|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: NetherRealm Studios|
|Pub: Warner Home Video Games|
|Release: April 19, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 720p-1080p|
by Josh Wirtanen
In the 1990s, Mortal Kombat was the game that every parent was afraid their kids would get into. Its gratuitous levels of gore on top of the hyper-realistic characters brought an onslaught of debate over how much blood was too much in a video game. In fact, this series was one of the reasons the ESRB was created in the first place. But, as they say, all publicity is good publicity, and the backlash against Mortal Kombat made it into the gift every gamer kid desperately wanted.
Then the beloved 2D format of the original series was forsaken, and Mortal Kombat didn't feel quite right anymore. Sure, all the gore was still present, as were many of the characters we'd come to expect, but we could all tell something was missing. So we moved on.
But in 2011, Mortal Kombat is going back to its roots. Not only will the next game in the series simply be called Mortal Kombat (no numbers, no subtitles, just plain Mortal Kombat), but it also returns to the 2D format of long ago. Well, technically you would call this 2.5D (3D rendered characters that can only move along a two-dimensional plain). But the results are astounding, and gamers who long for the glory days of the 2D fighter should be pleased that MK promises to be true to that classic style.
Another thing that will be revisited this time around is the plot, with a new twist: this game is basically an alternate retelling of the original three games in the series. Apparently Raiden gets a telepathic message from a future version of himself and uses this new knowledge to manipulate events in the past. This is sure to give players a new perspective on events from the first three MK games.
And what would a Mortal Kombat game be without its fatalities? Those are back, as gory as ever. In MK's stage demo at E3 2010, gameplay footage showed Scorpion hack Sub-Zero into three pieces, kick him over, then slash his head in half. Reptile was thrown into a spike pit, where he was impaled with his liver stuck at the tip of a spike. Most violent of all was probably Kung Lao dragging Johnny Cage groin-first over a blade until he was split completely in half. Yes, this game will have an M rating. At the stage demo, Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon talked about the M rating as something he felt gamers expected from the series, not something to shy away from. He seemed pretty satisfied with the feedback MK has received so far.
Of course, 2011's Mortal Kombat will not completely ignore the advances in technology of the past two decades. The graphics are completely redone, and they look great. Old backgrounds are revisited, but with a level of detail not possible in the 1990s. You will see fully animated (and often disturbing) background elements, like people being dipped in acid and having their skin melted off. There is even an added attack type called an X-ray move that allows players to witness the internal injuries that they inflict upon their opponents. And yes, they are brutal. Expect to see shattered bones and ruptured internal organs.
One complaint that players had about the original MK games was that, besides the combos and fatalities, every character played basically the same. This time around, every character will have a unique play style. You will be able to tell which character you are playing just by the way that character handles.
A gameplay mode new to the MK series, tag-team, will allow four players to face off. There are, of course, a few twists on the classic tag-team formula. While calling in a fellow player at the right time is a handy skill to have, bringing a teammate in to assist you in a combo is even better. It's even possible to perform a "special entry attack" where the summoned player enters the match with an attack while the other player hops out.
The internet is not ignored either. There will be online play. There's even a new feature that allows up to eight players to enter a "room" and observe matches while they wait to challenge the winner. These players on the sidelines can make comments and give out "respect points" to the fighters.
And DLC will eventually be available as well. Though the details are still being worked out, it sounds like players will be able to download characters and arenas from MK games more recent than the original three, as well as additional fatalities. How this affects balance between players has not yet been revealed.
Going back to its original gameplay style may be the best thing that's happened to this series since the 1990s. Let's just hope it lives up to its predecessors. Its original predecessors. Perhaps there will even be some angry parents, just like the good old days.
CCC Freelance Writer