The Good: Brings back classic 2D fighting, X-Ray moves are brutal and superbly done, all your favorite character are here, Fatalities are unique and brutal, looks and sounds amazing, lots of modes with great online play
The Bad: Still requires memorizing combos, online play requires a strong connection, no characters from MK4 and beyond
"Fatality!", "Finish Him!", "Flawless Victory!", "Get Over Here!". These are just some famous quotes from the infamous Mortal Kombat that everyone knows and remembers. What everyone mainly remembers is the fast paced fighting that has been missed since 1995's Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. It's been over 15 years since we got a really good and classic feeling MK game, but it's finally here and back with all its bloody gore. Yes the game is still in 3D, but its in what fighting fans like to call "2.5D". The game plays on a 2D playing feel and as soon as you start hammering away on those classic moves and combos you feel the nostalgia seeping into your blood.
The most surprising part about the game isn't the new level of gore, but the amazing story mode. Yes, Mortal Kombat actually has an awesome story mode that plays out far better than last generation's story modes. Instead of some ridiculous adventure mode or scrolling text we get a fully acted, scripted, and voiced story about the actual Mortal Kombat tournament and back story on almost every classic character. The voice acting is actually good and Netherealm Studios actually took the time to bring out each character's personality such as Johnny Cage's smart alack Hollywood attitude. Liu-Kang's eagerness, Kung Lao's jealousy, and Sonya's hotheadedness. The story is done beautifully despite picking up where Armageddon left off. Raiden travels in time to his past self to stop the destruction of armageddon. There are plot twists and even some seriously tense moments in the story that is quite gripping. I can actually say its the best story mode in any fighting game ever made.
However, fans came for the fight and this seriously delivers. Not only are the animations smooth and great to look at, but the controls are as tight as ever. The game responds without any delay and that's what a fighter is all about. Not only is the usual gore back, but the game just packs a serious punch and feels punchy. The hits transfer amazingly well into feelings and that's never been done in an MK game before. The newest things brought to the series are X-Ray moves. Fill you super meter up all the way and you can execute an extremely brutal move that shows your opponent in X-Ray vision and you can see bones crunch, snap, and organs burst. The anatomy is done superbly well with muscles, organs, and everything else in the right place. Each character has their own special skeletal structure so it stays true to the anatomy. I say bravo on Netherealm's part instead of doing it cheaply.
This super meter actually does one other things that I love and these are enhanced moves. Forget the crap from DC Universe completely. When you fill one section of the meter up (it fills up faster when you are getting your butt whooped) you can do the special move while holding down the "Attack Modifier" and it'll change the super move up a little bit and make it more powerful. For example: Doing Jax's Gotcha Grab will only do two hits, but if you enhance it he'll punch them five or six times and do more damage. Do Scorpion's Spear Throw and he'll throw two out for extra damage. These are great and each special attack has its own unique enhancement. This is great for strategists who want to give their fight a little extra kick. The second things you can do with the meter is the usual Breakers, but this requires two pieces to be filled.
For the first time Tag Teaming was put into the game and it works just as great as you'd think. Each character has a special tag out move and it makes the game more intense and just that much more fun. Of course the single player story mode will have you fighting against two people for a challenge, but when you play online or with a friend its an absolute blast. Of course this could have gone all wrong but the team learned from games like Marvel vs Capcom to get it right. This is just one more feature the team got right but could have gone horribly wrong or made the game too unbalanced.
The Fatalities are gory and each character has two plus a Stage Fatality combo. Each character's Fatality can be viewed in the move list in the pause menu, but you have to unlock the second one in the Krypt (more on that later). One thing I have to mention is that Babalities were brought back, but only certain characters can do these. These haven't been since since UMK3! When it comes to fighters there are no characters in here past UMK3. Classics only here and that's for the better. You won't see Kenshi, Kira, Drahmin, Hsu Hao or any of those guys, but there will be DLC add-ins later on so who knows. Each character is beautifully rendered and they fight just like you remember so fans can feel relieved about that. There is one new character and that is Cyber Sub-Zero to tie into the story mode, and he plays differently from the regular Sub-Zero and has some unique moves. Kratos is also an exclusive character for PS3 owners and he plays just like he does in the games complete with some quite time buttons and moves from God of War III. He even has his own unique stage with three different stage fatalities to choose from.
Mortal Kombat has always been known for adding a ton of content in since Deadly Alliance, but this time you're going to like the extras. The Krypt is back with just one type of kurrency this time around and the Krypt has five different sections. Each one has uniquely animated item containers and some are extremely gross, brutal, and gory. I won't spoil it but its very creative. My favorite extra is the Challenge Tower. There are hundreds of challenges that consist of fights that have different parameters such as zombies coming toward you and you have to use Johnny Cage's special Energy Ball move to kill them before they get to you. There's so many I would spend days explaining them but they are great fun and you earn kurrency doing them. One thing I wanted back so bad were the mini-games Test Your Might and Sight last seen in Deadly Alliance. They are back just as great as before, but two new ones were added. Test Your Strike is just like Might but you have to hold the meter inside a box for a few seconds before striking. Test Your Luck has you spinning a wheel and decides the fighter and fighting conditions for you.
Lastly Kombat Kodes were brought back last seen in UMK3, for people who don't know, each character gets three boxes during the loading screen and there are different codes such as headless combat, armless combat, dream combat, upside down combat, X-Rays disabled, blocking disabled, and it just goes on and on. These are used a lot in the challenge tower that I was talking about, but having them in VS is a blast. Lastly the online modes are a must have for any fighter these days and MK was the very first one and seems to be one of the best. While Tag Team and regular 1vs1 are expected a new King of the Hill mode lets you pick an avatar and puts everyone in a room that looks like a theater. The winner keeps fighting everyone in the room until he loses, but people can rate the fight based on a number score and can even cheer or boo the fight. This is a fun mode and is greatly welcomed.
My only big issue with the game is that the combos aren't as crazy as MK3 and you still have to memorize most of them and a lot of people don't like that. This still really isn't a button masher so strategic minds are still needed to fight well here. I really wanted to see more crazy combos that aren't complicated to pull off, but if you are hardcore enough you will find a way. Besides that there really isn't too much to complain about unless you want to gripe about characters from MK4 and on not being included.
Besides all this amazing content the game looks superb using the Unreal Engine 3 and every background is greatly animated, and they are all from classic MK games all the way back to the first one. The classic Stage Fatalities are also back but they are upgraded to pack more of a punch and are more gory. Overall the game looks and sounds amazing with lots of content to unlock and many modes to play. This is probably one of the best fighting games of this decade so far and definitely my pick for best fighting game of the year.
Kollector's Edition: For hardcore fans an extra $40 gets you two beautifully crafted book ends of Scorpion and Sub-Zero in gory Kombat, Ermac's classic outfit, a well put together art book, and PS3 themes and avatars. The big box is also nicely made if you want that too.
Tournament Edition: For an extra $90 you get a wonderfully created arcade stick but it does not come with any of the other stuff besides the extra outfit. It's up to you which one you get, but I preferred the Kollector's Edition since the stick can be bought separately elsewhere.