19th April 2011 - When I first heard about Mortal Kombat being rebooted, I was very skeptical. After Capcom set the bar with Street Fighter 4 for fighting game standards, Mortal Kombat in comparison looked like the fighting game equivalent of Splatterhouse: all blood and no substance. It’s a fossil of a bygone age that deliberately threw everything at you in order to make you cough up your spare change. However, like my friend’s almost Stockholm syndrome like relationship with Demon’s Souls, I can’t help but love the Mortal Kombat franchise. What other game has you fighting four-armed ogres with hellfire ninjas then have the option to rip its head off afterwards?
Since the Australian PSN hasn’t given its users the ability to play the demo of a game that is, for all intents and purposes, banned, I will attempt to do my best to articulate my experience of the demo. Since this is the first of hopefully a small number of articles to come, I will attempt to break the demo down into three parts, Presentation, Gameplay, and Overall Impression. Presentation will be the basic aesthetic choices: music, art, tone, etc., Gameplay is self-explanatory, and Overall Impression is what I took away from the experience as a whole. Pros and Cons will also be distributed accordingly for those suffering with the TL; DR flu.
From the trailers, Mortal Kombat seemed to be going for the “dark and gritty” reboot, which I found to be idiotic. Once your series starts making fun of itself after the 3rd installment, Friendships Babalities etc., you’ve jumped “dark and gritty” and have gone right to camp. Thankfully, that is what Mortal Kombat still is after experiencing the demo. The music is redone themes from the original, the art style makes the characters look distinct but still wouldn’t be out of place on a Megadeth or Disturbed album, and the tone really is that strange mix of ridiculous operatic whimsy that makes up the Mortal Kombat universe. If you can imagine the stance of High Definition Retro being taken on Duke Nukem Forever, then you can imagine what Mortal Kombat is going for.
The demo only has Ladder mode, which is the traditional arcade marathon of matches in any given fighting game. What we have to work with is Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage, and Mileena as playable characters, there are only four fights with the same four characters mentioned above, and the only maps revealed are The Pit and The Living Forest. First, let me just say that it’s great to see that certain things never change with these characters. Scorpion and Sub-Zero still have their fire/ice rivalry thing going on, Mileena is still without a doubt the scariest woman in this game with a face that you can carve a roast on, and Johnny Cage’s ego is still larger than the whole planet. Seriously, when you can spare an infinite number of four hundred dollar sunglasses whenever the pair you are wearing breaks and have the disposable income to have your first name tattooed across your tanned pecks and your last name on a solid gold belt buckle, there is no way you can be modest about anything!
The battle set-up has been streamlined quite a bit. Instead of the overpowered might of the uppercut or spamming High Punch and Low Kick until the guy falls down in past games, Mortal Kombat seems to have taken the best from past installments and have meshed them together into something quite interesting. Everyone’s special attacks are still around, including Johnny Cage’s green energy balls that go cheekily unexplained, the combat is taking place exclusively on a 2-D plane in order to get around the problem of projectiles getting nerfed from Deadly Alliance, Deception, and Armageddon, and the “Rage” bar is back from Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe but is now used to pull off “Enhanced” attacks, combo breakers and the new X-Ray attacks.
The first thing that impressed me in playing the demo is just the degree of polish that has been put into the fight mechanics. Instead of the static fights that require exact precision like a Ninja Gaiden title, actual thought has to be put into the fight. There are beats, moments of opportunity that can be timed and learned, special attacks can be linked seamlessly as an end to a combo, the Spec. Bar increases on offensive as well as defensive actions, and the catharsis in pulling off an X-Ray move, in which the user shatters or destroys parts of the opponent’s body with the camera showing the damage in fine detail, is delicious.
That being said, persistent wound decals are prominent in Mortal Kombat. Instead of having a quart of ketchup fly out every time someone gets so much as punched once, continuous damage is shown to the bodies of both combatants until the gory Fatality at the end. What is notable is that the damage being done to the bodies are consistent to the focus of damage being done by the enemy. The torso will be torn and bloody with exposed muscle if slashed, black eyes, dislocated jaws, broken teeth, the list goes on. Don’t let the attention to detail fool you though, the day gore carries any significant weight in a Mortal Kombat game will be the day Uwe Boll wins an Oscar. Your guy could be missing his liver and have his knee destroyed but will still be able to jump, kick and so on. Once again, the name of the game is catharsis. Beat Scorpion until he loses an eye; crack his ribs and skull, stab out his pancreas, then FINISH HIM! Not once in any of my matches have I felt so badass ripping the other guy’s head off, or for that matter felt so defeated when the other guy did the same.
I have played the demo at least six times and expectations are officially pretty high. The combat is responsive, the schadenfraude is great, and it still feels like Mortal Kombat.
DEMO IMPRESSIONS SCORE: 8.5/10
+ Feels and looks like Mortal Kombat
+ Streamlined Kombat
+ Satisfying finishers
- More game please! (I know it’s a demo!)
Article Written By Tyler Chancey