Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mortal Kombat 2011, Raising the Bar

I recently was able to acquire a copy of Mortal Kombat 2011 Komplete edition for the 360. The last Mortal Kombat game I remember playing was back on the Sega Genesis with Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. But I was young at the time and barely knew how to perform fatalities without the aid of the code books that were sold at Blockbusters. I still remember being fascinated by all of the over the top gore and violence along with the realistic digitized sprite graphics. It was a unique perspective to the fighting game genre that was made so popular with games such Street Fighter II and Killer Instinct. Mortal Kombat 2011 does not disappoint. It creates a new standard which all fighting games will be judged upon.
My expectations for a fighting game have usually been the same across all the different series. While Tekken is my preferred fighting game series, I’ve played various Street Fighter, Marvel Vs Capcom and Dead or Alive games. Until Mortal Kombat, none of these games really reinvented themselves in a meaningful way. Most fighting games will have an arcade/story mode, a training mode and some form of online multiplayer mode. Capcom is notorious for pretty much providing these basic features and nothing more. Mortal Kombat 2011 goes above and beyond the traditional fighting game features.
The arcade mode in Mortal Kombat 2011 is your traditional styled fight X amount of brawlers to beat the game. The real gem is the revamped story mode. The story mode is broken up into 16 chapters, each with its own character. This mode essentially gives you a taste of most of the fighters available throughout the game. The story mode goes through the events of the original three Mortal Kombat games. It features cutscenes in between battles to help progress the story and explain what is happening. Each chapter consists of fighting four or five combatants either for the actual tournament or if the character is off doing some side mission. This is the first time that I've actually seen a coherent storyline for a fighting game where it makes sense. Sure Tekken provides an intro explaining why the character enters the King of the Iron Fist tournament but this new approach to the storyline in a fighting game has raised the bar.
Often times sequels for a game are not as great as the original because the developer seems to lose focus on the elements that made the original so great. I’m sure this happened to the countless sequels produced in the Mortal Kombat series. However with their latest edition, they have returned to the basics and made one of the best fighting games released in a long time. The fatalities have returned to being awesome. They are over the top, gory and very brutal. The unique abilities of the different fighters really shine when they are used to decapitate the losers in a match. The realistic graphics really help the fatalities flourish, especially when a character rips the torso off an opponent and you can see the blood and the entrails dangling from the lifeless body.
The new mechanic added to Mortal Kombat 2011 is the X-ray move given to each fighter. X-ray moves are equivalent to the super moves from Street Fighter where you need three full bars to activate. X-ray moves are some of the best looking and satisfying fighting moves to land on an opponent. When an X-ray move hits an opponent, the game goes into slow motion and zooms into the area to show a skeletal x-ray vision of how the hit impacts the opponent such as the cracking of bones and blood spraying out of the body. Other graphical improvements featured in Mortal Kombat include garments ripping from combat damage, skin becoming bruised and torn asunder showing organs such as the brain or other blood filled muscles. Again, these graphical details all add to what made the original Mortal Kombat such a popular series, the gore and violence.
Mortal Kombat does add a new feature to the series known as the Challenge Tower. Here the designers went all out in providing a unique experience outside of just a fighting game. The tower contains about 300 challenges that range from just playing through a regular fighting match to having to fend off a zombie invasion using only projectiles. Various other mini games are found here such as "Test your Might" where you have to repeatedly press a button to break the stack of brick or wood, or "Test your Sight" where you have to find the skull hidden under the moving cups. These are all refreshing ways to experience Mortal Kombat outside of the traditional arcade style fighting. The challenge tower rewards the user with "koins" that they can use towards unlockables.
Like in every game, there are flaws to this almost perfect fighting game. One of the most frustrating aspects of the game was the two-on-one battles. Essentially your character has to fight a tag team and win two rounds. While this wouldn’t be a problem in arcade mode since you would be able to use a character you are comfortable with, in the story mode you’re forced to use the one character for that chapter. You are put in a position where you don’t really know how to properly do combos with a character and then placed with a handicap. It would have been nice to have some extra health or some extra damage to help mitigate this handicap. The other frustrating battle was against Shao Khan who I only managed to defeat after using a cheesy strategy. Shao Khan’s moves hit like a truck and he doesn’t get interrupted if you hit him in the middle of his swing animation. He also has powerful projectiles which can stun you from afar. Luckily he does have flaws like every major villain. Once in awhile he’ll stand around and mock you which allows you to get some decent hits in. My final issue with the game is the training mode. Again, this is an issue that really impacts all fighting games and not just Mortal Kombat. Training modes seem to just feature the basic cookie cutter style modes such as cpu controlled, player controlled, auto block or combo recorder. While those are fine, fighting games should really strive to add in ways to show you how to make combos or add in a feature where you can see the list of moves without having to pause the game. You should be able to select a move and have it appear on the screen while in training mode. You should be able to see a demo of what the move looks like when you select it. Also, if a move is selected then there should be some sort of confirmation that you just did it in practice so you know you did it correct.
Other than those few flaws, Mortal Kombat 2011 is probably one of the best fighting games ever. If it is not in your "kollection" already you should go out and try it. I really doubt anyone would be disappointed with variety of gameplay offered in the game.