Review by Apossum
"MK is back and.....and.......there's more of it."
First off, the key word for MK:D is "more." More modes, more unlockables, more characters, more fun in general than the franchise's previous entry: the lukewarm and unrealized MK:Deadly Alliance. You'll probably get at least five times as much play time out of this one, depending on how much you dig the mini-games and the on-line mode. This is a huge step for MK, but it just barely misses the dog turd on the sidewalk.
Let's get these out of the way first. You've probably read all about them by now. Chess Kombat, Puzzle Kombat , Konquest Mode, the Krypt--there's enough here to keep you occupied for a loooong time.
Chess Kombat is cool--though when it comes down to it, it is about 10% Chess and 90% Kombat. It's a different and fun take on MK, but little else. Great for on-line matches.
Puzzle Kombat is a shameless clone of Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo--the Capcom puzzle game with Darkstalkers and Street Fighter characters. This is a very good thing, because that game is a timeless classic!! The only major difference is that each character has a unique special move-- some can arrange the blocks, drill a hole in the stack, get rid of the other guys block breakers etc. This is easily my favorite mini-game. Even if you aren't a puzzle fan, check this out--you'll get hooked.
Finally, Konquest mode. wow. Not only is MK:D a puzzle game and a chess game, and.....oh yeah, a fighting game, it's also an RPG! You take the role of Shujinko, an apprentice, and go on a quest supposedly involving all the MK characters ever! Along the way, you pick up koins and keys for the Krypt, get training for each character and you meet and interact with NPCs. So far, it works out alright--though it is totally bare bones. The voice acting is the worst, the graphics are pretty bad and honestly, this mode does feel a little tacked on, but the fact that certain characters are only unlockable through this mode is motivation enough to play it. It's not torture to play but don't expect this to be the next Final Fantasy(or whatever your favorite RPG happens to be.) It is a training mode with lots of running around, a couple of interesting tasks and a (weird) story.
Finally, the Krypt. As the Dude in the movie the Big Lebowski might say, this mode "really ties the room together." You earn koins throughout the different modes to unlock Graves filled with character art, new costumes, stages, bios, music and best of all-- new characters! Perfect way to top off the rest of the game. As you can see, there's a ton of stuff to do in MK, besides just playing MK. They've really gone all out. And though it does kind of feel like one of those infomercials that keeps on adding more and more useless crap on top of the actual product they are trying to sell until you eventually no longer know what you are really buying, it is all quite fun.
MK is a dark world and rightfully so, it is chock full of dark intense music, bone crunching sounds, evil laughs and loud screams! The sound is synched up better than previous MKs, like they focused on each death scene and attack to get the sound just right. Even the sound for each character is different, helping to flesh out their personalities. Mileena growls at you after losing a match, Scorpion's got attitude, some characters are louder while others are quieter. Also, a very welcome change from MK:DA is that the game is now in 5.1! This isn't a huge difference being a fighting game and all, but you still get to hear some lighting blasts, screams from prisoners and other cool stuff in the background. And finally, they've made it so your character isn't grunting with every move you make, like they did in DA. Bravo--that got on my nerves! Anyway, this is the kind of game you want turn up all the way--don't blame me if the neighbors call the cops thinking you're a serial killer.
Comparing them to MK:DA's I think they look a little worse. Even in the screenshots before the game came out, I could tell they were a little less intense. I think the main thing is that the detail level has gone down, in the character models, levels, blood spurts, everything and there are way more graphical "hiccups." The game still looks good but is definitely a step down. Making the colors a little more intense would have helped off set this, too, as they are a little bit on the bland side. Also, they need to give the characters some expression. This is bothersome in this day and age of gaming. It's not 2-d anymore, characters mouths need to mimic their laughs, screams, when they're talking, all that stuff. I'm mainly thinking about fatalities and how they could be improved upon. If the characters were more animated in fatality sequences, they would be 10x more fun to watch. Not that the fatalities are lacking in this game at all. So, the graphics don't hurt the fun and are still very good, as MK:DA was pretty advanced in the graphics department and a step down from that is still awesome.
Off line Kombat: 8/10
It's great. Definitely an improvement over MK:DA. Like DA, you have 2 fighting styles and a weapon and there are a bunch of new combos and special moves for each character. There are even a slew of new characters in the cast, all of whom seem pretty cool so far-- way better than most of the new guys in MK:DA(who were pretty lame, in my opinion.) Uppercuts are back, that's a biggie and it's noticeable right away--it really is a huge part of the MK fighting system and helps to keep both players on their toes. Also, gone are the counters and goofy power ups from MK:DA. In their place comes the combo breaker-- which can interrupt almost any move really, and it'll probably save your butt a few times. They are easy to pull off, but you only get 3 per match, which I adds a good element of strategy-- something the MK world could always use more of. Another addition-- destructable environments, multi-tiered arenas and death traps. Awesome. You will either love or hate the death traps(depending if your on the receiving end) but they make the battles that much more heated. Not much to say except that these additions are all welcome and do nothing but good for the game. The few fatalities I've seen are just plain gruesome and even kind of disturbing! You will be satisfied with them!
On the other hand, technical problems bring this MK title down, like so many before it. You will notice some collision detection problems and the character movement is still kinda stiff, making for a not-so-fluid experience. It's also evident in the way moves interact with each other. For example, say you are playing as Mileena and you attempt to counter a projectile with a teleport kick. You leap off the screen but all of the sudden the fireball that was going straight at you has somehow hit you out of the sky. Strange occurences like this are everywhere in the MK:D world. In fact, i'd say that these kinds of technical problems have not been resolved over the entire history of MK--most of the game is just right, then fundamental and technical details like these get overlooked. It's a shame: these things undermine the fighting engine in every MK title, including Deception.
As far as the story goes, don't ask me, they lost me around MK3.
On-line Kombat: 5/10
You've probably heard by now that there is no lag. Well, that's great but everything else seems to be suffering. About those collision problems... they are worse on-line. The graphical hiccups are intensified, appearing in combos, when both people attack each other at the same time and in other instances. Another frustrating aspect: Combo breakers are unreliable-- sometimes they just don't work, on account of the jerky controls on-line. Finding people to play against can be a pain too. The optimatch option takes forever to load a queue of fighters and all too often the ones that show up are unavailable. So then it takes you back to the Mode select screen and you start the process of searching again. Very user unfriendly, this is just sloppy. I've never seen a game take this long to get you a list of players. Also, on your stats screen, Disconnects are tallied WRONG! I'm assuming thy were putting that in to call out all those PUNKS who like to DROP. Instead, when one of those LOSERS drops on you because you are KICKING THEIR ASS, you both get marked with a Disconnect. But don't get me wrong, it's still a lot of fun, but this is a total rush job.
All things considered: 6.8/10
There's a lot to say about this game. The amount of content and unlockables is unprecedented and the replay value is sky high. I'm having a lot of fun in all the modes and I don't think I'll be bored in a week like I was with DA. But the plethora of technical flaws are just mild enough to not totally ruin my experience of the game. Had they taken more time to work out glitches in the fighting engine and improved the functionality of the on-line mode, this game could've had a much better score. Despite all the negative things I have to say about it-- I would say this is worth the $50 (or $60, if you want the Kollector's Disc too) as long you don't expect EPIC things from it.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/07/04
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