The demo for Mortal Kombat rolled in yesterday on PSN (having previously been available only to Playstation Plus subscribers), and as the resident MK veteran, I have taken it upon myself to describe its violent offerings for your entertainment.
The Mortal Kombat franchise spent the entirety of the previous generation building itself up, becoming more elaborate and more complex. While some found it was losing sight of itself, I considered the Deadly Alliance series of games (especially Deadly Alliance itself) to be superb fighters with a wealth of depth absent from previous Mortal Kombat entries.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe took a step in the opposite direction, choosing to burn down the excess that had built up and return to a truer representation of the old school MK games, a trend continued by this latest iteration.
As I began to pummel my opponent in this demo offering, I was struck by the immediate sensation that nothing had been lost in the transition to 2.5D. Mortal Kombat is a fighting game that was never entirely served by the third dimension; the ability to step into a different plane was only a poor substitute for blocking, and thus the return to the more simplistic set up seems to provide a purer mechanic.
Combat itself feels responsive on the PS3 D-pad, and is rendered with impressively solid animations and sharp graphics. Equally, environments seem possessed of greater depth than previous efforts; for example, the revamp of Mortakl Kombat II’s pit stage includes fully animated battle between two recognizable MK fighters occurring in the distance.
As with MK vs. DC, a balance has been struck between the swappable fighting styles of the Deadly Alliance era and the one-size fits all fighting of the SNES entries; each fighter now has a single distinct style which also includes a pool of common moves, such as jump kicks and sweeps. Depth now exists in working special moves into elaborate juggling combos (which I couldn’t figure out in my brief play through, but which the closing video montage insists must exist).
One interesting twist is the power gauge. The franchise has toyed with this sort of idea before, but it perhaps works better here than it has in the past. The gauge has three notches which fill during the course of combat, and can be employed to enhance any special maneuver, to deploy a combo breaker, or finally, the entire gauge can be poured into a powerful x-ray attack.
As shown in the numerous videos, these attacks zoom in and show brutal bone breakage. These can be blocked, and thus the player has to be clever about employing them, as landing or missing one of these techniques can abruptly change the flow of the match.
This is one of a number of steps that might make this the most brutal Mortal Kombat game to date, a sharp departure from the decidedly PG-13 MK vs. DC. Indeed, in many ways it seems that Netherrealm Studios is attempting to craft the definitive Mortal Kombat release. The game drops April 19 for those wishing to see if these efforts pan out.