Game Rant’s Ryan Blanchard reviews Mortal Kombat.
Over the years, many fighting series have come and gone, eventually losing the spark that drew people to them – as they fade into obscurity. After numerous sequels, all series lose that luster. Whether or not a series is able to reclaim the original fire is what make a truly iconic series.
One of the best examples of this is Mortal Kombat. Not only has the series won numerous Guinness World Records, but it has seen its release on just about every platform imaginable throughout the years.
With the 2008 release of Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe, many fans were left wondering whether the venerable fighting series had passed its prime. For a series whose main focus was its over-the-top violence, the shift to a teen rating in order to appeal to a broader audience left a bad taste in many gamers’ mouths. Now, the ninth game in the series is here, but does it manage to remind fans of the reasons why they fell in love with the series in the first place, or will it become just another forgettable addition to an aging titan?
Developed by NetherRealm Studios, Mortal Kombat sees the series making a return to its roots in the best way possible. Moving away from the 3D gameplay of recent installments (as well the Teen rating of the prior game), Mortal Kombat plays like a dressed-up next generation version of the original titles in the series. It’s refreshing to see that a developer is able to take notice of what fans want from a series, offering fan-service while refining the gameplay – rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel.
In terms of story, Mortal Kombat manages to achieve much more than most modern fighting games. While games like Super Street Fighter 4 and Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 focus almost entirely on the gameplay experience, practically ignoring the inclusion of any sort of cohesive story, Mortal Kombat attempts to give gamers a reason to fight by including a story mode that connects each fight with a cutscene – which provide insight into the character’s motivations for fighting.
The plot is an alternative re-telling of the first three games in the series where Raiden, about to fall at the hands of Shao Kahn, sends a message to his past self, warning of the future events – and the coming end of worlds. The story then follows Raiden in the past (during the events of Mortal Kombat 1-3) as he attempts to make sense of the visions he is receiving – while also fighting to prevent them from coming true. It may not win any awards, but the plot is interesting and provides sufficient motivation for the player as they jump between characters, trying to keep Shao Khan from destroying all realities.
That said, Mortal Kombat is all about the violence and without a cast of recognizable, memorable characters, there’d be no reason to continue maiming your enemies for more than a rental period – fortunately, this is not the case. Since the game is a return to the series’ roots, just about every fan-favorite is present, including our ten favorite characters. Whether you’re interested in classics like Scorpion and Sub-Zero, or robotic favorites Sektor and Cyrax, there are characters to fit every play-style. With 25 characters in the Xbox 360 version (Kratos is added to this total in the PS3 version) as well as two secret unlockable characters, each of the kombatants has a distinct feel about them making for a varied fighting experience.
Not only are each of the characters given depth in the story mode, as they are forced to do battle with one another, each of their personalities and characteristics are shown quite effectively during kombat as they move around the battlefield. While games like Street Fighter have iconic characters that are instantly recognizable, the characters that make up the Mortal Kombat universe seem to have that extra level of personality that helps bring them to life.
The characters would be nothing if the power behind the Xbox 360 and PS3 weren’t up for the task – resulting in fluid kombat that features incredibly detailed character design. While the fighters and environments are all rendered in 3D, the gameplay takes place on a traditional 2D plane. Gone are the days where Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Reptile are all identical ninjas with slight color alterations. Rather, each character has their own distinctive flair, standing out from one another on the battlefield. The detail put into each of the characters and their alternate costumes is impressive, as each of the fighters realistically begin to show damage as the fight rages on – exposing bone and tearing away clothing.