Mortal Kombat rises again and seemingly taking a cue from Capcom and Street Fighter IV; it’s gone back to its 2D roots. Namely, some of the more complicated combo practices of the 3D Kombats, such as Deadly Alliance have been streamlined down or removed completely. Aside from removing more complicated combo systems involving switching fighting styles and weapons, this new Mortal Kombat also partially re-writes the story of the franchise and starts over from the beginning.
This new Mortal Kombat reboots not just the series, it reboots the story line as well, going back to the original tournaments from the first three games, essentially reuniting the Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 line-up to retell the stories of the first three games in order. This retelling of the story falls into a Story mode in the game, which follows specific characters in individual chapters to clearly chronicle the early events of the series. Players follow the roles of specific characters and their story line through several matches as they move through the story. Battles are both relevant to the plot and general sparring between characters to settle disputes. Fights are both one-on-one, and one-on-two, similar to those introduced in the titles original game, with the exception that now, the dual-member opponent team’s characters will switch in and out of the action on the fly. Some original story elements have been re-written as well and characters from later games in the series have plot lines in previous stories. For instance, a back-story for Cyrax and Sektor appears during the story following the tournament from the original Mortal Kombat.
The character roster is made up mostly of characters found in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, with some exceptions. For instance, Quan Chi appears in this new incarnation and he first appeared as a regular in the main fighting series in Mortal Kombat 4. Players can expect to see the Cyber Ninjas in both human and cyborg form.
This Mortal Kombat reboot contains a multitude of game modes, options, and variations. Besides the Story mode, which offers arguably the clearest and most direct telling of the story in the history of the franchise, there are arcade-style modes akin to the standard gameplay set-up of titles Mortal Kombat II and 3, and several options to this style. The Test Your Might mini-games return with a vast collection of varying events in a Challenge Tower featuring 300 challenges for players to tackle. Challenges vary wildly to anything from only blocking attacks, fighting using only special moves, fending off hordes of zombies, and several tailor-made for specific characters–for instance, one challenge has players fighting as Johnny Cage and a film director to defend a movie set from Jax and Sonya.
There is a Fight menu with a variety of menus, including tag battles and several mini-games, including one slot machine style game and testing a player’s pure skill, rather than brute force. A variation of the Test Your Might challenges appears (along with a return of the original incarnation) called Test Your Strike, in which players must build energy with button presses and then unleash an attack at a very specific point to break a specific object. For instance, where Test Your Might was to break through a stack of boards or other objects, the new variation and it’s specific timing is to break an internal object, i.e. a differently colored brick within a stack of other bricks.
The fighting engine of this new Kombat operates largely like a hybrid of Mortal Kombat II and 3. The separate weapon-specific stances and skills from latter titles like Deadly Alliance have been removed. Combos are now performed with quick-fire button presses akin to Mortal Kombat 3, though without the run button. All fighting takes place on a 2-D side-scrolling plane, much like the original games in the series, with slight variations. For instance, some moves such as Raiden’s torpedo often feature a quickly and dramatically skewed camera angle. Fatalities are also seen from a variety of angles.
As in other modern fighting games, such as Street Fighter IV, there is a power bar at the bottom of the screen for each player. The bar features three levels–the first of which allows a standard special move to be powered-up, the second activates a combo breaker, and the third allows activation of a powerful new X-Ray attack. This special, often devastating attack ends in slow-motion, black-and white animation, with color X-Ray cut-aways showing the recipient’s muscles twisting, blood spewing, and bones shattering.
Besides the numerous game modes and challenges, Mortal Kombat features a diverse selection for multiplayer gameplay, ranging from the classic one-on-on fights to various styles of Tag modes. There is also offline 2-player co-op and offline 4-player Tag modes. Beyond this, there is a robust online mode featuring the two-player co-op gameplay as well as a huge Tournament mode, known as King of the Hill, intended to evoke the feel of classic arcade competition. In a sense, where a player might wait in line to be next to challenge the winner in an arcade in the 1990’s, players will do the same here, though online, and with far fewer quarters.
The Krypt makes a return as well, wherein players may spend Kurrency earned through every other gameplay modes to unlock a variety of features, including Kombat Kodes to tweak gameplay, new fatalities, concept artwork, music, etc. All unlocked items can be viewed in the Nekropolis. The Nekropolis also contains visages of every character, with gameplay stats, endings (if unlocked in Tower mode), and alternate costumes. Bios for every character are also listed.
Kratos from God of War appears as an exclusive character to the PlayStation 3 version of Mortal Kombat. No official reason has been given for a lack of an Xbox 360 exclusive character.