MK Special Forces E3 Impressions

A lot has happened to Mortal Kombat Special Forces since last year. Now under a newly consolidated development team, MK Special Forces has shed almost everything recognizable that was shown at last year's E3.

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A lot has happened to Mortal Kombat Special Forces since last year. Now under a newly consolidated development team, MK Special Forces has shed almost everything recognizable that was shown at last year's E3. MK Special Forces now only features Jax as the only major playable character. Jax has normal moves like punches and kicks, along with his special MK moves. A special move meter limits the use of the special moves. The special moves meter gains power like the aggressor meter from Mortal Kombat Trilogy, increasing when you connect with hits on opponents. Once your meter has enough power, you can perform Jax's dash punch and ground pound moves by holding R2 and pressing the normal attack buttons, which drain the meter. In addition to special moves, Jax can also perform combos, starting off with basic three buttons combos and progressing to longer combos with finishing moves at the end. In order to learn these stronger combos, Jax gains experience points by killing guards, building an experience points meter. Once the meter reaches a particular level, Jax learns new techniques. In addition to hand to hand combat, Jax can be equipped with an arsenal of six weapons, consisting of a shotgun, 9mm machine gun, sniper rifle, grenade launcher, rocket launcher, and timed explosives.

The gameplay closely resembles Metal Gear Solid with a Mortal Kombat style of fighting. The camera is always in a fixed-relative position, meaning it decides where it should be positioned at all times while following Jax. There is a first-person view button that will switch to Jax's view in order to place explosives or target enemies. Aiming is handled using the same directional pad, resulting in Jax not being able to move while in first-person view. Each weapon features a crosshair in first-person view, while the sniper rifle can zoom in and target an opponent. The guards react to location based shots. So, aiming for the head will kill an enemy instantly, while shooting him in the stomach or leg will cause the guard to drop his gun or keep firing. Enemies' hit meters appear in the upper-right hand corner whenever they are in close proximity.

MK Special Forces features five levels, each containing about three sub-levels. Each level is in a different location: a warehouse, canyons, sewers, tunnels, and the Outworld. You start out in the warehouse of the Black Dragon, Kano's evil crime squad. Your mission objectives are sent to you via a personal communicator which flashes at the bottom left of the screen. In the first level, your mission is to infiltrate the Black Dragon's warehouse and recover the nuclear warhead stolen from the Special Forces. Throughout the levels, Jax has to find keycards and jewels, hit switches, move boxes, climb ladders, and piecing together access codes in order to progress. Furthermore, Jax will have to be on the lookout for cracks in the wall, which can be blown out by using detonator explosives. Along the way, completing specific tasks will gain in-level checkpoints, returning your character to the checkpoint area if you die within the level. After completing a level you are given the opportunity to save your game to a memory card.

At the end of each level, you are transported to an arena with the level's boss. Each boss is unique in his attacks. No Face, a pyrotechnics expert whose face has been destroyed by fire, wields a flamethrower and heaves grenades. Tremor, a ninja dressed up as a yellow Lin Kuei warrior like Scorpion, uses close in attacks. Jarek also makes an appearance as a level boss. Goro makes a surprise cameo in the game as a guardian of the Outworld Fortress.

The gameplay in the latter levels leave a little to be desired. Enemies that tote machine guns seem to target you very accurately, hitting with 90 percent of their shots. Often times, off-screen enemies can hit Jax without the player knowing where the shots are coming from. This scenario forces the player to switch to first person mode and seek out who is firing at you. By the time you finally find the enemy he probably has already shot your character 20 times. While Jax is being shot, he slows down and cannot escape fire until he is no longer being shot. The same thing happens with the splash damage from rockets hitting the ground. The splash radius is very large and seems to have the same incapacitating effect as the machine gun. Unfortunately, while in first-person view you cannot move, evading incoming rockets. Health packs are a commodity in this game, requiring them to be applied via the inventory menu. Each weapon must be equipped also through the inventory menu. Weapons can be drawn and holstered using L2.

The graphical settings throughout each level are very dark, which creates a stealth-like environment. Furthermore, there are points in the game when Jax walks around with a green night-vision haze following him wherever he goes. The camera system is a little awkward when running through the levels laterally, remaining in the same angle as moving forward and backwards. Full-motion video is used to fill in the storyline of the game; however, the version shown at E3 did not have the full-motion video transitions.

MK Special Forces does not appear to be a very interesting game for casual gamers. It offers very little in terms of gameplay. For devout MK fans, the issue of MK Special Forces' storyline violating the Mortal Kombat storyline is still up in the air. The game was initially supposed to take place before the first MK tournament, almost the same time as MK Mythologies; however, Jax has his robotic arms in the game, which he did not have until Mortal Kombat 3. Moreover, the game allows you to kill Goro. If the game's storyline is right after MK3, then Goro could not have existed in Mortal Kombat Gold. These are only a few of the MK storyline conflicts in MK Special Forces. It will be interesting if these issues are addressed in the game's cinematics.

The game is 95 percent completed and is in final testing. The expected release date of MK Special Forces is June 27th, 2000.

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