The New Mortal Kombat – Faithful to Its Roots?
When Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment announced that the Mortal Kombat series would leave behind the gore-free, comic book-infused nonsense of MK vs. DC Universe, the whole world cheered.
From the moment the game was unveiled to the day it was released, we were treated to countless gameplay videos that seemed to confirm that the series had returned to its roots. At the same time, there was a slight disturbance in the Force. Reports suggested that the run button--one of Ed Boon’s favorite features--had been removed and that the classic button layout (HP, LP, HK, LK and Block) had been replaced with a more traditional Tekken-style setup.
This seemed like an odd development choice, to say the least. Why screw with Mortal Kombat’s beloved layout at a time when you are trying to leverage the series’ past? Why would the developers (or anyone at WBIE) want to alter a gameplay format that millions adore?
Still, those reports came in 2010, and it was easy to ignore the possible ramifications. At that point, the game was nearly a year away from release, leaving the developers plenty of time to change things back.
When the $150 Tournament Edition was unveiled, my worries eased. If the developers were changing the button layout, why would they release an arcade stick that mirrors the format used for Mortal Kombat 3, UMK3, and MK4?
However, the stick wasn’t designed for the new Mortal Kombat--it was merely created for gamers who wanted to bring home a piece of the arcade. As an arcade stick for the classic MKs, it couldn’t be any better.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the new Mortal Kombat. While the stick is expertly designed with real arcade parts that replicate the experience of the coin-op machines, the button layout does not match the one that the developers created for this game.
Sadly, that’s just the beginning of Mortal Kombat’s problems.
Simplified For No Reason At All
From the early 90s on, Sub-Zero’s slide move has been executed by pressing back, LP, Block and LK at the same time. Besides being a quick and effective way to execute the move, it was also a technique that gamers of all skill levels could learn and master with ease.
In the new Mortal Kombat, this classic execution has been replaced with a sluggish move that’s less intuitive, requires more time to enter, and feels eerily similar to the attacks of Super Street Fighter IV.
This is just one of the many moves that have been altered without reason.
Slower, But Why?
Falling somewhere between the speed of Tekken 3 and Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, the new Mortal Kombat isn’t an overly fast fighting game. In general, the character movements, special moves and combo executions are noticeably slower than they were in Mortal Kombat 3 and 4.
Brilliant Juggles, Baffling Limitations
The new Mortal Kombat offers an incredible juggle system. But while it features moves that were not possible in the previous games (or any other fighting game, for that matter), it also contains a series of baffling limitations.
Case in point: it is all but impossible to successfully perform Sub-Zero’s ice ball after a jump kick. The same goes for Scorpion. Players can no longer jump kick, teleport, and throw his spear in one swift move. Liu Kang has been given similar restrictions with his fireball and dragon kick moves. Kabal and Sindel are equally diminished..
Meanwhile, Kano’s cannonball move is useless for combos now that the player has to enter four actions (back, down, forward, back) instead of one. In the older MKs, this move could be performed by holding one button (LK) for three seconds.
Contrary to the hype, these are not the results of a Mortal Kombat that goes back to its roots. These are the results of a game that was developed by a company that only moderately understands the origin of this beloved franchise.
Too Much Time To Finish Him – Or Her
In Mortal Kombat 2, players had to execute their fatalities with expert speed. In the new Mortal Kombat, you can pause the game, take a break, get a snack, run to the bathroom, watch some TV, come back, and finish your enemy.
Even without the pause feature, the “Finish Him” time is still too long. The game should have required players to be experts before they could perform a fatality, just like in MK2.
Long-Term, Love Is In The Air
Despite my complaints for the new Mortal Kombat, there's a good chance that this is the only fighting game I will be playing a year from now.
In truth, my complaints for this sequel are not that different from my feelings toward Mortal Kombat 4. In that game, I didn’t like that the combos had been simplified, nor did I appreciate the various move restrictions. But with a killer juggle system and other addictive elements, the game stole my quarters week after week. MK4 continued to devour my time when it was released on Nintendo 64. The trend continued when it was ported to Dreamcast in the form of Mortal Kombat Gold.
Ultimately, I suspect that the new Mortal Kombat will produce similar results. Though it will never be the perfect MK, it could very well be the fighting game that I play the most this decade.
Louis Bedigian has been writing about games and entertainment since 1999. He joined GameZone in 2001 and has worked for Radish Creative Group as a videographer, editor and production assistant. He is also a staff writer at Benzinga.com, The Trading Idea Network.