Mortal Kombat returns to retail

Midway makes good on promise of annual installments of lucrative franchise with Shaolin Monks spin-off.

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In a covert manner entirely incongruous with the series' bombastic reputation, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox snuck into stores a little earlier than expected. The action-oriented departure from Midway's notoriously blood-soaked series of one-on-one fighting games wasn't expected to ship until this week, but a number of retailers got their copies in and on the shelves over the weekend.

Shaolin Monks is a jump backwards in the series' chronology, set around the time of Mortal Kombat II. Playing alone or cooperatively, gamers follow Liu Kang and Kung Lao as they pummel their way through scores of enemies in this 3D beat-'em-up. Keeping with series tradition, Shaolin Monks features plenty of appearances from the rest of the established Kombat crew, including Raiden, Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage, Baraka, and Reptile. Even the four-armed abomination Goro returns.

With the release of Shaolin Monks, Mortal Kombat joins a growing list of gaming franchises looking to capitalize on brand recognition year in and year out. "Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks delivers on our plan to produce quality Mortal Kombat titles on an annual basis," said Steve Allison, chief marketing officer at Midway.

Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is rated M for Mature and retails for $49.99. Check back later for GameSpot's full review.

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