Monday, April 25, 2011

Mortal Kombat (2011) - A Fitting and Gory Revival

As a series that began life in the arcades, Mortal Kombat is one notable for having some of the goriest combat ever seen in a video game, as well as being the series that would lead to the creation of the ESRB. I have had almost zero experience with the franchise, save for Deception and MK vs DCU. However, I do know that after playing this, Ed Boone and his team at NeatherRealm Studios have lit up a flame in me that craves more Mortal Kombat.

The character selection here is diverse, with 26 different fighters present. The list is made up of characters virtually exclusive to only the first 3 games, with iconic characters like Scorpion and Sub-Zero mixed with the likes of Kitana and Sektor. Each one has their own unique set of moves and ways to fight, which makes it certain that anyone playing will find a character that suits their own fighting style, such as Stryker for some reason finding a resonance with me. The PS3 version, the one I played, also has an exclusive in the form of Kratos, who was perfect for the game and had his moves integrated perfectly into the game, as well as his visceral way of dealing with enemies in God of War.

You would not believe the amount of detail put into Mortal Kombat, clearly coming a long way from digitized actors. The characters have been painstakingly rendered on the inside as well as the outside, so a lot of body and clothing damage can be seen as the battle goes on. In fact, there are some background events and details that would require you to take your eyes off the fight just to catch a glimpse of them. Images of combatants fighting in the background, a speeding train, or even a dragon fighting a helicopter are all beatifully rendered and provide a unique atmosphere to each and every stage. Even the new X-Ray moves that show literal bone-crushing force are rendered with impressive detail for a fighting game, although this particular spectacle can make you cringe if you have a weak stomach.

Compared to the 3D MK games that I had played, the controls here were fairly easy to pick up and use. It felt great taking individual moves and forming combos of my own, rather than having to memorize an insanely long button combination. On top of this, the controls were very tight and responsive, allowing me to fight without any trouble. The movements were also very fluid, which can lead to some pretty frantic action. It's even more frantic when you're playing the Tag Mode, which has you using two characters or working together with someone else. I also enjoyed seeing each characters' fatality in action, which shows the amount of effort the team put into giving each character their own identity.

Single Player has a wealth of gameplay modes, the longest of which is the Challenge Tower, which has a total of 300 challenges designed to test your abilities as well as give you experience with each fighter, which the Story also does a good job with. I spent a few hours on the Tower, and I'm still not done going through it, but I love it so far, even with the silly reasons that some of them even happen. There are also the 4 Test Your modes, but the big incentive for completing the different modes would be for gaining Koins for unlocking the vast amount of secrets in the Krypt, which includes concept art, alternate costumes, and Fatalities among other things. It would probably take me a few days to finally unlock everything in the Krypt, but it's a challenge worth taking.

The only real complaint I have is with the enemy AI during the Ladder challenges and Story Mode. While fights are supposed to get challenging as you advance, the enemy combatants seem to eventually have the reflexes to catch a bullet and then some. This is more noticable on higher difficulties, where it seems like just getting to the final boss is near impossible, even when I stretch my skills to the limit. I know challenge is expected, but just simply increasing their speed is something that didn't work for Street Fighter IV, and it certainly isn't a good way to go about it. It all boils down to fake difficulty in the end.

Playing Mortal Kombat has been a thrilling experience thus far, and I can't wait to play it even more in the future. I can't comment on the online modes, as PSN happened to be down while I was playing, but I will likely check that out when it comes back online. MK Veterans will be very happy with this game, as will those just getting into the series. I could reccomend it to anyone, but only if they are 17 or older. Simply put, this is the best Mortal Kombat game I have ever played, and it definitely proves that MK is here to stay for a long time.

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