PAX East 2011 is bigger then before and as they say, if you build it they will come. The developers have come in droves and I was able to get a nice bit of hands on time with Mortal Kombat. The developer has long been saying that it will be a return to form and playing it I felt like I was playing Mortal Kombat 2 and that is a great thing.
The new reboot of the franchise takes us as far away from the Teen rated last Mortal Kombat game (Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe) as you very well may have been hoping. The game is bloody, violent, and in your face every step of the way. The graphics are stunning and the models are immaculate 3D representations of the characters, but gameplay is blessedly on a 2D plane.
Little touches add to this bloody, visceral feel. There is a weight to the hits, blood stays on the characters as matches progress, and the wear on the bodies is a visual treat. The characters look very much like you always picture them, with very realistic skin, cloth textures, and great metallic touches on key characters. To say the game looks great is an understatement.
Gameplay is refined to suit a modern fighting game, but still feels like classic Mortal Kombat right from the start. This version allows you to select two fighters who can be switched on the fly as you play. The new dynamic to the game opens up plenty of combo, sorry, “Kombo” opportunities as you juggle your opponent. Movements and actions follow your button commands quickly, and the action is very fast and frantic.
The moves we all remember are still here, too. Liu Kang still has his flying kick and fireball as an example, but plenty of new moves have been added to the mix as well. Of particular note are the X-ray moves. As you play, your power bar grows–getting hit actually fills it faster–and once it is full you can execute an X-ray move. These moves are both devastating and beautiful, with close-ups of the recipient’s bones viewed in X-ray mode to brutal effect. You can actually see bones breaking and blood flowing, every time this happened at PAX East, the crowd watching went wild.
The initial unlocked roster is a who’s who of the Mortal Kombat universe. Old favorites like Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Raiden are joined by some newcomers including the PS3 exclusive character, Kratos. The initial character selection is deep, but only half revealed, another throwback is that characters are unlocked as you progress through the game.
Everything I have seen in Mortal Kombat points to this series getting back to what made it fun and engaging to play. The Kombat is fast and furious, the moves are brutally violent, and the characters look and play great. The new additions like the X-ray mode and the especially violent fatalities are a true return to form for the series and I am excited to play the full release.