Mortal Kombat: Armageddon is Midway's attempt to take most of the stuff that has appeared in a Mortal Kombat game since Deadly Alliance was released back in 2002 and mash it all into one big game. It is a send-off of sorts of the current fighting style and game engine for the series. It was also a fitting send-off of the previous generation of consoles when it was originally released on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox last year. Now, that game has come to the Wii, where it automatically becomes one of the best fighting games currently available on the platform simply because the options are limited. Armageddon reuses a little too much content from previous games, and as a result, it feels like it is coasting. But it's also the first substantial modern fighting game to be released on the Wii, and that alone, makes it notable.
There's a real kitchen-sink mindset at work in MK: Armageddon. If you can think of a Mortal Kombat character that has appeared in any of the previous games, real or rumored, chances are he or she makes some kind of appearance in this game. There are more than 60 playable characters in the game, each with his or her own fighting styles, though in practice, most of the major differences come down to their special moves. Each character has a handful of special attacks, and the classics are all present. Scorpion will still jab a spear into your chest and yank you across the screen, while Sub-Zero can still freeze you solid for a free attack. And yes, Stryker will still whip out a gun to blast you. All in all, the characters feel balanced, which is a feat, considering there are a ton of them. On top of that, there's a robust character-creation system that lets you customize the look and moves of a fighter, which can be cool if you're willing to put some time into it.
That sense of creation has also crept into the game's grisly finishing moves. While fatalities in previous games were unique, canned sequences of gruesome-yet-usually-hilarious violence, now you can choose how to eliminate your opponents by executing a series of moves after the fight has ended. These moves are simple and include changing your opponent's position, ripping off limbs, punching his or her head off, and so on. It's a clever idea that, unfortunately, totally lacks personality. Sure, it's up to you to decide how to finish your opponent, but nothing that you can do matches the thrills of setting your foes on fire, kissing them to make them explode, or performing any of the other classic fatalities that the MK series has demonstrated over the years.
The interesting thing about the Wii version is that the game has been updated and altered to fully support the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo. You can do these special moves by holding down the trigger on the Wii Remote and swaying it in a specific fashion. For example, if you move it away from your opponent then toward him or her with Scorpion, you can do the spear. It's a neat idea that is hampered a bit because the Wii Remote never feels quite right. It's difficult to get a high level of accuracy and timing with such an imprecise control method. On top of that, the game maps all of your normal attacks to different directions on the Wii Remote's D pad, which isn't very friendly when it comes to tapping out combos. It's sort of fun to mess around with it, but once you get serious about actually playing MK: Armageddon, you'll be thankful that it has support for the Classic Controller and GameCube controllers.
In addition to the basic arcade mode, where you'll fight your way to the top and take on a boss, the game has a gimmicky-yet-charming kart racing mode, called Motor Kombat. It also has a konquest mode, which is an interesting single-player story mode where you'll run around 3D environments, collecting items, interacting with the various characters from the MK universe, and getting into a lot of fights. If you're familiar with the konquest mode in MK: Deception, you'll be happy to know that this is a much more in-depth and interesting mode than the one in Deception. Along the way, you'll unlock plenty of alternate outfits, new characters, music, concept art, and so on. Most of this unlockable stuff surfaces in the krypt, which is a menu featuring page after page of little knickknacks and curiosities. It'll probably take most players about six hours to navigate the fights and traps of the konquest mode, which is one of the game's high points. There's also an endurance mode that's exclusive to the Wii version of the game, and like similar modes that appear in other fighting games, it has you face off against one opponent after another, stopping to give you a little health boost after every few fights.
It's unfortunate, though understandable given the lack of online Wii games at this point, that MK: Armageddon doesn't have any kind of online support. Being able to fight or kart race against players around the world was a substantial part of the PS2 and Xbox releases, so it's worth noting that the Wii version lacks any sort of online play. However, you can fight against another player in the game's versus mode, and up to four players can play Motor Kombat via split-screen. So if you're surrounded by MK fanatics, or really, anyone who is up for a fight, you probably won't care. As in most fighting games, the game is best when you're playing against a similarly skilled human opponent.
Armageddon has a good look to it, with plenty of painful-looking strikes and flashy special moves. Like most aspects of Armageddon, it's a little less impressive if you've been following the series on other platforms because a lot of the animation has been reused. Many of the background stages look really nice and, as an added bonus, have stage-specific fatalities that can end a fight quickly. You can knock people into fans, lava, and all other sorts of nefarious traps. The soundtrack helps move the game's dark feel along nicely. The sound effects that go into the strikes and attacks also help make them all sound like they really hurt. While you get the impression that a Wii-specific game could have looked better, this port still looks just fine.
Though you may find yourself nonplussed by the latest MK entry if you've been following the series for any length of time, Wii owners who haven't kept up with Midway's fighting series will find plenty of thrills, a ton of characters, and a lot of different things to do. The utter lack of good fighting games on the Wii certainly doesn't hurt either. If you're a Wii owner looking to knock off some heads and own a Classic or GameCube controller or two, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon is pretty kool. Er…cool.