Mortal Kombat Hands-On

We do the robot and kick our opponent into itty-bitty pieces with a fresh look at the Mortal Kombat reboot.


It seems like forever ago, but it was only in June this year that the world was given its first glimpse at the return of an old friend with the new Mortal Kombat. E3 gave us the chance to spill our first drop of blood, and what began as a nosebleed quickly developed into a full-blown bloodbath. At Gamescom 2010 we got our second chance to pick up the controller and take some old favourite characters for a spin.

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Our hands-on began with a presentation, a refresher of sorts for those who had seen the game previously, and a look behind the curtain at the design philosophy for those experiencing the game for the first time. Our guides from developer NetherRealm stressed the importance of adhering to the look and feel established in arcades all those years ago when the game first launched. Where previously a handful of characters looked and moved similarly, our demo team explained that each character now includes its own unique set of animations, as opposed to simply reskinning similarly playing characters with a differing model.

Each fighter will have two fatalities at his or her disposal in the final version of the game, and while we observed some familiar practices, like Johnny Cage ripping the head off his slain foes, new aspects have also been added to the mix to give it a fresh vibe. Publisher Warner Bros. revealed two new backgrounds to fight in front of at this year's show. Desert is a refresh of an old arena and is complete with rocky outcrops and swirling sands. Bell Tower, originally featured in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, also makes its triumphant return in high-definition glory.

You probably won’t spend much of your time ogling the backdrops as fists are exchanged, making the announcement of two more characters to the growing roster significantly more interesting than what’s going on behind the brawl. Cyrax and Kitana get in on the action. The former is a robotic soldier employing technical wizardry tactics like bombs and nets, while the latter is all about air dashes and slashing with her blade-laden fan. Throwing the fan deals multiple hits and immobilizes the target for a follow-up uppercut. Well-timed high and low punches and kicks are enough to take down an attacker, but the new super meter introduced in the upcoming Mortal Kombat reboot adds some much-needed nuance and micromanagement to fights. Two-versus-two matches allow you to tag in a second character, but at the cost of energy from your bar. The bar builds up as you deal damage and can be used sparingly, or dashed on an impressive combo. The brutal x-ray moves--performed by simultaneously tapping the right shoulder button and the trigger--can easily demolish half a rival player’s health bar in one fell swoop. These moves are some of the most gruesome we've seen in a game yet, zooming right in as you destroy bones and organs from inside their owner’s body with an icy squeeze or a devastating punch to the skull.

Even if you’re the one dishing out the pain, you’re likely to get dirty as blood sloshes around by the bucketload, drenching both the players as attacks connect. Persistent damage sees clothing rip and wounds weep as the round continues.

Though we didn’t have the opportunity to see it running during our demo, the team did confirm its plans to offer stereoscopic 3D playback exclusively on Sony’s PlayStation 3 console. Details are still sketchy, but it’s clear that there are plans afoot for postlaunch DLC by way of additional characters, so if your favourite isn't already on the shipping roster, there’s a chance you may get to bring him or her into the game.

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Mortal Kombat will be out on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in spring of 2011 and, at least from what we’ve seen of the title so far, appears to be a love letter to longtime series fans. The reboot marks a return to all the most requested aspects in a single tight package. Stay tuned for more details on this game in the coming months.

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