Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mortal Kombat Review

The extraordinary history that encompasses the universe of Mortal Kombat is a thrilling - albeit abhorrent - experience. Having essentially created the rating system for the video games of today, Mortal Kombat was a striking, mature, showpiece of a fighter that wasn't afraid to get imaginative. That was true of the games of old; cut to its 3D-centric brethren and that philosophy existed beneath pillars of filth no-one dared spring free. Suffice to say, Mortal Kombat has been through quite a bit. Fortunately, this experience has given the franchise another chance. Under the banner of new studio NetherRealm, Ed Boon and company have turned back time on the famed fighter, finding a winning formula in the days of the past.

Fighters are a fickle thing. Whether it's delay-timing, button-mashing or standard memorisation, there's always a quirk to the fighter that throws an audience off. Few fighters are easily accessible to the targeted gamer, and even fewer to a wide audience. Whilst I haven't played every single fighter out there, I can safely say that Mortal Kombat is the end-all standard that every fighter should aim to be. Accessible to the hardcore or casual gamer without a hitch, all you need to do is pick up a controller and the game will guide you toward your first digital beheading in minutes. That isn't to say that there's nothing for the avid fighter junkie - because there totally is - but it's so easy to become involved in the mechanics of the game. It's refreshing.

 You should see Reptile's "Klassic" skin.

Most fighters throw you right into the thick of it by letting you select whoever you want and allowing you to begin a sort of ladder climb. As you progress this ladder, enemies usually become more difficult and eventually it ends with a boss fight which gives you some kind of cinematic story short that absolutely never makes any damn sense. Ladder climbing is still in Mortal Kombat, as it should be, but NetherRealm has gone the extra mile and incorporated a story mode that functions as the real core to the narrative.

I know what you're thinking. Narrative, in a fighter? You'd better believe it. The story mode is essentially an amalgamation of the first three Mortal Kombat games, crafted into one interweaving story that has you progressing with different characters. This is single-handedly one of the best features Mortal Kombat has brought to the forefront of the modern day fighter. Not only does it wean you into the glorious arenas and mechanics of the game, it also serves as a purpose to play if you're not always wanting to fight online. The best part is that it isn't a cobbled together mess and - get this - the story actually makes you want to continue forwards just to see what happens.

When was the last time a fighter did that?

 Nightwolf laying the smackdown.

Story mode alone will take you upwards of ten hours to complete and, once that's finished, there's a plethora of additional content you can sift through. Primarily, the Challenge Tower will be your after-story focus. This beast is a 300-scenario tower you crawl up as events are completed. These events can range from a standard fight, to shooting zombies, to battling whilst headless and on fire. Some challenges are rather difficult, but after each one you complete you'll be rewarded with currency called 'koins' which can be used to unlock bonuses. Story mode, normal fights, performing fatalities; almost everything in Mortal Kombat will net you some amount of koins. Like Deadly Alliance and Deception before it, the Krypt returns, where your koins can be spent. Fatalities, skins, music, artwork; practically everything can be unlocked in the Krypt. At least this time you don't have to worry about coloured koins.

All these extras sure are great, but the central combat is what you should really be caring about. Sporting a cast of over twenty six characters, Mortal Kombat has cut out the fluff and focussed on the characters that matter. Practically all the classic characters - including Sektor, Kabal, Jade and Stryker - return fully-equipped with an arsenal of special moves and combos that are, quite honestly, spectacular to behold. Every single selectable fighter has special attacks, two fatalities, a stage fatality, and a myriad of combo strings available. Everyone also takes real-time damage that persists until the match has been completed. There's something about finishing off your opponent with half your face missing that just screams awesome.

Sometimes ladies just can't take no for an answer.

Perhaps the most noticeable change to Mortal Kombat rests within the special bars at the bottom of the screen. Upon performing a move or taking a hit, this bar increases to a maximum of three bars. The significance of these bars is that they allow you to perform an enhanced special attack by using one of the bars to power-up your move. Let's say Reptile normally just shoots a small glob of acid, if he uses a bar of his meter to enhance the move it'll now become a full stream of acid. The best though, is if you can managed to build up your meter to its capacity, three bars. Once this is achieved you can unleash a devastating X-Ray attack that's as grotesque as it is crushing to your opponent's health bar. Don't miss it though, otherwise you just saved up all that energy for nothing.

The online component works, but it has been struggling since launch. There was just a patch that fixed much of the connectivity issues but it still isn't picture perfect. The only other complaint I have is what the conventional fighter always has; cheap ass bosses. You'll find over the course of the game that several bosses have insane combos and "armor" that allows them to stay standing when they otherwise should be sprawled out on the floor. It can certainly get frustrating, but this is all trivial when looking at the overall package NetherRealm has crafted.

 Weird buzz saw blade versus monk kick. Yes.

Mortal Kombat is an anomaly among the fighting genre. While it's easily accessible to the casual gamer, it also caters to the hardcore for how deep the combat can become. Even if you don't care for playing online or maybe don't even care about fighters, the story mode is worth going through at least once. There's no fighting game like this out right now and with that said, welcome back Mortal Kombat. Welcome back.

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