CHICAGO--At its press event this evening, Midway had an updated version of Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks on display. The action game is a two-player brawler that follows Liu Kang and Kung Lao on an adventure through Outworld circa the Mortal Kombat II time frame. We've seen the game in various states of completion over the past year, but this latest version was the most-polished-looking yet.
The demo available for play on both the PlayStation 2 and Xbox basically let you go through a good chunk of the early part of the game. You'll start out in Goro's Lair, and you must work your way through a twisting path through Outworld that will lead you to a boss fight against a trio of familiar faces (yes, it's as hard as it sounds). While we've seen some of these areas before in our previous looks at the game, the versions on display sported tighter control and cleaner visuals.
The best part about the game's state of completion was that it was possible to finally get a feel for the puzzles and hidden items that will be liberally strewn throughout the game. While in Goro's Lair, flinging an opponent at a chained skeleton on the wall yielded a secret. Later on, in the stage based on "the pit" from MK, if you fired projectiles at the moon you'd be rewarded with another secret. We also noticed some nice bits in the area, such as being able to fling a body on the spikes that come from the ground to use as an area to stand on. We even noticed that you could use Ed Boon's head, which was seen in the original arcade game, as a weapon. The ko-op mode, aka two-player cooperative play, was feeling good, with plenty of unique options and combos during battle. The addition of specific content for the mode and the gameplay tweaks included to make the action run smoothly, such as keeping the other player from falling too far behind, are both nice touches that make it worth clocking in a hefty amount of time with the game.
The visuals were the most polished we've seen for the game to date on both platforms. The environments are detailed and feature a good measure of interactvity. Hardcore fans of MKII will appreciate roaming through 3D incarnations of some key landmarks, such as Goro's Lair. The character models are good with the game's poster boys, and key bosses look the sharpest. The grunts you'll face off against in the game don't have as much detail, but they still look very good. The Xbox version featured cleaner detail and smoother performance, although the PS2 wasn't too far behind on both fronts.
The audio is coming together well, with just the right collection of cries and collisions to create that special Mortal Kombat experience we've come to know and love. The music also features some hallmarks you'd expect to hear, such as remakes of MKII themes and a hefty amount of bass.
From the looks of it so far, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is shaping up to be spin-off from the main series that's worth a look. The visuals are good, the audio is on point, and the combat is addictive. What really ties the whole package together, though, is the co-op play, which is extremely fun. Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is slated to ship this fall for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Look for more on the game in the coming months.