Review by MoogleKupo141

"The Fighting Game of the Generation"

The Mortal Kombat series has been living in the third dimension for nearly a decade now, but its newest entry is returning to its 2D roots for this reboot simply titled Mortal Kombat. Capcom has brought the 2D fighting genre back in a big way in the past few years, but with Mortal Kombat Netherrealm has outdone Capcom's recent efforts.

Mortal Kombat is a retelling of the first three games in the series. Raiden in the future sends a message back to Raiden in the past so he'll change the course of history, and things proceed from there. The story follows the same basic structure of the first three games, but because Raiden is actively trying to change things, some events play out differently. Raiden's temporal nudging allows the story to be familiar, while still having some genuinely unexpected twists.

The game's story is experienced through the aptly titled Story Mode. Story Mode is substantial with sixteen chapters each focusing on a different character for four or so fights. The highlight of Story Mode is its cutscenes which are well executed and often (especially when Johnny Cage is around) rather funny. The origins of some of the series' characters are explored and other characters have genuine development. On the flip side, many characters, particularly on the villains side, receive very little attention and are just kind of there. This is probably a side effect of the individual character-focused structure of the chapters. Sixteen chapters leave eleven characters who don't receive that same level of attention. Despite that complaint, the story mode really is quite well done. The story is delivered well and takes around seven hours to complete.

Story Mode is just one component of Mortal Kombat's single player offering. The standard arcade mode makes a return featuring seven standard fights and three bosses topped off with character-specific endings. The other major single player mode is the Challenge Tower. Challenges range from battles with strange rules, to shooting shambling corpses, to quick minigames. Some of these challenges, like Test Your Might which just requires you to mash buttons quickly, are pretty short, but there are 300 of them, so the tower will still keep you occupied for hours.

The most important factor in judging a fighting game is its actual mechanics, and Mortal Kombat definitely delivers on that front. Mortal Kombat brings back the 2D style of its early arcade games and polishes it for modern audiences. The basic gameplay consists of two punch buttons, two kick buttons, and a block. Characters have a number of predefined combos in their movelist, but the game also allows for creative creation of original combos.

The big addition to the core mechanics in this Mortal Kombat is a super meter much like the one in Street Fighter IV. The meter consists of three segments. Players can use one segment to do an enhanced version of one of their special attacks, two segments to do a combo breaker, or a full meter to unleash a powerful X-Ray attack. Like a super combo in Street Fighter, the X-Ray is a flashy, high damage move specific to each character and a properly executed X-Ray can turn a match around quickly.

Also important to a good fighting game is its cast of characters, and Mortal Kombat does very well in that regard. The 27 character cast brings back just about every character from the series' digitized actor days. Not every member of the roster is a winner, but the cast is large enough that a couple lamers from the series' history can be excused. Despite the commonality among the characters special moves, (everyone has some sort of projectile, like half the cast can teleport) everyone manages to feel unique. Ermac and Noob may both teleport and throw energy balls, but they do so in their own way. It also helps that all of the characters have such well defined personalities that it's easy to develop preferences for characters simply based on their style. Do you like punching nudes in the testicles? Johnny Cage is for you. Do you like just straight up shooting people with guns? Check out Stryker. The series has come a long way from its palette swap days to characters whose personalities are more than just the color of their ninja outfit. As a layman, I can't say for sure if the cast is perfectly balanced or not, but it feels like most characters have some merit and no one has struck me as far and away better than the rest.

When discussing the Mortal Kombat series, you can't leave out the series' trademark violence. After being neutered in the previous T-rated entry, Mortal Kombat brings the violence back in a big way. Characters bleed profusely as they're viciously beaten, and you can see their pain thanks to the battle damage on their models. By the end of a tough match, characters are likely to have flaps of skin missing, horrifyingly exposed eyeballs, and a thick coat of blood. X-Ray attacks, as their name implies, show you the internal damage being dealt. Watching the teeth fly and legs snap and eyes gouged can be genuinely unsettling.

The team at Netherrealm must consist of genuine sadists, because the graphicness and variety of the violence in Mortal Kombat is truly impressive. In addition to the uniquely brutal X-Ray move every character possesses, they also have two fatalities. Some of the fatalities in Mortal Kombat are truly brilliant and occasionally even manage to be shocking. Fans of gratuitous violence in their fighting games should not be disappointed. Fans of embarrassing their opponents in non-violent ways will be happy too because Babalities make a comeback in Mortal Kombat as well.

Mortal Kombat's sound design also does a great job of portraying the violence. The sounds of bones cracking and limbs ripping are just as discomforting as they should be. When Sindel breaks Scorpion's knee, you feel it thanks to the gruesome visual portrayal and unsettling sound effect.

Mortal Kombat also includes an online mode. Standard ranked and player match making is available as well as rooms in which you can hang out and challenge other players directly. The most interesting facet of the online experience is King of the Hill mode. Up to eight players can participate in this mode. Two players battle, the winner plays again, and the loser goes to the back of the line. Non-fighters can watch the matches as their Xbox Live avatar. Spectators can use a variety of emotes and score each match out of 10. Mortal Kombat's online mode is strong in terms of features, but lag can definitely be an issue. Netherrealm has stated that they are aware of the lag issues, though, so hopefully that will be addressed soon.

While it can be argued that competing fighting games have better fighting mechanics, there's no question that Mortal Kombat is one of the most fully featured fighting games ever. Netherrealm held nothing back with this game. The Krypt contains around 300 items to unlock with Koins earned in the various single player modes. Every character has an unlockable costume and fatality to obtain, there are Kombat Kodes to discover, and tons of artwork to add to your gallery. Mortal Kombat is crammed with stuff, and that stuff is of a generally high quality. The Mortal Kombat series' 2D comeback is a huge success and definitely worth the price of admission.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 05/02/11

Game Release: Mortal Kombat (US, 04/19/11)


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