The Mortal Kombat franchise has been around for nearly twenty years now. It’s impossible to imagine a world without fatalities. Once the series went 3D, everything started to go downhill. Sure, MK: Deception and MK: Armageddon were good games, but it just wasn’t the same anymore. Fans have been begging a return to form for quite some time. When NetherRealm Studios announced that the new Mortal Kombat would be just that, everyone went crazy with excitement. Mortal Kombat ends up being so much more than just a reboot of the franchise. It’s a game that reinvigorates the fighting game genre much like SFIV did over two years ago.
Let’s start with the story. Armageddon is at hand and Raiden is the only surviving kombatant left. While on the receiving end of a fatal beat down, Raiden conjures up what little strength he has left and sends a message to himself in the past in order to change the events of the future. The story essentially retells the events of the first three Mortal Kombat games in ways that are unexpected and controversial. It seriously rivals the length of a single player action game and should take you about six hours to complete.
It’s really a fully fleshed out story that goes well into the mythology of the series. There’s nothing quite like it, especially for a fighting game. There are no cheesy 3D beat ’em up mechanics or random bouts of exploration. The story is told in a way that’s similar to watching a movie. It’s all one seamless experience covering 16 chapters, with each one dedicated to a specific kombatant. There are no pauses, load times, or wait. You are literally transitioned into a fight from the cutscene itself. It’s quite an achievement.
Visually, the game looks amazing. Stage backgrounds are all dynamic. You’ll see anything from demon’s destroying buildings in the background to other fighters engaging in kombat. Character damage goes well beyond blood splatter and includes torn clothing, broken faces, and cuts so deep that you can see muscle tissue. You’ll even notice the blood of your opponents splashing onto your character. The X-ray attacks are just as brutal. Organs get punctured, crushed, and smashed as the skeletal system of each fighter is broken in more ways than you could imagine. Just the sound of a police baton cracking someone’s skull will make you cringe.[drop]Mortal Kombat features nearly 30 playable characters to choose from. The majority of fighters are available right from the start. Only two characters need to be unlocked. There are a variety of modes to play outside of the main story, including Test Your Might, Test Your Strike, Test Your Sight, Test Your Luck, and Challenge Tower. By playing through each mode you’ll earn points which can be redeemed at the Krypt. There are nearly 300 unlockables in all, ranging from artwork and music to secondary fatality combinations and alternate costumes.
Test Your Might is straight forward. All you need to do is mash buttons until you reach a marker to successfully break an object. Test Your Strike is similar in concept but with one major difference, you have to hold your strike within a certain range. For Test Your Sight you need to keep your eye on the correct head or cup as it moves around a table.
Test Your Luck provides the most fun. A roulette will add four different variables to match. Sometimes you’ll have to fight with no arms or overcome crazy odds like not being able to jump. There are so many different combinations and variables it’s impractical to list them all. It’s a great party mechanic. There’s really nothing more hilarious than throwing your appendages at an opponent.
Challenge Tower features 300 challenges to overcome. At first, the objectives are simple and attempt to teach you the very basics of the game. Some of the challenges change up the gameplay by having you throw grenades into a bucket or shooting zombies. As fun as this mode is, it’s more cheap than difficult and forces you to play in annoying ways. It takes about 10 hours to complete all 300 challenges. Prepare yourself for a test of patience.
Mortal Kombat still has its classic arcade mode, complete with endings for each character (even Kratos has one). The boss battles are exactly as frustrating as you remember them from back in the day. Goro, Kintaro, and Shao Kahn all have super armor and can break through your combos with ease. They will make you cry, throw your controller, and play in the cheapest way possible.
New to the series are tag team battles. NetherRealm didn’t just throw this mode into the game in a halfhearted way. You can use your partner as an assist in the background in exchange for one meter or you can have them tag in with a special move. It’s also possible to tag in during the middle of a combo and continue it with your partner. Tag mode features its own arcade Ladder mode and even allows you to play with a friend. There’s actually support for four players, which is amazing.
NetherRealm also added a tutorial mode. The tutorial gives a basic rundown of all the basics. It works well but it’s not as comprehensive as it could have been. The Fatality tutorial allows you to take your time and perform fatalities with a visual aid so you know where to stand. There’s also a standard practice mode for 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 matches. Unfortunately, there’s no proper record/playback function like in other fighting games, which means that you can’t program an AI to do specific actions as you train. It’s an unfortunate oversight.