A wonderful trip back in the Mortal Kombat universe with some nice refining touches.
As I am rather aged, I can remember playing the first Mortal Kombat in the arcades when it first came out. I can thus recall the sheer joy I got from pumping quarter after quarter into that arcade box just for an opportunity to take on the next opponent and see what over the top moves and Fatalities the game had to offer. I've played most of the sequels (I'm not too into 3D fighters, so I skipped some) and each time I play them I'm transported back to that time and place and I remember how much fun I had. That being said, I have rather lofty expectations for a new entry.
Graphics - Honestly, they aren't amazing. It's a reasonably realistic art style, but there's some awkwardness to it, like the gigantic teeth everyone seems to have made so much more evident in the in-engine cut scenes. Don't get me wrong, the game is still alright to look at, but it's not groundbreaking and lacks a certain WOW factor. The animations are fluid and as realistic as an over-the-top game such as this can afford, and that goes a long way towards redeeming the character models. Fortunately, graphics don't carry a game, so anything I may not like about them isn't terribly important.
Sound - Unremarkable. The music suits the game and the voice acting is ham fisted (which actually is more suitable than Oscar worthy performances), but it's not going to blow your mind. I'm convinced nothing will after the audio masterpiece that is Persona 4.
Controls - Responsive and most important, feel like a Mortal Kombat game. The stripped down control scheme works very well to welcome both veterans and new-comers alike, and you can never blame the controller for losing a match; it's always your fault. Pulling off standard strikes, combos, special moves and Fatalities is a matter of learning the input and pulling it off correctly, and there's nothing like the ridiculous 80 button combos many 3D fighters require to pull off visually stunning and powerful feeling moves. I personally think they found a wonderful balance that makes the game really fun to play and helps reduce the frustration some games produce.
Gameplay - Just wonderful. I don't care whether I win or lose a match, I had fun doing it. All the moves, from the simplest little punches to the biggest combos, feel really powerful and sometimes when I saw the moves for the first time, I cringed a little thinking about how painful it would be. THAT'S what I want from a fighter like this. The transition back to 2D is perfect and I'm really glad a lot of companies are taking a step back to this style. It makes it more accessible and to me makes each match feel more desperate and action packed. The story mode is a nice introduction to the characters and fills in a lot of back story about the first games and they somehow managed to avoid all the hackneyed script writing that "going back in time" plot lines tend to suffer from. I highly enjoyed it, even if I didn't particularly want to play as Cyrax at any point. I like that they made a Story mode where the story doesn't just involve a cut scene at the beginning and the end; it feels like you're playing through a movie and learning a lot about the universe. There's unlockable stuff in the form of art and music, plus additional Fatalities for each character, which gives you a reward for playing through and that's nice. Nothing new, of course, but nice. The content outside of strict fighting is fun, and the Challenge Tower is a good way to learn a lot about playing with the characters. A beefed up tutorial for sure, but entertaining in its own right. I think they've done everything just about right in this field, and that's why I love the game. Tag team is a nice addition, but the 2-on-1 battles in Story mode can be difficult if you aren't terribly good with the fighter you've been given.
Characters - Each character feels different and the roster offers a great variety that compliments each players' style. I don't know what else you could ask for, unless your favourite character didn't make the cut. I have my lovely MK ladies to beat the hell out of people and demons alike, and I'm very happy with the roster. I particularly enjoy that you get to play with characters in different forms. For example, Cyrax and Sektor show up as humans in the story line before you see them as cyborgs, and Jax shows up with his real arms before he gets his cybernetic ones. A really nice touch that gives the characters a lot of personality. The boobs are also ridiculously big on the ladies, so if that's your thing, you can stare at their unrealistic proportions and enjoy that for all it's worth!
Overall - It's what I wanted it to be. A great 2D fighter with acceptable graphics and lots of content. I haven't played online yet, mostly because I'm not as good at these games as most of the people out there, but I will at some point just to see what it's like. Kudos to the developers, they did everything right!