Mortal Kombat Review: Banned in Oz

  • Share
  • Read Later

Most fighting game franchises–Street Fighter, Tekken and the like–don’t try to convince players that pain’s being dished out in agonizing quantities. Believing that Ryu’s roundhouse kick actually hurts requires a suspension of disbelief on the player’s part.

Not so with the new Mortal Kombat. These brawls clearly hurt.

The damage wrought on the character models is such that Scorpion, Sub-Zero and their opponents look like they should barely be able to stand. And then there’s the new X-Ray Moves, which reach a new pinnacle of brutality. When triggered, you can see bones shatter and viscera explode. Ain’t no doubt about it: you’re in a fight to the death.

It’s those X-Ray Moves along with the series’ trademark “Fatalities” that had the Australian Classification Board refuse to give MK a rating, effectively banning it from the country. (It’s rated ‘M’ for Mature here in the States.) While MK’s Fatalities are nothing new, the X-Ray Moves are, and they’re not the only thing new in the reboot of this bloody brawler.

(More on Mortal Kombat Gets Punching Noir Rebirth)

Netherrealm–the development studio that rose from former publisher Midway’s ashes–reboots everything about this once-controversial series. The visuals, controls and storyline get a soft reset, familiar costumes get updated (so Sub-Zero and Ermac don’t just look like re-colored versions of the same characters) and iconic backgrounds from Mortal Kombat 1 and 2 get hi-def re-imaginings, too.

The reasons we’re seeing those established locales has to do with the story. This new MK technically picks up after Mortal Kombat: Armageddon in series continuity. Netherrealm assumes the worst case scenario: evil extra-dimensional overlord Shao Kahn emerges victorious from the bloodsport tournament, spelling doom for both the Earthrealm and Outworld dimensions. Cribbing from J.J. Abrams, thunder god Raiden sends a message back through time to his past self to try and prevent Shao Kahn’s future victory.

That essentially means you’re playing through the events of the first Mortal Kombat games with a mandate to alter things that were established in the series history. It’s no longer a guarantee that Liu Kang wins the first MK tournament, for example. Along with timeline changes, there’s new transparency to the controls as well. Fatality tutuorials show up for the first time in series history, so you can learn how to pull off the franchise’s iconic lethal finishers. Most of the other moves are made available to learn and practice, too.

How does all this feel? In short, like the whole idea of Mortal Kombat got a blood transfusion. The fighting is fast and satisfying and my online experience playing the game so far has been smooth and lag-free. The online King of the Hill mode revives the “got next!” experience from arcades back in the day, with players waiting to take on whoever’s dominating the matches. Throughout, the action transpires with sharp animations and camera angles that drive the pain home, and you can even use a chunk of the Super Meter to augment characters’ special moves in one-on-one combat.

A plethora of modes await players, too. Tag Team doubles the amount of fighters, complete with its own tandem moves. Challenge Mode’s the motherlode, a tower of 300 objective-focused levels with different parameters. For instance: cop character Stryker has a SWAT Challenge where you’re limited to using long-range projectile attacks.

If you don’t like any of the challenges, you can spend the game’s Kombat Koins to skip them. You can also use that kurrency, er, currency to unlock second and third Fatalities for characters. The Kombat Kodes also make a return to change up aspects of a match, like playing with only half health or having a permanent super meter.

(More on God of War’s Kratos in PS3 Version of Upcoming “Mortal Kombat”)

The new Mortal Kombat marks an auspicious rebirth for a long-lived series, with tons of content and dozens of characters on offer. But, more importantly, it emphasizes what makes the game unique. The dominant fighting game series have traditionally been developed in Japan and put a premium on graceful fight choreography. They look pretty, like watching character dance.

Mortal Kombat doesn’t care about pretty–it looks like “getting your ass kicked.” And there’s something decidedly American about that. Fighting games as a whole draw on the same well of ideas–the mystery and grace of the martial arts and, by extension, the movies and pop culture mythology that have grown up around that. Mortal Kombat takes that fascination and makes it both brutal and fun.

Techland Score: 9.1 out of 10

  1. Previous
  2. 1
  3. 2