‘Finish Him!’ – It’s a phrase synonymous with that tense moment of button-tapping panic when a gamer feverishly punches in that magic code to a flashy finish. Performed correctly, those present are treated to a triumphant and gruesome display of blood, guts and severed limbs in what has long been worshipped as the coveted fatality. Your favourite characters such as Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, Sub Zero and Scorpion return in this restart of the popular (and somewhat infamous) franchise, but does this game have the innards to compliment the flesh-tearing of its brutal exterior?
Mortal Kombat offers up a surprising amount of single-player content considering its fighting game pedigree, with the cinematic storyline serving as a retelling of the first three games. These cutscenes have been crafted with a surprising amount of effort, which is a great thing when you consider just how sparse most brawlers are in this regard. Each chapter focuses on a different character finding their place within the tournament and even though it doesn’t always make a whole lot of sense, it is entertaining enough to hold your attention. The only issue here is the lack of a skip function, which is especially strange given how long some of them can be in comparison to the time you actually spend fighting.
Challenge Tower is very much how it sounds, presenting a selection of varied challenges to the player. Test Your Might, Test Your Sight, Test Your Strike and Test Your Luck make for some interesting mini-games and battle variations, with the latter of the four complicating the battles in creative ways, be it via magnetic flooring to interrupt the flow or flipping the world upside-down. The fact these are unique additions rather than a poor excuse for being light on content elsewhere means it’s tough to criticise the developers on content, and it’s clear that they have taken this reboot seriously, making it a labour of love rather than an irksome sequel.
Unlike the rather basic and uninspired demo, the full game sports a handy fatality tutorial. It’s probably not as necessary as you might think, as you can easily pause the game towards the end of a match, look up the move list and perform these gruesome finishers after a little practise. Such things are nice to have, as is the inclusion of the Krypt; a place where you can spend your hard-earned points to unlock extras such as hidden fatalities, concept art and costumes. Tag-Team has also been thrown in here, and it works well within the context of the game’s setting – unlike in story mode where you’re often forced into frustrating dual battles with just a single fighter at your disposal.
Among the flashier additions are the X-ray moves; hit the right buttons having filled the meter at the bottom of the screen and you can expect to be treated to an almost painful display of bone breaking, face kicking and rib crushing. These will be extremely popular thanks to their graphic nature (bone fragments and teeth are literally knocked out) as well as their devastating impact on the opponent’s health meter. There is a tactical advantage to filling the meter to a certain level, with a third of a bar allowing for an enhanced special move and two thirds giving you the chance to break out of a combo. Overall however, it usually makes the best sense to save up for the flashier techniques to pound on the enemy.
Should you have access to the online pass attained through new copies of the game, or have purchased one over Xbox Live or the Playstation Network then various online features will be open to you. Mortal Kombat contains the standard Ranked, Player Match and Private Match options you would expect from a fighting game released in 2011. King of the Hill has two players battling at any one time, with the remaining players spectating as they wait their turn; the winner (or ‘King’) stays on until defeated. If you’re into leaderboards then MK has you covered here too, and with the promise of downloadable characters we expect the multiplayer component to remain strong for a while yet.
The presentation of the game is very much a mixed bag, with strong character models, truly wince-worthy finishers and atmospheric arenas. The animation maintains that ‘slightly robotic’ movement that characterises the series, but it’s in the bloody details that the game begins to really shine. Much of the fun stems from discovering each character’s unique finishers for yourself, so we won’t spoil anything here; but it’s fair to say that you’re certain to have your favourites. One particular highlight is Noob Saibot’s ‘Make a Wish’ fatality, which is one of the most grotesque things to grace gaming to date. It’s also an absolutely fantastic way to destroy the opposition after a heated multiplayer fight.
It’s cheesy, vicious and unashamedly graphic, but Mortal Kombat is also a mature and rewarding beat-em up with plenty to offer. As with any good game in the fighting genre, a patient player willing to learn the various special moves will have a distinct advantage over a button-basher. Should you spend time with the game to discover the combos, you’ll be sure to dazzle your friends with a host of impressive spine-cracking moves. NetherRealm’s attempt to rejuvenate the franchise is a success on many levels, making this a great jump-on point for newcomers and superb service to enduring fans. Mortal Kombat is back and this time it’s pulling no punches.
Have you downloaded the latest issue from GamerZines yet? Check it out here!