I was never a huge fan of the fighting genre of video games, however, the Mortal Kombat reboot may have changed that for me. The reboot is technically the ninth title in the franchise that has been around for nearly two decades and has something for every sort of Mortal Kombat fan. You like games where you can jump right in and beat up your enemy in a very gruesome way? Mortal Kombat has that. Maybe you are just interested in an approachable, well-designed fighting game that offers a huge variety of crazy moves that are simple to execute, but takes practice to string them together in timing-based combos. Mortal Kombat has that. Or maybe you are a lore-based fan and enjoy back stories of your favorite characters. Mortal Kombat has that too. Did I mention it is also extremely fun to play?
The fighting style in Mortal Kombat goes back to its roots this time around by putting the players back into a 2D plane where your only options are to move left, right, jump, or duck. This change makes an immediate impact on the action, returning back to the “in your face” action MK fans fell in love with from the beginning. Projectiles are scary again and the game feels much more active that its predecessor Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe did.
The game also returns to the uppercuts and sweeps that were found in the original trilogy. Your combos can start with jump-in punches, a little bit of juggling in the air, and then a special move to finish them off. Of course, combos like that do take some practice to master. There is a defensive side to MK as well, however. Feel free to turtle up and poke at your enemy to try and bait them out of their X-ray move, a bone-crunching move that requires a full super meter to attempt. At times though, it feels the game is at its best when two players are simply going at each other without holding back. It is a super thrilling game with flashy moves and combos that can be overlooked by newer players, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. The special moves are easy to perform once you wrap your mind around the idea of getting your enemy in the air and keeping them there. Figuring out your moves and realizing the ones that do the most damage is half the fun.
MK has a very good single-player element as well. Probably the best when it comes to other fighting games. The largest piece is the story mode, a chapter based tale that takes you from one playable character to the other as the events of MK’s first three games unfold in an alternate timeline. The best part is how the story is told. The game weaves between a cutscene to a fight and then back again, all while loading the battle in the background so there is no downtime. Each match even ends with a clever “win quote” that is specific to the situation. The flow of the story really drags you in and other than having to deal with an annoying boss AI near the end of each tournament, especially near the end, it is outstanding. Something that also surprised me is how long the story mode actually is (for a fighting game). It has over a dozen chapters and if my math is correct it can take anywhere between 7-8 hours to finish, granted you are not skipping cutscenes. In addition to the preset story mode, you can also tackle an arcade ladder mode with each character which gives you a batch of fights that culminate in character-specific endings.
The other big single-player mode is the Challenge Tower, which is a huge collection of 300 tasks that vary up the typical rules of the fighting in many different ways. Some are simple challenges, like tag battles where the tagged out partner recovers health, or a fight that must be finished with a fatality. Some challenges, however, are extremely crazy, like on where instead of using your normal attacks, you have to throw your limbs at your enemy to defeat them. The limbs grow back after time, giving you a stream of heads, arms and legs to launch. Other will have the entire battlefield tilt from side to side as your hits land with the fighter at the “low” side of the screen taking steady damage over time. There are many twists in on the traditional MK fight in the tower, some are repeated too frequently though. Some tasks come with dialogue too, some which are quite silly too, like when Mileena is trying to give a teddy bear as a gift or the challenge that has Shang Tsung and Shao Kahn fighting over a baby that sits in the background.
Both the Challenge Tower and the story mode force you to play specific characters, giving you plenty of time to try out the 27 fighters and find the ones you love and the ones you hate. The game is set in the timeframe of the first three games, so the majority of your roster will come from that era. MK1 classics like Scorpion, Liu Kang, and Kano to the MK3 characters Kabal, Nightwolf and Stryker are just some of the combatants that you can choose from. Each character comes with two outfits and two fatalities. The second outfit and the combos for the second fatalities have to be unlocked via the “krypt,” which behaves just like the previous games. You collect “koins” from playing the game and eventually you will get enough to venture into the krypt and spend them in hopes to unlock your favorite characters costumes.
Online, it plays the same that it does offline, provided you have a decent network connection. Online mode starts with the same sort of lobby system that was used in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, giving players a chance to swap text with one-another as challenges are passed around and battles are fought. If chat rooms are not your thing, the standard ranked and unranked options are also available. You can play both regular and tag battles online and a new mode called King of the Kill rounds everything off pretty nicely. This is MK’s take on the “quarter match” or “endless battle” mode, allowing eight players to spectate fights while they wait for their turn to take on the current winner. The loser goes to the end of the line. When you play this mode, you can have your avatars stand around and watch the battle, or emote to express your joy or rage towards a fight. It is quite funny sometimes. After the fight, the spectators and the loser are asked to rate the match, which gives “respect points” to the winner.
Visually, the game is awesome and a huge step up from the last MK game with far more detailed characters and background. I am guessing that locking down the perspective to a fixed 2D battle helped make this possible. As in previous games, the characters’ costumes get torn up and bloodied over the course of a battle, which is a small detail that makes all the difference. It also looks great at the end of the fight when your fighter is covered in blood.
MK has a broad appeal that will work for players with a variety of skill levels. You can choose to play the tutorial that teaches you the basics, or skip it. This MK reboot is definitely solid with enough depth and guessing games in place to work perfectly. There is so much great single-player material in Mortal Kombat that it is still worthwhile even if you are not looking to fight others. Overall, this game is great to have around, even if you are not in to the fighting game genre.