Mortal Kombat Preview: Returning to the Gore-Filled Good-Old-DaysBy Christopher Monfette - Posted Jan 27, 2011
Mortal Kombat is returning to game consoles everywhere, no longer the latest in a long string of sequels and spin-offs, but a true return to the game’s hardcore, ultra-violent roots. Hence the lack of any sub-title, number or moniker. This isn’t Mortal Kombat: The Revenge; it’s not Mortal Kombat 47, the Action-Sim-RPG combo. It’s Mortal Kombat, tried and true. The formula you grew up loving, gleefully tearing out your opponent’s hearts or ripping their spinal chords free from their flailing, blood-soaked bodies.
Oh, fatality! All is right with the world….
We recently got a chance to check out the latest iteration in the long-running franchise, a series that has tried again and again to redefine itself only to discover that they’d gotten it right all along. Consequently, players won’t be fighting PG-13 battles with comic-book superheroes, or scratching their heads at a troublesome lack of the series’ iconic gore. Rather, you’re back on a 2.5-D fighting plane, ravaging your favorite Kombat characters as you spill through industrial environments into new rooms and chambers, each as disturbing and torturous as the last.
To assuage your fears, characters such as Johnny Cage, Kung Lao, Reptile, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Sektor, Sonja, Jax and others return for this considerably darker and more mature go-around. The graphical presentation is really your first indicator that this Mortal Kombat title is taking itself seriously – dim, dank with the polished sheen of blood-covered stone; character models that are neither cartoonish nor simplistic, but rather imposing and quasi-demonic. These are the fiercest we’ve seen these characters in quiet some time and even from the short demo we witnessed, they feel back to their old – albeit newer – selves.
It’s surprising to realize that this is the first “next-gen” Mortal Kombat game to appear with an M-Rating, most readily exemplified through the game’s gruesome background animations. Bouts can be fought in single-player or as a tag-team match and moves can be combined by precisely timing your character switch-outs. Every room or chamber into which our fights progressed featured some kind of brutal aesthetic, such as victims being lowered into a boiling river or having their limbs quartered and discarded. All of which framed the fights themselves which seemed more weighty and impactful than overtly bloody.
Yes, the truly insane fatalities soak up much of the gore, but the battles themselves are bone-crushingly brutal. So much so that Mortal Kombat features a new X-Ray mode, a super-move so devastating that the camera zooms in on your opponent with a stylized internal view, allowing you to behold the sub-dermal damage of broken spines and shattered femurs. While these moves don’t result in full-on decapitations or disarticulated limbs, the old-school fatalities certainly do, not the least of which was Kung Lao’s razor-rimmed hat flying through the air like a deadly Frisbee only to lop off the head of Johnny Cage…and then circle back to cleave him vertically in half!
While we didn’t go hands-on with the title, stylistically speaking, Mortal Kombat appears back on track after far too long out in the cold. If the controls prove intuitive and easy to manage, this celebration of carnage could be exactly what the doctor ordered for enthusiastic fighter fans. Hell, with Kratos playable in the PS3 version, how could it not be? But it does make one wonder if a return to the basics alone is suffiicent to rejuvinate the series, or if some added complexity might help to underline the effort. For example, the X-Ray mechanic, while visually impressive, may take players out of the game -- if only for a half-second -- by painfully illustrating a broken back yet including no discernable consequence except for increased damage. If broken legs momentarily slowed you down, or a cracked spin put you into a force crouch -- motionless and open to kicks -- or if the gritty realism of Mortal Komat's new tech resulted in anything remotely...well...real, it might be a creatively strategic flourish.
We can't wait to see how these features develop, and how the character roster continues to grow, as the game nears release!