After eighteen years, eight titles, as well as several spin-offs – not to mention numerous lawsuits – Mortal Kombat is set to return to its hardcore roots. Warner Bros. Interactive, as well as developer NeatherRealm Studios, has done an admirable job of building buzz for the title – while also holding back plenty of surprises for release day.

Two weeks ago, hackers cracked the PS3 Mortal Kombat demo – revealing the full list of playable characters as well as their subsequent storyline – and today, we’re getting a high quality look at some of the yet-to-be-revealed character designs.

Undoubtedly, Ed Boon and company probably still have plenty of surprises in store for Mortal Kombat fans – including other fan-favorite characters returning as DLC. However, without question, one of the most exciting aspects of the media-tease/build-up has been, not just who will be competing in the upcoming tournament, but what they’ll look like.

The return to a basic side-scrolling game-screen (with computer generated 3D models), not to mention Unreal Engine 3, has allowed NeatherRealm to put together the most intricate and detailed character models ever seen in the franchise – not to mention the Star Trek-esque story has flung open the door for significant redesigns to traditional combatants.

Mortal Kombat Character Select Screen

Last June, at E3, Boon spoke about the story:

“So we’re kind of doing a Back to the Future type of thing, where Raiden is about to be killed by Shao Kahn, and just before he delivers the last blow, he sends a mental message to his earlier self, so the camera rewinds back to Mortal Kombat 1. The Raiden from back then gets a message and he doesn’t know what’s going on, but he knows something bad’s going to happen, and the game spans Mortal Kombat 1, 2 and 3, retelling the story with an enlightened Raiden, and he’s changing the course of things, so everything you’ve seen happen before — Liu Kang winning, the guys turning into cybernetic ninjas, are changed around, so you might see a character become cybernetic who wasn’t before, and so you see a different version [of events].”

The alternate history allows for major tweaks to not just the story but the character designs. Much like the full list of playable characters, hackers have also plumbed the depths of the PS3 demo code and unearthed the versus images for all of the currently selectable characters – including PS3 exclusive Kratos. We’ve featured a few of our favorites (or the ones that showcase major overhauls) below. For the full set of images, head over to Hadoken.

Click for Hi-Res versions:

A number of the characters such Kabal, Sonya Blade, Sheeva, and Shang Tsung are in keeping with their traditional appearances but a cyborg version of Sub-Zero and a non-cyborg (or at least non-hooded) version of Smoke, with flowing gray locks, certainly represent a departure from the fan-favorite designs of the 1990s. The inclusion of the Golden Fleece in the Kratos model is also a cool addition – showing that a lot of care was put into the design – instead of the studio just re-skinning Quan-Chi.

Hadoken reports that the red model is just a placeholder for a DLC spot on the roster – though we’re still holding out hope that the NeatherRealm team will pull a reversal on the “Kreate a Fighter” feature of prior games.

Follow us on Twitter @benkendrick and @gamerant and let us know what you think of the new character designs.

Mortal Kombat is set for release on April 19th 2011 on Xbox 360 and PS3.

Source: Hadoken & IGN

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