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May 23

Mortal Kombat – The Review

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“Finish him” “Fatality” “Excellent” “Flawless Victory”

If these famous words strike a chord in your conscience then you will be thankful for the all too recent release of the new Mortal Kombat (a.k.a MK 9) – the ninth installment in the ground breaking fighting game franchise. A game synonymous with blood, gore, death moves, twenty hit combos and did I mention blood? As Jigsaw from the SAW films quite aptly said: “Yes – there will be blood!”

Developed by NetherRealm Studios (what a name) (formerly known as WB Games Chicago and Midway Games Chicago), it is the first game published exclusively under the Warner Bros. label. At the time of writing only Xbox and Playstation 3 versions are available. Apparently the producers have discussed a PC version but unfortunately they have yet to reach an agreement.

Mortal Kombat was released almost a month ago on April 21st, but owing to the PSN outage I had to wait until full online play was restored before I could give you my full low down review.

Managing to get my hands on the full collector’s edition I was as excited as ever to fire up the disc. Mortal Kombat 9 certainly brings to the table a whole buffet of options and gaming experiences. Whilst perhaps not as over indulgent as previous titles such as Armageddon which included Kart racing and the like, for MK 9 ‘less is definitely more’ with a firm emphasis on quality over quantity.

Entering the Full Story Mode, I was surprised to see that Mortal Kombat began and played out almost like a movie. Beginning after the events of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, it is clear to see that the classic struggle between good and evil has claimed many lives on both sides. As the opening credits roll we see decapitated and tattered corpses laying in a desolate landscape while vulture type creatures feed from their flesh. In the distance we hear Raiden and Shao Khan fight. As the camera pans closer we see that this is their final battle and Raiden; the Heroic Thunder God is losing big time; his magic amulet shattered into pieces by a blow that sends him flying to the floor. Just before Shao Khan is about to deliver the final death strike, Raiden casts a spell that returns time to the very first Mortal Kombat tournament – can he change events and save the world?

Playing Mortal Kombat in the story mode puts you on a linear pathway spanning the first three games. In each chapter a short movie or cut-scene will play to set the scene and then you are thrust into the shoes of the character and will have to defeat your opponent to progress. This is a style seen before in DC Versus Mortal Kombat and to be honest it works even better here as for players new to the Mortal Kombat universe, it encourages you to learn each of the character’s moves in turn.

It starts with an introduction to the first tournament; Liu Kang, Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage arriving for the battle to defend earth with each of their motivations revealed. The storyline makes some nice nods to the feature film of old and advances through some impressive cut-scenes that really expand on what you know. Characters interact before and after a fight and whilst some of the reasons for a fight are a bit petty the dialogue is great and the action is well paced. Also, owing to the fact that Raiden now has knowledge of the future and is trying to change it, there are some lovely twists along the way as the events of the mythology are altered, so you meet characters you might not expect, characters die when you least expect, motivations are changed and different alliances are formed. This all makes for an interesting game especially for those who needed more than just a reboot.

Game modes include the typical Tower Matches of the ‘old school arcade’ which are ten battles randomly chosen with the final battle being with supreme big bad boy Shao Khan. There is also a Challenge Tower which allows players to complete different tasks to earn Kombat Currency, Online play which includes a King of the Hill tournament, where fighters line up as spectators and wait for the next battle. There is also one on one and Tag team matches to sink your teeth into.

Not so new to MK 9 is Kombat Currency; you earn it in almost everything you do in the game, every fight and every challenge. With it you can purchase art work, alternative costumes, unlockable characters the list goes on.

New to this Mortal Kombat game is the tag team system. This is where you select two characters and can swap them in and out at key moments during the fight. This is very similar manner to the Marvel versus Capcom and Tekken Tag series set of games. Essentially tag matches run at a much more frantic pace to the normal game with characters jumping in and out at will, so learning how to jump in and out and initiate tag team combos is essential, as it can turn simple combinations into brutal air juggles and that is not even when taken into account the new super attacks.

Super attacks are initiated through use of another first for this game the “super meter”. This is charged by various actions during battle such as blocking successfully, performing a combo or getting hit by the opponent. The super meter can be charged to three levels and depending on the available level, three special actions are made available. A single level can be used to deliver an enhanced version of any one of the character’s special attacks; two levels can be used to interrupt a combo, and the full three levels will allow for the delivery of a special combo called an X-ray move. X-ray moves are very exciting and satisfying to pull off; the camera zooms in and shows an inside view of the character that is being attacked, showing bones and organs being broken or ruptured with each impact. The amount of damage you can inflict (or receive) is incredible and can really make or break a match, so it really does count to understand and manage your meter properly as well as to watch that of your opponent’s. Obviously Fatalities are a key point of this game and here whilst MK 9 has less of the smorgasbord of signature death moves, babilties and brutalities etc present in previous titles what it does have doesn’t disappoint. The death moves here whilst over the top are truly disturbing and gruesome. To help you get started there is even fatality tutorials so you can practice before you ‘enter the field’. It definitely warrants its 18 certificate.

Talking of 3D, this Mortal Kombat 9 is one of the first side-on fighting games to utilise stereoscopic 3D graphics for 3D compatible TV’s. I really didn’t think that this was going to work that well, I mean; if a game is in a 2D plane how can you as the gamer really be immersed in a 3D world. However, whilst this is not by any means one of the best 3D experiences I have seen in a game it is not done badly. NetherRealm Studios decided to reserve 3D effects for the fight matches only and whilst this leaves out the cut-scenes (which in many ways would have been perfect for 3D effects) what this does mean is that the level of immersion comes in the depth of the characters and their backgrounds. This brings to life the vista that is the Mortal Kombat world. For instance when you are fighting in the coliseum you can clearly see Shao Khan on the throne edging the crowd on. As you fight in the city you can see the Extermination squads setting fire to the city and dragons breathing fire onto helicopters as cars skid past you and crash, another noteworthy stage is the train station where litter gets blown past you and trains fire through the station in the midst of your battle. Although a little bit gimmicky if you have a 3D TV these effects do stand out are all nice touches especially if you are lacking games with 3D content.

Not so good is the online play. I am not sure if this was because the PSN network is yet to be restored properly or maybe that a lot of PS3 owners had defected to the XBOX 360, but trying to get into any match took quite a while. When I finally did manage to get into one, I found connection to be more than decidedly dodgy. Hopefully an update will sort this out. If it doesn’t though I figure I will be better off calling the boys round for a ‘quiet night in’.

One last thing that I do have to mention what this game has in its favour is the inclusion of the God of War character Kratos; all I can say is wow. I think if they had just included him without any real thought to the actual character; how he moves etc, then he would be a let down. As it is they have given him the full works; with a real insane fatality to boot. The only thing that is not so impressive is the non inclusion to XBOX owners – Come on NetherRealm Studios – that is just not fair.

My final verdict-
Whilst I am not an avid supporter of gratuitous blood, guts and gore in video games I have to admit that I shamelessly enjoyed this game. It is the re-telling of the story that needed to be told and in many ways exactly what the franchise needed. Packed full with tons of extra features and options, gamers and fans of the series are going to be in for a treat!

9.3 / 10

How does this game compare to others in its genre?

Fighting games are two-a-penny these days, this is however the first proper installment on the PS3

Equal to: Marvel Vs Capcom 3, Super Street Fighter IV.

Better than: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, Soul Calibur 6, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, Tekken 6 (only just).

  • Anonymous

    Mortal Kombat is awesome so far! I just found a blog that’s giving out the preorder DLC for all the costumes, and the new Kenshi character DLC!

    I just got my Reptile Klassic Kostume but I don’t know if there’s anymore keys left. If you want to check it out, here’s the site:

    http://freemortalkombatdlc.com.nu