Mortal Kombat - Review



The Mortal Kombat franchise sure has its place as one of the big milestones in video game history, despite the fact that this is mostly due to it's violent and brutal gameplay.
But for a couple of years, it has been quiet around this once so popular franchise. After Mortal Kombat 2 and 3, most sequels in the series got average scores and didn't have most of the new "punch" that the first ones had.
Now in 2011, Mortal Kombat gets released. It's more or less like a reboot although in a way it could also be just called Mortal Kombat 9.
Question is, if Netherrealm Studios managed to give us enough new brutal stuff to gaze at but yet still delivers awesome gameplay.




Story

The story begins after the events of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, where almost all fighters are dead, leaving only Raiden and Shao Kahn. Defeated and about to be delt the final blow, Raiden uses his last attempt to cast a spell on his amulet, now shattered, to contact his past self and quote "He Must Win!" before he is killed.
During the events of the first game's tournament, hosted by Shang Tsung, the Raiden from that era possesses visions of the events from the future, he notices his amulet has cracked, signaling troubling times ahead. Across the tournament's battles, Raiden comes to the conclusion that Liu Kang is to win the tournament and save Earthrealm...

I never really cared much about the stories of previous MK titles, but mostly they are said to be very convoluted, confusing and sometimes don't even make sense. It's probably pretty hard to create a convincing and engaging storyline for a game which main goal is to punch each other to death.
If you nevertheless want to be informed about all the previous stories, then check out "Gametrailers' Mortal Kombat Retrospective". MK9's story is very easy to follow, even if you are completely new to the franchise. The story and especially the dialogue during the entire story-mode is extremely cheesy most of the time and even comedic if you just look at the "reasons" WHY some characters even fight.
For example:
- "hey hot chick you wanna go out some time?"  "no"  " why not?" ROUND 1!! FIGHT!!!

I mean, ok i understand that the developers just HAD to come up with something but some of those situations are just WTF moments. Luckily most of the fights more or less are introduced well, even though they are still cheesy.
Also it takes time to get into the flow of the story. The first chapters concerning the story may be weak but after chapter 5 in which you play as Scorpion, it gets significantly better. Towards the end in which the fighters choose sides and characters begin to die, you really get the feel that actual shit is happening.
Also the story takes some nice twists and turns and does a great job to give each character a nice albeit at times short backstory. Still it's done very great if you compare it to lame stories of other fighting games like Tekken. In the end, all characters get their special place in MK9's overall story.


Gameplay

MK9 first scared me off a little bit: I looked at all those different button combinations and thought "jesus how are you going to have fun with this game if you have to know all those combos?!". Luckily, MK9 is far not as complex as some might think. Most combos have significant similarities which make them pretty easy to learn. Also the tutorials are awesome. Although the game can also be played via "learning by doing", the tutorials helped me a lot with mastering the last fine details about the fighting combos.
MK9 features some old but also new tweaks and turns concerning the gameplay.
The player now is able to use a powerbar which is divided up into 3 segments, which can be charged by good fighting or taking damage. A fully charged first bar gives you the power to power up a combo even more, a fully charged second one gives you the ability to "break/interrupt" the enemy's combo, and a fully charged third one gives you the ability to perform x-ray attacks.
Probably the x-ray attacks are the most awesome thing about MK9 next to the commonly known fatalites.
The x-rays resemble very much the action scene effects of the jet li movie "Romeo Must Die" and are a brilliant addition to the improved gameplay.
I don't think that i need to talk much about MK's fatalities because i think that everyone probably knows about them by now. The new fatalities in MK9 are just pure awesomeness. I won't give away any of them but i will say this: my favorite ones are Sektor's and Cyber Sub-Zero's secret fatalities which you can get at the krypt. Check em out if you can.

The story mode is pretty nice to play through and in my opinion definately should be played first, to give the player a feel for the gameplay. Unfortunately the game has a fucking steep learning curve. Most of the real boss fights are fucking impossible. You absolutely HAVE TO "cheat" and spam the same move over and over again to win. Trust me it sound ridiculous but it's the only way to get past some of those EXTREMELY annoying boss battles. I heard that complaint over and over again in many reviews before playing the game and thought it was bullshit but...well...it's true. Especially Shao Kahn can only be beaten in cheap ways.
Also i often got the feeling that some of the playable characters (overall 27 characters + kratos for ps3) are slightly overpowered due to the fact that some of them got very effective combos which can be triggered by very simple button combos (for example Noob Saibot). Despite those cheap bosses the story mode is a good, although at times unevenly difficult experience.

The most interesting single player mode next to the story mode is "The Challenge Tower". It's 300 missions which get harder and harder with every level. From missions like "perform these specific combos" to other random mini games, there's plenty of missions that will surprise you and keep you busy for hours.

Another single player mode is the good old arcade mode in which you just play against all of the playable characters.

A cool thing about MK9 is that you can gain mk points by winning fights and granting missions in other modes. All those points can be used to purchase several items at the "Krypt". In the Krypt you can purchase sooo muuuuch stuff: concept art, alternative costumes, secret fatalities, etc. There's plenty to unlock to keep you playing for weeks.


Graphics

MK9 is more or less like a mixed bag. Especially in fighting games, the character models have to look very good. They are the main models of the entire game. Some of the characters like Scorpion look phenomenally awesome and well made while others look lame and terribly dated (for example Sonya).
The backgrounds throughout the entire game though, are the best backgrounds i have ever seen in a fighting game. The bad modelling or texture work isn't obvious. It's particularly the cutscenes during the story mode in which the bad graphical aspects are easy to spot.
Although the graphics overall are pretty decent and don't hurt the game too much, the unreal 3 engine really shows it's age.



Sound

While the soundtrack is nothing to write home about, the game sound effects themselves are great!
Crank up the volume of your surround system and it's gonna be a blast for you hearing the heavy bone breaking x-ray sounds and other moves like Scorpions "GET OVER HERE!" or Nightwolf's tomahawk attacks.
Concerning the sound effects, i couldn't wish for more....well except maybe for a better more "in your face brutal" soundtrack.


Multiplayer

There's not very much to say about the multiplayer that you wouldn't expect.
The multiplayer can be played with up to 4 players. There's your usual versus mode, the tag team versus mode, and of course all those can be played online as well.
A nice new feature is the ability to just "watch" other people fight online with other viewers. You can cheer on your favourite fighter and even vote for who's gonna win. Not necessary but absolutely nice to have, so why not?


The Verdict

After a very long series of unconvincing sequels, finally Mortal Kombat is back.
Mortal Kombat 9 managed to include enough new violent gameplay to shock/entertain gamers while also learning from mistakes made in previous games: simpler story, new introduced power bar, x-ray attacks, challenge tower, etc.. In the end, every fighting game is more of a love it or hate it thing: there's tekken players, marvel vs. capcom dudes, street fighters etc. It's all about what style of gameplay appeals to you.
For me, Mortal Kombat 9 had much potential and it sure used most albeit not all of it. The game may be by far not perfect but didn't disappoint me. There's still some stuff that has to be changed and that needs some extra polish (-> graphics, boss battles and some minor gameplay issues) but nevertheless Netherrealm Studios is on the right track again and it shows. The MK franchise matters again and manifests it's place again among other big names like Tekken and Street Fighter.


Final Verdict: 8 out of 10

Status: Try it out

 

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