|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: NetherRealm Studios|
|Pub: Warner Home Video Games|
|Release: April 19, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 720p-1080p|
by James Trujillo
It's been a long time since I've set foot in the bloody world of Mortal Kombat. Since back in the arcade days of the early 90s, to be exact. There were some fond memories back then, but unfortunately the game's enchantment didn't last long. However, that all changed when I got to experience its unique brand of hypnotizing gore during a recent hands-on session with the upcoming Mortal Kombat.
Bringing the franchise back to the 2D fighting plane is the biggest fan-service anyone could have asked for. Although the game is still fully-rendered with 3D graphics, it once again looks and feels like it was back home in the arcade. The developers have even re-imagined some of the franchise's most notable stages from the first three games, to coincide with some very drastic plot changes.
NetherRealm Studios will essentially erase the entire canonical history by creating an alternate reality in the Mortal Kombat universe. This retelling of the original trilogy is based around an extremely crucial moment between Raiden and Shao Khan. In the events proceeding Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Shao Khan held Raiden in the clutches of death. However, before Khan could deliver the final blow, Raiden was able to send a mental message to his former self. With a new enlightenment concerning his future, his past self begins a desperate attempt to change this course of events. It's certainly a bold move for a franchise with so much history and detail, but at least it won't change the amount of violence they're known for.
Mortal Kombat's gore has assuredly maintained a strong focal point in the game's presentation. Players will battle it out in the most gruesome of ways, with blood and limbs scattered about like an explosion at a piñata party. Characters maintain persistent damage to show off their war wounds, and the game now features x-ray attacks that give an inside look at some bone-shattering maneuvers. Players need to charge their Super Meter before they can use these new attacks, which can be achieved by successfully landing hits on your target. However, once they're finally executed, you'll be treated to a barrage of slow-motion sequences featuring broken backs and shattered skulls. These moves can look pretty intense, but their savageness pales in comparison to the Fatalities for which the game is so famous.
Although most involve your standard limb chopping, there were a few finishing moves that went above and beyond in creating a spectacle. Kung-Lao gets kudos for a cringe-filled nod to James Bond fans. Upon executing the proper button presses, he implants his razor-rimmed hat into the ground like a circular saw, drags his captive through it, and splits the poor sap in two. As if this death wasn't shameful enough, he then proceeds to flaunt his victim like a pair of prize-winning fish. But, believe it or not, the most disturbing is Mileena's Fatality. While unmasked, she seductively leans in for what at first appears to be a kiss, but suddenly rips off her victims head and begins to eat their face. It's not very subtle, but it gets the job done if you're looking for shock value. For some, these Fatalities could be a bit troublesome to pull off at the drop of a hat. Luckily, there is a new Fatality trainer mode to give inexperienced players much-needed practice.
Aside from the standard versus mode, there are also two modes that will be a first for the series. The biggest, and easily the most complex, is a new single-player mode called the Challenge Tower. It features three hundred individual missions that will task players with completing random objectives, training scenarios, or fighting through matches under very specific conditions. These can range anywhere from battling without arms to experiencing an entire match with the screen flipped upside-down. There will even be some familiar mini-games included, such as Test Your Might and Test Your Sight, as well as newer additions like Test Your Strike and Test Your Luck. According to the developers, these challenges are meant to help diversify your playing style, but if something gets a bit too difficult, it can always be skipped.
The gameplay can be simplistic, but it also has a deep combo system for hardcore fans. Each face button is assigned to a specific limb, and combos can be strung together with great ease and swiftness. It's definitely the most fluid combat I've felt in a Mortal Kombat game since the arcade days, and even the more intricate moves can be accomplished easily with a little finesse. Even if you find yourself forgetting a particular maneuver or Fatality, a completely detailed list is just a button press away in the start menu.
Being away from the series for so long had surprisingly little impact on how natural it felt to pick up the controls again. Mortal Kombat is perfectly suited for hardcore gamers looking for a deep fighting experience, and casual gamers who might normally be hesitant to try out something so complex. Returning to their franchise roots will certainly make a lot of fans happy, and the fact that it's been so finely tuned in the process is all the more exciting. Its release date on April 19th, 2011 is just around the corner, and even if you're a newcomer to the world of Mortal Kombat, you'd be amiss to let this one slip by unnoticed.
CCC Freelance Writer