Mortal Kombat Special Forces Preview

Filling out the back story of the Mortal Kombat fighting series, this second MK spin-off focuses on the Special Forces members Sonya and Jax.

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Mortal Kombat: Special Forces
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Filling out the back story of the Mortal Kombat fighting series, this second MK spin-off focuses on the Special Forces (an American pie version of the CIA) members Sonya and Jax, their first encounter with Black Dragon clan assassin Kano, and the events that led up to Sonya being involved in the first Mortal Kombat tournament. You will be introduced to new characters on both the Special Forces team and Black Dragon clan, while two previously seen BD members will make appearances as well: a pre-disfigurement Kabal from Mortal Kombat 3 and Jarek from Mortal Kombat 4.

The title is said to inhabit a Mario/Tomb Raider-type 3D environment, where you fight enemies a la Final Fight/Streets of Rage, albeit using Mortal Kombat fighting moves. Series cocreator John Tobias reports that the gameplay should play out at about 50 percent fighting and 50 percent exploration/puzzle solving. The game will be seen from a third-person perspective with a camera described as being closer to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time than Tomb Raider. Specifically, it's one that will eventually move into place behind the character, while a controller button will also be dedicated to knocking it into place. Additionally, a look function will allow you to see out of the character's eyes so you can scan your environment for objects and clues. Currently, the fighting system is set so that three enemies can surround you at once, but the actual fighting will remain one-on-one until you knock a Kombatant away. Enemy targeting is being handled in such a way that if an opponent is in the general vicinity, you can initiate a spin attack that will turn you to face your foe, even if the enemy is approaching from behind.

MK: SF is said to have a single ending, but will there will be multiple paths for each character to get there? "The way we're handling that is that whenever they're on a mission, they split up or get separated," says Tobias. "Sometimes they don't intentionally split up; something happens and they both have to go separate ways, and towards the end of the level they come back together. Depending upon who you play, what you do see, the enemies you face, and the story even to some extent will be different. You travel through the same levels but there are different paths and it will seem like a different game."

As for other noteworthy facts, the story cinemas will be displayed using the in-game engine (a la Metal Gear Solid and the N64 version of Mortal Kombat 4) instead of through FMV, Kerri (Sonya) Hoskins and Rich (Kano) Divizio will be providing audio and motion capture for the title, and fluid character animations have been promised.

Finally, the question that begs to be asked is: Why isn't the game being called Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Special Forces, in line with the previous Mortal Kombat side story, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero? "We left the Mythologies off the title simply because the title was getting way too long," Tobias remarks, laughing. "We tried to slim it down to get the point across so that the fans know what the game is about without having a whole mouth full of alphabet to spew out."

With that in mind, videogames.com editors tried an early version of the game at E3 this year, where the game was officially unveiled. Here's what Jeff Greeson thought:

Combining elements of role-playing and puzzle solving, MK: Special Forces offers a new platform for the Mortal Kombat series, while retaining the intense fighting action that fans have to come expect. The game offers a Tomb Raider style of play along with the fighting style of Mortal Kombat 4. Midway wants to keep both the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation versions of the game similar to each other, opting to go with real-time animated sequences, in opposed to full motion video. The textures on the Nintendo 64 seemed smoother, while the PlayStation offered superior audio.

The first level in the game places your character in realistic environments in order to familiarize new players with the surrounding environments. The level requires your character to run around and find keys to open doors and elevators in order to complete your mission objective. While running around the level, you receive messages from other Special Forces members informing you with clues and new objectives. As you get further into the game, the missions become more elaborate and the environments become more surreal. Depending on which player your choose and how events unfold during that level, the story's path can change dramatically, providing the game with extensive replay value.

Your character can perform special fighting moves, like Sonya's patented handstand leg grab, by holding down one of the shoulder buttons while pressing one of the standard punch or kick buttons. In addition to standard hand to hand fighting, you can equip your character with 9mm pistols, machine guns and other weapons from an inventory system. Also, the controls offer a targeting button that switches your character's focus towards another opponent if multiple enemies approach you. Finally, there is a camera button that changes the camera view to right behind your character, incase the camera gets placed in an awkward angle.

Videogames.com's reviews editor, Jeff Gerstmann also tried out the game: While not my favorite Mortal Kombat characters, Jax and Sonya definitely make a great team. Special Forces puts them into a game that, at this point, could be described as Tomb Raider meets Fighting Force. The gameplay and fighting system mostly consists of pounding on the punch and kick buttons, though there's some jumping around and gunplay thrown in for good measure. The camera is a little iffy at this point, but it's nothing that can't be fixed. The game looks really nice and runs at a pretty good framerate.

Look for MK: Special Forces in Spring of 2000. And keep your ears open for news of a potential Dreamcast release.

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