It’s been a while since Mortal Kombat was relevant. Say what you will about the series’ consistently good sales, but when the genre fell out of relevance with the mass market, Mortal Kombat did, too. However, when Street Fighter IV single-handedly revived the genre, it was only a matter of time before Mortal Kombat came roaring back. And roar back it did. You, as gaming consumers, made it the number 1 selling game in the US in April, selling over 1 million copies.
Is the latest in the MK series a return to form? Did it sell solely on hype? Or does it take the series to the next level?
Since the series’ inception, Mortal Kombat has always been defined by its gore. While Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe scaled the gore down dramatically to earn an ESRB rating of T for teen, the new Mortal Kombat pulls no punches. Blood squirts out as characters get hit. Blood also stains characters as fights progress, which leaves both fighters covered on blood once all is said and done. When it’s time to finish him/her, rest assured that this latest edition of Mortal Kombat features some killer finishing moves (no pun intended). Two of my favourites include Scorpion’s Portal-inspired fatality, and Noob Saibot’s downright disturbing body rip fatality.
Another gory element to the proceedings is the X-Ray Move, which is Mortal Kombat’s equivalent to Street Fighter IV’s Ultra Combo. When correctly executed, your character will perform a highly-damaging sequence of moves that show the internal damage you’re doing to your opponent. Ribs get cracked, stomachs get crushed, and eyes get gouged out in some truly painful-to-watch sequences. Besides looking cool, they’re one of the many new and refined elements to the core gameplay that help modernize and legitimize the series among hardcore fighting game players. I’m far from an expert at the game, but I recognize and appreciate the effort Nether Realm Studios has put into this game to make it more hardcore player friendly, while still appealing to the traditional (generally more casual) Mortal Kombat fan. There’s a lot to learn if you’re willing to dive in, which I’ve sort of talked about in more detail in a previous post. Check that post out for more specifics. I personally don’t know if I’ll ever invest the same amount of time to get good at this game as I have with Street Fighter IV or Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but I feel like Mortal Kombat would reward me for putting in the time to learn its systems in detail.
This game is fun to play with a friend in a 1-on-1 battle or with upwards of 3 of your friends for 2-on-2 action, but it also has one of the strongest single-player modes in any fighting game. The story mode (which I’ve talked about in great detail in another post) is easily the best of its kind in any fighting game, save for some cheap handicap and boss fights. It also has a neat Challenge Tower, which pits you in a number of different scenarios to overcome. With over 300 challenges to complete (and a ton of cool stuff to unlock through the Krypt), Mortal Kombat has a lot for you to experience on your own, should you not be inclined to play with others.
The only downer of this package is its online performance. Sure, you get access to a number of modes, but the matchmaking can take minutes at a time before before I was paired up with an opponent. Once I got into the action, the lag made it difficult to for me to play with any sort of confidence. My inputs were constantly getting lost in the lag, which is not comforting when you’re playing a game that requires precision timing. If you’ve played Street Fighter IV or Marvel vs. Capcom 3 online, then you’ll notice that this performs markedly worse than those two. This is a big disappointment for me, as I love playing fighting games online. Having poor net code makes the online experience practically useless for me. Here’s to hoping they patch it.
As an overall experience, I think this new Mortal Kombat game is the best one ever. This new game goes a long way to modernize the core Mortal Kombat formula, which was long overdue for this franchise. Not only is it good for a Mortal Kombat game, I think it holds its own against the other big fighting games out right now, such as Super Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Tekken 6 and BlazBlue. Regardless of your skill level, if this Mortal Kombat appeals to you in any way, give it a shot. It’s fun to play, relatively easy to start learning and deep enough for fighting game pros to really sink their teeth into it.