The new Mortal Kombat is without a doubt, the greatest Mortal Kombat game ever made. But is that really saying a whole lot?
"Sorry I'm late guys. I was out mountain biking and didn't have time to change shirts."
Mortal Kombat is to video games what Bloodsport is to movies. I can't justifiably say it's "good" because it isn't. This is not Street Fighter, Virtua Fighter, or Tekken. People will not play this game competitively in global tournaments for years to come and post overrated videos of someone parrying every hit of a super combo. I CAN say that this game is one of the most entertaining purchases I've made in the past year.
I'll begin with the plot which is so bad its amazing. The stories to these games have always felt like they were created by 10 year olds and the new game is no exception. It's like the MK mythology is written by immature, dorky Americans who's entire knowledge of Asian cultures comes from Big Trouble in Little China and the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Ed Boon Says: "Ninjas come from China and are masters of Tae Kwon Do."
Mortal Kombat retells the deep rooted stories of the original first 3 games about an ancient fighting tournament between two realms: Earth and Outworld. But rather than do a typical reboot with a clean slate, the game pulls a JJ Abrams Star Trek style reboot that still acknowledges every game made up to this point. I'm not going to bother getting you up to speed on the entire history because it's way too complex to cover here. Instead, watch this 2 minute fan made video to understand the Mortal Kombat lore and all of its intricacies:
Despite being laughable throughout its entirety, the Story shines through its presentation. Rather than simply picking a character and fighting up a ladder to the last boss, you actually play through one long story, alternating characters with each chapter. Its the most clever form of single player I've ever seen in a fighting game and it actually gives purpose to playing it on your own.
I have no idea why Bionic Commando, Thor, and Green Eyeball Guy are fighting Galactus in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or who the fuck Dural is in Virtua Fighter. But I can now tell you how Cyrax became a robot, why Jax has cybernetic arms, and why we still shouldn't care who Kabal is. Each fight is setup and concluded with a cut-scene that explains who you're fighting and why. Keep in mind, I'm not saying this is a good/coherent story, I'm saying it's a clever way of telling a story in a fighting game. Take for example this condensed 30 second scene I cut from the story mode. It a romantic tale of brooding love between Johnny Cage and Sonya that only MK could tell:
And if you don't like the campy solo campaign, you can always play the traditional Arcade Ladder mode complete with a separate ending for each character. Which brings me to my next praise of this game: there's so much content. Besides the story mode and arcade ladder, you can take on the 300 stage challenger tower, test your might, sight and strike, and spend days unlocking stuff in the krypt. This is the most complete package a fighting game has ever offered. And this is just the stuff you can do by yourself.
The fighters can be divided up into 3 main categories: Ninjas who can teleport, Ninjas who can't teleport, and Irrelevant Native Americans.
The graphics are also top notch. The animations are fluid, the characters look silly but detailed, and the kombat stages you fight in are the best of any fighting game in the market right now. All of these qualities are amplified by the nostalgia of comparing them to their old school counter parts.
Playing Mortal Kombat with other people made me realize why I used to love fighting games and why I typically don't anymore. MK's stripped down fighting mechanics create good old fashioned brawls where players don't care about air juggles or combos but rather just throw spears and setup uppercuts. Its much more approachable than the Capcom fighting games that prompt you with 15 different menus in the character select screen and matches that are a seizure of full screen 60 hit exploding laser beam combos. You won't hear MK players dropping pretentious vocabulary like "Turtle", "Spam", or "Buffer". Mortal Kombat is a blue collar fighting game that was meant to be played with a group of people in the same room who will "oooh" at every X-Ray and Fatality that you land.
Again, I can't recommend this game as a good game but you know what? It cost me $40 instead of $60 and I've been entertained by it every time I fire it up, whether it's watching someone play who refuses to do any move except Johnny Cage's nut punch or performing a fatality that is completely impertinent to the character (Quan Chi's fatality consists of him ripping your leg off and beating you to death with it.).
P.S. - I still find it annoying that some fatalities require the player to press "Up" to execute, which makes the character jump. Its stupid and always ends up leading to situations like this: