Review by IWearBones138
"Old School MK fans rejoice! Newcomers can come too."
With a mythological back story, over the top characters, pick and play gameplay and the obvious gratuitous amounts of digitized gore, Mortal Kombat has been a staple of the fighting video game genre since it first came out in 1992. When Midway went bankrupt in 2009 it looked like the final Fatality on the MK series. But Warner Bros. sought to give the series another round, resulting in the series reboot simply titled Mortal Kombat.
With each new entry into the series, significant backstory has developed surrounding a fictional universe containing multiple realms, and how many villains have tried to gain control over all the realms, specifically Earthrealm. Over the past 8 Mortal Kombat series titles and 60+ characters, the last entry being MK: Armageddon, all the characters competed in an attempt to gain ultimate power over the realms. This is where Mortal Kombat (2011) starts. All the fighters have been destroyed except the Thunder God Raiden and the Emperor of Outworld; Shao Kahn. Shao Kahn gains the ultimate power and destroys Raiden, and in one final attempt to change the outcome Raiden sends a message to himself in the past way back to the first tournament. For those familiar with the original 3 games, you can expect a welcome feeling of nostalgia. It's the first tournaments again complete with all the popular characters. It plays out with you playing a specific character to continue each chapter. Basically fight, cutscene, fight, cutscene, etc... It sounds rather repetitive but actually the story is actually interesting, full of twists, drama, magic, and plenty of blood. It is probably the one of the most engrossing storylines in a fighting video game.
MK (2011) takes the gameplay a step back returning to a simple 2-D stage fighter without multiple fighting styles or weapons as the previous titles were including. But don't be fooled into thinking it's a shallow fighter. The mechanics have been sped up and tweaked for the new-gen. Each of the four buttons will correspond to an individual limb depending on your stance. I.e. Front arm, back arm, front leg, back leg. Pressing different directions with the buttons will form different moves, and can result in stringing combos together, and of course special moves. Special moves have always been separate commands in previous titles, but now stringing certain combos will give access to unique special combos. Scorpion still has his infamous spear throw, but now he can also include fire kicks and punches in his combos rather than inputting only one special move at a time. Also new to the format is the inclusion of a special meter at the bottom of the screen which can be filled up by delivering blows or taking them. As the meter fills, you will be able to use it to either pull more powerful commands, reverse attacks, or use the devastating X-Ray attack which can easily change the outcome of the battle. For a fighting game you would think there wouldn't be too much variety in gameplay modes, but apart from the story, traditional MK arcade ladder and versus, now there are now Tag Team modes, various challenges, training, and even Test Your Might/Sight/Luck modes, as well as online versus and an exclusive King of the Hill mode. A new feature allows you to input codes before versus matches for interesting effects, some being simply aesthetic such as rainbow colored blood, or some can affect the actual fight such as disabling jumping. It certainly adds much more depth to a simple versus fight. The characters all seem rather balanced, with the exception of some of the bosses, Shao Kahn can be especially difficult, and each have a variety of special attacks and at least three finishing moves. Some characters are easier for beginners but for each strength there is an opposing weakness. Multiple difficulties make it easy to enjoy no matter how good or bad you may be. A downside is the D-pad on the Xbox is difficult to master as it will commonly mistake UP for FOWARD or similar. For those who prefer the D-pad, you might want to practice using the analog.
In this age of graphical poweress, it's hard to judge good graphics and bad. It all comes down to art design, and in this case, it's fantastic. Each of the characters have detailed costumes and flowing animations, all reworked and for the new generation while still maintaining an aura of nostalgia from the first entries. Sub-Zero and Scorpion are no longer palette swapped sprites, they are intricately designed from the masks they wear to the boots they kick you with. Many of the original stages have been given a face-lift, such as Shang-Tsung's original arena is complete with the monks in the background and Egyptian-like guards, now completely rendered and animated. The more damage you do to your foe is represented with rips in clothing, gashes, broken armor, and even some compound fractures. By the end of an intense match it will be hard to look like you are the victor when your eye has been gouged out. As well as being a significant gameplay element, the X-Ray attacks are impressive to watch when your foe gets his ribs broken or his jaw shattered all in real time. No two characters ever look or move the same. Even the extra kontent which again is displayed as The Krypt, looks outstanding. From busting graves and tombs, to popping inflated corpses floating in the Blood Marsh, it's disgustingly beautiful. Even the menu has its own jaw breaking charm.
A lot of the MK titles did not include too much dialog apart from the announcer saying "FIGHT". A lot of the time, it was simply the developers mumbling gibberish to invoke battle cries. The gibberish is still present, but now Ed Boon and Co. have hired real voice actors for the speaking parts of the characters. While the dialog itself can be cheesy, each fighter has a unique voice that fits the character. Goro sounds like a four armed half dragon half man. Liu Kang talks with an Asian accent. Scorpion screams of insane vengeance for his departed clan. A huge improvement over the previous Joe Anybody voicing a powerful dragon. Sound effects are justified, from bones cracking to the audience in the arena screaming, to the magic spells, it's all there and believable. Music is mainly a background noise and won't be noted unless you really focus on it, but it's a definite step above from the MIDI files in the first games, which are actually present as easter eggs. The game also gives you the option to adjust any of the sounds, so if you really hate the voices or the music, you can just turn it down.
It's a fighting game, its good fighting game, but that's all you do is fight. There is no Konquest Mode this time around, no Khess Kombat, no Motor Kombat, just lots of fighting. If you like fighting then you will find this game has lots to offer. With 25+ fighters to choose from, the various codes to enter before rounds, to Tag Team options, and the Challenge Ladder which gives you different objective rounds like not getting hit, or shooting projectiles at loads of baddies.There are hundreds of unlockables in the Krypt, from alt costumes to artwork and music and even how-to's on fatalities. Two unlockable characters on Xbox with DLC coming soon. The story mode is quite long compared to other fighters, and fun to watch the first couple of times. If you have no friends to play with then you can take it online, with versus modes and King of the Hill (which I haven't tried). I can't say much about the online play, it is what it is. Can be laggy from time to time but definitely a welcome addition to any multiplayer game like this. There are numerous hidden easter eggs to be found, such as hidden fights, loads of achievements, and even a special award for completing the entire Challenge Ladder. Like I said, if you like fighting, then you can look forward to lots of different ways to do just that. If you like Mortal Kombat you will have plenty to look forward to in terms of development goodies. But if you're looking for some novelty in-depth game within a game, look elsewhere.
Overall Warner Bros. and Netherrealm have come out with a game that rivals any of the other Mortal Kombats, it's got plenty of fan-service for die-hard fans, as well as having shiny new elements to attract new players. It finally treats the series seriously as a next gen fighter, and will only continue to fuel the ongoing destructive bloody disgusting magical story that is Mortal Kombat. If you like the fighting genre or just need a good multiplayer game, then GET OVER HERE and FIGHT!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/20/11
Game Release: Mortal Kombat (US, 04/19/11)
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