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Mortal Kombat Preview

By Neilie Johnson, 3/18/2011

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It's been three years since we last stepped into the world of Mortal Kombat with the generally well-received, teen-rated Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. While testing the skills of the DC heroes against our Mortal Kombat favorites was definitely novel, what most of us were hoping for was a gritty, M-rated-and-updated version of the game and come this Spring, that's just what we'll get. At this month's Game Developer's Conference, Warner Bros. let us take a crack at the latest reboot of the MK series and so far, things are looking good.

Aside from bringing back the M rating and its accompanying gory fatalities, the development team's also bringing back the static 2D camera. The attempt to make Mortal Kombat a fully 3D game had mixed results and ultimately, made fights slower and more cumbersome to engage in. The new Mortal Kombat goes back to its 2D roots and as such, appears to have regained its lightning-fast pace. In addition to the return of the blood-and-guts and 2D presentation, fans will enjoy a handful of new playable characters including Noob (which fans have long been clamoring for), Kano, Ermac, Jax and Sonya. The latter two were playable at GDC and the two legendary fighters were looking pretty sweet. Well actually, all the fighters were looking pretty sweet, since many of their moves have been modernized and all of their animations have been freshly mocapped just for the new game.

We went a few rounds with Associate Producer Erin Piepergerdes and after we taught him a thing or two, (heh) he gave us a guided tour of the game's new Challenge Tower. This new mode serves both as an extended tutorial and as an alternate game mode when you need a break from the usual versus fights. Containing 300 unique missions, the Challenge Tower offers the opportunity to brush up on specific character skills and finishing techniques, hone defense and offense and even take part in darkly humorous games just for the hell of it. With things like “Headless Combat Mode”, which has you take on an opponent even after both your heads have been torn off, or “Upside Down Mode” which just as it says, has you fighting with gravity reversed, how can it help but be entertaining?

Other modes we tried featured characters fighting off waves of zombies or contending with a beachside ambush, and the weirdest, called “I Hate Teddies”, showed Scorpion trying to fight off Mileena as she attempted to force him to accept the gift of a teddy bear. The Challenge Tower is said to be equal to 8-10 hours of gameplay and definitely appeared to have some bizarrely interesting things to do. After checking that aspect out on Xbox 360, we moved to PS3 and went a few rounds in 3D. The 3D in Mortal Kombat, as in so many upcoming games, is a cool gimmick, but honestly, doesn't really seem to add much to the gameplay. What's nice though, is you can still play the game without the 3D glasses and not go blind because although it's a bit fuzzy, the game doesn't look all that different.

Before we left, the last thing we looked at was the new Mortal Kombat fight stick, which after holding and trying it, we're convinced every committed MK fan will want to have. Solidly made from heavy slabs of wood, the thing has the weight necessary to balance it on your lap without having it teeter all over the place. Its comfortable left stick and old-school concave buttons make you feel like you're back in the arcade and tech nerds will love that the top panel opens on a hinge so they can tinker and customize to their heart's content. Best of all, it comes with a comfy pad of memory foam on the bottom, the better to keep your legs from going numb. The stick will come bundled with the game in the $150 Mortal Kombat Tournament Edition and no doubt will be a pretty big seller. (Editor's note: This stick uses the button scheme of MK3, seen here, so this won't be terribly great for non-MK fighting games. If you're a fighting fan and don't want to have to juggle multiple sticks, we suggest you get a stick with a more conventional layout.)

The Mortal Kombat franchise has a venerable, near-twenty year history and with the way the new game is shaping up, it shows every sign of continuing on for years to come. By going back to its root strengths and tweaking the weaker things to keep the game modern, NetherRealm is simultaneously aiming to satisfy the nostalgic MK player and keep the game current enough to draw in droves of new fans. We can’t wait to take Mortal Kombat (and the new fight stick) for a spin when they come out this April 19th on Xbox 360 and PS3.



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