Review: Mortal Kombat…9

Original: April 26, 2010 Issue 15

By: Brooks Clarke

Staff Writer

 

Despite flaws, series returns triumphantly and distinguishes itself in the genre.

This past decade has not been kind to the Mortal Kombat series. With additions like a cartoony, Mario Kart-style racing mode, a slow-as-molasses chess mode and DC superheroes performing “heroic brutalities,” America’s bloodiest and oft-criticized fighting game has seen its reputation take a nose dive.

So with a return to the series’ roots of solid 2D fighting mechanics and cringe-worthy finishing moves, does Mortal Kombat 9 mark the return of Scorpion and Sub-Zero to fighting game prominence?

Developer NetherRealm Studios, headed by MK mastermind Ed Boon, has a knack for taking a game disc and filling it to the brim with as much content as possible.

With a full-fledged story mode to go along with the traditional ten-match ladder, online and offline versus modes and a humungous 300 level challenge tower, Mortal Kombat is no lightweight when it comes to ways to play.

Add in 500 unlockables like concept art and extra character outfits and fatalities, as well as Test Your Luck, which adds randomized elements like headless combat and infinite special meter, and you have no shortage of incentives to keep playing long after the story credits roll.

All that content is great, but what is the point of it if the game is not fun? Fortunately, Mortal Kombat’s best asset, above all the flashy modes and extras, is its core fighting mechanics.

The controls are responsive, and with each fighter having their own heft; Kitana glides across the screen with ease while Sheeva lumbers along, no one character plays the same. There is a real sense of impact when a fighter lands a hit and with blood and damage persistently accumulating over a match, the characters really do look like they have been through the ringer after a tough bout.

As good as it is, Mortal Kombat is not without its faults. While the story mode starts out strong, retelling the first two games with smooth transitions between cut scene and fight, by chapter 15 the story goes so far off the rails that it almost makes MK: Deception’s zombie Liu Kang look good.

Another sore spot are the fights with Shao Khan and Goro, which force the use of cheap tactics like projectile attack spamming to win. They are neither fun, nor satisfying when you are eventually victorious.

Mortal Kombat’s online mode features a matchmaking system, as well as a lobby system where players can chat and challenge each other. There is also King of the Hill, which attempts to replicate the arcade experience of the 90’s with a line of players awaiting their shot at the current champion, and a peanut gallery where spectators can cheer, taunt and vote on a fight’s quality.

There were issues with player connection and matchmaking, often taking minutes before an opponent was found.

The story and connection issues are hardly enough to spoil an otherwise top-notch brawler. With stiff competition from Street Fighter 4 and Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat distinguishes itself not as a mediocre-playing shock jock, but as a solid, tournament-ready fighter with enough bloody pizzazz to keep the experience fresh and exciting.