Can't get enough of your death, babe.
When I brought Midway's Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance home from the office and popped it into my PS2, I really wasn't sure what I was in for. I'd never played the side-scrolling action monstrosities starring Sub-Zero and Jax and I spent very little time with Mortal Kombat 4, so I had little appreciation for the decline of everybody's favorite gore-fest since Mortal Kombat 3 was in the arcades.
But fear not, ye ministers of gore, ye acolytes of evisceration - Mortal Kombat has come again, and delivered Midway from its lost Haven. Not without its problems, Mortal Kombat: DA is an entertaining fighting game if you're playing by yourself and a real hoot when playing with friends. The easy fatalities and combos lend great pick-up-and-play value, and the ghastly animations and tons of blood will even entertain those watching.
The intro reveals that sorcerer Quan Chi has escaped his ethereal prison and discovered an undead army of rotting samurai just waiting to be revived with some freshly slain souls. So Quan Chi seeks out Professional Soul Sucker Shang Tsung, and together they form (!!!!) The Deadly Alliance.
This storyline is oddly implemented in the game. Do Shang Tsung and Quan Chi start the Mortal Kombat tournament? Is the tournament only symbolic of what is really happening? What is really happening? And why isn't Moloch the last boss, since he's the super Oni (God) of death?
Before getting to not answering these questions, a word on characters. Old staples are here, including an older Subzero, a friskier Kung Lao and a violent-as-ever Scorpion. There are a few new characters as well, the coolest being Kenshi, a blind Taoist master. He's like a Jedi, only without the robes.
Deadly Alliance comes with the standard Arcade and Versus modes, but departs from the normal scheme of things with the Konquest Mode, which is a sort of training mode with a story line, and the Krypt, which is a room with more than 650 coffins, each containing a bonus goodie.
To access the Konquest Mode you have to create a User Profile, so that when you earn coins for completing tasks in Konquest mode and killing suckas in the Arcade mode, you can save them and use them to purchase goodies in the Krypt. Each coffin in the Krypt has a coin value on it, and if you want the sweet unlockables, you'll have to pay for 'em. It's a cool way to handle unlockables, as it rewards you for playing well rather than just entering a bunch of stupid directional cheats.
What's odd about Konquest Mode is that it's essentially a Training Mode with a fleshed-out story line for each character. It never has any real matches. You'll get this blurb about this huge fight that's about to take place because you're Raiden and you hate Quan Chi's guts, and then you'll have to combo him like three times to move on, as opposed to shocking him until he explodes. And the worst part is, after you complete the mission, your sworn enemy bows to you! This is not what one would call proper integration of a story-line...but it's a great way to learn the combos and moves.
The combat itself is refreshing in that it is extremely easy to pick up. The special moves always work, and the combos all work on the same rhythm, which is slow and steady.
New to the series are different fighting styles for each player that can be toggled at the press of a button. Each player has two unarmed fighting styles, such as Hapkido or Karate, and one armed fighting style, such as a Ninja Sword for Scorpion or nunchakus for Johnny Cage. Each fighting style includes an authentic stance and several authentic base moves.
It seems like the developers paid for authenticity with consistency, as there is no real standard for what particular buttons do. In order to figure this out, you must consult Konquest mode, but even Konquest mode glosses over the basic moves to focus on the pre-programmed combo system. Since each stance has about 12 basic moves, and there are three stances, there is a slew of basic moves, and figuring out by yourself which ones are useful is a helluva task.
But that also means that the game has depth, which is sort of new to Mortal Kombat. The multi-pronged fighting leads to a monstrous number of ways to kick butt, giving the game some terrific depth.
Some may find to their dismay that the special moves have been tweaked and that several Mortal Kombat staples (Raiden's torpedo and Scorpion's teleport, for example) have been left out of the game entirely. This is clearly due to the emphasis on the combo-system, as most special moves are primarily useful in ending or beginning a combo. There aren't that many combos in Deadly Alliance, and practically none that hit low, which makes blocking them easy for human and computer players alike.
The fatalities, of course, rock, and are easy enough to execute. Unfortunately, there is only one fatality per player, which is definitely a shame. Still, only one insanely gory fatality per player puts Mortal Kombat: DA way ahead of the competition in terms of visceral thrills.
Mortal Kombat: DA is a fully 3D game, as the player can move forward and backward and in a circle around his opponent (by either double-tapping up or down). However, you cannot mix axes of movement, which is very frustrating when trying to escape a corner trap. You cannot, for example, move upwards on the screen and back at the same time, or move down and draw closer to an opponent at the same time. Movement one way excludes movement in any other direction, which makes it a little clunky.
Graphically, though, Deadly Alliance is impressive with cool, detailed backgrounds, large, well-animated characters, and gory special moves and fatalities. Impale a player with your sword and watch the blood pour from his stomach, or cut his face and watch as he's blinded by his own blood. And yes, the red stuff stays around for a while. By the end of a fight, the arenas are covered in scarlet.
The sound is mediocre and could use some more over-the-top effects to match its visual gore. You'll still find the great 'Fatality' and ' Get Over Here!' voices, at least.
Overall, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance for the PS2 is a good fighting game with a great gore factor. While the control limitations and simple combos will have you weary of the single-player modes in a couple days, the never-ending blood and neat three stance system will make kicking your friends' asses all the more enjoyable. And, even better, give them a half-hour and they might start kicking your ass, too.