Ah Mortal Kombat, the game franchise that gave Joe Lieberman the willies. The franchise that was crucial in the creation of the ESRB. And one of those franchises that lost its way in its attempt to go into 3D.
I say this because I was a fan of the first 3 Mortal Kombats, particularly 2. Some would say that the franchise started to lose it at 3 but I think the franchise lost its way with 4. Straying from 2D and getting more and more convoluted as the games went on. Culminating in that failure of a crossover of Mortal Kombat vs. DC. But enough about that.
Much like how Capcom realized that Street Fighter works best in 2D, so has Warner Bros. and NetherRealms Studios (unfortunately Midway is gone) also realized that Mortal Kombat works best on the 2D plane. But going by the demo, is Mortal Kombat a return to form or is it a failure to revive a dying franchise?
- The Gore. Now this is the game that Joe Lieberman thought he saw when he railed against the original Mortal Kombat. If he saw this he'd probably pee his pants and be all grumpy or something. From the gorier attacks, to the X-Ray attacks and the finishers this Mortal Kombat has upped the ante in terms of the visceralness feel of the gore. Bones break, organs can be damaged, blood spills and the fighters show the effects of the violence on their bodies. Suffice to say, if Johnny Cage's goal was to prove himself as a martial artist for his movie career, he made the wrong choice because by the end no movie studio would want him what with the massive scarring and bodily damage he suffered.
- The Graphics. While not as campily classic as the originals motion captured actors beating each other up, the graphics are quite well done. Using the unreal engine to good effect the fighters, at least in the demo, are detailed and the damage they suffer throughout their battles stays as you go up the ladder and looks pretty cool. While not quite as appealing as the cell-shaded Street Fighter 4 they do a fine job of portraying the darker and more violent nature of Mortal Kombat.
- Sound. The music is standard Mortal Kombat but the SFX I thought did a good job of giving the game a truly violent feel. The blows really sound like they hurt and aren't as cheesy as in the older games.
- Kontrols. I'd maybe say this is a mixed bag than fully bad but in a period where 2D fighters are faster and the controls are more fluid, Mortal Kombat still retains the stiffer controls of the original games, for better or for worse. They work but sometimes you wish for a little smoother controls.
- Kontent. Since this is a demo it features only 4 characters (Johnny Cage, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, and Mileena) and 2 stages. The great thing is that the game is pretty much going to feature every character who appeared in a Mortal Kombat from the first to Ultimate MK3. I'm not sure if there are going to be new characters but considering this is a reboot they may have wanted to reintroduce us to the favorites. The two levels are remixes of classics. One of them is a pit stage reminiscent of the first game's pit stage where you can knock the opponent off the bridge into a pit of spikes. The other is a stage based on the Living Forest where the trees have faces and watch your battle as you go. Good times.
- Modes. In the demo there is a short version of the single player ladder where you are tantalized with a boss fight with Goro only to have it taken away from you when you get to him and a 2p mode where you can play as the 4 available characters to your heart's content. From the looks of it the game looks to have a large amount of modes including tag modes and such.
So will Mortal Kombat be a grand rebirth of a dying franchise or it's last dying gasp before it is sent Franchise Heaven? I hope the former rather than the latter. It looks to bring back the spirit of the first few games and upping the ante. Will it be worth $60? I'm not really sure. I liked it but I may wait to pick up when it is cheaper.
But food for thought: the game has been chosen for the Evo 2011 fighting game tournaments. They are immensely picky so if they chose Mortal Kombat for it certainly the game must be doing something right.