The bleeding Kontinues.
It's been a heck of a week here at GR. My Dead or Alive CD started skipping, a game called Cornhole is apparently sweeping the nation, and, much to our West Coast hippy chagrin, another kind of cornhole was re-elected president. Our misery stacked like pancakes.
We needed a catharsis, a scapegoat, something we could really sink our teeth into and beat the crap out of without actually perspiring. As it turns out, there is no better solution for quelling frustration than Midway's Mortal Kombat: Deception for the Xbox and PS2. For a handful of hours we reveled in Deception's blood-drenched chaos. Fully sated, we returned to work, bellies stuffed with gory justice.
But now that we're a little less angry with the world, it's apparent that Deception differs very little from its predecessor and that all of the extra modes and gameplay features, other than the online option, are wastes of time. While Mortal Kombat: Deception is pleasantly visceral, it's not a very satisfying sequel to Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.
Deception's plot picks up at the end of Deadly Alliance's, with Shang Tsung and Quan Chi defeating Raiden in hand-to-hand combat. But before either of them can take control of the Dragon King's undead army, they start fighting each other, and then the Dragon King himself, Onaga, shows up. Raiden somehow recovers from being broken in two, and he, Quan Chi, and Shang Tsung combine their powers in a futile attempt to destroy Onaga. Unfazed, Onaga marches onward, leaving Raiden no other choice but to explode, which he does. The punch-line is that Onaga is unhurt, he is very evil, and he now rules the world. Guess who gets to try to stop him using the Mortal Kombat gang? You, sucka!
Doing so entails fighting, of course. Mortal Kombat: Deception's most positive gameplay improvement is its multi-tiered arenas. In many stages, you can knock your opponent through the floors, walls or off the rooftops into lower-levels, spikes, meat-grinders, and the ever-popular acid sludge. Deception's environments are some of the most dynamic and interactive we've seen, and they do a great job of taking your mind off how little the combat itself has changed.
Like the last game, each character has three fighting-styles at their disposal, one of which invariably involves a weapon, and a couple special moves. You may no longer stick your weapons through people and cause bleeding damage, which is a shame, because that was fun to do and looked really cool. The ability to break combos a limited number of times each match has been added, which helps soften the threat of being eradicated by a few enormous combo chains. Most of these enhancements are minor, though, and for the most part, the engine and move sets are identical to Deadly Alliance.
It wouldn't be MK without the brutality, and alongside two fatalities per character, you now get Hara Kiris. If you're defeated, you can try to enter a Hara Kiri before your opponent inputs their fatality and take your own life in some gruesome fashion. Not only do the Hara Kiris represent more crazy ways to die, they also keep the competition going a bit after the battle stops, and are a welcome, ghastly addition to the series.
What truly distinguishes Deception from Deadly Alliance is the handful of new modes, the most significant and unfortunate of which is Konquest. Konquest mode is the sad child of a threesome between a story mode, a training mode, and a hideous adventure game. You play Shujinko, a random guy in a village who magically gets chosen by the Mortal Kombat Gods to find a bunch of artifacts in the various dimensions. To aid him in this task, the Gods give Shujinko powers similar to Shang Tsung's; he can assume the guise and abilities of any fighter he studies.
This is where the tutorial aspect of Konquest mode comes into play. As you travel around the various dimensions doing "deliver this/ kill that" missions, you'll run into various characters like Bo Rai Cho and Sub-Zero. After some forgettable blather, they'll teach you their styles and give you another random quest. If you haven't played an MK game in a few years, Konquest mode might not be a bad way to learn the ropes'if you didn't also have to run through the silly quests and dialogue.
The Konquest mode world is split into a bunch of dimensions accessible through a hub. Each dimension has a name like "Earthrealm" or "Netherrealm" as well as villages and structures and loads of hidden items. In a pleasant little twist, you can sock just about anybody you come across in your travels. And, chances are, the terrible graphics, bad voice-acting, and lame missions will make you want to use this feature all the time, everywhere you go.
To top things off, all the best unlockables in the Krypt must be accessed via keys found in Konquest mode. While a couple characters and some fluffy bonuses can be unlocked simply by collecting enough Koins, the really good stuff will require you to spend time exploring the various realms. Of course, to unlock the realms themselves you must complete all of Shujinko's quests, meaning if you want to access some of the coolest characters, you'll have to deal with several hours' worth of boring hooey.
Once you get sick of Konquest mode, you can try your hand at Puzzle Kombat or Kombat Chess. Puzzle Kombat is basically Capcom's Puzzle Fighter with one or two cosmetic changes, so if you liked that game, expect the same thing here.
Kombat Chess, on the other hand, is a dreadfully simplistic battle-chess game. You pick MK characters for each of your piece types, set traps on three squares of your choosing, and then duke it out with the other player. There are two power points on the board; each one you occupy confers a health bonus to your units. You also have pieces called Sorcerers who can cast one time only spells that do things like resurrect other units or kill enemy pawns. What Kombat Chess really boils down to, though, is a series of fights between you and the enemy. There are almost no tactical factors to take into account - you simply beat the tar out of whomever you face until you can take a shot at the leader and end the game.
Kombat Chess, Puzzle Kombat, and regular Vs. mode can all be played online, but we would have been happier if only Vs. mode were playable online, and Kombat Chess, Puzzle Kombat, and Konquest mode had been replaced by one original, interesting mode. As it stands, Deception is just an obese version of Deadly Alliance. There's a lot more fat to chew on, but very little new substance.
Deception is a very good-looking game during battles with its far-fetched locales and large, well-rendered combatants. Blood sprays convincingly from eyes and pours out of mouths, and the spot-on hit-detection adds a great deal of realism to the game's violent impacts. But as mentioned, Konquest mode looks awful, and you'll probably spend a lot of time there running around the drab, textureless environments full of blocky people and empty houses.
Konquest mode sounds terrible, too. While the music isn't too bad, and there aren't many sound effects and the voice acting is atrocious. All of the words are delivered in a stilted, over-enunciated cadence, making us suspect that the voice "actors' are actually just Ed Boon's college buddies or something.
While the fighting engine is still decent and the combat graphics are fine, Mortal Kombat: Deception does little for the series. It's a victory, but hardly a flawless one.