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Page 1:
Introduction
Characters

Page 2:
Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat 2

Page 3:
Mortal Kombat 3
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 Mortal Kombat Trilogy

Page 4:
Mortal Kombat 4
Mythologies: Sub-Zero
Special Forces

Page 5:
Deadly Alliance
Deception

Page 6:
Shaolin Monks
Armageddon

Page 7:
MK vs DC Universe
Mortal Kombat (2011)

Page 8:
Mortal Kombat X

Page 9:
Shows
Movies
Comics

Back to the Index


Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe - PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (2008)

Xbox 360 Regular Cover

Xbox 360 Kollector's Edition Cover

As one generation of consoles faded into the next, there were rumors and ideas being thrown around about what the next Mortal Kombat would be like. One idea apparently was to have an entirely new cast of characters except for Scorpion and Sub-Zero, while another was to base the look of the game off of Gears of War. As Midway slid further and further into bankruptcy, they decided to take a different track: It would be a crossover with the DC Universe. The hardcore fans were outraged by the defilement of their canon, while the non-fans just scoffed at what a stupid idea it was. And if that weren't enough, due to restrictions placed on Midway by DC, the game would be shipped with a T rating. Needless to say, the fans were not happy. And so, under a storm of rage from fans and a deep indifference from everyone else, the game was released. How did it work out? Well, Virtua Fighter still doesn't have much to worry about, but it generally does play a lot better than Armageddon did.

It should be noted that this actually isn't the first attempt at a DC fighting game. Fans of forgotten fighting games may recall Justice League Task Force, released in 1995 for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. It was pretty much forgotten as soon as it came out, likely because it was a subpar Street Fighter 2 clone that didn't use its licenses as well as it could have. Its small roster didn't help, either, nor did its lame choices for villians like Cheetah and Despero. It also had some real balance issues, especially whenever Superman was involved. (Who would have thunk, right?)

For this game, there's actually a bit more of a focus on the story than the last handful of games, where they'd give you an intro cinematic, some brief endings, and a mostly unrelated Konquest mode. Instead of a Konquest mode, there's now a new Story mode, where you're asked to choose between the MK side or the DC side. While this doesn't affect the plot at all, it will determine which characters you'll be using and which side of the story you'll see first. The story itself is delivered by cutscenes rendered in game, broken up every so often by fights. If you win the fight, you get to see more of the story, and if you don't, you'll need to restart the fight and try it again. If you put all the cutscenes together, removing the fights between them, you end up with about two hours worth of footage, which is pretty meaty for a fighting game.

The story is a 'what if' scenario that takes place shortly after Mortal Kombat 3. After a long battle between Darkseid and Superman, Darkseid attempts to escape into a portal. Superman uses his heat vision on the portal before he can escape, causing it to explode on Darkseid. Meanwhile, in the MK universe, Raiden uses his lightning to implode another portal on Shao Kahn. In a convenient coincidence, these events happen at exactly the same time, causing the two dimensions to merge together. This merging also inflicts all the characters with a thing called "the rage," which causes them to go into a berserker frenzy. This is apparently the explanation for how The Joker, who has no real powers beyond being crazy, can get into a fight with Superman and win. MK characters meet up with DC's, and they fight a lot before eventually joining together to kombat the true threat. Still more of a plot than Capcom gave their VS games, at least.

So you definitely shouldn't be expecting anything on the level of Watchmen, The story's biggest issue is that it really takes itself far too seriously. Sure, it's Mortal Kombat, which automatically implies it's not going to be all that bright and cheery, but when you've got DC superheroes getting involved, the mood tends to clash. There are a few funny moments, though, like how Joker reacts to hearing the name "Dark Kahn", along with a scene where Batman wheels an unconscious Liu Kang around in an office chair. Sadly, they didn't actually get anybody from the DC Animated Universe to provide voices, so everybody sounds a little off. Richard Epcar, who also voices Raiden, does the best Mark Hamill impression he can for The Joker. He's not bad at it, but he doesn't quite make it, either.

There are 23 characters in total, including Dark Kahn, the unplayable final boss. Both the MK and DC sides get 11 of their A-list characters making up their sides, with the MK side keeping their cast to the first couple of games. The other eleven characters make up the DC side, who mostly consist of the most popular DC characters that most people can think of. Aside from Deathstroke, who hadn't really made many appearances outside the comics aside from the animated Teen Titans TV show. Which was more or less an entirely different character in the first place.

Having an entire set of new characters means that the DC characters are interesting to try out, even if they don't feel that much different in gameplay than their MK counterparts. You've got Lex Luthor in a robot suit, for one thing, but aside from his special moves, he just does normal punches and kicks just like the rest of the fighters. Out of all the characters, The Joker feels like he's had the most effort put into him. He gets more special moves than anybody else, more unique animations, and generally more polish than even his arch-nemesis Batman. Some effort went into making the characters' basic moves feel a little more unique, with Sub-Zero being able to do a frozen punch and Catwoman using her claws. It's not a lot of effort, but even the smallest amount helps the game rise above how identical everybody was in Armageddon.

The engine's received a much needed overhaul since the last generation, and the game feels a little less clunky than any of the games from the previous generation. It still all takes place on a 3D field, meaning that you're still free to sidestep around around the arena as much as you want. The characters no longer have multiple fighting styles, except for Baraka and Deathstroke, who trade one of their attack buttons for the ability to unsheathe their blades. The whole 'fighting style' gimmick never really worked out in practice, anyway, so its removal helps the game play a little more smoothly. The one thing that hasn't been improved are throws, which are handled a little oddly in this game. Every character shares the same basic throw where they grab the opponent and throw them in whatever direction you hold, which doesn't even do that much damage. The weird thing is that practically all the characters have a command grab in their special moves, so why couldn't they just have used that?

Every character still has a list of chain combos, although they've all been shortened down to two or three hits now. It also takes less time to 'recover' from moves, which means you've got more freedom with your combos. With the way you can mix special moves into your combos, it's sort of like a more modern version of MK2's combos, and you can find lots of ways to keep your opponent airborne. While the air combos from Armageddon are gone, the attacks you can perform from a prone position are still in, and they're still reasonably useful for getting a few sneaky hits on your opponent.

There's also a new rage meter, which builds up by hitting a blocking opponent and taking damage. Using half the meter lets you perform a combo breaker, replacing Armageddon's method of only three uses per match, ever. Filling the meter entirely and hitting both triggers activates Rage Mode, which results in a temporary boost in damage and defense. It also gives your character super armor and makes combos of a certain length unblockable. This generally means it's not even worth fighting anybody using Rage, so the smart thing to do when this happens is try to keep away until it wears off. You can also perform a variant on special moves called Pro Moves. You do these by hitting the opponent with certain special moves and immediately following with either the same move or another one. If you pull these off correctly, both moves come out right after each other. But the timing is really strict on these, so pulling them off is harder than it sounds.

Replacing the old gimmicks and features of the last generation are a few 'minigames' that take place throughout the fight. The first of these is Klose Kombat, which is almost useless in actual practice. Hitting a specific button makes your fighter try to grab his opponent to pull him in closer. If it connects, the camera zooms in on the two fighters. The attacker can hit different buttons to perform close-ranged strikes on the defender. If the defender can hit the same button as the attacker, though, they'll counterattack, ending the Klose Kombat until somebody starts another one. The problem with this mode is that it barely does any damage compared to just actually playing the game normally, and it takes so long to play out that it basically brings the fight to a complete halt.

The next gimmick is Freefall Kombat, which is a little easier to use than Klose Kombat, even if it's not very intuitive itself. This mode is activated by knocking an opponent through certain stage boundaries, like in the games from the previous generation. Once you do this, the attacker leaps after the opponent. From Freefall Kombat, you can hit different buttons to pummel your opponents mid-air, but they can counter by hitting the same button and put you in the defensive position. Every hit from the attacker fills up a meter, and the higher the meter is, the more damage the fighter on the defensive will take when they hit the ground. Filling up the meter halfway will let the attacker use a super attack, which is a character-specific move that'll add a little extra damage and have them automatically 'win' the Freefall Kombat. These supers, towards which most of the animation budget probably went, involve things like The Joker using an extendable boxing glove on his opponent, or Batman throwing an exploding Batarang. That's right, the first time we get supers in a Mortal Kombat game and they're being used in a silly mini game. That's Midway for you, eh? Freefall Kombat, while not quite as utterly worthless as Klose Kombat, still feels pretty random about who will end up winning it or not, so it's not really something you can rely on.

The final gimmick is a variation on Test Your Might, done by knocking your opponent through certain boundaries. When you do this, your character grabs the other fighter and starts running straight forward, smashing their way through whatever walls they come across. The attacker can mash the buttons to add extra damage, while the defender has to mash the buttons to try to keep some of the damage off of them. Out of all the new gimmicks, this one is the easiest to learn and one of the most fun, which logically means it's the one you'll probably see the least. While the stage transitions are still in, ring-outs and weapons are not, which means you can't knock Superman into a meat grinder for him to magically reappear in Round 2.

The whole thing does feel less clunky than Armageddon and Deception, but only a little. All the new gimmicks tend to get in the way of the actual fighting. While the fighting mechanics have been improved a lot, it still feels like an MK game. Which wouldn't be an issue, except that the MK mechanics don't fit quite right with DC superheroes. Compare Street Fighter to Capcom's Marvel series, for example, where they added in huge energy beams, air combos, and all sorts of craziness to the fights. This game, on the other hand, feels kind of grounded, so the only things that really make the superheroes feel 'super' are their special moves. It doesn't help that a lot of the animation still tends to be shared from character to character, so it feels kind of weird when you see Superman using the same Klose Kombat moves as The Joker.

Besides the story mode, you've still got the standard arcade mode, which gives you the choice to fight just the MK characters, just the DC characters, or both. Before you fight Dark Kahn, the final boss, you have to go up against either Shao Kahn or Darkseid. It wouldn't really be accurate to call them subbosses, since they're basically regular characters who happen to be the main villain and unlockable. They aren't really all that much more powerful than anybody else, which means that they aren't that difficult to fight. Dark Kahn's a little more unique, even though he looks more like a lava monster than either of the two villians he supposed to be a combination of. He's actually a little easier than Onaga or Moloch, since he doesn't tend to no-sell your combos as much as they did. It might take you a continue or two to get to the point where he'll inexplicably inflate and explode into lava chunks, but he's a reasonable challenge. The endings are just a single still image with some narrations, but there are a few interesting ones in the bunch, like the one where Sub-Zero becomes Batman.

The final single player mode is Kombo Khallenge, where you're given a set of ten combo trials for each character. You could try using what you learn in the actual game itself, but since you don't actually unlock anything besides achievements for finishing this mode, it's a distraction at best. There's also online play, but with the much better reboot now out, good luck actually finding anybody to play with. Compared to the other games in the series, there's actually not that much replay value at all once you clear the story mode. There's only a couple of characters to unlock and no new arenas, costumes, or any sort of Krypt to buy things in.

And then we get to the Fatalities, which depending on just how much you love the gore, may or may not be a step back from the generic Fatalities of Armageddon. The game is rated T, which means that while there's still blood, it's only tiny spurts that don't even hit the ground. The Mortal Kombat characters and the DC villians can still do Fatalities, and these vary in quality. Liu Kang gets a callback to Mortal Kombat 3, where he drops a Mortal Kombat 1 cabinet onto his defeated foe. Kano, however, has a Fatality where he leaps up into the air and stomps onto the opponent's chest. Looks uncomfortable, sure, but if you look closely, you'll notice the opponent is still breathing. That's right, it's a Fatality that isn't actually fatal. Nintendo would be so proud.

The DC heroes, on the other hand, apparently don't kill people, disregarding the fact that a lot of them actually kill quite a lot of people in their own comics. So they get 'Heroic Brutalities' instead, which serve the same purpose, but don't actually kill the opponent, as shown by the beaten foe still wiggling around after it's finished. Most of these are kind of OK, like the one where Superman uses his ice breath to freeze the opponent, flies into the air with them, and slams them into the ground. Which leaves them completely intact, for some reason, even though Sub-Zero does the same thing for one of his Fatalities. Also, Green Lantern uses his ring to case the opponent in a sphere, which he encloses around them with a crunch. The opponent falls out and drops to the floor, where they... don't move at all. Something's not right here.

There's an interesting curiosity about one of Joker's Fatalities, which is actually censored in the US version of the game. He basically takes a gun and shoots the opponent in the face. Before he actually fires, though, the screen zooms in on him so you can't see the opponent actually getting shot. Yet one of his special moves also involves him shooting his opponent in the face, which the game has no problem showing. The PAL version of the game, however, doesn't zoom out, and as it turns out, all that really happens is that the opponent falls over, much like they would if you used Joker's gunshot in regular kombat. There's also no issue with Jax throwing his opponent into the air and unloading a machine gun into them. Censorship standards are strange, strange things sometimes.

Something about the game looks really dark and washed out, and comparing it to how vibrant Street Fighter 4 looks, it makes MK vs DCU look kind of dingy. The colors have a very washed out look to them, and although it's a look that fits decently with Mortal Kombat, it looks a little strange on a bunch of colorful superheroes. The DC characters look close enough to their appearance in the comics, at least. The music isn't really noteworthy, and what you can actually hear over the fighting noises sounds like it came from your average superhero film. As a nice touch, the music subtly changes depending on what's going on in the fight, like when Klose Kombat is initiated, but given how low-key the soundtrack is, you probably won't even notice it over the sound effects.

The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game are nearly identical, so whichever version you go for is a matter of personal preference. You would have to be either a hardcore MK or DC fan to pick this game up, though. The improvements to the engine are a big help, and they do genuinely make the game feel more fun to play. The problem is that the new gimmicks don't really work too well, there's not much in terms of extra content, and the superheroes just really don't feel all that super. The game after this one would end up utterly wrecking this one, so grab that unless you really have to see Batman fighting Scorpion.

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Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (promo)

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (promo)

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (promo)

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (promo)


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Mortal Kombat - PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PSVita (2011)

Xbox 360 Cover

PSVita Cover

Things were looking bad for the series after MK vs DCU. Most fighting game players ignored the game on release, seeing it as one last desperate cash grab before Midway's inevitable bankruptcy. The hardcore fans shunned the game for its whole premise, along with its toned-down level of violence. While MK vs DCU was, to be fair, a major step up from the 3D Mortal Kombat games of the past, it just wasn't enough. With the news of Midway's death, most people had assumed Mortal Kombat would become another relic of the 1990s. A year later, the release of Street Fighter 4 revitalized the fighting game genre, which had fallen to the wayside since the days of the PS2.

Some time later, the announcement came that Warner Brothers had taken over the Mortal Kombat team, now known as NetherRealm Studios, and a Mortal Kombat reboot was in the works. After the failure of MK vs DCU, people were understandably skeptical. Eventually, the game was released, and it turned out to be everything the fans were wanting, and more. To put it simply, this is the best Mortal Kombat there is. Not only does it easily beat out all of the 3D games before it, but it even manages to outclass the 2D ones by a mile. If you've had any interest in the series at all, this is the game you want to go for.

The game is mostly a retelling of the first three games in the series, with bits and pieces from the newer games added in. Some of the characters have had their backstories changed around, like Kabal now being a New York cop. The roster is made up of everyone from the first three games, with Quan Chi being the game's only MK4 representative. If you pay for the DLC, you can add Rain and Kenshi to the roster. Although the cast is mostly familiar, there's a few new faces, too. Also, for the first time in the history of the series, Mortal Kombat has now joined the 'guest fighter' bandwagon, introducing Freddy Krueger and - only on Sony hardware, of course - Kratos from God of War.

The basic plot for the standard arcade mode isn't all that different from MK2, where Shao Kahn is being an evil jerk and you have to work your way up the ladder for a chance at him. The real meat of the game's plot comes from the Story Mode, which makes a return from MK vs DCU. The story is split into sixteen chapters, each focusing on a different character. You watch a cutscene, a fight begins, you change characters every few fights, then the credits roll. That's not to say it's not presented well, since the plot's presented through in-engine cutscenes. The entire mode goes on for about two hours with just the cutscenes alone, and if you were to put it all together, you get something that would make a much better movie than either of the actual MK movies ever were.

The story takes place shortly after the events of Armageddon, where everybody, from Scorpion to Sheeva, is very, very dead. Everybody except Shao Kahn, anyway, who's busy beating the crap out of Raiden while doing what he does best: gloating. Before he's struck down, Raiden sends a mental message to himself in the past, in an attempt to fix the future. Unfortunately, the only thing he has time to get out is the cryptic "He must win." The message manages to reach Raiden shortly before the first tournament begins, and most of the story involves past Raiden trying to figure out what his future self meant. The story starts off by following the story of the original games, with a few changes here and there. A lot of the characters from the later games have been retconned to have them around since the original tournament.

It's kind of neat getting to see how events that were only mentioned in the past actually played out, like the original Sub-Zero's death at the hands of Scorpion. Around the last few chapters, however, things start to diverge rather heavily from the original timeline. Since this is Mortal Kombat, it's not really a spoiler to say that things get pretty dark near the end. While it's not a complete loss for Eathrealm, that doesn't make things a lot better. It's a pretty bleak story overall, although there's enough funny moments, like pretty much every line Johnny Cage gets, that it isn't overwhelmingly so. If you're a really hardcore fan of the series, you might object to some of the changes made to the plot and characters, but even then, this is still the best possible way to experience MK's story. Some of the twists near the end, however, feel kind of "cheap," especially with how much of an impact they have on the characters.

A major flaw of the series, even all the way up to vs DCU, is that the characters felt a little indistinct, to put it kindly. Sure, you could get a glimpse of what they were like by reading through their biographies and looking at their Fatalities. But besides that, it wasn't exactly easy to tell what made 'yellow ninja' all that different from 'blue ninja.' This new game does a lot to fix that issue, which gives the characters a lot more personality. For the first time, the characters actually have introduction poses before a fight starts, much like what you'd see in Street Fighter 4 or any other 3D fighter. Even if you've never played a Mortal Kombat game, seeing Scorpion jump out of a flaming pit and screaming "Vengeance will be mine!" will probably give you a decent idea of his personality. There's a lot more unique animations for each character. So many, in fact, that everybody has their own animation for moving away from the opponent if they're too close to them at the end of the round. Each character also has a win pose if they don't perform a Fatality, some of which are worth seeing more than the Fatalities themselves. Stryker, for example, calmly turns his back on his opponent, throws a grenade behind him, and doesn't even flinch as the blood from his opponent splatters onto him.

Nobody's going to play any fighting game for plot alone, of course. This marks MK's fourth reconstruction of the fighting mechanics since 1992, and this time they've finally managed to get it down to something that works great. While the characters and background are rendered in 3D, the fighting itself takes place on a 2D plane, serving as sort of a mixture of the classic games and the newer games. Even better, all the weird gimmicks that have plagued the 3D games are gone entirely, which means no more dealing with multiple styles, stage transitions, or whatever Klose Kombat was supposed to be. The speed of the game has been cranked up several notches since DCU. It's not quite the speed of say, Marvel VS Capcom 3 or BlazBlue, but all the fights have a very fast, aggressive feel to them, sharing the same sort of quick pace Mortal Kombat 3 offered.

The controls have also been redone, taking a more Tekken-esque setup, with two buttons for a fighter's front and back arms, and two for their front and back legs. You've also still got the block button, which may be an annoyance to people more used to the traditional 'hold back to block' method. Throws are done either by hitting Front Punch and Front Kick together, or hitting the R1/RB button, and can be done in either direction. Every throw has its own unique animation, too, like Freddy turning the opponent around, shushing them, and then jamming his glove through their chest. You also have a button that changes which way your fighter is facing, but outside some of the really advanced combos, this is more or less useless. Every fighter also has a short dash they can perform by double tapping forward or back, which is for good for closing in distance quickly or extending combos.

Every fighter has an assortment of command moves along with a list of chain combos. Thankfully, these combos only usually come up to about two or three hits, meaning that you have to worry less about memorizing and more about when to actually use them. What's really nice is that every character has a lot more unique attacks than they did in any of the previous games, which really helps them feel much more distinct. Sub-Zero slashes his opponents with an ice sword, Cyrax beats people over the head with one of his bombs, and Baraka no longer has to give up a kick button to be able to use his blades. After a 20 year history of characters who didn't feel very distinct when it came to basic moves, this is a huge improvement that adds a lot of personality to each character. Of course, all the characters still have the classic sweeps and uppercuts, but they've become so much of an MK staple at this point that something would feel missing if they weren't there. The ground attacks from DC Universe are gone, but you do have a few more options when you hit the ground. It's possible to pull off a special move as soon as you get up, delay getting up to throw off your opponent's attacks, or roll in either direction.

The combo system still has the improvements it's been given in the previous game, meaning that actually performing them doesn't feel as rigid and pre-programmed as they did in the earlier 3D episodes. The chain combos do decent enough damage, but with the tightening of the juggle system, they're better used as a starting point to mix your special moves in, leading to bigger combos and more damage. Much like the 2D games, most of the more effective combos involve trying to find new ways to keep your opponents airborne through skillful use of your combos and special moves. The timing on stringing attacks together is pretty lenient, and the whole system feels a lot more natural in practice than the one frame link system of Street Fighter 4. There's still a bit of memorization involved in remembering which combos do what, but for the most part, you're generally given a lot more freedom. The game also reuses the simplified move inputs that started with Deadly Alliance, which makes combos much easier than they were in any of the 2D games.

The biggest change to the system is that you actually have a three-tier super meter. That's right, none of this 'Aggressor' or 'Rage' silliness, we're talking an actual, Capcom-style meter. The meter is separated into three bars, and you fill it up by performing special moves, taking damage, or hitting a blocking opponent. A single bar lets you perform an enhanced special move by hitting the block button at the same time. These work a lot like the EX moves in Street Fighter 3 and Darkstalkers, and they generally give special moves extra damage, reach, speed, or other properties, like super armor. Using the enhanced version of Sub-Zero's ice ball, for example, will turn it into an ice beam that reaches all the way across the screen. Two bars will let you do a combo breaker by hitting forward and block, good against somebody who has you trapped in a nasty juggle.

A full meter lets you perform an X-Ray Attack, which is basically Mortal Kombat's answer to Street Fighter 4's Ultra Combos. Hitting both triggers when your super meter is full makes your character perform some kind of move, like a grab, a dashing strike, a projectile, or a parry. If you manage to hit the opponent with this move, you'll land a devasting series of hits on them, taking away a big chunk of their health. This is Mortal Kombat, so these are all pretty brutal to watch. With each hit, you get an internal shot of your opponent's insides getting smashed into dust. Limbs snap, eyes get gouged, skulls fracture, vertebrae shatter... if this were any other piece of media, nearly every single one of these moves would kill the opponent with the first hit alone. It's a wonderfully brutal way of putting some extra violence in standard gameplay. The X-Rays also generally don't take as long as the Ultras in Street Fighter 4, either, so while there's a little bit of delay while they play out, they don't hurt the flow that much. It's also possible to work X-Ray Attacks into combos, although the combo scaling means they don't do quite as much damage as they do on their own.

The meter adds a lot more strategy than any MK game before ever offered. A lot of it now involves how you want to use your meter, and when. The X-Ray attacks are powerful, but if opponents see them coming, they can block or dodge them, leaving you without any meter to protect yourself. You might want to use one of your enhanced moves instead, or save some meter in case you get caught in a combo. The game generally feels a lot smoother than any Mortal Kombat before, and the super meter adds a lot of much needed depth to the series. It's not quite as technical as say, Guilty Gear or Third Strike, but it's also a lot easier to get good at. It's also a pretty well balanced game, too, with no characters that are so underpowered they're useless. While it's true that a handful of characters tend to be much easier to be effective with than others, but that's an issue that's hardly exclusive to MK alone. The new elements give the game more of a more polished feel, one that definitely helps the game stand with other fighting games, but there's still enough of its own features in there that it's still unmistakeably a Mortal Kombat game.

A new also 2v2 Tag mode for the Arcade and Versus modes has been added, previously explored by the Noob Saibot and Smoke duo in Deception. Here, it's been reworked to be more like Capcom's vs games. Much like the vs series, you have to take out both of your opponent's characters to win a round. Swapping out characters won't leave you quite as open as it does in those games, but the tradeoff is that your partner's health doesn't regenerate. You can also perform two kinds of tag assists at the cost of one bar of the super meter. One makes your partner jump in and perform an attack before leaving again, while the other has them attack and switch control over to them.

Besides the story mode, you still have the standard arcade mode, which you can play in either single mode or tag mode. This time around, you've got three bosses to deal with before you earn your ending, and each of them can be pretty challenging. None of them are nearly as painful as what you'd come up against in the arcade, at least. The first boss is a pumped-up Shang Tsung. He's got more health than his playable version, plus he can switch between multiple forms, unlike playable Shang. It's a pretty nice callback to the original game, especially since the costume he wears for the fight is straight out of the original MK. The boss after Shang will either be Goro or Kintaro, and here's where the game starts getting more challenging. It's not that they're as unfair as their MK1/MK2 incarnations, it's just that they have much more health than you do, along with super armor that seems to activate itself at the worst times.

Get through that, and you come up against Shao Kahn, once again taking the seat of final boss after a six game absence. And don't get him confused for the playable weakling that showed up in Deception, Armageddon, and MK vs DCU. Shao Kahn is back in full swing, and he's teaching a whole new generation of fighting game players pain. Not only can he inflict a ton of damage, but he also has much more health than you do, and he has the same new super armor Goro and Kintaro get. If that weren't enough, he gets an unblockable hammer projectile that makes you dizzy if it connects, leaving you open for a combo or his X-ray, whichever he feels like. And yes, he will taunt you, and he will tell you that you suck, something at least Street Fighter 4's Seth was kind enough to refrain from. The good news is that unlike the arcade games, he actually gets easier the more credits you spend fighting him, and the more he'll taunt and leave himself open. If you manage to beat him, you get to watch your fighter deliver a very satisfying beatdown before, as Mortal Kombat tradition dictates, he explodes violently. The endings are still drawings with limited animation, but it is a lot more than the single image MK vs DCU gave you for winning. The endings are pretty interesting, even if most of them are sadly probably not going to end up happening. As much as we all wish Kano would become Skynet.

For the first time since Mortal Kombat 3, the secret fights return. If you pull off certain conditions during the arcade mode, you're sent to a secret fight against either Noob Saibot, Jade, Smoke, or Reptile. These take place in the same arena you'd fight them in the original game, and they wear the same outfit as they did in their first appearance. The hidden versions of the characters are also a lot tougher than their normal counterparts: Jade is completely immune to projectiles, Noob Saibot has more health, while Smoke and Reptile get a speed boost, along with Scorpion's spear. Beating one of the secret challengers earn you a big koin bonus, so they're worth seeking out.

If you finish the arcade and story modes, you've still got the Challenge Tower mode to keep you occupied. The Challenge Tower contains a set of 300 missions, usually with a pre-selected character. The first few missions are basically tutorials for the controls, but the further in you go, the weirder the challenges get. In one mission, you have Scorpion fight off Mileena, who's desperately trying to give him her teddy bear. Another mission is a mini game where you play as Jax, using his energy waves and ground pounds to keep away approaching Tarkatans. The 150th challenge lets you play as Goro, the only time in the game where he's actually playable, which makes a great reward for making it that far. Not all the challenges are that interesting, since most of them are a one round fight with certain conditions applied to it, but finishing the tower should give you a good while. Some of the challenges can get pretty nasty, so the game's nice enough to let you skip them by paying some of your koins. Actually finishing the tower will unlock a new costume for Mileena, which may be worth it to some, and very much not worth it for others.

Also included in the tower are a few other mini games. One of these is Test Your Might, something that hasn't been seen in the series since Deadly Alliance. This works just like it did in the original arcade game, where you mash the face buttons to build up your power meter, then hit block when you're ready to hit whatever's in front of you. Test Your Strike is a variation on this, where you have to build your power only to a certain point before you hit the block button. Test Your Sight also returns from Deadly Alliance, which is this time a much more morbid take on the old shell game. Guess right and you get some koins out of it, guess wrong and you'll end up with some horrible death befalling you. You can choose to play either of these challenges from the main menu whenever you want, but you won't get as big of a koin payout as you would from the challenge tower.

The last of the mini games, and probably the most interesting, is Test Your Luck. In this mode, a fight begins, but before it starts, you roll a slot machine. Whatever reels you get will add extra conditions to the fight for either you, your opponent, or both of you to deal with. Some of these are just for visual effect, like Zombie Kombat, which turns both players into rotting corpses. Others give handicaps or bonuses to one of the fighters, like disabling blocking or giving them a speed buff. Other reels are just weird, like one that causes homing missles to fall out of the sky and start locking on to one of the fighters, or one that makes pillars of fire burst from the ground. You can also do Test Your Luck from the main menu with one or two players, and the more challenges you beat in the Challenge Tower, the more reels you can use. Test Your Luck is basically the party mode, since it tends to be incredibly random with its effects. It's still a lot of fun, though, especially when you've got a match about two armless zombies trying to avoid homing missles, while everybody's got unlimited super.

You can spend all the koins you earn in the Krypt, which is now an open graveyard split into separate areas. Everything you can buy is represented as a grave or a tomb, which bursts open and releases a soul upon purchase. Sadly, there's not a whole lot worth getting in the Krypt this time around, which is a shame considering how much stuff there was to buy in Deadly Alliance and Deception. There's concept art you can buy, some of which unlocks alternate costumes, Fatality inputs, music, or Kombat Kodes that work like the ones in MK3, but that's about it. While there was a lot of goofy stuff in the earlier games, there was a lot of concept art that showed off scrapped ideas and how the game changed in development, and you don't get any of that here. Like in Deception, every coffin will always have something in it, but this time around, the Krypt has an entirely brand new way to troll you.

Much like any good modern fighter, you've also got an online mode. Although, you might want to stick to playing against friends, because, as with any fighter, you're very likely to run into players who murder you in seconds flat. There's also a 'King of the Hill' mode, where people line up to fight the current champion of the hill, taking their place if they manage to beat the crownholder. A nice touch is that all the players are represented as super deformed versions of the MK characters, and by putting in certain combinations, you can react to the match you're watching, like throwing tomatoes at the screen or blowing the horns.

Of course, we can't forget the Fatalities, after the poor showing they made in vs DCU. They've been massively improved since then, and they're even bloodier than in the earlier 3D games. Every character gets two Fatalities, with some being callbacks to earlier games, and some being all new. One of the new ones has Noob Saibot and his shadow clone grab the enemy by the legs and rip them apart like a wishbone, crotch first. They're not all winners, of course, but they're all guaranteed to be fatal, unlike a few of the Fatalities in vs DCU. There's also a new Fatality tutorial mode, where you can practice the exact inputs and ranges you need to pull off your Fatalities. Stage Fatalities also return, and these are pretty brutal in their own way, like grabbing the opponent and shoving them head first in a pool of lava. As the opponent tries to pull themselves out of it, lava pouring out of their eye sockets, the victor just stomps their head right back in. Nasty.

A bigger surprise, though, is that they actually brought Babalities back. If you can manage to pull them off, every character you perform a Babality on will have their own unique animation, which makes it worth trying them on everybody. Shang Tsung sucks the soul out of a teddy bear, Scorpion attempts to throw his spear before falling over, and Johnny Cage sketches the victor a terribly drawn autograph. It's even possible to perform Babalities on the bosses, if you manage to satisfy certain conditions. And yes, it's entirely possible do a Babality on Freddy Krueger and Kratos.

The new Mortal Kombat is a good looking game, especially when you compare it to how ugly MK vs DCU tended to be. The colors are much brighter (note that the screenshots on this page turn out a bit paled due to the capture method), and the fighters have much more detail to them. The animation is also a little smoother, although there are still points when it seems a little jerky. It's a minor quibble, but some people may take issue with it compared to the way Capcom handles animation. Where the models really shine is in the battle damage they take, though. The previous games applied bruises, cuts, and minor costume damage to the fighters, but here, even the victor ends up looking like they've been worked over with a cheese grater. They get splattered with blood, get their faces caved in, have chunks of their flesh missing, and in the case of the cyborgs, actually have their brain exposed. Most of the stages have been remade from the original three games, and they all look great. The rooftop stage from MK3 is a highlight, since a battle rages in the background between a dragon and a helicopter while you fight. The redone music to go with the stages sounds great, too, and you're even given the option to use the music from the original games. The fighters also vocalize much more than the previous games, with Johnny Cage screaming out his own name after doing certain specials, and Mileena's sultry "Don't be mad!" after pulling off her X-Ray Attack.

While the 360 and PS3 versions of the game are mostly identical, except for the PS3 version having Kratos, the Vita version actually contains all the DLC from the start. This includes all four DLC characters, along with all the outfits. There's also a hundred new challenge tower missions, with a few missions making use of the touchscreen controls, like a fight where you have to keep wiping blood off of the screen. There's also a couple of new mini games, like Test Your Slice, which is a much more violent variation of the smartphone game Fruit Ninja. Body parts fly out onto the screen, and you drag your finger across them to slice them while avoiding bombs. In Test Your Balance, you tilt the Vita to keep your fighter from falling off a ledge, while thrown body parts knock you off balance. Falling leads to your fighter plummeting into some kind of deathtrap, like a pool full of piranhas. The later released Komplete Edition for the home consoles also includes all the DLC.

The PC version is a decent port that plays well, although your enjoyment from it will probably come from just how good your PC is. If you want a full 60 frames, you'll need a pretty recent PC. The online, while it runs off of Steamworks, also has a reputation for being somewhat unstable, and there's often a good deal of lag. There are also a few things that will instantly crash the game in multiplayer for no reason, such as by opening the friends list with your controller instead of using the Steam overlay. The cutscenes are also of a lower quality than the console versions, although there are fan patches to fix this issue. If you can look past all of that, however, it's a pretty good port, with a lot of PC-specific graphics options to tweak.

Compared to the almost non-existent response to every previous MK release in Japan, MK2011 ended up being a pretty hot import. So much so, in fact, that some fans apparently made an arcade bootleg version running on a hacked PS3. Unfortunately, there's little to no information on this version, although it seems to run on modified PS3 hardware.

It might sound like an exaggeration, but this Mortal Kombat does everything so much better than any game in the series before it that it makes almost all of them obsolete in comparison. The gameplay's been polished and balanced so well that in some ways it manages to trounce Capcom's own recent efforts. There's so much more replay value, a much more engaging story, and it's much easier to learn and get good with than Capcom's arcane 'one-frame links.' Even though this MK serves as more of a reboot of the franchise, it honestly feels like much more of a love letter to everything that made the original series great, but equally improving what made it so dated. This game is pretty much the best way to experience Mortal Kombat, whether you're new to the series or have been following it from the start.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • NetherRealm Studios

Publisher:

  • Warner Bros.

Creative Director:

  • Ed Boon

Genre:

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Mortal Kombat (2011)

Mortal Kombat (2011)

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