Review: Mortal Kombat

It has begun.

At its core, Mortal Kombat can be played by just doing the simple chains provided in the movelist. Each character has unique attacks, specials, and combos to learn. However, that’s just the first step. The fighting mechanics are designed in such a way that allows for easy combo creation. You’ll have to get a good grasp of the gameplay first before you can do anything worthwhile. It’s a little off putting at first, but there’s something about the game that just makes you want to learn what’s actually possible. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself absorbed in practice mode for hours at a time with your favorite character.

The fighting mechanics are quite a bit different compared to other games in the genre. Having a block button already changes the way you play. The Super meter also takes some time to get used to. You build meter by doing special moves, taking damage, and when your opponent blocks your attacks. This puts more of an emphasis on offensive fighting. Blocking all day is not a smart option seeing as you’re helping your opponent while taking chip damage in the process. Even the person that lands the first hit in a match is rewarded with an extra bar of meter.

The Super meter can be used in three ways. You can use your entire meter to do a brutal X-ray attack, break a combo at the expense of two bars of meter, or perform an enhanced special attack at the cost of one bar. The one you’ll want to use really depends on the situation. Some combos are only possible to do with an enhanced special attack. On the other hand, landing an X-ray can change the outcome of a match since it deals between 30-40% of damage. And you never know, maybe that one combo you broke will save your from being impaled.

Exclusive to the PS3 version of Mortal Kombat is the addition of Kratos as a playable character. He fits in well with the rest of the cast and doesn’t appear to be broken. Some of his moves are a bit slow but he has everything you’d him to have, including Apollo’s bow, the head of Helios, and the Hermes dash. Many of his attacks will be familiar to God of War fans, from the way he slices an opponent to the quick time events. Yes, Kratos even has QTEs in this game.

As a return to form, it was obvious that fatalities would make a comeback. Some of the finishes are truly disturbing, creative, and sadistic, while others are just flat out lame. Each character has two fatalities, a stage fatality, and a hidden-ality that we won’t ruin. There are also seven stage fatalities to discover. The PS3 version actually has eight since the God of War stage has its own fatality as well.

NetherRealm implemented a clever way to change your controls. All you need to do is press the button on your controller to assign it to the action you want. Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix used the same setup and it made life easier from a competitive standpoint. You can’t actually change the controls when you pause the game, though. You have to exit all the way to the main menu. It’s an odd omission since you can save up to four different button configurations and switch to them at any time.

Online features your standard ranked matches, player matches, and private matches for 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 battles. Unfortunately, tag battles only allow you to fight one another and not team together. The only way you can partner up against someone online is if you have a friend sitting next to you. Sadly, there isn’t support for four player tag matches online across four consoles. You can also create your own chat room for massive gatherings. The whole setup is similar to the one used in MK vs DC and allows you to challenge anyone in the lobby.

[drop2]King of the Hill is Mortal Kombat’s take on the traditional spectator mode found in most fighting games online. As you’d expect, you can host a lobby with support for up to 8 players. What really sets this mode apart is its presentation. Basically, players gather around a theater screen to watch matches together as avatars, leave commentary, and rate another player’s performance from a 0-10 scale. Respect points are an interesting way to give credit where its due. However, don’t be surprised if your opponent doesn’t give you much respect after being on the receiving end of a beatdown.

Online play is a bit difficult to judge at this point. Some matches had a very noticeable input delay with frequent pauses. It was absolutely game breaking. On the other hand, there were also matches where lag was not even close to being an issue. It was just like playing offline. So far, the experience has been nearly the same on both consoles. The PS3 version is slightly more consistent at this point. Hopefully the server issues are fixed soon.

The game has already received balance changes leading up to its release. Some combos that were once possible have been removed from the game. It’s something I’ve actually seen happen first hand. This is somewhat good news if anything that’s truly broken is found. Let’s hope that the developers don’t take away too many things and make the game stale.

Pros

  • Story mode is amazing and changes what we should expect from fighting games
  • Roster features all of your favorite characters from the series
  • Gameplay is satisfyingly bone crunching
  • Fatalities and X-rays are vicious, bloody, and cruel
  • A variety of modes to play, including the beastly Challenge Tower
  • Tons of unlockables and secrets
  • King of the Hill makes spectating online matches fun
  • Online interface makes everything feel more connected

Cons

  • Story mode cutscenes can’t be skipped your first time through
  • Boss battles are frustratingly cheap in design
  • Online play is too inconsistent and frequently has lag issues

Mortal Kombat brings new life to an old franchise that has been around for nearly two decades. The gameplay is by far the best in the series, the visuals are as detailed and gory as ever, and the presentation is second to none. This game changes the way we look at fighting games from a single player perspective. It’s proof that the fighting game genre can have an engaging story that’s well thought out and worthwhile. There is no reason to accept halfhearted, non-existent efforts anymore. The developers of other fighting franchises will need to step up their game just to match what Mortal Kombat has to offer. If it wasn’t for the inconsistent netcode, this would have been a flawless victory.

Score: 9/10

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36 Comments

  1. Toasty!

  2. It. Is. Awesome.

    The world can be divided into 2 sorts of people as far as I’m concerned: those who will love it and those who are wrong. Everything that was jaw-dropping and gasp-enducing from the first 3 games is back with a vengeance. The only down-side, if you can call it one, is that the cut-scenes look worse than the actual gameplay. Nevermind just go out and get it.

    Now! :)

  3. Loved the demo. Good to see the rest of the game is up to scratch. WILL GET!

  4. Aww man. This is another game, like Portal 2, that I really want but can’t afford.
    Curse your excellent review scores TSA :)

    • I saved up to buy these two games this week, only to see the DSi and Pokémon Black bundle… :(
      Oh well, I’ll get them eventually!

  5. I am in. GET OVERRR HERRRREEEEE!

  6. I wanna cry. Just dont have the funds :(

  7. Played the demo but didn’t like the speed at which you fight. Was probably due my crapness though

  8. Want. :)

    Can’t Afford. :(

  9. Currently playing it just now lol. Loving the story mode on Chapter 3 – its brilliant

  10. Not been a fan of fighting games since the heady days of Tekken 2 and Soul Blade on PS1 but tried the demo for this a couple of weeks ago and was very impressed .
    Wont be buying it personally but fighter fans are going to love it .

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