The very first game I ever pre-ordered. I have never been more excited for a game in my life. Watching gameplay trailers on a PC from 1997 on a 19" CRT monitor while I stash away allowance bit by bit to get the Premium Pack for PS2. 2004 was an exciting year for gaming and for Mortal Kombat. With Deadly Alliance receiving mostly positive reviews, but a lot of criticism from reviewers, Deception turned everything to 11 and added interactive arenas, more game modes, online fighting. Yes, the online part was the biggest selling point of Deception.
This is the direct sequel to Deadly Alliance. Quan Chi and Shang Tsung have failed to take over and Onaga The Dragon King has decided to rise from Outworld and claim everything as his. A man named Shujinko is now the game's lead (the first of many to come in later games) who must stop the Dragon King and reverse the actions he made during the Konquest mode that helped give Onaga his power.
Let's talk about Konquest mode first as most people will dive into it right away. It's awful and should never have existed. It's an expansion on Konquest from Deadly Alliance in which Raiden just walks along a path and each "level" is a training tutorial for all the characters. This is an adventure mode where you get quests, find the treasure for the Krypt, hidden secrets, and find out the back story to Deception, as well as meet many MK fighters and surprises. Sounds great on paper right? Well, it's horribly executed as one of the worst attempts at a free-roaming RPG/adventure hybrid I've ever seen. Shujinko runs around in supersonic fast forward motion, the realms are void of any life, they are terribly laid out, and the worlds rely on a grid system to figure out where every secret and item is. The problem is that the map is useless with no actual grid on the map so you run around for 10 minutes trying to find D2 or H8 only to realize it's locked away and you can't go there until you complete the Konquest.
That's the main downfall of Konquest. Quests aren't logged and the entire game has to be played with a guide. It would take dozens and dozens of hours to figure everything out yourself as locations to solve quests and even chests are incredibly cryptic or specific. Some chests with Krypt keys only appear at certain days of the month and times and you would never know without a guide. You can meditate to make time move by faster, but this whole entire game mode is just frustrating, messy, and irritating. Doing the actual main quests are fine as there's always a large green pillar of light pointing where to go, but talking to a random character and getting a one-sentence quest saying to find a gem is not how quests should be done.
On top of all this, the worlds are terribly laid out. They try to force a look onto each realm such as Chaosrealm having magic portals that project to you various little floating islands that are "chaotically" made up and don't make sense. Orderrealm is just a giant circle floating in the sky with "order" to the layout and it looks nice and dystopian. It's a little corny with the way the worlds are represented, but it's kind of cool to finally explore these areas despite there being nothing to do in them. The visuals are also abysmal as this looks like an early PS2 game that launched, even a little worse than that. Horrendous textures and models, awful voice acting, and laughable animations. It looks like an amateur game developer made this in a weekend.
Outside of Konquest is when things are much better when you actually get to fighting. If any game were to use realistic martial arts it's Mortal Kombat. This fighting system and this era of games aren't most peoples' favorite. The realism is nice with some good animations and each character having two martial arts and a weapon style. You can branch into these styles with long combo strings, but that's where the issue lies. This realistic slower fighting style is in contrast to the fast-paced action of the 2D games. The characters look like stiff plastic dolls and the combat is all about memorized combos. It's fun, and it works with Mortal Kombat, but it's also not the best way to play these games. The slower fighting pace means more strategy is involved and a new Breaker system has been added to quickly get out of combos.
The interactive environments are some of the coolest features of Deception as they are basically fatalities within a stage. There are yellow lines that indicate when a player can get knocked out and take damage to a new tier and red lines that will kill the player. The arenas are large enough to where a game of tug-of-war always ensues and it makes playing tenser, especially online. Do you just knock them into the trap or play with them so you can do a fatality? Speaking of fatalities, each character has two unique ones and some are great and some are lame. Li Mei, for example, has two fatalities that are just boring. Super punches to the chest and you explode? Yawn. Kick your head off? Seen it before. Some others are rather runny and unique, but there are also Hara Kiris that allow the loser to do a fatality on themselves taking the glory away from the opponent. Whoever inputs there code first gets to take the fun.
Outside of combat, you can play Puzzle Kombat which is just Street Fighter Puzzle with MK characters. At the end of each round there is a fatality unique to the player, but getting your power level up means you can perform a special move that each character has. It can be played online as well and is super addicting and can be a game on its own. The last mode is Chess Kombat which is one of the most unique modes to ever grace a fighting game. Just like a game of chess, you can pick which character is what piece and you play chess, but instead of just knocking a piece over you fight it out MK style. Each piece gets a certain amount of health so pawns of the least amount of health. It's a great twist that adds more skill to the game and can also be played online. It's a ton of fun and I hope this mode returns to future games.
Besides the Krypt where you can unlock various stuff for fans like promo videos, behind the scenes art, and various goodies, there's not much else. Online play is incredibly smooth with a full lobby that you can talk to other players in, challenge players, and you have a win/loss ratio next to your name. I never had any connection drops and playing online extends the longevity of the game tenfold.
Overall, MK: Deception is a fantastic fighting game that is only hampered by slower combat, and a horrible Konquest mode that must be played to unlock half the game's roster and extra costumes. Puzzle and Chess Kombat are excellent modes that add dozens of hours of fun, and online play is always welcome.
Note: As of May 31, 2014, you can no longer play Deception online due to GameSpy servers being shut down. Even then, not a single person played this online past 2006-2007. As Armageddon and other fighters came out Deception's user base quickly fell after the first 18 months and never went back up. Get a buddy to play next to you instead.