A bloody and brilliant return to form
Well, our prayers have been answered. Mortal Kombat is back. Bigger, badder and more gruesome than ever and it comes with a big, fat M-rating. :)
Mortal Kombat (or MK9) is the ninth installment in the franchise and it returns the series to the "golden age" of MK (MK 1-3) in terms of gameplay. It returns to a two-dimensional plane. Mortal Kombat is Netherrealm Studios' (Ed Boon's new studio) attempt to make MK tournament-friendly and it works. It's deep enough for players to dig into and it's accessible for casual players to grab a friend and play together.
The character roster is awesome as well. If you have a favorite character from the first three MKs. Chances are that they will be in it. Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Raiden, Shang Tsung, Kitana, Johnny Cage, Sonya, Jax, and many more (Note: The PS3 version also features God of War's Kratos). Netherrealm Studios really aimed to make every character unique from the intro to the win animations to the moves. There's new gameplay features such as the super meter (a la Street Fighter IV) where you can use enhanced versions of special moves, breakers that stop combos and the bone-crushing, organ-rupturing X-Ray moves. When I first saw them, I was screaming obscenities and I cringed. Brutal stuff, but that is MK at it's best
Fatalities are even more gruesome than ever here and with HD to display them in grisly detail
The visuals are great. It still runs on the UE3 engine at a silky 60 FPS and the character models suffer real-time damage with clothes getting torn and nasty cuts and bruises tell the story. The framerate slows down from time to time but it's nothing major. Not to mention, the arenas too. It made me feel nostalgic seeing the Dead Pool arena in HD. They look great
In addition, MK9 has a story mode where it takes place at the end of Armageddon. Raiden was about to be killed by Shao Kahn and he begins to send a message to his earlier self in the first tournament and he sets out to change events that span through the first 3 MKs. In comparison to Street Fighter. Mortal Kombat makes the best out of it's storyline. It may not be complex or thought-provoking but it's very fun and entertaining.
Onto the features, In one word: Robust! The krypt returns and it holds an insane amount of unlockables (fatalities, alt. costumes, artwork, etc.). The game also features a fatality tutorial that teaches newcomers how to execute fatalities without putting a gun to your head to get them right. It's smart for the developer to teach new players the gameplay. Also, there's a tag team mode where you can play with two characters against another two and finally, mini-games such as Test Your Might and some new ones like Test Your Strike, Test Your Luck and Test Your Sight and a Challenge Tower where players take challenges with objectives and they are 300 challenges in the Challenge Tower. It provides a fantastic diversion from online/offline play.
Speaking of which, Online play is solid. But I haven't spent enough time with it because I need to find a room where I can get in. The online is pretty smooth and i have yet to find a laggy match.
Now, onto what's wrong with MK9. The character balance is debatable with some characters being overpowered but like Street Fighter, it's not perfect and Shao Kahn is a cheap boss. You'll be frustrated when he beats you several times until you beat him.
I know I've been mentioning Street Fighter frequently in this review. Both series were big in arcade rooms in the 90s so they are closely linked together in that aspect.
Overall, MK9 isn't nostalgic for nostalgia's sake. It has everything that made Mortal Kombat great in the past but there's enough bells and whistles to make it new and it's bursting at the seams with content. Despite some minor gripes, It's the best Mortal Kombat in a long time.