling down the lever of a slot machine that will determine opponent, match stipulations, and power ups or downs for that matter. Pretty cool.
Finally, once you've sifted through all of that content, there's The Challenge Tower, which is made up of whopping 300 different challenges that include everything from Johnny Cage beating up his director and warding off hordes of the living dead to having to fight franchise heavies Goro, Kintaro, and Shao Kahn one after the other. This will take hours and hours to complete, but damned if it isn't a ton of violent fun. Really good stuff.
Then there's the bread and butter of the series: the Vs. Mode. In it, as per usual, you can face off one-on-one with either one local player or up to eight online players via a King of the Hill type tourney in which your Xbox 360 avatars will watch the onscreen fights "MST3K" style, or on your PlayStation 3 special Mortal Kombat avatars are at your disposal as a means to mimic the 360 experience. To further sweeten the pot, a new tag mode has also been implemented, which definitely borrows from the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise in terms of playability. There's so much to do here it's literally staggering.
All of your favorite characters are back just as you remember and like them (Sheeva and Jade still suck). Each character has two jaw-droppingly sadistic fatalities, one stage fatality, and one babality each. There are mystery fights to unlock, and since everything you do in the game earns you "kurrency", there's also an entire krypt full of goodies to dig up.
In terms of differences between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, on the PS3 you get Kratos from the God of War series and everything can be played in eye-popping 3D if you have the tech. There are also some game trailers included on the Blu-ray edition. Unfortunately the Xbox version has no exclusive content, at least not yet. However Xbox Live is a dream compared to PlayStation's flaccid by comparison network, and you'll be playing in 1080p instead of 720p. I did notice that the 360 version also seems to run a bit smoother than its cousin. Food for thought all around. Honestly? You can't go wrong with either.
There's so much to do and see here it's literally staggering. This could very well be the best Mortal Kombat to date, and as a fan that is not something I say lightly. The most badass fighting game franchise is back, and its teeth are sharper than ever.
5 out of 5
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