One can't define '90s videogame culture, and in a sense pop culture, without at least a passing mention of Mortal Kombat. It wasn't the deepest game on the market, fighting or otherwise, but it captured the imagination of millions with its unapologetic-yet-silly violence and gore. I couldn't begin to tally the number of quarters I dumped into my local video shop's Mortal Kombat machine, or the hours spent on perfecting Mortal Kombat II's fatality motions on my Super Nintendo controller.
Mortal Kombat (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
The Mortal Kombat series has never been known for its tournament-ready fighter balance or gameplay mechanics, but let me be clear: I'm not a tournament player, so I can't (and won't) speak to that for this latest installment. Here's what I can say, without hesitation: Mortal Kombat feels fluid and brutal, and its combat is as fun to command as it is to watch in action.
Series creator Ed Boon has gone on record as saying this latest game would allow players to (and I'm paraphrasing here) "make their own combos," but that doesn't seem entirely accurate. While it's possible to string moves together in order to juggle enemies for additional hits and such, the game has a meaty selection of pre-defined combos for each fighter. These combos are not only useful in combat (and can even be strung together with other attacks, including some specials), but they're an absolute joy to pull off and see in action.
Every blow in Mortal Kombat lands with a meaty thunk or thwack, as though tendons are tearing and bones are cracking with each jab or kick landed. When it comes to sheer brutality, Mortal Kombat has no equal in the fighting game space; no game does a better job of making you feel powerful, capable of doing serious damage to the fragile human body, than NetherRealm's fighter.
If you plan on using a fight stick on the Xbox 360, you might not think this will be an issue. But I found that the buttons -- including block, tag, and the single-button throw -- were all in the perfect places on the standard controller. On a fight stick, even PDP's official Mortal Kombat Tournament Stick, the buttons are spread out in such a way that keeping my fingers on important buttons like "block" felt senselessly difficult.
Mortal Kombat doesn't redefine the franchise, but by sticking to what it does best and piling on the content, it has become a must-have for fans and easily establishes itself as the best in the series.
THE VERDICT - Mortal Kombat
Reviewed by Nick Chester
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