Head Games: Mortal Kombat (2011)
I had expected to get this review up much sooner, but you’ll be happy to know that there’s a good reason it’s taken me an entire week to do so. In fact, I’ve been playing the new Mortal Kombat for this entire week and still have only tapped 35% of the total game! That’s because the reboot offers so much great re-play value that goes far beyond your standard fighting game (take that Marvel vs Capcom 3!).
I have no doubt that the new MK will walk away with several awards this year and, even though it may spoil the rest of my review, I would say it’s Game of the Year worthy. Unlike the aforementioned crossover between Capcom and Marvel, which left me little to do outside of fighting, Mortal Kombat provides endless hours of entertainment.
Mortal Kombat is every bit as gloriously gore-filled as any game worthy of the title should be. Players take damage is seemingly “real time” and the effect even carries over from one round to the next to help really sell the effect. Although every pixel is rendered to near perfection while in combat, some of the in-game movies can be a bit blocky, but it’s nothing that really ruins the experience. The arenas are more detailed and beautiful than ever and really lend a near 3D credibility to the traditional 2D perspective– especially when it comes to environmental fatalities.
Some real credit is due to Rich Carle, Dan Forden, Matt Grimm, Michael Caisley, Brian Chard and the rest of the Sound Design team as well for their contributions. Bones crunch and crack as if actually being broken while the score and other sound effects each hit their cues without fail. The character audio and vocals seem to fit each recipient, helped in part by the appropriately off-the-cuff scripting of Forden and Chase Ashbaker.
Much like Splatterhouse (see review here) did, Mortal Kombat pulls from its original gameplay mechanics of (sorta) simple button combinations to pull of various Moves or Special Moves. Gone are the trio of fighting styles and weapons from the past few MK incarnations and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. While the weapons were a fun addition, this “back to basics” approach makes it much easier for casual gamers (such as myself) to implement a variety of Moves without too steep a learning curve.
A welcome addition, X-Ray Attacks, allow players to pull of what would seem like a Fatality-style move against their opponent. Although these attacks are actually different and less violent (believe it or not) than Fatalities, they are a fun way for someone with less skill and/or speed to pull off some pretty neat attacks and no matter how many times I see a person’s skull bludgeoned by a blade to the eye sockets it never gets old… not once.
Speaking of Fatalities, the game offers plenty of gruesome methods by which to dispatch of an opponent including some gnarly environmental hazards that are available only on certain stages. These are some of the most creative kill sequences since Sub Zero’s infamous spinal cord maneuver that landed the franchise at the forefront of the video gaming witchhunt back in the 90s. In fact, they make that Fatality look quite tame in comparison.
Beyond the traditional tournament-style combat, MK serves up an entire reboot of the mythology in Story Mode. Story Mode is a fantastic way to ease yourself back into the series if it’s been awhile since your last encounter. You’ll get to play as each Earthrealm hero as their individual parts unfold. It’s a great way to retell the story of the first three games while providing enough variety to prevent the player from becoming bored.
Toss in more features like King of the Hill (8 player arcade style combat) and the Challenge Tower and you can begin to see why I’m not even close to completing the game. Much like Story Mode, the Challenge Tower is an ideal way to learn the game’s mechanics through a variety of mini-games. Among these mini-games, Test Your Luck has to be the coolest as anything can happen from having to fight armless, headless, in a meteor shower, in the dark… it’s pretty insane stuff.