by Christopher Henry
MORTAL KOMBAT! I have been hearing that in my sleep for close to 20 years. My relationship has been turbulent with the Mortal Kombat Series. It all started in 1992 with the mashing and smashing of my SNES controller. I would spend hours fighting my way to Goro and Shang Tsung. Countless punishments and restricted privileges were the result of my devotion to the wonderfully violent game. Unfortunately my love and devotion to the series waned as the series creativity diminished into the pits of predictability. When Mortal Kombat 3 came out it seemed that NetherRealm Studios was ushering in new characters as an uninspired strategy to introduce the game to new platforms. This was the crux my reasoning in abandoning the series. Yet redemption was lurking in the shadows and Mortal Kombat (2011) inspired me once again to “Test my MIGHT!”
A major weakness of the series has been to incorporate new releases into the story arc presented by the developer NetherRealm. It may be due to the lack of technology available or the poorly acted out movies. Regardless of the reason their attempts have been all but a “flawless victory” to develop a compelling narrative that enriched the character development process. It all changed with the latest incarnation of this pugilistic video game.
NetherRealm Studios rebooted their story arc and provided an animated movie that the gamer plays through to witness the narratives of their most beloved Mortal Kombat characters while simultaneously defending Earth from the treacherous Shao Kahn. Story Mode immerses you in the Mortal Kombat universe while developing your skills with each fighter. Each character has unique fighting combinations that are displayed in a readily accessible menu during the combat.
You play as a variety of Earth Realm warriors to defend earth from having a bunch of Netherrealm demons and Outworld denizens running around and wrecking havoc. You are guided by the Thunder God Raiden to combat Shao Kahn for the security of earth. The loop holes and plot twist keep you churning through fight after fight to see what happens next. Piece of mind is not guaranteed. I found it totally worth the ride (though the end did kind of piss me off).
Some will say that the story mode is too hard at certain points, well boohoo. The game does dumb down after repeated attempts to get you through the tougher fights. Yet I will vent a frustration. The AI at points was too good and the game does not provide even the slightest bit of error when mashing buttons. I jumped more with Raiden when trying to teleport than actually teleporting, which would result in Shao Kahn hitting me with his stupid hammer and I would go from owning him to loosing the fight and trying again. This sounds like a weakness to the game mechanic, yet indulge me and consider, how easy games are nowadays and how refreshing it is to be challenged by a guy who is supposed to be an immortal. So, wipe off your Doritos stained hands, throw away your soda soaked controller and be perfect. The challenge does not detract you from playing. It compels you to play even more, because damn-it no gamer wants to be bested by a computer. Being bested is for Mortal Kombat tournaments with your friends and you have that one friend that has that whole beginners luck thing or no life…echem.
The challenge tower is truly challenging. The difficulties between each rung of the later does not adjust to the point where one minute you have a Flawless Victory and the next minute you are throwing your controller through your new LCD screen. The developers pepper in some “Test Your…” challenges that break the monotony of fighting under different victory conditions. They have Test Your Might which is a button mashing challenge. Test Your Sight provides a respite to your controller and you are to find a brain under a skull that is shuffled around like those guys do at a carnival. Test Your Strike is a different version of test your might button mashing, but it is a nice break for the “grind through the Challenge in one day guy or girl”. The last 50 challenges are so hard that I had to take a break from the game. I was getting so frustrated, but I was determined to keep trying which resulted in piles of laundry and restless sleeps.
This can also be classified as design, but hey it is my article. The characters were powerfully rendered. Long gone are the days where Reptile, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero were the same model just given different colors. There is a wide variety of landscapes and stages provided by the game. They are identifiable while but not over powering. The developers continued the environment specific fatalities from prior versions, but what I found cool during the Challenge Towers was the environmental hazards that provided another dimension to the fight.
X-RAY move is one of the best arguments for the uniqueness of Mortal Kombat. This combo feature is gross. I mean it in a good way. You witness special moves that will make the most iron of stomachs rumble and churn. I relate it to watching a train wreck. You just can’t look away, but in some cases it is horrifying.
The game is filled with gore satiating the Stephen King types out there. Unlocking features in the Krypt is nauseating. You watch bodies get torn asunder, explode, and set free from a recently closed iron maiden. Combat damage displays gooey, wounds or sometimes very sexy clothing tears. I’ll write it, the boob physics are great. This says a lot about the games physics engine. The women are scantily clad and some of their combat damage proves that some lonely programming nerd knows exactly who his target demographic is. I will not say that the boob physics made me play through story mode twice…I will not say it.
I could go on and on about Mortal Kombat. It contains hours and hours of replay-ability. I played through Story Mode twice, and I am currently considering a third time. It is great for playing with your friends or sitting at home in your underpants. Yet I will probably trade it in for the next version of the game.
It does have its weaknesses. It would be nice to be able to choose who you want to fight final battles battles with. It would not have taken me 3 hours to beat Shao Kahn if I was able to use my go to character. The button combos do get frustrating. I tend to hit buttons too quickly or slowly in the combo pattern. It may be the AI or the game mechanics thinking you are trying a different combo. However the controls could be worse. Like the dragon fatality in Mortal Kombat 1. Yet it does not hurt the game too badly and it could lead to raging explanation as to why you lost the fight.
I have not played online too much, but when I did, all I got were noobs that chose Scorpion or Noob Saibat, no pun intended. I need to play it more to be fair, but first impressions are usually correct. The twitch nature of the game detracts from online play due to the delay. If you play online make sure your internet connection is lightning fast, so some 12 year old does not have his way with you using Sub-Zero.
This game is a great fit for the single player gamer and the social gamer who likes to bring friends over for some Mortal Kombat and a sheet pizza. Mortal Kombat (2011) has totally redeemed the series in my mind and when the new game comes out, I will buy it. Developers will improve upon the game mechanic (i.e. boob physics). I will end up living in my parents basement for the rest of my life.
I give this game a 9.3 out of 10.