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Mortal Kombat (PS3) Review

As a young boy, Mortal Kombat was one of those games that all your friends loved, and all the parents hated, as the first arcade fighting game of its kind to go for a deliriously dark art direction, with outrageous violence and gore. Since its debut to the arcade cabinets in 1992, it became the most popular Beat-em-up franchise since Street Fighter. And after numerous games and spin-off’s throughout the years, developer NetherRealm Studios brings you the newly rebooted Mortal Kombat, but does it maintain everything that made it the genre-defining franchise that its heavily regarded as today?

Well, let’s get to the gory details.

Beginning where 2007’s Mortal Kombat: Armageddon left off; Evil emperor of the nightmarish Outworld, Shao Khan, absorbs the souls of every combatant in the Mortal Kombat tournament, allowing him to merge Outworld with the Earth Realm, resulting in the extinction of all things on the planet. Moments before his death, Earth Realms protector and the God of thunder, Raiden, sends a message back to his past self, so he and the good guys can rewrite history, and thwart Shao Khan’s efforts of winning the tournament, and initiating Armageddon. For those of you that are new to the Mortal Kombat series (and if you are... one question... what the hell have you been doing!?), do not fret, as the story mode spans over the storyline of the first three games, due to the clever plot mechanic of time travel. Story mode clocks up a decent amount of game time, especially for a Beat-em-up campaign, which introduces newcomers to the dynamic universe, as well as delivering a new and more in-depth perspective of events for long-term fans.  Within each of the 16 chapters, you take on the role of a different combatant, telling the story through different perspectives. As expected, with a premise that is filled with alternate realms, immortal ninja’s, evil sorcerers, gods, and busty women with more curves than clothes; the plot of the game is pretty cheesy and over-the-top. But come on, the last thing that you would play Mortal Kombat for is its realism, it’s outrageous and dark fun for any go-gamer, as long as you leave your brain on the bed-side table. The only problem is that you cannot skip the in-engine cinematic cut-scenes, even if you have already completed the story mode, and there is no chapter select, despite the impressive length of the campaign.

Alongside the great variety of game modes, there is a tremendous amount of unlockable extras in the “Krypt” section of the main menu. From character concept art and arena soundtracks, to alternate costumes and even brand new fatalities for specific characters. All these unlockables can be bought through the games coin currency, which are rewarded through winning fights in any of the game modes (excluding offline versus mode). With so much to unlock, Mortal Kombat delivers more of an incentive to battle time and time again than any other game in the series, if not any fighting game, ever.

The control system is completely revamped, with a ream of both basic and advanced moves, making Mortal Kombat a very easy game to pick up and play for newcomers, as well as being comfortably familiar for old fans. Even with this very accessible combat system, practice is still required to juggle some of the most devastating combo’s in the game. But of course, the one single gameplay mechanic that made Mortal Kombat stand-out from any other is undeniably the Fatalities. Even after spending joyful time taking out your opposition with jaw dropping combos and unique moves, you’re allowed the opportunity to finish off your opponent in the most brutal way imaginable, and that could not be emphasised anymore. Bodies sliced in two, hearts ripped out, heads twisted off; it’s all in a day’s work with Mortal Kombat, and we love it. As profoundly remembered in the previous games of the series; being able to do a fatality meant being able to quickly push in a ridiculously huge combo of buttons, making them pretty difficult to perform. But, Mortal Kombat this time has made button commands for fatalities as simple as pressing four buttons, allowing anyone to be part of the never-ending massacre.

A new addition to the vast array of vicious Fatalities and combos is the super meter, which introduces more options in how to approach the fight. The meter builds up in three levels, which can be done by both receiving and giving damage. The first level is enhanced moves, allowing you to perform more powerful versions of your special moves. The second stage is the breaker, where you can counterattack an opponent’s lengthy combo, although practice is required to get the timing right. But the most impressive and highlighted addition to the series is the third stage of the super meter, X-ray moves. The simple press of the L2 and R2 shoulder buttons starts a slow-motion combo, presented in X-ray vision, showing the horrendous internal damage made. It’s all here; skulls crushed, ribs smashed open, organs ruptured, eye-balls gouged, and crotches bludgeoned. But X-ray moves aren’t just a visual delight for any hardcore sadist out there, but it also takes off massive amounts of health, often making the difference between victory and defeat. And just like Fatalities, different X-ray moves completely depend on the specific character. But don’t be fooled if you think this is an unstoppable tactic in crushing your enemy, because launching an X-ray move is just as easily blocked as any other attack, and with the wrong timing, can put you in a really difficult position of having a completely empty meter, with no signs of inflicted damage.   

Pretty much all the arena’s that we remember from the original three titles are all here, beautifully recreated in great detail, and can even be interacted with through Stage-based Fatalities. Whether its dunking someone’s head down a lava pit in hell, or ramming someone’s face up against the side of a moving train in the subway, these unique Stage Fatalities only add to the already tremendous amount of creative, and down-right brutal fighting, which proves that Mortal Kombat continues to push the boundaries with every instalment released (excluding Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe). With all the finishing off moves and combo’s, the audio that accompanies the action is excellent, as you hear bones crunching under fists, cries of pain, and booming contact of attacks give the impression that each hit really... do... hurt. And for Story mode, the voice acting is done very well, despite being very tongue-in-cheek.  

Even with the reboot being the most competitive game ever in the series, as well as being the most exciting title since the original trilogy; the single-player game modes are rife with imbalance in the gameplay. A sterling example of this is any fight against Shao Khan, swarming you with unblockable moves and counterattacks that seriously deplete your health bar. Another is when you occasionally find yourself facing-off against two different combatants, posing as a tag-team. With twice the enemies to kill, it can be extremely frustrating and sometimes seemingly unfair. But many can take this with a pinch of salt, as this is seen as typical of a Mortal Kombat game, somewhat encouraging players to master their skills.

Even with you all being spoilt with what is available offline; we haven’t even touched the multiplayer modes, the corner stone of all Beat-em-up titles. Of course you have the standard offline versus mode to enjoy, but there is also Tag-team ladder mode, allowing yourself and a friend to take on enemy AI. Or, if you’re popular, can have up to four players fighting each other in two versus two battles. And even with this decent set of options in offline multiplayer, there is much more online. With all that is already available offline, you can also take part in King of the Hill mode, where ten different online players compete in mini tournaments against each other, until one comes out victorious. And throughout, members of the online lobby can observe all the bloody action. However, just like any other online game mode, bad connections can result in significantly bad cases of lag in the battles. But don’t let this put you off playing online, as this is not a frequent problem.

The verdict; with the most in-depth Story mode of any fighting game, a wide range of game modes to enjoy offline and online, satisfying combat, and the superb amount of unlockable content available, Mortal Kombat is the game that the fans have been waiting for. With the introduction of X-ray moves and the return of ultra-brutal fatalities, this is the most violent game in the series (which says a lot), which certainly compensates for the toned-down gore of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. With a tweaked and more simplified control system, mixed with the games original 2D fighting makes it remarkably accessible to newcomers. So you see there really is not any excuse why you should not have Mortal Kombat, unless; you’re not old enough, you’re squeamish, or you’re Jack Thompson. Otherwise, what are you waiting for...? FIGHT!



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