- by Logan Witt
Okay, I have to do this, so just bear with me for one second, okay?? MORTAL KOMBAT!!
I feel better. Now then, on with it. Netherrealm Studios dives back into the storied Mortal Kombat franchise with a sequel/reboot combo, and man do they knock this thing right out of the park. The ladder, the tower, the story mode, the online gameplay, oh me oh my what a solidly put together package.
Let's start with the klassic arcade ladder. It's there, it's exactly what you'd expect, and it's a blast. Throughout every mode, the gameplay is fluid, easy to pick up, and more kreative than simple dial-a-combos, which is what makes every mode just so much fun. The ladder is simple enough, 7 random fights, then Shang, then a sub-boss, then the head man himself, and each character had their own, often tremendously kreative, ending. Exactly what you'd expect, and that's what makes it perfect- no unnecessary tweaking, no messing with a proven formula, just klassic arcade. But wait, there's more! MK also includes a tag-team ladder mode, and the tag-team kombat flows fluidly and allows for some fun and kreative match-ups.
I've always been fascinated with the story behind the Mortal Kombat series. It's so full, so vast, and so very, very detailed. The problem was that the narrative was never clear and never discernible unless you played through everyone's arcade mode and watched all of the endings and read all of the bios, but even then you never really knew what was really what as the next installment might rewrite canon all over again. The story mode in the newest MK flows in the same style as the story mode in MK vs. DC Universe, and tremendously thorough and cohesive. The story follows the first three MK games and provides an interesting look into the evolution of some characters with backstories not presented in previous games, for instance the pre-cybernetic Cyrax and Sektor. And don't worry about just getting the condensed version as story mode will take you about 8 hours. The only problem is that the cutscenes cannot be skipped or paused, which is a bummer. That aside, what might be a throwaway mode for a fighting game turns into an engaging and fabulously presented piece of gameplay.
And then we come to the challenge tower. A ladder of unique scenarios that are sometimes as komedic as they are kreative, ranging from 3 or 4-on1 endurance match to matches where your only attack is to throw your regenerating limbs at your opponent. Starting fairly easy, by the time you hit about 225 the difficulty has been ramped up to throw a solid challenge at you. Yes, I said 225. There are 300 challenges, and they will do their best to kick your ass.
There are, of course, also online modes for 1-on-1 and tag-team matches, but it's the added King of the Hill mode that I found to be tremendous fun. Your avatar (360) or a mini version of your fighter (PS3) are in a theater watching the current match and get to rate the winners performance, earning them respect points. There's also a nifty little easter egg code to hold up a lighter, silly, sure, but awesome in its own little way. There was a little bit of lag in some of the matches I was in, but hopefully that's just opening week massive traffic and gets ironed out very, very quickly. Enjoyable, solid, and very balanced, the online modes are very well implemented here.
There are also practice modes, one for standard gameplay (moving, striking, etc.) and one specifically to be a fatality tutorial, because lets be honest, they're not just a cornerstone of what makes MK great, but the animations have gotten more interesting and more brutal. The Krypt returns as well, bringing with it a slew of unlockables like secret fatalities, concept art, renders, and some music tracks. There are also alternate costumes and a couple of secret characters (one of which is possibly the most badass fighter in MK history) that are unlocked by completing story mode. PS3 owners also have their exclusive content of Kratos and the Olympus-themed stage, but DLC has been promised and I'm personally hoping for Motaro and Rain (that's right, I said Rain).
This newest, highly-anticipated entry into the Mortal Kombat franchise delivers a tremendous amount of kontent, solid and fantastic gameplay, all wrapped up with stunning environments and brutal kombat like the X-ray attacks in a package that I couldn't recommend more. What few flaws are there are tiny, but they do keep it from being a flawless victory, if only by a bit. Even if you're not a fan of fighting games, or if you're not really good at them, you'll enjoy Mortal Kombat.