Mortal Kombat Demo impressions

by: Jeremy -
PlayStation Plus members were given a special treat this week in the form of an early demo for NetherRealm Studio’s Mortal Kombat. The new title has been shown off constantly over the course of the past year and looks more impressive with each and every showing. I have poured a couple of hours into the demo, examining every aspect that I can think of.

If you want to read my thoughts on the game, read on to the next page using the link below...

<Shown below is a new trailer for the game which was included in the demo version from the PlayStation Network. This quick teaser is shown following the completion of the arcade ladder in the demo.>


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Let me start off by getting straight to the point: Mortal Kombat is back!

The Mortal Kombat series has, in all honesty, struggled in recent years. While the game(s) have seen success in terms of the sales numbers, the quality has been slowly dropping off with each and every release. The demo for the game, which will be made available for all PlayStation 3 users next week, gives you a chance to test out four of the game’s characters (Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Mileena, and Johnny Cage) in the one-on-one fighting mode. The new game is quite a departure from the recent direction of the series and takes things back to the its arcade roots of being a 2D fighter. If you have played and become accustomed to the last couple of 3D games, you are in for some serious adjustments when you play the new game.

First off, the gameplay system of that fuels the game has been completely revamped. The game feels a lot like Mortal Kombat 2 but with a major dose of speed. The combos flow really well, but don’t feel “preprogrammed” like they did in the various MK3 titles. I found it very interesting that Boon and company decided to change up the inputs for some of the special moves including Mileena’s sai throw and Sub-Zero’s slide. The inputs for these moves feel a lot better in the new game and are easier to incorporate into your various attack combinations.

There are a couple of new elements added to the fighting system, particularly the X-Ray moves and enhanced special moves. Both types of maneuvers are fueled by a gauge that fills up at the bottom of the screen as the battle progresses. As you successfully land standard attacks and combinations, the gauge will fill up across three levels; each level that you acquire give you access to a new feature. Once you fill the first level of the meter, you will gain the ability to power up your special moves by including the block button with the standard input. Powering up your special moves adds additional hits and damage to them; for example, powering up Scorpion’s spear will result in a flaming, double spear which stuns the opponent for a longer period of time. The same benefit is seen by powering up Sub-Zero’s freeze. Executing one of these powered-up moves will consume one section of the special bar.

Filling your meter up to the second bar gives players the ability to execute a combo breaker, just like the Killer Instinct series. This is a must have considering some of the higher level combos players already seem to be pulling off based on the Youtube videos of the demo. Executing a combo breaker will consume 2 bars of your meter. Completely filling the bar will unlock your characters X-ray move, which I am sure that you have seen in the various previews and trailers for the game. The X-ray moves are insanely effective IF you manage to land them; simply launching one does not guarantee that you will connect. The X-ray maneuvers consume your entire bar, whether they are successful or not, and include a lengthy (in frame-count terms) and can be countered or blocked pretty easily. Use them wisely.

Graphically speaking, the game looks phenomenal. The character models are insanely detailed and exquisitely animated. Damage is prevalent not only on the characters bodies, but their outfits as well and it happens different each and every match. The same detail exists in the two backgrounds available in the demo as well, the Pit and the Living Forest. Both include a TON of details and animation, making them almost as interesting as the action itself. The Pit stage in particular is a combination of the both the original Pit and the Pit II from the second game. For example, there is a battle occurring in the background on another walkway and rather than just seeing two characters staring at each other like the Pit II, the two engage in a fully choreographed battle that lasts as long as your own. This is a nice details that really adds to the atmosphere of the game.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the demo, in my personal opinion, is the fatalities. Finally, the finishing maneuvers have returned to the gruesome, devastating finales that they were in the original arcade games. Visually speaking, they are all presented in a very dramatic fashion, including alternate camera angles. I really felt that the fatalities lost their charm in the later 3D games, specifically Armageddon where character specific fatalities were dropped in favor of the “create a fatality” feature. As a result, they became generic and lost their appeal. That won’t be the case in the new Mortal Kombat. Each character has their own, specific finishing maneuvers which, in many cases, even made me cringe. The demo includes one fatality for each of the included characters and the Pit stage fatality. I am not sure whether or not this will change in the final product but the time allotted to execute a finishing maneuver seems very long. I would like to see this shortened in the final product to make their execution something special and not something that you will see each and every match.

If there is anything that disappointed me about the demo it is the fact that the fatality commands are included in the in-game move list. What happened to the concept of letting players discover things for their selves? There is some hope for those that share that same feeling with me thanks to a recent video interview IGN posted with Ed Boon; according to Boon, the game will list each character’s primary fatality, but there will be additional fatalities and finishing moves included in the game that we will have to figure out for ourselves. For me, discovering all of the secrets and fatalities for your self is just as “important” to the MK franchise as the violence and gore. Without them, the early games wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful as they were.

MK fans are in for a treat, both when the demo releases to the public and when the full game goes live next month. I have been watching this title closely since it was announced last year, afraid to get sucked back in and get my hopes up for the game. I don’t have those fears any more: Mortal Kombat is back and every bit as good as the various media outlets are saying. Find out for yourself next week... 
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