Mortal Kombat

10 Overall Score

Written by on May 4, 2011 in


The 90s were a magical time.  Friends was on TV, birthday parties were held at roller skating rinks, and fighting games were king of the hill.  Mortal Kombat was ridiculously popular through the 1990s both in arcades and on home consoles.  The past few MK iterations have been lackluster at best most especially the T rated, fatality free, MK vs. DC Universe.  The ninth MK iteration serves as a reminder of what made the series unique and fun, bringing back the 2D fighting of the original series while still feeling fresh and relevant.

In any fighting game the most relevant item to discuss should be the actual fighting itself.  Since MK, Mortal Kombat’s fighting has existed in a 3D arena reducing projectiles to something a mere sidestep could negate.  This ninth Mortal Kombat brings the series back to it’s 2D fighting roots which effectively makes everything old, new again.  Projectiles feel dangerous again, and teleportation is powerful and predictable all at once.  Character movement, combo execution, and move sets feel fresh and crisp.  This MK feels like a throwback while at the same time feeling altogether new by forcing the player to choose the best time to use the super meter.

A slew of new features have been added here including 2 on 2 tag battles (supporting up to 4 total human players), a power meter (giving you enhanced moves, combo breakers, and x-ray attacks), and a very cool battle damage system.  Kombat codes make a return, as well as Fatalities and Babalities, and new mini games like Test Your Luck (a slot system which gives random handicaps to players) and Test Your Sight add countless hours to the play experience.

Craziest.Slot Machine.Ever.

The most notable feature of MK is the extensive amount of single player content in this game.  The standard arcade ladder exists but there is also a fully fleshed out story mode which takes the player through 16 chapters, each one experienced as a different character.  The story mode retells the story of the first three MK games (with a sprinkling of some things that were added in the movies) in an altered universe.  I’m not going to bore you with the minutia about what’s different here but I will say that a good portion of the characters end up in different situations than they did in the stories of the older MK games.  The most amazing part about this story mode is how seamlessly the game transitions from cut scene to fight.  All the loading is hidden so cleverly that you can go through the entire story mode without seeing a single load.  The cleanness and inventiveness of this mode should be copied by every fighting game developer from here forward.  It’s an incredible way to make players feel like the game has some single player meat and the characters really come to life through a flowing arc.

Arcade ladder, story mode, and copious mini games feel like a wealth of single player content in a fighting game right?  Well that’s not all of it.  A 300 level challenge tower was also included giving the player a particular goal to be accomplished.  Some of the challenges are straight forward, just win a fight.  Others are far more sinister disabling all your normal attacks, or launching a limb at your enemy with every button press.  This mode alone adds hours of single player content and when combined with the story mode it really does a solid job of introducing players to all the characters on the roster.  The character selection options in MK are fairly complete including 27 characters, covering all the favorites from the first three MK games and adding Kratos as a special character on the PS3.  Unfortunately the 360 doesn’t have it’s own flagship character but I’m hard pressed to think of a mascot that would fit as nicely into the MK universe as Kratos does, he even looks like he was built originally for the MK games.

There are a lot of characters in this game. This is not all of them.

All of this single player content will win you coins which can be used in the Kyrpt to unlock things like alternate costumes, fatalities, concept art, and music tracks.  The Kyrpt isn’t new and in this particular game it’s a bit hard to navigate.  It would have been nice to just have rows of content unlocks to buy instead of the spread out format but at least there is only one type of coin in this current MK iteration instead of the six different colors from games past.

Online the game reuses the lobby system from MK vs. DC Universe allowing players to jump in and chat with each other while observing matches and waiting their turn to fight.  Standard ranked and unranked quick matches also exist if your patience with the online population has worn thin or you don’t feel like waiting for your friends to jump online.  A new King of the Hill mode adds a nice quarter match feel to the online.  In this mode up to eight players can join a lobby, two players fight and the winner stays in for the next opponent while the loser goes to the back of the line.  This mode really gives the game an old school arcade feel and even goes so far as to allow spectating players to rank the match thus giving the winner “respect points”.  Spectators can even use their avatars (on 360) and chibi versions of the MK characters (on PS3) to emote during matches with some secret emotes stuffed in for good measures.

What a pretty looking game

I would be remiss in ending this review without discussing the visual style of MK.  It’s a really sharp looking game and the battle damage adds a really great level of detail.  Skin gets cut, costumes torn, and faces bloodied over the course of a match.  The others fighters blood will even splatter on your character as you damage them through the battle.  The background environments are incredibly sharp and detailed.  It’s almost enough to make you want to stop and look through the background to see just how far back it goes and how much is crammed into those areas.  After playing both versions I will say that the story mode cut scenes look slightly sharper on PS3, almost like the 360 version has more compressed video on the disk due to there being far less storage space.  The PS3 mode also has a bit more overall content with the inclusion of Kratos (and his stage and ending) as well as a 3D mode but it’s not such an extensive amount of content that I would insist someone buy the PS3 version over the 360 one.

Mortal Kombat is a thrilling return to form for the series.  The fighting feels simple enough that anyone who has played a MK game (or really any game) could pick it up and figure out what to do.  The combos add enough depth to keep people playing and the online options are robust enough to give the game some serious legs.  The sheer quantity of content is impressive giving players more than enough to keep themselves busy offline as well.  Online or offline Mortal Kombat is easily worth the investment.

A copy of Mortal Kombat was provided to The Married Gamers for review and evaluation.


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Author: Elaine View all posts by
Electrical Engineer, podcaster, writer, gamer, tech lover, mother of two children (who are often trying to kill me) and lover of rum, vodka and wine from a box.

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