Like other main games in its franchise, Mortal Kombat is the 1-on-1 fighting game that has spawned movies, spin offs and even a cartoon show. After the 3D fighting of the PS2 and a crossover game with Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, the famed fighting franchise returned to its roots with a 2D game. Well kind of, its still a 3D world on a 2D plane. Its a return to form full of blood, fatalities and frills that have become a series staple. Babalities and stage-alities are back as well.
For starters, I enjoy the game, I liked it on PS3 and I like it here on the PC as well. Fighting feels a bit robotic and reliant on special moves, but its still fun. There are a lot of frills to keep you in the game, such as a story mode that lasts six hours, a challenge tower with a hundred unique, odd and interesting challenges, seeing everyone’s ending after you’ve climbed each tournament ladder like the old games, tag ladders and a dead online multiplayer. Its the frills that will keep you in game and the presentation that makes it well worth its original asking price.
The main draw here is the story mode that picks up where Mortal Kombat Armageddon left off as Raiden goes back in time to the first Mortal Kombat. Then from there, you play as an array of different good guys in four or more fights each as you work your way up from the first tournament to the conclusion of the third game. For a game known for its fatalities, there are none in the story mode, because how else would you fight Baraka 3 or 4 times? There are still brutal moments, such as someone getting their arms ripped off or being lit on fire to fill in storyline gaps like the rumor that Jax doppelganger tore his appendages during the second game.
Even on “beginner” difficulty the game will stack the deck against you in the story mode. You’ll fight in handicapped matches and get forced to take out two or sometimes three opponents. Good news Liu Kang! You’ll fight Scorpion. Oh and Quan Chi who then comes through a portal. The game will crank up the difficulty for some of them including boss fights against Goro, Kintaro and Shao Kahn. It is a punishment to exit the tower, because with every auto save, its saved before the cut scene that brings you to the fight. In a way its helpful, because even if I went 2 hours without playing the game I totally forgot that Jade was following Kitana and fighting ensued.
This is quite the remake of the Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 as everyone is here to fight against with the exception of Motaro and the two hidden ninjas. It could be worse… Motaro the Centaur could have two legs again. There are thirty-one playable characters in all and its sad that most are unlocked from the start. The franchise has done this before where just about everyone was unlocked and I suppose that’s good for an online competitive fighting game to make an even playing field from the start. So people ten minutes in can compete with someone dozens of hours in.
With everyone unlocked, digging around the krypt through hundreds of random, time consuming plots and spending your coins becomes a boring chore when there’s nothing interesting to perk your interest. Its all just music, artwork and the odd fatality or code. I have yet to find alternate outfits, but they have to be in there somewhere.
Since this is the komplete edition, the game comes with four additional fighters, two of which are new to the franchise, Skarlet and the undead horror icon Freddy Kruger. Nothing like fighting a janitor among four-armed Shokan warriors and people who have trained martial arts all their lives.
The fighting keeps it simple and is now closer to the first two arcade games with two buttons for punch, two buttons for kick and a block. I miss the run button and the throw button is now your choice of pressing two buttons at once or its own dedicated button. You can change to a different fighting style during the match and one of the two is close to the original games where there’s a sweep, an uppercut and a roundhouse. The other style feels stiffer and less graceful. Perhaps one is more powerful than the other, but either way they both fight near identical.
Each character fights identical with the exception being the special moves and there’s more focus on that than ever. This version of Mortal Kombat heaps on the specials. Every character has unique special moves that consist of projectiles or teleports that get you to your foe in one way or another. Liu Kang has a flying kick or a bicycle kick to close the distance. He has two fireballs, one high and one low as projectiles. Raiden and Kung Lao have easy teleports to surprise opponents. Raiden has a torpedo dive to close the gap, and a projectile while Kung Lao has a dive kick to move in and a hat throw for long ranges. These nuanced special moves make everyone feel balanced and different. Like rock paper scissors, that just about makes blocking obsolete. Most of the special moves have turned into quarter circle. Forward, forward or back back moves seem rare now and in the third dimension, everyone has an animation that leads to the move, which leads to an opening to get hit.
Fresh to the fighting is a special meter that has three tiers. To fill the meter quick, just get beat up. Otherwise, if you’re on the offense, it will fill slow. You can use a trigger with a special move to make a super special move for lack of a better term. As an example Stryker fires four quick bullets rather than two slow. I assume they do more damage, but they are at least quicker to offer less chance to block. Once you get up to three blocks of your meter full you can pull both triggers if you’re on a 360 controller and unleash an X-ray combo. These are two or three automatic moves done in slow motion and you get to see the bones and bowls of your opponent breaking from impact. Does it hinder them when you’ve broken their arm? Nah… its all just damage. Fiends like Goro can take half your health from one X-ray combo. Oh and the trick is, they can still block the start of a combo and you will have wasted it. Some characters feel a lot tougher to trigger their combos, but that’s why you stun them first. It also turns into a strategy of when to use it. Do you use it now when you’re losing or do you lose this round and then use it on the next?
In terms of competitive fighting, this has to be the best in the series. The chance to get even with the X-ray moves and the strategy of having them makes it so much better. I turns reflex and skill into a mind game.
After each fight, depending on the stage on your winning conditions you have a few seconds to murder an opponent for what amounts to more coins to unlock things. While this game’s fatalities are awesome and brutal, they feel just time consuming. Ever since the franchise went into the third dimension it just eats up so much time. There’s no shock and amusement seeing a snappy fatality play out over and over like the original three games. Once you’ve seen one play out they become a chore. That’s why the game has to reward you.
To keep things balanced, you can always check out the moves list including specials, combos and fatalities. Although there’s no balance of a fatality since you’ve already won the fight.
In terms of character art, there are a few hilarious things to point out. Jax is captured, but they’re okay with him keeping armor on in prison. Just like the Special Forces team is okay with sending Sonya Blade in a vest with no shirt under it. Liu Kang has gone from a wiry quick martial artist, to smuggling a beer barrel in his chest.
Mortal Kombat is back to fight and you should want in on the fray. Marketing quote tagline I made up for box art. Other than “We have six female fighters and they all wear the same neckline.”