Mortal Kombat Xbox 360 Review
Publisher – Warner Bros. Interactive – Developer – NetherRealm Studios – Genre – Fighting – Players – 1-8 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3
Whilst many of the less experienced fighting game players have long enjoyed the Mortal Kombat series for its bloody combat and welcoming mechanics, it has never really been a franchise that has been concerned with depth and meticulous balance and, for this reason, avid fighting game fans have never considered it as anything more than a gimmicky fighter, but with this reboot, simply titled Mortal Kombat, NetherRealm Studios has went to the effort of attempting to garner both the interest of the serious fighting fan, as well as the less dexterous.
There’s certainly a focus on the fighting this time around, so there’s no Konquest, Puzzle kombat, Chess, or any other such mode that takes away from the focus of the heart of the game, the one-on-one fighting. There’s still an impressive level of content on offer, so much so that it’s far above most rival games in the genre.
The fighting retains the stiff nature of past games and features the gallons of blood that has always been a trademark of the series. It returns to a 2D plane and has a control scheme reminiscent of Tekken, where each button controls a different appendage. As has always been the case for the series, it’s a very vicious game, and every attack is delivered with ferocity – those uppercuts are still gratifying. The fighters display blood, bruising and torn clothing as they take damage, which makes it look as if the Street Fighter crew are just playacting in comparison.
Mechanically, Mortal Kombat is far less scripted this time around, allowing more possibilities for crafting your own combinations and giving fighting devotees a system that will reward long term play, which puts it in line with more serious fighting games. Balance is of more importance this time around and NetherRealm Studios apparently have a system in place where infinite combos and such can easily be fixed.
There’s also the addition of a super gauge, of which grants further depth to the fighting system. This is split into three levels, with level one rewarding you with the chance to deploy enhanced versions of a character’s specials, level two allows you to execute breakers, of which can stop nasty combos from your opponent, and finally the final stage gets you access to X-ray attacks.
X-ray attacks are essentially Mortal Kombat’s take on super combos, but as with series tradition, they add a further layer of violence to the fighting, though are largely lacking in the humorous element of the famous fatalities. As the name suggests, X-ray attacks display the internals of the victim – bones shatter and organs explode, amongst other not so nice things, and you might even wince at the brutality of it all. A lot of series fans will be morbidly delighted at the chance of inflicting further virtual damage upon their opponent, complete with a grisly visual payoff.
Fatalities unsurprisingly see a return and they deliver the excessive but cartoony level of violence that they have always done, but whereas in the past they required complicated commands to execute, here they’re pulled off far more effortlessly.
The character roster encompasses all of the favourites such as Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Scorpion, Sub Zero, Kitana and Sonya. It does away with the largely forgettable characters that were introduced over recent years. Unfortunately there are no new faces however, though at least there’s the prospect of DLC to look forward to.
Along with the usual Arcade, Training, Vs. modes and such is a Story Mode, which for once isn’t just a series of fights interspersed with brief and often nonsensical cutscenes, but actually lives up to its name of offering a substantial story. It’s a reimagining of sorts set across the events of the first three Mortal Kombat tournaments. It’s very cheesy in a B-movie sort of way, but is nonetheless likeable and allows you to learn such things as how Jax lost his arms. It’s great fan service and is sizeable, offering around six to eight hours of play.
If that’s somehow still not enough for you, there’s also a Challenges of the Tower mode: a series of 300 challenges, tasking you with doing such things as performing a fatality, to less ordinary things like fending off waves of zombies, or something outlandish such as tossing your limbs at your opponent to damage them. In a welcome addition, if a challenge is giving you trouble, by spending kurrency you’re able to skip it and come back to it later.
The tag mode is another new addition. It allows you to partner up a duo of fighters and switch between them as you fight; it also offers support for up to four players. Unsurprisingly through precise timing and skilful switching of your characters, you can put together some lovely combinations of attacks that involve both characters.
The Krypt sees a return from past games and is once again filled with unlockable content, most of which is unfortunately artwork that you’ll probably only glance at once, though it’s still an enjoyable method of unlocking things and there’s always the knowledge that there’s something better waiting to be found.
There may be an unusual level of content for solo play, though as with most fighting games, multiplayer is where the most appeal lies. There’s online play, and performance wise it’s a bit inconsistent and, at this point in time, like the genre in its entirety, in terms of performance it pales in comparison to the good old fashioned offline multiplayer bouts.
Mortal Kombat still may not have the smoothness and level of depth to contend with the best that the genre have to offer, but it’s still a very enjoyable fighter. It’s deeper and more balanced, resulting in a fighting game that has enough depth to test genre fans, but also enough in the way of simplicity and blood to appease those with a more superficial interest in the genre.