Should ever a video game series exist that was in need of an makeover, not just in one area, but the entire structure and style getting a total revamp –it was definitely Mortal Kombat. Back in the glory days of this series, it was considered to be one of the best beat em’ ups ever to have graced the hands of gamers, but after the move away from the recognised digitized graphics and gore whilst taking 3D into the new premonition, the tamer version and standards slowly started to slip since the MS-DOS days. Mortal Kombat has reinstated the classics with a return to a 2D plane. The new parent company Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment decided that it was time for change and it was a welcome treat on their part to deliver a game that has been needed for so long. Despite any small issues, Mortal Kombat provides a sensational flow through gameplay to wonderfully create a Mortal Kombat game that is not only enjoyable but challenging at the same time which is a hard balance to get right at the best of times never mind with a re-imagining of a classic.
There are a plethora of various modes and challenges that one can play including the very well done Story Mode. In this Story Mode, the player is taken through the different realms of the Mortal Kombat universe traversing through the story as different characters in a chapter based system all the way through to the final showdown. The story begins with Raiden and Shao Kahn battling in out at the top of a stone plinth with the bodies of the fallen strewn beneath them. Raiden then sends a premonition back to his former self and the story rewinds allowing the player to play through the outcomes of the first three Mortal Kombat games and subsequently ending back to where the story started. The story itself is not exactly complex, but it is done well so fans of the original games will feel at home with how events turn out with some slight changes along the way to reinvigorate the intensity of pace and the percipience of the structure.
Balance is a key issue for all beat em’ up games but none do it quite as well as Mortal Kombat does in this iteration. Every character feels like they could beat another character and while each ones moves list are similar in part, they all feel slightly different at the same time which allows mastering lots of different characters not to become tiresome. Along with the previously mentioned Story Mode there is also the Challenge Tower, a series of 300 challenges each one progressively getting more difficult and the traditional ladder based concept where the player chooses a character and works his or her way through a series of enemies to defeat Shao Kahn. The Challenge Tower is a welcome addition as it pits the player against a series of challenges each increasingly harder which is an enjoyable experience and while it mostly only includes fighting against enemies it is strong all the way through as it sticks to the basic formula. There are also four minigames which focus on a central theme: Test Your Might allows for karate chopping through different materials, Test Your Sight makes players watch where the skull with the object underneath it lands, Test Your Luck is a retrospective arcade machine style spin reel which spins bringing up a variety of variables for that fight and lastly Test Your Strike revolves around accurately landing a blow to break a specific object. All of these incredibly fun and unique gameplay modes can be further unlocked throughout the Challenge Tower and provide a fun distraction from the constant fighting.
The Story Mode plays well for the most part giving the player the opportunity to play as the majority of the characters in the game, however, it comes with the consequence of not getting enough time to get to grips with any one character so only the most basic of moves are learned. The voice acting is equally rancid with over-exaggerated one-liners, but voice acting can be so bad at times it provides a bit of comic relief so these are only minor flaws in an otherwise stellar story mode within a very strong gameplay facet. Oddly enough, the weakest area is the traditional style of working your way up a ladder with one character as this might be the traditionalists perfect scenario but it seems to have lost its appeal and feels outdated compared to the rest of the game. The ability to play with your friends either two-player, three player or four-player (including the online modes transitioning into competitve ) is a fantastic experience and an ingenious tag-team style structure allows for an incredible amount of variety and entertainment to be endlessly experienced while bashing in some brains. All of these really add a new depth to the game and shows just how much this was designed with the players in mind. One fine elemental nuance includes the power gauge at the bottom of the screen, which fills up the more you attack or get attacked and eventually builds up to the ability to unleash an X-Ray move which looks incredible. If the player lands one of these, it shows the characters being attacked in X-Ray form where each individual bone cracking and crunching and each blow is landed. X-Rays might seem over the top, but that is what gamers have grown to love about about Mortal Kombat: the chance to see those bones crunch and all the fatalities to be had. While present and more bloody than ever before, Mortal Kombat seems to create a definitely unique fighting game that is bound to be a favorite for any hardcore fighting enthusiast.
After many years of frustrations and letdowns from the Mortal Kombat franchise, Mortal Kombat has come back with a vengeance and brought with it the awesome gameplay and over the top brutality that is expected of it. The little niggles that are present throughout are so much surpassed by the well done parts of the game that they just seem non-existent despite still being apparent. Should Mortal Kombat foretell the upcoming future fighting arcade style games for the next generation consoles, then count me back in as an avid follower of them.