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Jun 20, 2011

Mortal Kombat Review

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5 Incredible
Retails for: $59.99
We Recommend: $59.99
  • Developer: NetherRealm Studios
  • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
  • Genre: Action, Fighting
  • Released: Apr 19, 2011
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
  • Reviewed: Xbox 360

Mortal Kombat was one of my highly anticipated games of 2011. I’ve always been a fan of the Mortal Kombat games, even through the 3D era. I absolutely loved Mortal Kombat: Deception. The Konquest mode and the depth of modes for single player in an era where arcades were dead and online play wasn’t mature enough really worked well for a fighting game released during that time period. I know a lot of people say those games never held up to tournament standard— I can’t really speak to that. I’d be playing mostly single player or playing against my brother. Deception was fun— it had an interesting roster of old and new. The Konquest mode wasn’t fully fleshed out— it was a little janky, it was a little repetitive, but it put you in the world of MK and that was an amazing thing for someone who absolutely loved the first 3 games. That mode was something that other fighting games I’ve played before haven’t really done. Shaolin Monks was just an extension of that, with even better cutscenes.

Editor’s Note: This review was written by Abdul Ahmad, with input from the rest of the staff of Saving Content to contribute their thoughts.

The MK development team ended up meshing the best of both worlds with Konquest’s gameplay and Shaolin Monks’ story telling in Mortal Kombat vs. DC’s Story mode. MKvsDC wasn’t necessarily my favourite game because I wasn’t into the DC universe, so to me, that was just a game with 10 MK characters, instead of the usual 20+ you get nowadays. It’s a pretty technically sound game, and you can tell MK9 really built off of what MKvsDC did.

With MK9, NeatherRealm Studios took the 3D gameplay of the last few games back onto the 2D plane, and it simplifies the gameplay and gives you one less thing to think about. Not that I didn’t like the 3D games, but it rendered certain moves ineffective such as projectiles which was unfortunate because MK is traditionally a projectile heavy game. So MK9 brings back all the gameplay that made the first 3 games really fun.

That being said, NRS was content with just the core gameplay from the first 3 games. They extended that by adding a meter system which brings in some strategy into the game without being overly complex. You can use the X-ray meter to perform a devastating X-ray attack (similar to a Super move in Street Fighter) when your meter is full, or partially use the meter to break combos or enhance your special moves.

The combos now are somewhere in between MK2’s high level combos and MK3’s dial-a-combos which is a nice medium that allows novice players to get in on the combo action but also allows seasoned players to work with something more advanced. I could barely pull off any combos in MK2, but the way mechanics work in MK 9 it’s a lot easier understanding the system and it clicked with me.

The roster is the perfect MK roster. What more can you ask for than pretty much every character from the MK Trilogy? I almost wish that NRS weren’t doing any DLC for this game because they already put in the perfect roster. What are they going to do for the next game if they keep putting good characters into this one? NRS did a good job at diversifying the roster this time around and gave every character a purpose for being in the game. They also fixed the character designs for many of the disliked ones from MK3.

There’s the classic Ladder mode in this game. It also has a tag mode, which hasn’t seemed to have caught on in the tournament scene— honestly I’m not sure if people even know there’s a 4-player tag mode in this game because they’ve buried it in a different menu. The Challenge Tower brings you through a lot of different styles of challenges, some of which are mini-games, but others have gameplay applications. One mini-game like challenge involves switching between Cage and Stryker, where Cage can only do his force ball against a certain colour of enemies, and Stryker can only shoot other types of enemies. It’s a fun diversion which breaks up the serious challenges which are a learning tool. Sometimes it can get monotonous and boring, but the great thing about this game is when your back is to the wall in unfair situations, that’s when you really learn your character’s strengths and weaknesses.

I think one of the biggest innovations in fighting games over the last decade is MK9’s story mode. Now, perhaps other games have attempted story modes, but none of done it like this game. MK9 treats its story mode with the same respect as a triple-A game like Gears of War does with full cutscenes between every fight. It’s fun, and cheesy (in a good way), and the Story mode gets a little epic as you go along. You get to control about 2/3rds of the characters throughout the Story mode, each with their own chapter of 4 or 5 fights. While you don’t get to play as every character, there’s a manageable amount of characters that you get to play as and learn. In nearly every chapter, you get a hard fight (such as a Boss battle or 2vs1 match) thrown at you which force you to learn your character’s best offenses and defenses— things you wouldn’t learn if the Story mode was a walk in the park.

I know a lot of people have complained about the difficulty of MK9’s story mode; it’s one of the biggest complaints for this game. But Story mode isn’t too hard if you put a little bit of effort into it. With games like shooters, every game has the same language, so it doesn’t take us time to really learn how to pick up and play those games. But with fighting games, at some point you need to teach that language. Not only are the mechanics a foreign language to most casual players, but the language of gameplay mechanics between fighting games can also be quite different. So I think it’s unreasonable to expect to have an engaging Story mode that teaches you how to play the game without there being a few bumps in the road. Story mode is entertaining, but it’s also a learning tool where at times you don’t even realize you are learning. Sometimes it gets frustrating, but I know that I probably wouldn’t have learned how to play Kitana because on the surface her special moves feel weak. But once I got into a 2vs1 situation where I actually had to learn how to use her effectively, I understood not only what makes her a good character, but also how to play against her.

MK9 came out with a lot of issues in relation to multiplayer. Ranked games wouldn’t work, games would go out of sync, game connections were laggy, etc. NRS has worked on improving this, but there is also only so much you can do with a fighting game’s multiplayer these days considering the quality of bandwidth we have and the resource constraints of current generation consoles which prevent an advanced multiplayer algorithm (like GGPO) running on a game with state of the art graphics such as MK. That being said, the game’s 1-on-1 mode is serviceable. But online play favours offensive play in my opinion as it’s harder to block quick moves due to the lag.

MK9 is also a gorgeous game. Its running at a rock solid 60FPS, all of the characters look fantastic. MK9 also has one of the best selections of stages in a fighting game as well, most of them coming from the first 3 MK games. Music is a little bit of a mixed bag. A lot of the tracks are very orchestral and atmospheric, which works very well in story mode. However, the classic versions of the stage songs (which are also included in the game) get me more pumped up to fight and seem to be superior to the newer versions of the songs most of the time. Another thing to note is that by default, the music is incredibly low in the default mix. I not only had to turn up the music all the way, but I had to turn down the other sound effects to bring the music up to an audible level. It’s a decision that’s a little bit of a head scratcher for me.

MK9 is a brilliant fighting game. The game mechanics are tight, the visuals are great, and there’s a great amount of depth to the modes in this game. I don’t even think this game needed a drop of blood for me to have enjoyed it.

Retails for: $59.99, Recommended Purchase Price: $59.99


Ed’s take:

I too have been a long time fan of the series.  I remember playing the original on an SNES at my grandparents and the SEGA version at friend’s house.  Good times were spent in Arcades of  yore at the local Putt-Putt mini golf and mall Arcade popping quarters in only to inevitably lose, but boy did we have fun.  If there was one franchise I love the most, it would have to be Mortal Kombat.  I love the game play, I love the lore, I love the characters, I love it all.  Sure they struggled on a few releases and there were some games I would like to forget, I’m looking at you MK4 and MK vs DC Universe, but I’ve been there through thick and thin.  I watched each movie on release day, I watched the animated cartoon on USA, I bought the action figures, and enjoyed watching the MK Legacy videos online.  When I heard Ed Boon and co. were going back to 2d game play with 3d graphics I almost crapped my pants.  I was never more excited at the time for a game.  I’ve always said if they could just bring back the 2d game play of 1-3 and just use 3d models, they would be back in business.  Finally here we are, 2011 and we have the best Mortal Kombat, scratch that best fighting game ever released.  Mortal Kombat is fun, engaging, and has a spectacular story mode that other titles will just have to try and play catch up to.  My fellow Ed has done well and what do you expect, us Eds are great like that.

Ed’s Verdict:

Retails for: $59.99, Recommended Purchase Price: $59.99


Scott’s take:

The first Mortal Kombat I played was the first one on my cousin’s Sega Genesis, and immediately I was in love. I have played nearly every entry of the Mortal Kombat series with the only limitations of me not owning a system it came out on or money. I have played the PS2/Xbox generation Mortal Kombat games. They didn’t provide the same feelings that the prior games had done before their transition to 3D, but found a lot of value in the modes and playing against friends locally.

Mortal Kombat (9 or 2011, whichever you prefer) recaptures that magic with stunning graphics utilizing the Unreal 3 Engine. This is some of the fastest kombat this series has ever seen, and also makes it the most fun. The roster is robust bringing you the best of Mortal Kombat 1-3 in this unique retelling of the klassic games. It’s a bit disappointing some of the returning characters are given a teleport combo that previously did not have one – making everyone and their mother on the roster have some kind of teleport. Not a big issue, but one that didn’t go unnoticed. The Challenge Tower borrows from Soul Calibur, but takes it and runs with it. The result is a unique, crazy fever-dream inspired fighting ladder that will have you coming back for more.

Mortal Kombat builds and improves on what we saw in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe for the better, and throws away the  bad things. Fans of old are given the dream game for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and gives reason for new players to join in on the blood-letting.

Scott’s Verdict:

Retails for: $59.99, Recommended Purchase Price: $59.99