The Mortal Kombat series has hit hard times of late but this latest offering from NeatherRealms aims to bring back what made the originals such classics by rebooting the series entirely. And it’s worked marvellously. There is no doubt that this Mortal Kombat is a return to form.
Mortal Kombat’s story mode tells the re-imagined tale of the first three games, resulting in a lengthy and surprisingly justified exposition for this gruesome tournament’s history. Remarkably it ties practically all the character you know and love into a flowing narrative that explores Earth Realm’s struggle against the all conquering Shoa Khan. And despite some ridiculous characters, some downright silly events and two borderline cheating Shoa Khan boss encounters; it all fits together in an entertaining way to inform newcomers and veterans alike with a steady difficulty curve that proves to challenge and instruct players in preparation for online play. Multiple character costume changes and even robot characters are all explained and provide an interesting and well paced tale that serves as an excellent introduction to all 26 characters and their move-sets.
Mortal Kombat returns to the original titles style as well as with their narrative. It’s back to a 2D plane and with bucketfuls of gore. Fatalities return and are as visceral as ever and are joined by new X-ray moves that see your character brutally break the bones of your opponent. X-ray moves and increased power special moves can be performed by filling, then spending the energy bars at the bottom of the screen; think Street Fighter IV’s energy bar and special moves system but for an 18 certificate audience. With the gorgeous visuals and imaginative maims all presented on 3D backdrops inspired by the original levels, every snapped bone and laceration looks stunning. And this quality is maintained with the exceptionally detailed character with real-time damage to show off the brutality. The controls also hark back to the 16bit era. Fans will be pulling off special moves like Sub Zero’s freeze and Jonny Cage’s crotch punch with ease, and newcomers will find the controls intuitive with the four face buttons performing two kinds of punching and kicking attacks, and shoulder buttons for blocking and throwing. The system is much deeper and thoughtful than that though, and as you delve deeper the fine art of kombat shows its true colours.
Your position affects what kind of attack you use and juggling your enemy and carefully blocking or breaking attacks becomes a major part of the experience. It’s clearly been designed with tournament play in mind, offering deep strategy which benefits from precision and timing. The design is inspired, it has depth and requires real skill at the highest level whilst remaining accessible for everyone else.
Kontent is something Mortal Kombat titles have always provided in spades, and this release continues that trend. The 26 characters, dozens of stages and lengthy story mode are complemented by local and online multiplayer, including Tag Kombat – where each player brings a pair of characters into the fray – and King of the Hill, a wonderful winner-stays-on dynamic tournament where players join a lobby as spectators of the current match as their avatars, watching a stage screen. Between matches you can cheer and boo the onscreen action and even rate the winner come the end of the round. It’s a great way of recreating a similar atmosphere to actual sporting events and is hugely satisfying to beat a player who has stayed on for a few rounds.
Additionally, the original arcade kombat ladders return to allow you instant action and a nostalgia trip, as well as a 300 strong challenge ladder with silly but entertaining mini games and fights with special conditions. Finally there’s the Krypt, a comprehensive collection of hundreds of unlockable concept art, fatalities, costumes and more. NeatherRealm have crammed a ridiculous amount of kontent in this title that is sure to please any fan.
Mortal Kombat is the comeback the series has been crying out for. The return to a more mature design as well as the retelling and restructured narrative form an exceptional fighting game that feels both traditional and contemporary by balancing the benefits of a 2D plain and simple controls with the depth of tournament tactics and strategies for the dedicated player. It’s simply excellent; Capcom beware, Mortal Kombat is back.
MLG Rating: 9/10
Platform: Xbox 360/PS3 Release Date: 21/04/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer bought a copy of Mortal Kombat for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.