“Get over here!“
It has been nearly 20 years since I first heard those three simple words growled out by the iconic fighting game character known as Scorpion, and it still triggers the same kind of carnal excitement it did when I was kid. After all these years, the arrival of the ninth installment of the Mortal Kombat series is on its way, and with a demo recently released on the Playstation Network eager gamers have finally been able to get their hands on a first taste of the brutal carnage to come.
The demo gives players the opportunity to play through a limited ladder of opponents using four well known MK characters: Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Johnny Cage, and Mileena. Each one handles differently and gives you a feel for the type of diversity to come from the full cast of characters, which is already marked at a healthy 26, with the potential for more on the way.
If this demo has done thing right, it’s assured me that this new Mortal Kombat is a return to the game of my youth. It looks and feels the way a Mortal Kombat should. The return to 2-D fighting was exactly what the series needed to bring it back from the brink after so many less than spectacular sequels, and the 3-D models and backgrounds keep the look feeling current despite its old-school throwbacks.
For this game the devil is definitely in the details. Backgrounds are beautifully rendered and alive with movement, and the characters show off the ferocity of their battle through real-time battle damage. Through each play-through in this demo my character and opponents never ended with the same visible damage twice. Different combinations of punches and kicks would bruise and cut my opponent, leaving them covered in blood. Clothing also takes a beating. Shirts get ripped, masks get broken–even Johnny Cage’s trademark sunglasses cannot escape the brutality of combat. These little touches keep each fight feeling fresh, a subtle yet significant detail in a game that may demand hundreds of matches throughout your ownership.
By and large, my favorite addition to the series is the X-Ray attacks. Charge up your power meter far enough and you gain the ability to execute a cinematic attack that zooms in on the your opponent’s internal structure, showing the brutal damage done to bone and organ while inflicting massive damage. While not only visually pleasing, these attacks can be the key to a late in the game comeback, or a flashy in your face finisher. A fantastic and original addition to the game that I am sure will be an inspiration in future games within the fighting genre.
Mortal Kombat also has an extra mode where you take on up to 300 different special challenges, but those were unavailable in the demo.
If it has done one thing, this demo has assured me that this new iteration in the Mortal Kombat franchise is visceral and brutal homage to its own controversial origins. If you miss the fighting games of yesteryear, or are simply in need of some gratuitous gore-porn, then look no further than the release of the full version of this game, due out April 19, 2011.
Played through the Playstation 3, single-player ladder demo at least once with the four available characters, multiple times with some. Did not try the two-player demo.
If you don’t mind some spoilers, here’s a youtube video depicting some of the new fatalities you’ll be seeing: http://bit.ly/gjKDdI