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Review: Mortal Kombat “9” is a Fanboy’s Dream Come True

I’ve been able to spend a good amount of time with the new Mortal Kombat game (AKA Mortal Kombat 9), and I can say without hesitation that Nether Realm has hit a home run.  Strike that, a grand slam!  The moment I fired this game up in my Xbox 360 I was instantly transported back to 1992, which is the year I first fell in love with the Mortal Kombat series.  For me, once the franchise moved past the 2D fighting space I more or less stopped playing it.

I’d say my last in-depth Mortal Kombat experience came with MK3, so it has been quite sometime since I last played a Mortal Kombat game.  I’ve always enjoyed the series, and consider it to be one of the best fighters of all-time, but I never had a reason to come back to it until now.  Mortal Kombat 9, without a doubt, is the most complete game in the series’ long history, and hopefully my review will coax you into getting off your lazy a*s and picking it up!

 

Mortal Kombat “9”

EB 9.5/10

The Awesome – Visuals, Gameplay, Replayability

The Not So Awesome – Too Many Moves to Memorize, Sound Quality, Occasional Cheap AI

 

The Awesome

Visuals

Without a doubt the new Mortal Kombat has the best visuals of any fighting game to be released on a next-gen console.  Once again the Unreal Engine was put to good use in creating cutting edge visuals for this era of gaming.  It’s amazing to see what this Mortal Kombat looks like especially when you compare it to its ancestors.  The fighting action itself is rendered in a near perfect frame rate, with no noticeable skips or hops occurring even during some of the heavy action that can take place during a match.  Every character is beautifully created with intense detail, which shows off the mighty power of the UE3 gaming engine.

Remember This Level?

Each level is also finely detailed and alive with all sorts of background movement taking place while the two fighters to battle to the death.  During each match both characters will also exhibit lifelike battle damage that really hasn’t been seen before in this detail.  No longer do you have to imagine that your fighter is getting bruised and bloodied, because you’ll see all of this taking place in real-time as the match progresses.

Notice the Real Time Damage Feature

The cutscenes used in the Story Mode are graphically excellent as well.  In fact, they offer some of the most crisp looking in-game engine rendered scenes of all-time (Cutscenes are usually little movies, but with the right amount of work some studios can pull them off using the same tools that they used to make the game).  I find myself preferring these in-game cutscenes over the traditional cinematic ones, because they really hammer the action home and make you feel like you’re not just passively watching the story unfold.

Mortal Kombat does a fantastic job of integrating both the mini-movie scenes, as well as the in-game engine scenes to keep the player thoroughly engaged while fighting your way through the game’s Story Mode.  I urge you to take a gander at the newest trailer for Mortal Kombat 9 below, so you can fully realize how well this game looks.  Even though this is a cinematic trailer it’s dead on to what you’ll find in the game when a cutscene takes place.  This clip doesn’t feature any of the in-game engine cutscenes, but I’ll have an example of that a little on down in this post.

Mortal Kombat 9 Cinematic Trailer

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o00-MspCacs

 

Gameplay

The moment I entered my first match in MK9 and Shang Tsung bellowed out “Fight!”, I realized how much I missed this franchise and its near perfect 2D fighting platform.  One of the main reason I got out of the fighting genre was because every game was moving to a 3D fighting plane that was made famous by the Virtua Fighter series, Tekken, and Soul Calibur.  Now these are all great franchises, but when I play a fighter I don’t want to have to worry about my enemy skipping around me like he’s playing ring-around-the-rosie.  I’m just not a fan of fighters that utilize the 3D space.

This is why I was so jacked about the announcement that MK9 would be making a return to its 2D roots that made it infamous back in the 90’s.  Nether Realm really outdid themselves on MK9’s gameplay.  The fighting mechanics are easy to pick up, and even the most novice of gamers should have no problem stringing together some nasty combos after a few rounds.  Each match feels fast paced and frenetic, which leaves no room for error when it comes to your attacks and defense.

Good Old 2D Fighting!

If you have the funds I highly suggest snagging the monster-sized arcade stick that comes with the Tournament Edition, because it will instantly make you feel like you’re 10 again playing the original Mortal Kombat at your local arcade.  Plus, fighting games really are at their best when you use a joystick versus a traditional controller, because it allows you to pull off moves with cat like reflexes, and more importantly it just feels natural.

MK9 Tournament Edition Contents

Arcade Stick is a Beast!

Doubles as a Stash Box!

The Guts and Etched Logo

Memory Foam Velvet Padding on Bottom

(It’s needed as this thing weighs close to 10lbs!)

MK9 plays just fine with a regular controller though, so don’t pack things in if you can’t afford the big boy package.  Nether Realm did a fine job at mapping the controls to a standard controller, so the ideal gameplay environment is just as possible with your lame 360 gamepad.  Regardless of which medium you use to play this game you’ll instantly feel how crisp the gameplay is itself and make the best out of your situation.  MK9 just feels like the perfect fighter that I wanted it to be, so if you’ve been concerned about how it plays please put those worries aside.  Trust me, you’re in for a treat!

Replayability

The new Mortal Kombat has enough game modes to keep even the most dedicated gamer busy for quite sometime.  In fact, with the way the achievements work, I’d expect it to take even the most dedicated gamers a ridiculous amount of hours to nab all 1000 G.  This is a good thing though because the game is awesome to play, and what better way to show your gaming skills than a 1 v 1 online ranked match?

On top of the online modes, which feature both ranked and player varieties, MK9 also has a host of single-player modes that will keep you coming back for your daily fix of brutality.  The traditional Arcade ladder is no different than what you would’ve played on the coin-op machines from the 90’s.  You, and/or a partner (Tag Team Mode) are placed at the bottom of the tournament ladder and have to dispose of your foes one by one until you reach the top of the mountain to take on Shao Kahn.

Shao Kahn’s Arena of Death

For completionists there’s the Krypt (Place to spend coins earned from combat to unlock new costumes, art, fatalities, etc), as well as cheves, that require you to fight the arcade ladder with every character, so the replayability factor is extremely high.  Not to mention there’s still the Story mode, Challenge Tower, and Test Your “Fill in the Blank” modes to keep you busy if you conquer the arcade ladder and online arena.

The story mode is actually pretty unique, and dare I say engaging?  Usually most fighters skip a story all together, but the story in MK9 is almost worth watching.  Basically, the premise is very similar to the MK theme of preventing the Outworld scum from taking over Earth, but this time around it’s told using some time manipulation, and the plot is moved forward using a different character’s perspective in each chapter.  It’s entertaining enough that I don’t feel myself trying to mash buttons together to hopefully skip the cutscenes.  For a reference as to how the story mode plays out please check out the video below.  Just beware that it contains spoilers if you have played the game yet.  You’ll also get to see how flawlessly this game transitions from cinematic scenes to the actual gameplay.

 

Spoilers! MK9 Story Mode Chapter 1

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfsc65KmiFY

 

The Not So Awesome

Too Many Moves to Memorize

This is more of a personal complaint than an actual negative piece of MK9, but there just seems to be too many unique special moves, combos, and finishers to memorize for a gamer that is getting older.  I’m sure my college years are to blame for this fact, but unless you’re some sort memorization savant there’s no way you’ll ever be able to remember every single character’s special moves, finishers, and combos.  This fact will lead most gamers to just utilizing a few of the fighters in MK9 when all of them have great move sets to offer.

I was really hoping for some 1-button fatalities, because anyone that has played a MK game can tell you the best part about it is the gruesome finishers.  Although, with each character having 2 or more fatalities, 1 babality, and a stage finisher, the thought of mastering them all becomes quite overwhelming.  I’ve already found myself looking at my iPad 2 in between rounds to make sure I’ve got a particular character’s finishers mesmerized before I lay waste to them.  We all know how epic of a fail it is not to brutally finish your MK opponent at the end of a match, but with all of the different button combos to learn a weak finish in some of your matches is inevitable.

No Finisher, Not Cool!

It would’ve been nice to tie finishers to one or two buttons, so the frantic rush to get in a fatality code wouldn’t be so stressful.  Rather than jumping around like some dope fiend who just shot up on some speed, I’d much prefer just having to get my fighter in position and hitting say, the A button to bring a painful death to my enemy.  Like I said though, this is more of a personal gripe than a knock on the game.  I’m sure some of you younger gamers have no problem with memorizing hundreds of moves in your fresh little brains, so I’m more or less b*tching about my own physical limitations.

Sound Quality

For some odd reason the sound profile that MK9 uses is extremely low.  I find myself having to crank my receiver to a decibel level that is much higher than what I typically use while playing games.  It’s not hard to turn up my system, but I just find it odd that I can’t play this game on the same level as all of my other ones.  It sounds like I manually went into the game’s options and piped down all of the audio settings, when in fact they’re at the default levels.  Again, not a huge issue, but a curious one to say the least.  I don’t know, maybe MK9 is trying to tell me I’m going deaf or something, and that I need to turn my sh*t down before I blow an ear drum.

Occasional Cheap AI

Throughout the story mode and arcade ladder I would run into some AI that became extremely cheap at times during our fight.  Luckily, this BS seems to be hit or miss, but be prepared to have some fights where you almost have no chance of winning due to the fact that the AI is spamming special attacks on you.  The biggest offender has to be Shao Kahn who will literally spam his body check move to the point where you’re left with no health to mount a comeback.  I also found that the handicap matches (2 v 1) you encounter in the story mode to be overly cheap as well.  Just as you’re about to eliminate when of the tag team members the other one will tag in and get you in a combo string that leaves you with no chance of winning.

Handicap Matches Bring out the Cheap AI Like None Other

Fortunately, the cheating AI doesn’t rear its head for too long, or in too many matches.  I’ve found that eventually if you keep replaying the fight over and over you’ll win, but it sometimes becomes a test of patience versus skill.  If you’ve ever played a fighter where someone just keeps hitting the same button over and over then you’ll have a good idea of what some of this cheap AI looks like.

 

The Final Verdict

For those of you gamers that have been looking for a reason to return to the fighting genre, I can say without a doubt that Mortal Kombat 9 is a great title to start making your comeback.  It has an excellent mix of gameplay, visuals, and reasons to keep you coming back for more.  I’ve never seen a more polished fighting game in this generation of consoles, and once again you’ll see why the UE3 is one of the most popular engines for making big budget games.  Even though there may be a few things wrong with this game it still deserves an EB 9.5/10.  I also recommend snagging the arcade stick for those of you that aren’t poor pieces of sh*t, because it cements the nostalgic feeling of playing the original MK games in the arcade.  Why are you still reading this?  Grab your copy today!  You’ve been needing to check out all of the new fatalities in MK9 by watching the video below…

 

MK9 Fatalities

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSJ9SiwohUs

 

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Tags : fanboysgamingImpressionsMortal KombatnewPS3Xbox360
Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of EntertainmentBuddha.com where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he’s not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB’s Star Wars Time podcast show.