A total classic...total blast with friends, but annoyingly hard computer AI!!
The big appeal to this game is the ability to play online with friends on XBOX Live, or even locally with your friends. Online leaderboards and ranking systems are very good, and I seem to have no major problems with lag or game slowdown. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the single player game.
Honestly, playing against the computer AI characters was an absolute mess. The computer is insanely hard, yet insanely stupid at the same time. Nearly 95% of the time, the computer will distance itself from you just out of attack range and will stay that way as long as you remain on the ground...yet, as soon as you try to mount an attack, the computer knows how to perfectly counter your attack each and every time. If you jump kick, the computer perfectly lands a counter jump kick. If you throw a projectile, the computer perfectly runs under it and sweeps you down. If you try and jump away from the computer, they will perfectly time a projectile to hit you before you land.
Yet, this absolute perfection in countering from the computer is also its downfall. If you ever remotely get more damage against the computer, all you have to do is walk back and forth the entire remainder of the match, and they will never attack you. The computer tries to maintain that perfect distance from you the entire time. Even characters with teleport moves can take advantage of the computer's projectile toss as you jump away. Smoke, Sektor, and Scorpion can easily pop right up behind them and knock some damage off, but I don't want to spoil all of my secrets about the game!
Unfortunately, this game feels like it was half-finished. Many of the combos are broken, and even many of the new secret characters didn't have all of the "-alities" that the regular roster did. Many of the characters are extremely unbalanced, especially when it comes to damage or movesets. Getting to play the original MK3 arenas is all but impossible, because the maps all are played in static order. All of the new UMK3 arenas must be played through twice before the original MK3 arenas are played, and the game is easily over before that usually happens. Quite unfortunate, because many of us Mortal Kombat fans were always keeping our fingers crossed for a final revision of this game. And no, I don't consider MK Trilogy a "fix" to this one. :-)
There wasn't anything special about this game's story that just made it "pop" as epic. Shao Khan is at it again, trying to conquer the earth realm with his band of Outworld minions, and all of the earth warriors are fighting to stop it. Unfortunately, many of the character's endings never tie into previous games, or even any of the later ones. Characters who died previously, miraculously return again like nothing happened. Kinda makes you go "hmmm" out loud!
By today's standard, the graphics in this game are really dated, but back in the day, it was very realistic. Video captures of real people performing the moves and fatalities really gave it a special gory feeling, really causing a stir and controversy over violence in video games. Although the violence and killings were toned down in realism from the previous Mortal Kombat games, it still brought up the usual "how awful" protests from media censors. Great memories, right??
The music in most of the arenas are really epic themed, and really set the mood for a major "life or death" fight. The voices and fighter grunts and groans were very limited. All of the women share the same voice, and the men only had two different voices split between the roster. Sheeva and Liu Kang are the only normal playable characters in the game to get their own unique voices!
REPLAY VALUE (6/10):
As far as the single-player game goes, there isn't a whole lot to come back to on a regular basis...unless you are a life-long fan of the Mortal Kombat series like I am. The computer is insanely difficult most of the time, and probably shouldn't be played by first-time MK newcomers. Multiplayer is well worth coming back to, though...you get something new and fresh with each person you play against. Sadly, with UMK3 being taken down from XBOX Live Marketplace, the number of online gamers I've played with is slowly starting to diminish...