Ready? Fight! Mortal Kombat returns in the GamesMediaPro review

Back with a vengeance, and to claim its rightful place at the forefront of the fighting game genre, comes Warner Bros and NetherRealm’s spectacular Mortal Kombat.      

The marvellous moves and fantastic fatalities are back in the best beat’em up by far.  No need to question whether Mortal Kombat will falter or fly off the shelves as we review NetherRealm’s cream of the fighting crop.

Having never really been a huge fan of fighters and beat ’em ups, I was surprised then to be asked to review the latest title of the explosive action genre by Warner Bros and NetherRealm. However I duly accepted and welcomed the challenge of taking on one of the years most eagerly anticipated games, even though I knew that I was going to be getting certain parts of my anatomy handed to me time and again on the way to conquering this absolute towering gaming beast. So will the latest beat ’em up bonanza change the opinion of this jaded journo? Read on to find out in the review of Mortal Kombat.

In stark contrast to other fighting games in its weight class Mortal Kombat enters into the gladiatorial contest not sporting cartoon style animation or brightly coloured fluids representative of the gallon’s of blood that will be spilled onto the sand of the arena floor. Instead Mortal Kombat opt’s for realism, and hat’s off to developers NetherRealm for deciding to stick to their gun’s, and not simply following along with every other ‘Cap in Hand’ studio that bows to the weighty demands of illogical requests made by people who know as much about the gaming industry and its community as we here at GamesMediaPro know about the surface of Jupiter.

But putting to one side all current political arguments, and ranting debates by government official’s, Australian Classification Board members and every other bland band of bigoted naysayer,  we now move on to the far more interesting and enjoyable subject of Mortal Kombat.

Mortal Kombat, and developer NetherRealm, promised fan’s of the long running franchise that they would see a return to the more ‘traditional’ stylings of the game with this latest release, they did not disappoint. They also promised a far greater online experience, more story based encounters and a deeper plot. Along with that there where also guarantee’s given regarding additional characters, moves, fatalities and a whole host of extra goodies that would remain a hidden surprise for gamers until such time as they purchased the title, and then popped into the console or system of their choosing. They have lived up to every single promise that they made, and in the vast majority of areas’ that the studio has made changes and adjustments too, they have surpassed all expectations along the way. Mortal Kombat is back…make no mistake about that folks!

Picking up the story where Mortal Kombat:Armageddon left off we join up with the Earth Realm fighters under the leadership of the legendary Thunder God ‘Raiden’ as he receives news from his evil nemesis ‘Shao Khan’ that the despotic dictator intends to merge Earth Realm with his own Outworld, a move that would ultimately extinguish all human life on our planet. Raiden cannot allow this to happen and so sends back messages to himself in a previous time, that the ‘past self’ interprets through a series of dream-like visions. Following the patchy instructions the Raiden of old goes on a quest to locate the best fighters from various times and zones in Earth Realm’s history and puts them to good use in the Mortal Kombat Tournament where they will fight for the very survival of the world in which they all live. So put on your best fighting shoes as there is a whole Outworld size can of whupping to be opened on the legendary foes of the Earth Realm heroes in s latest spectacular addition to the best-selling fighting franchise in gaming history: Mortal Kombat. Ladies and Gentlemen…Fight!!

As previously stated the fighting genre was never one that I had personally visited that often in my gaming career. I found the tales to be merely cloned versions of each other strung together by the most tenuous of stories, linked by inane and arguably overblown and random cut scenes. So imagine then that giving Mortal Kombat to a self-confessed ‘fraghead’ and ‘dungeon crawler’ such as myself was indeed a challenge to the game to convert such a die-hard sceptic of the genre’s merits. Did it convert me? Did it turn around the jaded views of this old journalist so that I can now fully appreciate the flying kicks and fantastic fatalities on offer in Warner Bros and NetherRealm’s latest martial art’s masterpiece?   You bet your last Dragon Koin it did!

Mortal Kombat set’s itself apart from just about every other fighting game out there by introducing a storyline that is worthy of the franchises great name. Couple this with some stunning new graphic’s, a whole myriad of marvellous fighting styles and moves and truly staggering amount of modes, both online and off, and you have now got a fighting game that stands up to even the most epic of all action titles from any genre. And to be honest, that’s what was missing for me in previous titles, the fact that it was all a little too ‘samey’ for me. No matter which character, no matter what the mode, all you seemed to do was stand against the same tired old backdrop performing the same tired old moves against the same tired old fighters, but then came Mortal Kombat 9 and all of that was changed forever.

This latest addition to the much-loved fist fighting franchise see’s a new direction for the historic series, with new and exclusive characters popping up on individual systems and firm favourites returning to wreak havoc amongst the ranks of their enemies as they hack and pound their way through the muscle-bound combatants in the fabled Mortal Kombat arena.

The graphics are achingly beautiful and far more detailed than anything I was expecting, with backdrops changing from rain-soaked rooftops to the blood soaked sands of the arena itself. Each character is painstakingly constructed with an exacting eye and attention to detail and brought to life with some of the most sublime moves ever captured for a videogame. The way the developers have managed to make each move seamlessly blend into the next with utter fluidity beggar’s belief, and occasionally had us staring open-mouthed at some of the breathtaking manoeuvres that we had somehow managed to perform.

The learning curve on Mortal Kombat is not so steep as I was led to believe, and so utter novices, such as yours truly, can happily plough headlong into the fray without too much intimidation from the AI foes with which you must do battle. Of course there is always going to be the time when you have to move up a level to the next difficulty setting, and with each new setting comes a whole new realm of pain and suffering for your fighters until you begin to get to grips with the speed and combo’s, but all in all the game offers a steady learning pace that will keep players enthralled all along the way to the games highest difficulty setting.

The list of combo’s is as staggering as front kick to the family jewel’s by Lui Kang himself, and there are as many fatalities and excellent enhanced moves to be studied as there are bruises to be tended too after a final boss fight with the mightily impressive Shao Khan. Players familiar with the format of previous Mortal Kombat titles will be happy to see that  the latest in the series has not strayed too far from the path, and so basic button execution is still the same as it has ever been, and the subtle differences that NetherRealm have managed to sneak into the gameplay have only served to make Mortal Kombat a far deeper experience with infinitely more satisfying mechanics and interaction for the gamer.

Characters come thick and fast and there are faces here from the very first incarnation of the genres finest fighter, right through to the series spin off’s , with such luminary figures as Raiden, Johnny Cage, Sub Zero, Kitana and who could ever forget the immortal line muttering Skorpion to name but a smattering? Each of the legendary figures comes complete with basic moves as well as the ‘enhanced’ fighting styles that allow the player to unleash a torrent of torment at their assailant as they increase the level of the power bar which is clearly displayed on the games simple to understand HUD. But for your enemies the pain doesn’t end there, as with the ‘power bar’ you will notice that there are three settings at which you will be able to unload a reign of terror upon their unprotected pates. The first being the ‘enhanced attack’ that we just outlined, the second being the point at which your character will be allowed to perform a ‘breaker, or a ‘power block’ that is executed by holding down R2 and the direction button. The third, and most deadly, comes in the form of the X-Ray Move. When your bar is full and your foe is close at hand, and providing he does not block the incoming assault, you are then permitted to perform a stunning selection of moves which amount to a ‘fatality’. The special moves are shown as a preset cut scene and let you witness in glorious X-Ray detail all the bodily bombshell’s that you have just impacted upon your enemies person to the point where you will witness such things as bones breaking, blood curdling eye gauging’s and decapitation, to name but a few of the horror shows of hurtful humdingers that you have at your fingertips. For the faint hearted they are not…but then again this is Mortal Kombat. This is not Cooking With Mama or My Little Pony, if you wanted pretty pink fluffy clouds or flowers and rose-tinted gameplay then why put the game in your device at all?

The control system is perfect for the task at hand with the new title opting for a similar configuration to previous games in the franchise such as Mortal Kombat II for example. Now each button on the controller corresponds to a ‘limb’ as opposed to the slower style of Mortal Kombat:Armageddon.  This sleeker system now allows players to experience a much faster range of moves, and also makes the gameplay so much quicker. Gone are clunky mechanics to be replaced by a far more appropriate format that enables combat to take place at a more realistic pace, whilst at the same time losing nothing in graphical content. The game just feel’s so much more refined than other fighters, with the silky smooth control’s commanding first-rate entertainment in a title that looks and plays better than it ever has, and far better than anything else in the genre.

Replay value is off the chart as gamers now have a title that will keep them busy for a great deal longer than anything that  Mortal Kombat’s competition could have ever hoped to achieve. Solo entertainment value comes from a simply stunning campaign that will see players returning time and again to undertake the game’s storyline on harder difficulty settings as their talents and reflexes improve. From here you then move onto to the smorgasboard of quality modes from the ‘Ladder’, that allows you to fight a procession of fighters as one player until you reign supreme in your challenge.  There are also the new ‘Tag Team’ modes for players to get their teeth into, quite literally depending on the character you choose to attempt them at, and have even more cracking co-op fun as you embark on a campaign of dual action death and destruction with a friend, or with an AI partner, backing you up against an army of enemy combatants. There is also the Challenge Tower for players top aspire to, as they attempt to scale the dizzy heights of the monumental megalith, and if you are ever thwarted in your exasperating exertions then the handy addition of the Mortal Kombat Koins can assist you in unlocking the secrets that this marvellous monument holds.

The ‘Koins’ that you collect along the way, in absolutely every single mode from Tag Team to Ladder,*(both solo and Tag Team Ladder ),  to Story Mode and Challenge Tower, ( with the lone exception of the offline Versus Mode for some unknown reason? ), all offer up rewards for performing with skill and flair if you win your bout. Loses count for nothing, as they should. These ‘Koins’ can then be put to good use in the Krypt, where gamers can then purchase all manner of secret goodies and unlocks with which to extend their pleasure in the Mortal Kombat realm no end.

Online Mortal Kombat has got to be light years ahead of rivals in its genre by offering up the kind of glitch free, fast paced action that fight fans have been crying out for. This ‘lag-less’ wonder from Warner Bros has put all other fighting titles in the shade by the sheer brilliance of its quality blazing out light like  a sun as it illuminates its way through the darkness of mediocrity offered up by its competitors. Even when performing the most difficult moves on the hardest of settings, against human or AI opponents, we encountered no issues whatsoever with screen tearing, frame rate drop or lag, and that goes for online, co-op and offline single play and local co-op too. Mortal Kombat performed to the highest standards across all of the modes, even at peak times in the office when the bandwidth was being abused by multiple systems.

So all told then did the latest in the franchise from NetherRealm and Warner Bros have me reaching for the arcade stick instead of the controller for some FPS action? Truth be told? Yes, it did. Having now sat down with this game for some quality time I can genuinely inform the good readers of GamesMediaPro that the title has managed to convert yet another unbeliever into an absolute devotee of this legendary franchise. Now to back catalogue the rest of the unplayed titles in this library of first-rate fighting.

Graphics: Absolutely top-notch and far better than anything offered up by the many rivals and pretenders to the Mortal Kombat crown. With new locations coming at players thick and fast and some beautiful back drop’s adding to the sublime character graphics, the visual’s in Mortal Kombat leave everything else in the fighter class knocked out and incoherent on the canvas. There could only ever be one victor in this  battle.   9

Gameplay: An absolute powerhouse of perfection as NetherRealm take their flagship franchise and bring it bang up to date with some of the greatest gameplay that you will ever find in a fighting game. The new mechanic’s and modes will leave you breathless at the sheer speed of the combat as you barely have to time to pause for air before being plunged headlong into yet another classic battle with some of the most memorable characters ever to be found in the legendary arena. With a veritable treasure trove of gaming delights just waiting for you to unlock and discover Mortal Kombat has so much going on that its doubtful that you will even look at another title until that shiny platinum trophy sits proudly in your cabinet. An absolute towering performance from the best beat ’em up on the block.    10

RePlay Value: The heavyweight champion of the fighting game genre returns to claim his crown with an absolute haymaker of a knockout blow to the competition. Mortal Kombat delivers on everything ever promised for the first-rate fighter, and then some. A return of some classic features unites and blends perfectly with new additions to grant gamers an experience unsurpassed as they take on the Outworld challengers with an army of amazing Earth Realm warriors from Mortal Kombat titles past and present. With modes a-plenty, and a solo story for all to play time and time again, as well as having simply the best online experience available to fans of the genre, is it any wonder then that Mortal Kombat once more sits atop a throne of fallen rival’s surveying its kingdom like the true champion that it is.   10

Presentation: The entire joyous experience of taking part in this long-awaited title begins as you walk into the store clutching your cash in your white-knuckled fist. So long have fan’s of Mortal Kombat yearned for the their king to return and take to task the upstarts who have tried to steal the franchises’ crown in its absence. Well, their wait is over, as with some of the finest graphic’s and some of the greatest gameplay ever witnessed in a fighting game, Mortal Kombat arrives back into the arena. Armed with more spectacular modes than any rival it wields its mighty fists and pounds all others who would dare challenge the sheer might and awesome power of this classic gaming title. Built by the best, developed with loving care, made with a unyeilding attention to detail and delivered with a promise of perfection the game that started it all is back . So hail the return of the true champion of the genre, as we bow to one knee and welcome home the one true king of fighters: Mortal Kombat    10

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