INTRO: Sonya:"A handful of people on a leaky boat are gonna save the world?" Rayden: "Exactly."
Alright, so listen up here: I love me some Mortal Kombat. Ever since I played the first game in the arcade so many years ago, I've been hooked. I used to consider myself a 'fighting game guy', until I played deeper games like Street Fighter 2 and found myself disappointed when I couldn't rip off my opponent's head. I'm a theatrics sort of guy, and Mortal Kombat appealed to my sense of ass-kickery and forbidden gore. To this day, I consider Mortal Kombat II to be one of my favorite games of all time and it's always the measuring stick when I think of how many hours I've put into a game.
But, I digress. The Mortal Kombat series hasn't always been stellar. To say the least, there have been some truly brutal entries into the franchise (Mythologies, Special Forces, arguably even MK4), and a few surprises along the way too (like the fantastically fun Shaolin Monks. Either way, the world seems more than ready for a new developer, a new take on the series and we've got it. The company line sounds like this: "Having literally defined the mature game category, Mortal Kombat makes a triumphant return to its violent roots in the fastest and most brutal installment to date. Fighting game players will receive the Mortal Kombat they've been asking for, with fatalities presented in more detail than ever before."
Ladies and gentlemen, exhale heartily and smile wide- they didn't mess up Mortal Kombat. Now, for those of you who love it rich, detailed and extra deep, look elsewhere. For those of you who love the flesh-ripping, crude and fun goodness of Mortal Kombat, you have been vilified!
It isn't easy to explain the gameplay of this title, but I can tell you that it most certainly works, seeming like a great mix between the old Kombat you love and the new features you sort of crave. The most beautiful thing here is that this new gameplay style is quick to pick up, but tough to master and for those of you who are really concerned, it has more depth than you might think.
To get through it quickly, there are still two punches, two kicks and a block button. The punches are now high buttons and the kicks are low, and you have what's called the 'super' meter on the bottom of the screen. This is a big new feature and it works well. You can enhance your special moves by making them more powerful, or you can throw a combo breaker in the mix to stop an opponent. My very favorite new attack is the X-Ray attack, which shows a close-up of you snapping various bones, cartilage and arteries (although I guess they don't snap so much as they pop). This really adds a new dimension to the game and makes the familiar seem new again- a great mix.
In terms of game modes, you can jump into story mode, which is a great way to revisit the storyline of the first three games, with a new twist on it. This is a really fun and well done mode, it is full of twists and turns and has a great, seamless feel. The story is cheesym but you get to revisit the characters you love and see how they've changed the ones you hated (Stryker, you suck slightly less now). It's not the longest mode, but it works and works well.
If you're a completist, hop to the challenge tower and try to take out one of the 300 challenges that have been laid out for you. This is hard, hard stuff but if you want a challenge, the mode has been pretty much named for you. You'll be unlocking a boatload of stuff though in the Krypt, a massive 4-part area where you'll find all kinds of art, videos, fatalities, codes and all sorts of other goodies to enjoy, having reaped the fruit of your labor. If you loved the original games, you can once again test your might and strength in fun little mini-games. Hell, you can even do tag matches with 4 fighters if you care to!
Sure, the boss fights are still tough. Sure, the XBOX 360 D-Pad can cause problems. Sure, the AI can be unbalanced. But come on folks, this is Mortal Kombat! It's silly, it's bloody, it's a lot of FUN to play and will provide hours and hours of replay value for you and your friends.
LET MORTAL KOMBAT BEGIN!
The character models in this game look great and are very detailed, with real-time damage that continues on as the fight does. As I mentioned before, the X-Ray effects look great too. The fatalities are soaked in blood, my only complaint is that while some areas look great, others look uneven and slightly less impressive than others. Walking into a room where people are playing you might not have your jaw drop but this is a dandy looking title.
Voice acting is deliciously cheesy, the Mortal Kombat music you know and love has been lovingly reworked and remixed, and the bone breaking sound effects are intact. Who could ask for more?
You'll have a lot of fun killing a half a day blazing though campaign mode. You'll spike your controller trying to get through some of the difficult challenges. You'll laugh and laugh watching the various delicious fatalities and frienships, you'll curse your buddies for breaking your win streak. Most importantly, if you feel like the fighting games that get awesome scores like Tekken or Marvel vs. Capcom and the like are too damn difficult, this is a great game to ease your way in. I wholeheartedly recommend it!
Final Score: 8/10