Mortal Kombat (2010) - Review (Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita)

In April of 2011, Netherealm Studios released a remake/reboot of the immensely popular fighting game, Mortal Kombat for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The game was fairly well received by fans and critics alike and sold approximately 2 million copies in its first month of release. For this reviewer, Mortal Kombat, or MK9 as most people refer to it, the game would become a constant in his Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and now Playstation Vita’s disc drive/card slot.

I began playing Mortal Kombat back when the original game was released in the early 90’s, so yes, I’m a fan. Unlike most people, the violence and fatalities were never what appealed to me about the franchise. Instead, I was drawn to the backstory of the game. Also a fan of Jean-Claude VanDamme movies such as Bloodsport and Kickboxer, the similar story in MK was right up my alley. Instead of relying on the simple concept of a tournament, MK threw a unique spin on the concept by adding in such things as different realms that exist alongside our own (Earthrealm). The story in a nutshell: Shao Kahn, the leader of Outworld, is determined to take over Earthrealm by use of the Mortal Kombat Tournament. If he wins, Kahn is allowed to invade and rule. Raiden, an “Elder-god” is charged with gathering up Earthrealm’s strongest warriors in order to defend our world. We don’t find out about Shao Khan until MK2, but that’s the story of the franchise all the way up until the most recent reboot.

Mortal Kombat also included, in my opinion, a more colorful cast of characters than fighting games such as, say, Street Fighter. A few in the franchise have been palette swaps - a process in which developers recolor the same character to produce a new character with different moves – as with Street Fighter, but MK’s characters were finely crafted into the story and were always presented as distinct individuals rather than mere recolors.

After 8 games, spanning across nearly every console from arcade to original Xbox, Mortal Kombat began to run out of steam and popularity over the years due in part to changing game mechanics. Rather than keeping the traditional 2D gameplay, MK, starting with MK4, adopted a similar play-style popularized in 3D fighting games such as Dead Or Alive, Virtua Fighter, Tekken, and Soul Calibur. This proved to be unpopular with fans of the series, so a change was in order. The team at Netherealm decided to create a game that went back to its 2D roots and in April of 2011, the completely barebones titled, Mortal Kombat was released.

I always enjoyed fighting games, but was never actually good at them. I was also vaguely aware of the fact that there was a scene in which people actually played fighting games in a competitive tournament setting. After watching several tournament matches online, in an effort to learn some simple combos to perform, I figured that actually taking the time to learn the game and play it competitively wouldn’t be a complete waste of time. I spent hours, days and months in the game’s training mode learning combos and strategies for use against another human opponent. Doing this, I was compelled to dip my toe into the tournament scene in March of 2012 and took a trip about 3 hours away to Atlanta, Georgia and ended up placing 33rd out of 127 at Final Round, a major tournament (which means the winner actually gets a pretty decent amount of money for winning).

Now why did I just give a “life story” of being an MK fan and one-time competitive player? Because I’m about to give the most honest review of a fighting game that one will ever get! Bold words, I know.

Next time you go into a store to buy a fighting game, ask yourself, “Why do I want this? Do I want it to play around within the game’s single player modes? Do I want it just to have some sort of party game to have fun with friends? Do I want an online fighting game? Or do I want to actually learn the game and be good at it?”

“I want to play Mortal Kombat’s single player modes, Josh!”
 MK9’s single player modes are quite good, actually. The player is given the option of playing a ladder style mode in which he or she will face computer controlled opponents at varying levels of difficulty, culminating with fighting the last boss, Shao Khan. There is also a challenge tower mode in which the player climbs up yet another ladder in which they are presented with progressively more difficult challenges. These challenges are usually presented as mini-games such as fighting a character with no arms, only using special moves, etc. The Vita version offers even more challenge tower levels and features for single player that aren’t present in the console versions.

“I just want the game to have fun with friends, Josh.”
 This is what versus mode is for. The game offers 1v1 combat, as well as a tag-team feature that allows the player to control either 2 characters at once, or 4 players controlling 1 at a time. The fighting mechanics are simple and smooth enough to be accessible to players that just want to have fun with the game in a casual setting.

“I want to beat people down online!!!”
 Good luck. The console versions of the game have terrible netcode that makes it impossible to play the game online with the same fluidity as playing offline. Also, the player will be met with frequent disconnects, rage-quitters and unnecessary trash talking from people who actually don’t know how to play the game, but are able to exploit the game’s bad netcode to put the match in their favor. The Vita version, however, has nearly perfect netcode and is much closer to offline play.

“I want to get good at the game, go to tournaments and win some money!!”
 And here we get into what the game was designed for. MK9, while having issues, is one of the simplest fighting games to pick up and be competent. That’s not to say you will be instantly good. You actually have to put in hard work, research and practice. It also helps to play offline with players who are either already good at the game or are trying to be good at it as well. I played the game in training mode and with friends for nearly a year before I felt comfortable enough to enter a major tournament. But if competition is your goal, MK, and most fighting games, contain tools in-game that will help you become a more competent player. Just remember, you will never get better at the game and able to stand toe-to-toe with other well-versed players by playing against computer opponents.

In closing, I strongly recommend this game. It’s a great game and can be played with lots of different goals in mind, but the game really shines if you take the time to learn it and be good at it. If you’re trying to decide on which version of MK9 to get, it really depends on what system you have and nothing else. The Xbox360 and PS3 versions are pretty much identical, but have terrible online. The Vita version has some extra features, costumes for characters and better online, but takes a slight dip in graphics quality to maintain a smooth, 60 frames-per-second and identical fighting mechanics to the console versions on the handheld.

Basically, if you like fighting games, or are attempting to get into them, you can’t go wrong with Mortal Kombat. On any system.
Posted on May 27, 2012 .