|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: NetherRealm Studios|
|Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive|
|Release: April 19, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Over the years, as the fighting game genre became more crowded, something weird happened to the Mortal Kombat series. It started to change its DNA. While I'm all for evolution in a series, Mortal Kombat took this to an extreme, and some strange things started happening. A traditionally 2D fighter suddenly went to 3D, storylines got muddled up with extraneous characters and universes, and crossovers became the new numerical entry. In the midst of all this change, the core experience of Mortal Kombat seemed to have eroded.
Sure, games bearing the Mortal Kombat name still had over-the-top gore (except the horribly tame Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, but that's a story for another day), but so much had changed since the franchise's inception that fans were starting to become disenchanted with Mortal Kombat, and for good reason. However, with the release of Mortal Kombat (which is actually the ninth entry in the series, for those of you keeping score) it looks like the franchise is back on track.
Mortal Kombat is one of the few games that plays well no matter whether you are a newbie or an experienced franchise player. The storyline actually starts you off at the end of the Mortal Kombat story, and it looks like perennial bad guy Shao Khan has actually come out on top and Earthrealm is toast. However, Raiden, being the magical guy that he is, is able to send his past self a premonition about all the bad stuff that is about to transpire. And then it's off to alternate universe land. The story is fairly expansive, and covers the events of the first three numerical entries. If you are new to the series, everything will flow fairly cohesively, and you'll get a pretty cool tournament-based story. If you are a big fan, though, you'll be able to spot where the alternate reality deviates from the canon, and some of the changes made are actually quite intelligent. Enough modifications to the original are made that the story will still be interesting, but Mortal Kombat is still Mortal Kombat, and you'll still get the experience you paid for (don't expect anyone to go flying off in a spaceship or anything).
However, though the story certainly is cool (and is definitely one of the most comprehensive I've seen in a fighting game) the real meat of the game is in its battle system, which I'm happy to say has returned to simpler combo-based mechanics. These mechanics are simple in nature, but can be layered and tweaked to create a unique strategy. Though the game doesn't have the "flow" of other franchises, it allows for multiple openings and breaks in the combat, which is great if you don't like wailing on enemies with reckless abandon. No matter how awesome you are, the combat system ensures that you are on your toes constantly, which provides some welcome excitement in battle.
New to the game's battle system is a power gauge, which allows you to either modify special attacks to make them more powerful with small amounts of the meter, or save up and use a full gauge to perform devastating "X-Ray" attacks. Though it is generally more practical in battle to deliver strong attacks in short bursts, I often found myself saving up for the latter, as "X-Ray" attacks are a lot cooler than they sound. What happens when you perform an X-Ray attack is the camera slows down, and the action zooms in to where you are about to hit. The flesh is then stripped away and you can see bone, muscles, and internal organs as they shatter, squish, and break. X-Ray attacks are almost as entertaining as the series' famous fatalities, and are just as over the top. If you can't get up and kick someone's butt after being repeatedly stabbed in the back of the head until your skull fractures, you're just not trying.
In addition to the regular story and versus modes, Mortal Kombat also includes extensive training modes and a challenge tower. The challenge tower works as a kind of advanced trainer, as you'll have to finish fights under very specific conditions to progress, and you'll need total mastery over your chosen character if you are going to progress through this mode.