Okay, so once again I find myself having to be honest with you guys...again. I really, really, really, suck at fighting games. I am dead serious. Where once I was the king at 2D fighting games in the arcade and the Sega Genesis, I am now the court jester of any recent fighting game that has come out (two exceptions being the Soul Calibur and Super Smash Brothers franchises). Before, I had combos lined up that no one can counter against. Before, I mastered every fighter in any game I played in the 90s. Before, I was the guy who couldn't be beat. Nowadays, I struggle with new game mechanics, the 3D fighting fields, and four to five button combinations that are needed for one move.
It just seems that fighting games nowadays are all about button mashing and spamming the one move that you know no one can recover from. Back in the days of Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Marvel vs Capcom, and Fatal Fury, I had no problems learning everything that there was to the fighters and stories of those games. I perfected every fighter I played. Nowadays, I'm lucky if I manage to master any character.
When I heard about a new Mortal Kombat that is set to reboot the series, I was excited. I was awesome at the original Mortal Kombat games. At first, I was hesitant because of the possibility of something new screwing up my ability to be an efficient opponent. Then the magic words popped up, "2D fighting". Again, I got excited. But then I thought about button combinations. What trouble could those cause me? I'll tell you how much trouble it caused me in the new Mortal Kombat: none.
Yeah, none whatsoever. Controls and button combos were the main thing I was concerned about and for once I had no problems. It was like being back in 1995. I saw the move list, I tried out the moves, I came up with combos, and I started winning. Something I thought was near impossible has become possible. I am winning in a fighting game in the new century.
The controls are amazingly smooth. Button combinations are easy to remember. It was like being back in the original Mortal Kombat! Granted it took a few tries to get the Fatalities right, but it was well worth it. I am able to pull off moves that don't feel rushed, but at the same time are easy to execute. I do believe that this is the fighting game that I have been waiting for. Now how about the other features?
For one, Mortal Kombat now has a fully fleshed out story. Sure in the past you got a biography on each character and got endings with them in arcade mode or in the game's own small story, but this time it's given a huge makeover. There are no single image screens with scrolling texts anymore. Instead, we get full blown cutscenes! The chapter style that was seen in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe is back. Just like in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, each chapter has you in control of one character and you see the story from their perspective. Each fighter you control gets four fights per chapter, but that does increase near the end of the game.
Mortal Kombat begins with the aftermath of a huge scale battle from Armageddon. Heroes and villains lay dead just outside of the pyramid where Blaze resides. Inside, however, Raiden and Shao Kahn are fighting to the death. Raiden is the loser and Shao Kahn is brimming with the power he took from Blaze. With one last ditch effort, Raiden uses whatever power he has left to send a message to his past self through his amulet of what is to come and what needs to be changed. Welcome back to where it all began: the first Mortal Kombat tournament!
Classic favorites return with Raiden, Liu Kang, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, among others. You will have the opportunity to control most of the characters during the story as secrets and plot twists occur. All the while, Raiden is trying to make sense of the future that is to come and what he can do to change it to their favor. The story is definitely well structured and interesting. I loved every bit of it and at the game's end I can honestly say that I am looking forward to future projects by NetherRealm Studios.
Speaking of characters, since I played the PS3 version, Kratos from God of War makes an appearance here. He has his own move set that really brings God of War into the realm of Mortal Kombat. I think the only fault I had playing him, much like I did in Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny, is that Kratos feels much slower and restrained than in his own series. I think it's mostly a fault in the transition of going from open world hack and slash to 2D fighting, which God of War veterans may have trouble being accustomed to. Nevertheless, it's easy work around and Kratos can become a very deadly opponent in your arsenal. Also, a little note about Goro, you will only get to play him in the Challenge Tower and not in the regular modes of PvP. It's unfortunate, but at least you get everyone else.
Now let's talk about the major thing of Mortal Kombat: gameplay! Gameplay is fun and diverse. Aside from the classic 2D format, each fighter's move set is unique and allows players to combine their moves for deadly results. My all time favorite to use is Sub-Zero and a few new ice attacks make him all the more fun to use. Another feature to the fighting system are "X-ray Moves". Basically, these are moves that when activated, show your fighter doing internal damage to your opponent through a special combo. Broken bones and ruptured organs are seen clearly, yet so clearly that it will make you cringe at the damage done. Expect a lot of "Oh!" moments.
Babalities make a hilarious comeback. If you think slicing and pounding your opponent with a Fatality is bad, the biggest insult you could do is turn them into a baby. Now combat does not go without the usual fighting game negatives though. I can guarantee that there are plenty of gamers out there who spam long range attacks. Also, those same gamers may push their opponents into a corner and unleash an unblockable combo that can potentially knock out your character. It's a problem, yes, but it's an expected problem. Spamming moves and combos happens in every fighting game. The only thing I can say is just hope you don't run into that kind of player.
Mortal Kombat also offers numerous modes to choose from. You have a Fatality training simulator that will show you how to execute a fighter's Fatalities. There is a Tutorial that helps new gamers or veterans learn how to move and attack in matches. There is also Tag Team fights that up to four players can join in on. There is a Challenge Tower and modes that consist of saying "Test Your (insert word)". These are basically minigames that "Test" various skills.
Online gameplay is extremely satisfying. Unlike Duke Nukem Forever, which had texture loading problems and slow connection rates, Mortal Kombat is the complete opposite. Load times are no problem, lobbies are easy to access, and getting into a game is simple. Lag was an issue early on, but that has since died down. At least to my knowledge it has. You can even go into a large group of players and watch as two other players are fighting in their own match. You have your own little avatar that is anxiously waiting to get in on the action. This viewing allows you the opportunity to get a feel for what the other players' strategies are. Probably my favorite feature is the fact that you can rank how the fight went between the other two players.
If you haven't received the hint that I'm a sucker for extra content and collectibles, this next feature will cement that. Mortal Kombat delivers with the Krypt. Basically, this feature allows you to spend points that you accumulate from every mode in the game and spend it on unlockables. It gives you something to work towards and choose what you want to unlock. Sure I wish there were other things included like alternate costumes, but perhaps they might have something like that for DLC. Downloadable content, though, also has four fighters that you can purchase for five dollars each. It's not like you're even forced into buying them. You can select them individually. Among the four are Kenshi, Skarlet, Rain, and Freddy Krueger. No, that's not a typo. I thought it was weird featuring the Springwood Slasher in Mortal Kombat, but it made more sense when I remembered that Warner Bros. owns New Line Cinema so in affect they own the right to publish Freddy Krueger any way they see fit. Ownership and copyright can be very strange bedfellows sometimes, but I digress.
Finally, the graphics are really well done. The stages are vast and impressive to look at. The "X-ray Moves" that show the internal damage, plus blood affects look great. Battle damage on the characters really gives the affect that these guys are seriously hurting each other. The characters look amazing and they are really fleshed out. All right, because you're probably already thinking about it the second you read that part of my sentence, I'll do this one joke. "Fleshed out? Yeah, fleshed out like Sonya's chest!"
Seriously, though, Mortal Kombat is a welcome game to the year of 2011. This is especially true coming from me since I have been a noob at fighting games for the past decade. Now I can finally regain the glory I once had. I am also happy that Mortal Kombat has made such a great return. I'm looking forward to more installments of the series and hopefully they will be as good as this one.