ROUND ONE, FIGHT. I’m something of a Mortal Kombat junkie especially in my younger days. I started playing the original arcade game when I was very young and played 2 (still the best to date), 3, dealt with 4 and even dabbled in Deception. I adored the movies, though for obvious reasons I was poed at some parts of the second movie but still liked it. I even bought one of those silly MK controllers for the Playstation 2 (Scorpion naturally). So when I heard that the…Wii version was coming out; I figured I would go ahead and give a review of the newest Mortal Kombat but for the XBOX. I did that version because it is 360 compatible and I did purchase it within the last month. That way if you are considering the Wii version, you will know for the most part (minus the nearly useless Endurance Mode and a couple of extra characters) what you are in for.
This is certainly the best looking Mortal Kombat game to date. Midway goes out of their way to bring this to us in stunning 720p resolution. All of the characters are fully detailed and look great; even throwaway characters like Meat and Hotaru. Environments also look fantastic (the Subway and Botan Jungle arena are two of the highlights) as they include more interaction and aren’t as static as previous Mortal Kombat arenas. The Konquest and Motor Kombat modes also have comparable graphics. The only problem here lies in the sometimes stick-esque animations. The characters move like 2-d motion capture sprites stuck in second gear. If you are used to previous MK games, it’s no big deal; you might even appreciate the fact that it is better in this version. However, it is bothersome at times that for the most part the characters still move pretty close to the same way they did ten years ago.
Sound is provided in the usual 5.1 Dolby Digital Sound. It’s pretty good, fun to listen to and it does provide the ambience that you are looking for in Mortal Kombat. Sound effects are the biggest highlight in this category as every punch, kick, spear or ice shard sounds crystal clear as it flows through the arena. There are taunts and other various character specific effects as well, however here is where lies part of the issue. The taunts seem to be overly generic and the female voices all sound voiced by the same person. This comment will come up again, but it just seems lazy. I realize it might be difficult to provide 60+ voices but a third to a half that at least sound different would be appreciated. We get some full range dialog from Taven in the Konquest mode (and some of the other supporting characters that are found there) but this is almost a version of too little, too late in most cases.
There is something of a loose story (story in a fighting game, are you kidding me?) in Mortal Kombat Armageddon. If you have been following the series, all the previous games have made mention in some form to the end of the series or Armageddon. This is it; all of the warriors have been assembled and must fight each other to get to the top of the temple and be the ultimate fighter. Or something like that. All you truly want to know is who you can fight with and how many hearts, legs and arms you can rip off your opponents’ bodies. There are 60+ characters to begin with, you heard me six-ty. Every character you can probably think of from any other Mortal Kombat game is in here. Even the ones from MK4 (did anybody actually buy that game?). But all of your favorites are here; Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Cage, Kitana, Mileena, Sonya and even the bosses like Goro and Shao Khan. There are a few new ones thrown in for good measure but aren’t all that exciting.
Control is an interesting issue. It starts out innocently, you have the usual High Punch, Low Punch, High Kick, Low Kick and Block just like you are used to. Oh look, your opposition just froze your highly detailed graphic form and proceeded to spill out a 4 hit combo. Okay let’s counter shall we? I’ll just use Scorpion and chuck out a spear (Come Over Here!)…wait. Back Back Low Punch, come on then. Bum Bum, Punch. What is going on here? *pause* *consults GameFaqs*…B+F X(LP) are you kidding me? They changed the *beeping* spear? They changed plenty of other moves too, so if you are used to the old moves, be sure to read up before attempting this chicanery. Once you get over that, it moves pretty well. Moves aren’t hard to pull off and you should be pulling off 3 and 4 hit combos in no time. The character also has two styles of fighting, one will involve regular moves and one will involves moves with your weapon (usually a sword or an axe of some sort).
Now I’ve beat my character to a senseless pulp and want to “FINISH HIM (or her)” Okay, the meter pops up, I guess it’s timed, that’s fine and I’ll just..hrmmm, okay well they changed fatalities. That’s nothing new. Again, I’ll just consult GameFaqs. *looks through pages and pages about fatalities* They all seem to speak about these chain fatalities. Wait, so no character specific fatalities? Scorpion doesn’t put somebody on fire until they burn to a crisp and Mileena doesn’t suck your soul and spit out the bones? The idea here is you have the control to do these fatalities but they are the same for every single character. So it amounts to the usual sequence of keys and yes they pull out hearts or rip off legs but everybody can do the same thing? What the fun is that? I want Liu Kang to develop a dragon head and chomp down. Am I the only one? *crickets chirping*. Anyhow, this is frustrating and I say it again; lazy. There are also environmental fatalities like knocking somebody into subway tracks and getting run over or punching one up into a giant metal fan. Those are pretty fun and keep you entertained.
Challenge is the same as in any Mortal Kombat game. It starts off super simple and then progressively gets harder. By the fourth and fifth fights you are wondering if everybody sucks this bad or just you? This is to say that the computer does its fair share of cheap moves and cheap combos. There are combo breakers that do help to break the chain but the computer can still pull out moves from absolutely nowhere to defeat you quickly. I don’t really think the challenge is unfair totally but it will take you some time to figure things out. This is not a button masher like Tekken tends to be. The computer will also adapt to your skill set somewhat meaning you have to be varied (a freeze and uppercut might work at first but won’t later). But this makes you learn so I appreciate that. Besides you probably would rather be playing against a friend locally or through XBOX Live. That way you can see if you do suck or can actually hold your own.
Starting with Deception, Mortal Kombat games have had more to do in terms of replay value. It was the natural evolution and appreciated. In Deception, the coolest extra feature was that of Kombat Chess. Channeling the Battle Chess game of old you took the characters to the chess board and dueled it out. Great fun. (I played this more than the actual Deception game). With Armageddon, they unfortunately drop Chess and add Motor Kombat. It’s sadly what you think. Mario Kart with fatalities, well sort of. You are one of ten characters (the most popular are included) and you drive around a track. Each character has their own special power and there is a couple of boost things. There are also multiple arenas but it’s rather boring for the most part. Thankfully there is more; of interest is a Konquest mode. Similar to past games, you take the role of Taven as he goes through this fairly interesting adventure story where you can unlock items and get a plethora of coin. Characters can also be unlocked and it becomes actually vital for you to play this.
Coin you say? What good is coin? Well coin helps you to unlock even more items in the Krypt. The Krypt has 288 items to unlock. Some are unlocked through Konquest, some can be unlocked from Kodes (krap I kan’t help it) and other unlocks are just plain bought. So you have to be good at all modes (or be patient) to unlock all of the alternate costumes, arenas, characters, character art and even some Motor Kombat goodies. Finally there is even a Kreate a Fighter feature where you can customize your own fighter to play locally or online (please note if you want to play your Kombatant online you need to create him or her while signed into Live). This also needs serious coin as certain moves or customizations require the currency. However, there is a lot to do here and will take up much time except the fact there are no specific fatalities! (sorry I’m still bitter).
Somewhere in the Kombat Arena, you will hear a scream. It could be a scream of delight (from the sheer amount of characters or beautiful arenas) or it could be a scream of despair (from no character specific fatalities, changing of popular moves or simply because you got killed quicker than most Tom Arnold sitcoms). Mortal Kombat Armageddon is a good game but it still gets its biggest bang for the buck from the multiplayer aspect or how much fun you can have from slaughtering your friend like the pansy he or she is. The single player aspect is a little on the futile side at first but with some good practice you should pulling out 3 and 4 hit combos in no time. On the replay side, you have Motor Kombat which will be fun for all of 10 seconds (even in multiplayer), Konquest (where you can earn the most coin), and Kreate a Fighter (where you will probably spend the most coin if you care at all about your custom character). The single player, Konquest and even Motor Kombat help to earn some coin which then can be used to buy things in the Krypt. For those looking for the non-zombie Liu Kang make sure to get the alternate costume as quick as possible (2140 coins) and hit |> when selecting your character. Armageddon is a beautiful game and whether you decide to get the XBOX (pick me, pick me!), PS2, or Wii version (May 29th, 2007); you will have a good time as long as you can look past little things. (However, I’m still a bit peeved about not being able to electrocute my opponent until their body parts fly off.)