Most twenty-something gamers will tell you the same thing: They grew up with Mortal Kombat. I know I sure did. From the original bloodless version on the SNES, to the fast paced sequel that sucked up all my quarters as a kid, to the weird third instalment, MK was all the rage in the early to late nineties. Since that golden age however, the series lost its way with needless swappable fighting styles, 3D fighting arenas, and a goofy sense of humour, an excursion versus DC characters, Mortal Kombat has become something of a punchline in the industry.
Until now. With a fascinating reboot of the franchise that most could only dream about, the new Mortal Kombat is looking lean, mean, and full of gruesome fun.
The biggest change in the game is a long overdue return to a solely 2D plane, just like the first three games in the series. That means no more sidestepping projectiles, and a bigger focus to skilful play instead of meaningless running around back and forth through an arena not well suited to one on one fighting.
The fighting engine has also seemed to have taken a turn for the technical, a novelty for the MK series. While we didn't get a true hands on experience with the game, MK seems to have loads of depth without relying on dial-a-combo moves from games past. Juggles and combos seem to link together naturally, and a keen fighting sense seems more useful than remembering extensively long combinations.
Also new to the series is a 2 on 2 tag system that is similar to what Capcom is doing with their famous Versus series. Being able to tag a partner in and out gives loads of options for lengthy combos. Tagging in a partner with an attack takes a tier of the super meter, which we'll discuss in a second.
But the question is: Why do people really play Mortal Kombat? Nearly twenty years ago, people played the game because of its shock value and gruesome content. But in a jaded age such as ours, can shock value and entrails really cause excitement amongst gamers. I didn't think so, but after seeing the demo at E3, I stand humbly corrected. This new Mortal Kombat is likely the goriest game I have ever seen, even more so than Wii exclusive beat 'em up MadWorld. Characters get deformed and beaten up throughout the battle convincingly. Wounds stay in place, muscle and bone get exposed, and even eyes get gouged out. Every single punch, kick, throw, and contact looks, feels and sounds like hurts intensely.
This instalment of MK also brings with it a super meter, which is nothing new for the fighting genre or the series. However, this one has some cool features that have us excited. There are three tiers to fill. If you use a single tier, you'll do a powered up version of a super move, similar to the EX moves found in Street Fighter IV. Power up the meter all the way and you'll unleash an X-ray move, which are so painful looking I'm almost reluctant to describe them. Essentially, if you connect with one of these moves, the camera will turn to an X-ray view of your opponent, showing you exactly what damage you're doing to their innards. Ribs and bones snap and splinter, organs turn to mush, teeth fly out of heads, and even facial expressions show gratuitous pain. Needless to say, the effect is awesome.
The fatalities... ohhhh the fatalities... They're gruesome and excessive, and that's just the way we like it! Our favourite had Kung Lao pulling his opponent onto his spinning hat, cutting them clean in two as they struggle for mercy. After the clean cut, Lao held up both halves, complete with spilling entrails and a flood of crimson. We can't wait to see what other sick and twisted ideas are yet to come from Ed Boon and company.
The graphics are simply spectacular. The ins and outs of the characters are rendered with stunning accuracy, and for a series that is famous for swapping palates for different characters, is great to see every character have their own personality, animations, and fighting styles. The environments are also lovingly rendered with some really cool back ground touches. Those of us who grew up with Mortal Kombat II in the arcades will giggle with glee at touches like full 3D fighters doing battle in the background of the Pit stage or the conversion of the Dead Pool into a fully fledged and active torture chamber. As a bonus for PS3 owners, the game will support stereoscopic 3D.
The character select screen we saw has slots for 28 fighters, plus an extra slot for DLC. Only eight characters have been confirmed so far, and all are returning favourites such as Nightwolf, Mileena, Kung Lao, Johnny Cage, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Sektor, and Reptile.
Mortal Kombat will upper cut its way onto the scene in Spring 2011 for the Xbox 360 and PS3.