Mortal Kombat is back and it’s more brutal and bloodier than ever. After a few tame installments, the franchise is getting back to its controversial roots, but until you play it, you can't imagine how much so.
Upon turning on the game, it felt like I had entered a very dangerous time machine of death. Nostalgia flooded my veins. I flashed back to memories of popping quarter after quarter on the corner of the arcade screen to signify that I’ve got next. I really did have next, but it wasn’t Mortal Kombat II or UMK3 of my childhood, even though it felt just like it.
[image1]Standard actions like the uppercut, the leg sweep, and special moves are all performed the same way as the early installments of the franchise. Long-time fans will be able to pick up Mortal Kombat and jump right in. "Noobs" will find the series more accessible than ever. A little button mashing goes a long way, but real skill will always prevail. On top of special moves, there’s new cringe-worthy X-Ray moves that feature bone-crushing close-ups of deadly attacks, along with enhanced special moves and combo breakers.
Character models are more detailed than ever, and display physical deterioration as damage is inflicted throughout a bout. Animations are flawless and smooth. As good as they are, they are nothing compared to the seemingly living and breathing backgrounds. We saw Goro’s Lair in this latest build -- it’s dank, dark, dingy and dirty. You might as well be able to smell the mold, moss, and musk of the evil that lies within.
[image2]If you’ve followed the game since it was announced, then you’ve heard all of that before. But our hands-on had plenty of previously unseen fighters, modes, and more. This was the most complete build yet, with the most kombatant-packed roster to date (but still, only half of the total characters were available). On top of the already announced characters -- Liu Kang, Sonya, Jax, Johnny Cage, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Nightwolf, Mileena, and Kitana-- we had access to Ermac, Noob Saibot and Kano. Each one was more badass than the next.
The fighting mechanics were nearly perfectly balanced. As powerful as one character would seem, there was always a way to exploit a weakness, or play to your own selected character’s strength. Though, you’re not fighting for the fight itself, are you? You’re fighting to see the fatalities. It’s difficult to contain my excitement and not spoil how excellent these fatalities are, but damn. These things are more vicious than ever.
A new fatality trainer mode ensures you’ll never miss that vital button press again and fuck up the fatality, which to me, is as bad as losing. That’s not the only new mode in Mortal Kombat. The real meat of the game is the new Challenge Ladder, which serves as the game’s main single-player mode (there’s the regular single player arcade mode too). Challenge Ladder is a tower of 300 challenges, where you’ll take control of all of the characters in the roster, and the ladder will essentially teach you to play as each one effectively. It’s not just the regular roster you’re playing against or as.
[image3]There are characters in there just for fun, like Johnny Cage’s stunt double or a trio of zombies. One particular match the devs were showing off was against Baraka (who was unplayable in this build). The challenge ladder forced you to play as Sonya Blade, and Baraka's difficulty was jacked way up. The team told me I "probably" won't win. As a MK fanatic (just ask Daniel about my 50 match win-streak at the GR office), I took offense and made damn sure I won. Dwindling on danger, I delivered the fatal blow to Baraka and had the devs eating their words (the devs explained I was the only one to do so during all of GDC).
Breaking up the intense action is the return of Test Your Might, along with Test Your Sight, Test Your Strike, and Test Your Luck. We didn’t get to try Test Your Luck, but the developer’s descriptions sounds like it can throw even the most experienced of players for a real curveball. You’ll take a spin at a slot machine, and certain modifiers will be applied depending on what you land on. Some can give you a stat boost, others can really fuck you over (we saw "headless kombat" in a video demo).
This also marks the first Mortal Kombat in stereoscopic 3D. Or at least it is on the PS3. It's not your normal stereoscopic 3D - only the backgrounds and environments are in 3D, the characters themselves aren't. Which means a friend without the expensive 3D glasses can still watch the fists, guts and blood spurts pop out of the TV. It also adds a great field of depth to the beautifully detailed backgrounds, while bringing the fight to center stage.
If you’re a fan of Mortal Kombat or old-school 2D fighters, then you’re going to love this new Mortal Kombat. If not, the new twists and features along with the easier to use moves and combos could make this the perfect game for people looking to try their first fighter. Either way, watch out for me online, I'm always looking to build up my win-streak.