The blood is back! Mortal Kombat takes you back into the arena for some one-on-one arcade fighting, but this time its exclusive for home consoles. Its a huge risk to take, but that’s just where the industry is headed. Deadly Alliance is the fifth iteration and it takes a generational leap from the previous game’s polygon graphics into full 3D. Its met with some headaches and learning curves though, instead of ducking, dodging or blocking attacks, you can now strafe around them. It makes sense in such an open 3D area.
The franchise has always been known for its blood and brutal fighting. This game is no different. You’ll see blood ooze and roll down a character’s body. It doesn’t stain mind you, just rolls right off, but it will blot on the floor, Cyrax has motor oil that leaks out. Whomever wins two rounds in a row gets a stunned opponent to kill with a fatality. I’ll be honest here and say while it was once a highlight in Mortal Kombat with quick shocking fatalities, these are longer, more painful and take away the shock and awe that was once in the arcade. Another down side is everyone only has one fatality, there are no friendships or babalities, so it feels like a real step backward.
The controls are still the same as they’ve always been, up to jump, left and right to move, down to crouch and four attack buttons with one to block. There’s a new throw button instead of getting close and low punching. Two buttons will strafe your character left or right, but to be honest I forgot about it most of the time. Its good if you’re knocked against a wall, you can strafe around your opponent.
For the most part the attacks are still relegated to low punch, high punch, low kick and high kick, but now each of the characters has three styles you’ll need to master with a button to swap between them. Each style is completely different, making each of the eighteen characters unique and play different from one another. That’s where it takes time and effort, you can’t just pick up and play anymore. It’ll surely make some people shy away from the franchise.
Some of the fighting styles are beautiful, stemless and effortless, while others feel stiff, blunt and deliberate. The third fighting style is always the armed style. Each character has their own weapon. Shang Tsung has a snakesword, Quan Chi has dual broadswords, Li Mei has a pair of sais and so on. Each of these weapons can be impaled into an opponent at the cost of losing your weapon, but making them take damage from bleeding for the rest of the round. Its one of the joys to jam someones knees with a pair of ice blades.
To learn the moves, there’s a glorified tutorial called Konquest that will teach you how to use each character’s fighting style throughout ten missions for each. Before each round, it tells a brief story to setup what you’re about to do. It helps flesh out the game and its characters with who their aligned with and why they’re participating more than just biographies and tournament victories.
Even with Konquest and Practice mode, you can pause the game at any time in order to view fighting moves, combos and special maneuvers. In a way this evens the playing field, because everyone that fights will know what to do, but they’ll need the skill to pull it off. In another way, more experienced players might have to put up with all sorts of random pauses that break the game’s flow and take you out of the action.
Each character has their statistics for the first time in a Mortal Kombat game. You can see their height, weight and alignment, I guess to spoon feed it to new fans. The character models are gorgeous, even if it completely abandons the old digitized graphics.
A lot of fan favorites are back like Scorpio, Sub-Zero, Kano, Kung Lao, Jax, Katana, Cyrax, Johnny Cage and Raiden. There are several new fighters that feel like unique additions. One of my biggest complaints about Mortal Kombat 4 was all of the new characters felt like old ones. Mavado has a double hook shot that adds to his maneuvers and makes him feel unique from everyone else. Sub-Zero also has a new apprentice named Frost that plays a lot like the original Sub-Zeros. Nitara is a winged vampire that can take a bite out of people. Reptile might be familiar, but he’s gone primitive. He’s a full blown dinosaur now with a tail and everything. Kenshi is a blind swordsman that uses telekinesis like Ermac. Bo Rai Cho is the new fat guy that vomits and flattulates. Tsu Hao is a big guy that can throw everyone around.
The original Mortal Kombat had the four-armed Shokan prince Goro and there’s a big monster waiting in Deadly Alliance. Moloch is a giant oni boss that’s far more difficult than anyone else in the game. He doesn’t fall over, he’s always standing with a giant boulder attached to a chain.
I hope you like particle effects, because Deadly Alliance is full of them. Deflecting projectiles sends sparks all over the floor. Sub-Zero’s freeze leaves a trail of fog behind it. Fighting next to Shang Tsung’s soulnado pulls in glowing green orbs that circle around it. Drahmin has flies swirling around his fleshless body. Even the game’s fatalities have blood spurting and tiny chunks spattering everywhere. Deadly Alliance puts the XBox hardware to good use.
The main mode is of course arcade, which has you fighting up a ladder all the way to either Shang Tsung or Quan Chi. They both can’t be the boss, so its one or the other. The ladder is far more beautiful than it ever was. You’ll get to see a character’s avatar along with a gorgeous background to hype the next stage you’re about to fight in.
These arenas are big circles, but they’re gorgeous to look at. Vivid places that would be incredible to explore. The only downside is there are no stage fatalities. There’s an arena that crumbles from the sides, but when you fall off its a round lost instead of a death scene. You can interact with a few things in various arenas, such as knocking an opponent into a statue vomiting acid. Breaking through a statue and so on.
For each fight you win or konquest you get through, you’ll earn colored coins which you visit the krypt to spend on a giant grid of goodies. You don’t get to see what you’re unlocking, that’s part of the mystery here. There’s new arenas, different costumes and even extra characters to unlock. Then there’s the less desirable stuff like concept art and pictures from Mortal Kombat’s history. Its all interesting, but what would you rather have? A shinny new Cyrax to play as or a photo of Mortal Kombat 3?
After a few fights in the arcade mode, you’ll get to participate in one of two mini games, text your might that requires button mashing or test your sight that has you playing three-card-monte with poison. These will give you special silver or black coins and they’re a pain to get. When you win one of these mini games, the next time will be tougher. If you lose, they’ll be easier. Since the games aren’t readily available, the coins become more valuable than the rest.
Deadly Alliance has a beautiful full rendered introduction before the title screen that lets you see a recap of the franchise thus far. It all leads up to one of the biggest death in Mortal Kombat history. The game’s two main protagonists, Quan Chi and Shang Tsung form an alliance and kill Liu Kang in one of the most meager ways possible. A humble death for a franchise staple. Now who will save Earthrealm, Outworld and the universe from this tag team duo? The story revolves around resurrecting the ancient army of the Dragon King, but it never comes into play, because you’re here to fight. At the most this army is an arena you fight in.
One of the strangest things about the game is the profile system. You don’t select a profile, instead you enter a code to unlock your profile. It just seems odd and cumbersome especially if you’re just one player. I suppose its good if two people share the same XBox.
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance is a welcome addition to the franchise. While it might throw some people off having new fighting styles to learn, its well worth the effort.