Mortal Kombat Demo Impressions

By now, just about anyone with an internet connection and a PS3 have tried the Mortal Kombat demo. The general consensus, from what I have observed, is that a vast majority of players are honestly surprised at just how good the new Mortal Kombat appears to be.

Ever since Mortal Kombat 4, the series has looked a little unsure of what it wanted to be and, as a result, it continuously changed with each new game and alienated fans of the previous games. Fans of MK4 were alienated with Deadly Alliance, and further revisions to Deception’s gameplay alienated those who were comfortable with Deadly Alliance. Armageddon threw everything together in a big mess and, well, we know how that game turned out. A few years later and we had Mortal Kombat vs DC which, to this day, I have never played because it was rated T and I knew that it wouldn’t deliver a proper Mortal Kombat experience.

So, with the series looking to have lost it’s identity for over a decade, it was understandable for anyone to write off the series and lose faith in any future installments. I think that this is what many people did but, when Midway went bankrupt and the Mortal Kombat franchise was sold off to Warner Bros. Games, something happened. The MK team was given more freedom than they probably ever had, and they were granted more time to work on the next game. When the first screenshots of what everyone called Mortal Kombat 9 surfaced, it was clear that a massive spike in quality had happened.

Click to enlarge.

About a year later, here we are with the demo of Mortal Kombat. All of the mistakes of the past decade have been ignored and completely thrown away. The only aspect of the post MK3 era that seems to be returning is the sorcerer Quan Chi. Considering that he is perhaps the best character that the team created after going 3D, this is a good move.

The demo gives us access to Johnny Cage, Mileena, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero. The available stages round in at two (which is fine for a demo) and are The Living Forest and The Pit. Each stage looks as if NetherRealm Studios had taken their MK2 incarnations and simply made them 3D. They look so much like they had sixteen years ago (!!!) that it truly is staggering. Even the stage themes are just modern renditions of the originals from Mortal Kombat 2. It is understandable that NetherRealm Studios decided to do this since the game is a retelling of the original three games, but they really went the extra mile with the stages.

Click to enlarge.

Complimenting the stages are the physics. Imagine my surprise when I found that Mortal Kombat’s trademark clunky and sluggish controls, which only got worse with each new game in the past, were now almost gone! Characters feel and handle a lot like they did, again, in Mortal Kombat 2, only a little more responsive. The first character I picked was Scorpion, and aside from the fact that he was wearing an updated costume, it really felt like Mortal Kombat 2 as he jumped the same, tripped and uppercutted the same, and so much more.

I tried out all four available characters and came away impressed with each one. I didn’t really warm up to Johnny Cage, but this is pretty much only because I never really liked the character anyway. Of the four characters we are given in the demo, I found Mileena and Scorpion to be the most enjoyable to use, and I was surprised at how each character felt.

The gameplay really is superb. Gone are the fighting styles and weapons that we had to swap between from the past three Mortal Kombat games. Now each character has their own fixed movesets without any predefined fighting style that they have to adhere to. I found that pulling off combos was a lot of fun, since just pressing any three or four buttons resulted in a combo of some kind. I thought that was really cool, and it should let us experiment a lot with combos to find out which combinations work best. You can even easily add special moves to combos, something that Mortal Kombat has struggled with for several years now.

The violence in the game is ridiculously over the top as well, and I found some of the X-Ray moves to be cringeworthy. The fatalities are also pretty revolting. This is, however, a good thing! Mortal Kombat used to pride itself in being a bloody and disgusting mess, but this was lost for several years in the new millenium. Well, that bloody and disgusting mess is back and in full force. Just check out Kung Lao’s hat fatality and try not to cringe. I dare you.

The graphics are also worth mentioning. The stages all look fantastic, and the characters look even better. My honest opinion is that this will be the best looking 3D fighting game of the current generation. Yes, this beast is shaping up to be a better looker than both of Namco’s visual treats Soulcalibur IV and Tekken 6.

Everything that older gamers loved about the old MK games is here. The gameplay screams nostalgia. Trips and uppercuts work just like they used to, and the “Toasty Guy” has even returned for the first time in fourteen years!

All in all, this really does look to be a fantastic fighting game. While Marvel vs Capcom 3 tended to the hardcore fighting fans, it suffered by not tending to anyone else and leaving out necessary game modes and unlockables, and this dragged down MvC3’s review scores with popular critics and publications. Mortal Kombat on the other hand looks to be aiming to please everyone and even includes a few fun bonus game modes. There’s a wealth of content in the game and with so much nostalgia here, it’s going to be hard to not love this game.

It took sixteen long years, but Mortal Kombat may very well return as one of the most popular fighting game series out there. This game is not just good, it is great!

Watch for it April 19 in North America, April 21 in Europe.

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