by Joseph Barron
previewed on PS3
Mortal Kombat's comeback
On the current generation of consoles the fighting genre has received a huge resurgence, surprising many who believed the genre was beginning to struggle outside Japan. The huge success of Capcom's Street Fighter IV and (to a lesser extent) Tekken 6 and Soul Calibur IV from Namco have inspired the return of their most controversial rival, Mortal Kombat. The 2011 MK title is the ninth entry in the series and the first one to be released since the series' original publisher, Midway, collapsed and was bought by Warner Brothers.
Mortal Kombat will launch with 26 characters and the PlayStation 3 version will also include Kratos from the God of War franchise. The majority of the classic MK fighters will return, especially those which appeared in Mortal Kombat, MK2 and MK3. Ed Boon says, "If you have a favourite character from those games, you're probably going to see him or her in the game."
Return to 2D, kind of
Taking clear inspiration from Street Fighter IV and the upcoming Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat is returning to the 2D gameplay which was once popularised by the original 16bit fighting games. The one-on-one matches will take place on an entirely 2D plane, but feature fully realised 3D backgrounds and characters. What we've seen of the game so far suggests a similar level of character detail to that which was seen in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, but with greatly improved animations. Like MK vs. DC, Mortal Kombat 2011 also runs on a modified version of the Unreal Engine 3.
The new "2.5D" approach won't just affect the look of the game. Series creator (or should that be "Kreator"?), Ed Boon has promised fans that the gameplay will be far deeper than in other recent MK titles, allowing players to learn all of the combat systems and moves to discover which work best in certain scenarios, against each of the game's very different characters. Boon has also suggested that he doesn't expect MK to be perfect at launch, so the development team is deliberately creating the game in a way that will make it easy to implement gameplay and balancing patches without damaging the core experience.
Another major change to the classic Kombat is the removal of "Strong" and "Light" attacks. Instead, these controls will be replaced with buttons for individual limbs, much like the Tekken series. This change will almost certainly make the core gameplay more approachable to newcomers, allowing them to quickly get up to speed with basic kicks and punches, while still allowing the more die-hard fighting fans to learn the complex inputs required for special and super moves. Super moves in MK 2011 are controlled by a super meter which fills up in 3 segments when taking damage from opponents or performing combo attacks. One full segment allows a special attack to be performed, two allows you to interrupt your rival's combo attack and three unleashes a devastating "X-Ray" attack. X-Ray attacks bring back the once controversial levels of violence which have become the staple of the MK franchise, allowing you to watch a zoomed-in view of your opponent's bones breaking and internal organs being damaged. It sounds truly gruesome, which is exactly what a Mortal Kombat game should be! There will also be around 50 fatalities in the new game.
Online competitive gaming
Online gameplay also looks to have greatly improved from the sub-par and somewhat unstable experience provided by MK vs. DC. The main mode is "King of the Hill," where 8 players take part in a "winner stays on" scenario and can watch and rate matches in progress as well as discuss and discover new moves. There is also a tag-team mode for two teams of two players. This mode will allow players to swap out during fights and also use "assist" and "special entry" attacks to overwhelm the opposition. As long as the framerate and connection issues that plagued MK vs. DC are less of an issue this time around, the online gameplay in the new Mortal Kombat should be far more substantial and offer much more scope for deep competition between fans.
It has already been announced that MK 2011 will feature at this year's EVO fighting game tournament so it is essential that the online functionality works well enough that the most hardcore players will be able to use it to train for this and other similar events.
Get over here!
It remains to be seen how this old-timer will compare against later arrivals, but we can certainly entertain high hopes. Scorpion and his lovable friends will return in April on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, attracting both old time series fans and new arrivals to the classic rivalry between Scorpion and Sub-Zero.