X10: Mortal Kombat Hands-On Impressions

Mortal Kombat Sub-Zero

To tell you the truth, when I first saw the trailer for the new Mortal Kombat game, I was cautiously optimistic. The Mortal Kombat series hasn't exactly been in top shape for quite awhile. With the recent release of Mortal Kombat Vs. DCU, I had hoped for a true return to the Mortal Kombat style and violence while implementing all my favorite DC heroes and villains. While it was a fun game on the surface, there just wasn't enough depth to keep me playing for long and frankly, it just didn't feel like Mortal Kombat.

After getting my hands on the brand new Mortal Kombat, I can wholeheartedly say that the series is back where it belongs.

Mortal Kombat tag team trailer

This past Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend Microsoft's X'10 conference in Toronto where they showcased many of the big releases coming up for the Xbox 360. Taking place in a small club downtown, Riley Little and I were faced with games in all directions and no idea where to start. One game that immediately caught my eye was Mortal Kombat. Waiting until the crowd died down a little, I made my way over to give it a try.

To say that I wasn't a huge fan of the full range of movement in MKvDCU would be an understatement, so when I jumped into Mortal Kombat, restricted to the familiar 2D plane, I immediately felt at home. Playing as Sub-Zero and Scorpion, the first thing I noticed upon jumping into the 2v2 match against the developer on hand was how the level itself was reacting to our fighters. We were fighting in a desert and as we moved back and forth across the screen, the sand would realistically deform. Whether I jumped, dashed or kicked, the sand reacted differently.

It was not until my opponent, playing as Cyrax and Kung Lao, decided to let fly with a flurry of punches, kicks, and spinning saw blades that I noticed the next point he wanted to stress. As my character was beaten, copious amounts of his blood ended up splattering on the environment and both of our characters. Once my blood had covered the battlefield, I then noticed that it wasn't just red stuff pained on the ground. As I walked by, moving the sand out of the way, the bloody sand reacted just as the normal sand did. It's hard to explain without seeing it in action, but it seemed as if the blood had actually stained the individual gains of sand rather than just being blobs of red painted on the environment.

As you may have noticed above, I mentioned that it was a 2v2 match. New to the series, you and your opponent each choose two characters and, while you fight as normal, you can tag in your partner or call in an assist reminiscent of the Marvel Vs. Capcom series. As expected, it worked great, adding a new level of strategy to the fight. My only gripe though, is that once tagging in a character, it seemed as if there was a fraction of a second too much down-time as they stood in place after jumping onto the battlefield. By launch though, I don't think this will be an issue and regardless, it's only a minor issue that can break up your flow if you're not careful.

Mortal Kombat - Cyrax

Back to the fight though, I was continuing to get beaten to a pulp at which point I noticed something else that I found quite interesting. Aside from both of us being completely covered in my blood like the sand, looking at Scorpion's armor I saw that the armor damage present in MK vs DCU had been ramped up to a whole new level. Not only were pieces of my armor completely torn off, but you could see my ribs. They were covered in my own blood, but ribs nonetheless.

In terms of gameplay, it's everything you'd expect from a Mortal Kombat game. The combos hit fast and hard and the special moves are all instantly gratifying. It's great to see that the series has returned to its roots instead of toning down the violence and gore like their previous installment. There's just something truly satisfying about defeating an opponent and then pulling off one of the game's many fatalities. Heck, it was even satisfying to watch as my opponent's Kung Lao used his spinning hat as a saw, James Bond style, to slice my Sub-Zero in half from his crotch to his head and then lift the halves above his head in triumph as blood poured everywhere.

Did I mention that each character has a unique "interior"? Supposedly, each character's insides will react with real-world physics just like the blood and the sand had. While I was not able to witness the actual ripping out of any organs, I did have the pleasure of seeing the organs flopping around inside of my lifeless corpse. While it sounds rather macabre, this is just the kind of thing that I expect from a Mortal Kombat game. Extreme violence and gore are just par for the course.

New to the series are X-Ray moves. These can be performed by pressing RB and RT and the same time after obtaining enough energy. The aforementioned energy is gained by using special moves and by getting hit, so the move can be used as a last ditch effort to turn the tide of battle. While they aren't at the same level of gore as fatalities, they're extremely flashy and entertaining to watch. As your character goes through the move or combo, the camera will quickly zoom in and show an x-ray of the opponent's bones and skull breaking as the blows connect. In a rather sadistic way, like the rest of the game, it's quite satisfying to watch these moves, even if you're on the receiving end.

All in all, I never would have expected to have this much fun with Mortal Kombat. While I've always been a fan of the series, I didn't think I'd find as much enjoyment in this iteration as I did. I'm definitely interested to see how they expand on the core gameplay that I was able to play around with, because there's a ton of potential here and, even the way it is, I was having a ton of fun.

Mortal Kombat is set to smash its way onto the Xbox 360 and PS3 sometime in the first half of 2011. Keep your eyes on Game Rant for all the details as they surface.

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