Do you believe in comebacks? Even though I've always had an appreciation for Ed Boon's brutally violent fighting franchise, I'm realistic that the old Mortal Kombat games were nothing more than a guilty pleasure. This is a franchise that chose blood and gore over refined gameplay. Players didn't flock to their local arcades (and later home consoles) for the highly killed tournament play, they just wanted to see pools of blood and fatalities.
For years Mortal Kombat has been happy to play into the guilty pleasure. Instead of focusing on consistent fight mechanics, the developers instead decided to continue piling more and more brutality into the series. The end result was a franchise that took themselves too seriously and couldn't compete with most other fighting games.
This brand new Mortal Kombat game (the ninth, not that anybody is keeping count) goes a long way to fix the wounds of past fifteen years. This is not just another sequel; this is the Mortal Kombat game I have been dreaming about since the early 1990s. This is the first installment to successfully capture the intriguing (though appropriately goofy) narrative and marry it with solid fight mechanics. And boy is it bloody. This game is overflowing with finishing moves, powerful x-ray move, stage fatalities and more. This is everything you have ever wanted in a Mortal Kombat game.
Going in I knew the game looked good, but I wondered how it would play. This is a franchise known for throwing out its old gameplay in order to make something new. Thankfully this new game harkens back to the gameplay of Mortal Kombat II. Ed Boon didn't set out to copy the feel of the old games; instead his team has crafted a mechanic that manages to feel fresh and honor the legacy. The gameplay is still not as smooth as what is found in Street Fighter IV, but it's far beyond anything we've seen in a Mortal Kombat game. I can imagine a time when this series will be taken seriously in the tournament scene. You couldn't say that about Deadly Alliance
While much of the gameplay feels traditional, there are a number of additions that can really change the course of a fight. Mortal Kombat has a three-part power meter, which allows players to perform enhanced versions of each character's special moves. On top of that, there's an "X-Ray" attack which shows us in vivid detail exactly what happens when we're hit, stabbed and set on fire by these murderous fighters. Thanks to the much-improved graphic engine, these powerful hits make an impact. I found myself cringing while performing the x-ray attacks, some of them are as brutal as anything I've seen in this series.
Another thing that helps sell the violence is the way the carnage sticks around. Mortal Kombat characters have always showered their opponents in blood, but now that gooey red stuff stays on the fighter. In fact, every punch, slash and stab leaves a mark. By the end of the round each fighter looks completely torn apart, making this one of the most visually satisfying fighters I've ever seen.
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