Awesomely Heartless, Suitably Brainless, Disappointingly Spineless.
It’s hard to believe, isn’t it, that there are still some numbnuts out there who believe that video games make kids more violent? It’s simply not true! Take me, for instance. I spent an absurd number of hours in my youth playing violent video games like Mortal Kombat. I probably decapitated more vanquished foes by the time I graduated college than Henry VIII managed in his entire lifetime. And do I go around trying to rip the still-beating hearts out of the ribcages of random people walking down the street? No. Well, no more than the next guy, anyway. And there was that time I ripped my neighbor’s leg off and beat him over the head with it. Hmm, maybe I’m not the best example here.
[image1]I guess my point is this: violent video games are totally awesome. So, you can imagine my excitement when I slipped Mortal Kombat: Armageddon into my Wii. The opening cutscene further inflamed my bloodlust by featuring a 70-man battle royale that looked like a blood-spattered cross between a Star Wars convention, a WWE match, and a Walmart two days before Christmas. This, I thought, is going to be great.
Once I started fighting, however, the raging fire in my eyes started to die down a bit. Most of the content in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon is ported from their recent Xbox and PlayStation titles, and it shows. For one thing, it feels like they missed the boat with the use of the Wii’s unique controllers. I was excited to play a fighting game that used the Wiimote, expecting that I would be dancing around my living room, punching and jabbing at my TV. Instead, the fighting controls aren’t much of an evolution over the previous generation. Activating special moves just requires you to hold down the trigger while moving the Wiimote in a semi-circle, or back and forth. It doesn’t feel like fighting at all. And worse, the inexactness of the Wiimote means it doesn’t work half the time. If you really want to get good at the game, you’re better off switching to the classic controller or dusting off an old GameCube one.
MK: Armageddon does not hold back on the content, however. There are literally dozens of playable characters, from old favorites to fresh faces. All of them, unfortunately, use the exact same set of controls to execute attacks and special moves, so once you’ve mastered one, the only value in switching to another character is almost purely superficial. Fortunately, if you get bored of the approximately 329 characters that come with the game, you can always build your own! The Kustomize section lets you build a new fighter from scratch, with an extensive array of choices in both appearance and fighting moves. While too many of the custom special moves are on the generic side (Do you want to shoot balls of green fire? No? How about balls of blue fire, then? Purple Fire?), there are a few goodies tucked in there. Hey, any game that lets me build an afro-sporting, green-skinned, pantsless glamazon who shoots missiles out of her oversized breasts can’t be all bad, right? I’m just saying.
[image2]But wait, there’s more! I’m not sure why it is that game developers continue to include additional sub-games that have little to do with the reason anyone would have picked up the game in the first place. They usually feel half-baked, and are rarely playable for very long before boredom sets in. MK: Armageddon actually includes not one, but two additional games. The first is Konquest, a simple platformer where you run around beating the crap out of nameless hordes of ninjas as you struggle to escape the clutches of… whatever, I don’t care. I just want to kick some more masked dudes up into that fan to see them splatter all over the place. As its own title, Konquest would be pretty pathetic, but it’s a good way to kill some time pulverizing badguys and earning Koins to buy more Krazy hairstyles for your Kustom Karacter or to unlock media Kontent from the extremely well-stocked Krypt. So, sure, I can see why they included that in this package, I guess.
The second mini-game is a bit more perplexing. Maybe there was some confusion on what MK stands for, because Motor Kombat bears a lot more resemblance to Mario Kart than any fighting game I’ve ever played. That’s right, it’s a Mortal Kombat themed racing game. Apparently all of your favorite fighters spend their days off tooling around the racetrack in their dinky little Shriner cars. Cars which, by the way, must be filled to the roof with human blood, because every time one hits the wall it leaves a red smear the size of Texas. I played it for as long as I could hold out (five or ten minutes), and all it did for me is make me feel like playing a real racing game.
[image3]The sound and music in the game are fine, and adequately keep the blood pumping during the battle scenes. The graphics are decent as well, although they aren’t exactly pushing the envelope. And, of course, there’s the gore. What would Mortal Kombat be without blood spurting out everywhere? The original Mortal Kombat was ground-breaking (not to mention spine-snapping, skull-shattering, and spleen-rupturing) because no other game had ever delved so deeply into the blood-stained Grand Guignol tradition (What do you want to bet that that’s the first time a nineteenth century French theatre style has been referenced on GR?) [Editor’s Note: Does it have tits?]. Sadly, in the years that have passed, we’ve gotten more jaded, and gushers of too-red blood and weakly animated still-beating hearts don’t pack the same punch (so to speak) that they used to. And really, could it get any gorier than it already was? When you already could snap someone’s neck, rip out his spine, and then plunge your fist into his chest and rip out his internal organs, how do you top that?
I suppose my expectations were just a little too high for MK: Armageddon. After all, it’s a decent fighting game, contains everything MK fans are expecting, and even offers a couple of extra (ugh) mini-games. It just isn’t revolutionary in any way. Nothing about it grabbed me by the eyeballs and shook me around until my head caved in. When they make the game that does that, you can bet that I’ll be there with bloodlust in my heart.