In a lot of ways, the new Mortal Kombat is a lot like J.J. Abrams recent Star Trek movie. Instead of starting over from scratch, the game has a conceit where a nearly defeated Raiden sends a message back to himself in the past. This vision hits Mortal Kombat 1 era Raiden, who realizes that he has to scramble and piece together a group of powerful fighters to protect the EarthRealm. He fears that if something isn't done, two realms will merge and humanity will be doomed for eternity. Earth's last hope is riding on Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Jax, Sonya and a handful of other rough and tough brawlers.
This sets into motion a narrative that effectively retells the story of Mortal Kombat 1 - 3. We're given a large cast of familiar faces, nostalgic backgrounds and the same over-the-top fun we had back in the days of the arcade. But not everything is the same. Much like the Star Trek reboot, this new game takes some liberties with the story. Mortal Kombat is full of familiar events happening in fresh new ways, along with just enough twists and turns to make this story exciting again.
In case you haven't noticed, that's a lot of story. Most fighting games have a paper-thin narrative; just enough to justify making a bunch of characters battle it out. But that's not Mortal Kombat. In this game you're given a lengthy (we're talking six - eight hour adventure) story mode that fills in the story of the first three MK releases. Through a series of chapters, we're given the ability to play as sixteen different characters and see how each of them ties into the mythology.
The story mode is nothing more than an interactive soap opera, one that involves lengthy cinema scenes that always result in somebody fighting somebody else. The structure may not be original, but the execution is mind boggling. Not only was Ed Boon able to tell a fairly intricate story full of intersecting characters, but he did it in a way that gave me a greater understanding of the cast as a whole. I found myself constantly impressed that I was starting to care about characters I had written off long ago. Thanks to this game I have a newfound respect for a lot of the minor characters from Mortal Kombat 3 (Stryker, Cyrex, etc.).
As impressive as the lengthy story mode is, it's really just one of the worthwhile modes found in Mortal Kombat. When you're not trying to defeat Shao Kahn once and for all, you can work your way up the 300 story tower. This mode offers fans a chance to test their skills in a number of challenging ways. While most modes require little more than you defeating your opponent, there's usually a catch along the way. Sometimes your controls will be reversed, the fight will happen on the ceiling or you won't be able to block.
That's just the start of the crazy things you'll see while climbing the tower. In one stage you'll play as Cyrex throwing bombs into a moving garbage can. In another level your arms and head will be literally chopped off before the round starts. In another stage your own attack will be to throw your arms and legs at the opponent. Some stages will test your combos; others will look for total damage. You'll often have to learn special moves and perfect the different fatalities. And best of all, these 300 stages become increasingly difficult. You really have to prove your worth if you're going to reach the top of this tower.
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