Mortal Kombat has always been one of the most visceral fighting games you can get your fists on, but after a consistent series of disappointing titles, it was hard to believe we’d ever see a Mortal Kombat game jump back into the ring and actually put up a good fight for once. But dedicated beat-em up fans and newbies a like can now rejoice because those sadists over at NeatherRealm Studios have pulled Mortal Kombat out of it’s disgusting, blood soaked, coffin, ripped it’s corpse to a million gory little pieces, and rebuilt the body, harder, better, faster, and stronger than ever. If you haven’t experienced the wonder of Mortal Kombat before, you should be ashamed of yourself; before you go have a little cry, why don’t I tell you what your missing.
Early previews of the latest title in the Mortal Kombat series gained popularity and a substantial lead right off the mark when NeatherRealm announced, with smiling faces, their dedication to get the franchise back on it’s feet and back on the throne as the almighty, unquestionable king of all beat em ups. Gamers around the world suddenly became overjoyed with anticipation, filled with nostalgic memories, but also felt doubts based on experiences with the last Mortal Kombat game, the teen rated Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe.
Thankfully MK9 doesn’t disappoint, it’s a game which on face value seems to have done everything right, in fact you’ll be hard pressed to find any negative aspects about the way it plays (the story mode however, certainly has some imbalances). The story goes as follows, Raiden, the god of thunder and protector of earth realm, faces off Shao Khan, lord of Outworld and all bad dudes, a top a pyramid covered in the bodies of all 26 of the characters from MK 1-3. Alas Raiden has taken a severe butt kicking and is about to die along with the rest of humanity, so with his last breath, using all of his god like powers, he sends a message back to himself in the past to save the future. It’s a great opener and it’s fun watching the narrative unfold, I found it hard to stop playing the damn game actually, despite some of it’s cheesier moments it’s consistently entertaining, It’s just a shame there isn’t a chapter select option, or even the ability to skip/pause cut-scenes.
Now the lengthy story mode is only one piece of this tasty little pie: for you hard earned cash you’ll also get the bog standard Ladder Tournament, a well executed Tag Team Tournament, which is at its most fun with four players in the same room. There’s also a challenge tower consisting of 300 amusing and diverse combat related mini-games. Some of these challenges can be incredibly tricky, but they are a fantastic addition that go a long way towards extending the longevity of the game. Last but not least there is the multiplayer experience which provides unending challenges from all other MK fans around the globe, joining and setting up matches is quick and easy.
The most enjoyable part is probably King of the Hill mode in which, as you might expect, you join a lobby which can be filled with dozens of opponents. The rules are simple-winner stays on, while everyone else spectates. Essentially this creates a genuine Mortal Kombat tournament experience and could potentially keep players coming back for a long time.
If that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, there are countless extras and unlockables to feast upon. As you progress though the game you will be rewarded with Kurrancy, which you earn by doing everything from beating people up, smashing cinder blocks and shooting zombies. This Kurrency can be spent in the game’s Krypt, and lets you buy concept art, stage soundtracks, kombat codes/cheats and some satisfying alternate costumes for each character. If you have the game on PS3 you’ll also get Kratos from the God of War series as a bonus, who fits in perfectly in the gruesome Mortal Kombat universe. There are also a number of downloadable characters in the works as well, so you defiantly won’t be lacking content I can assure you.
What really shines however, is it’s simplicity. The entire combat system and combos have been stripped back to their roots and redesigned in a way that keeps it familiar to fans of the series, who will be able to pull of some visually spectacular and brutal special moves with ease. People new to Mortal Kombat will have just as much fun without too much difficulty. The combat system is intuitive, fluid and inspires a lot of creativity, with no two fights ever being exactly the same.
New additions to the combat system include X-Ray moves which will have your jaw hitting the floor. In order to perform an X-Ray move, which (as the name suggests) flashes up an X-Ray image of the brutal damage your move deals out, you need to fill up a metre at the bottom of the screen. This is achieved by either taking damage or by having your opponent block your moves. This metre also allows you to perform super powerful versions of your regular special moves, as well as a Kombo Breaker, which will get you out of any sticky situation.
And then there are the fatalities, oh god yes, the fatalities! As you would expect for an adult rated game these are so gruesome, and ever so awesome, that some of them may well turn your hair white. The return of brutally violent fatalities is a welcome addition after the neutered mess that was Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe.
In terms of sound design, it is almost flawless – when you hear every punch and kick connect it’ll make you feel like you are really doing some satisfying damage. The crack of bones breaking, the spurt of arteries rupturing, cries from tortured souls being lowered into an acid pit, it’s music to your ears and it really helps to develop a dark but delightful atmosphere. Some of the voice acting can be a bit cheesy, especially from Shao Khan, but it’s forgiveable considering the amusement factor it has, like a cheesey martial arts movie.
For die hard fans of Mortal Kombat this latest reboot will come as a god send.
GRAPHICS- 4.5/5: Every character has been given a highly detailed makeover which displays them as some of the coolest combatants ever. The stages have a lot of depth to them as well, and many will be recognisable to long-time fans of the series. Overall the visuals are all wonderfully flashy in a neo-retro kind of way. As a plus Mortal Kombat even supports 3D for those os you lucky enough to have a 3D TV.
SOUND- 4/5: While being audibly awesome, some of the voice acting can be cheesy but all round each character delivers a top performance. The cut-scenes and fight stages all have great atmosphere which won’t disappoint especially in full surround sound.
LONGEVITY- 5/5: With 300 unique challenges, a lengthy campaign and more extras than you can shake a nunchuck at, and that’s before you touch the online modes, you’ll never be stuck at a lose end with this addictive fighting game. There’s plenty of incentive to keep playing, here’s hoping lots of DLC is planned.
GAMEPLAY- 4/5: MK9 is easy to pick up and hard to master: the simple control scheme that lets the player be really creative stands out as one of the game’s major highlights. Special moves are easily pulled off and you’ll be constantly challenged and surprised by what the A.I can do.
OVERALL: 5 Busted Balls out of 5
If you’re not impressed by the narrative itself you still be satisfied with the effort, MK has come a long way since it’s 16 bit glory days, it’s been a rocky ride but this latest title has redeemed and reinvigorated the series.
- Adam Radcliffe