Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition Review

Gaming

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Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
Platforms: PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360 and PS Vita
Release Date: May 1st, 2013
Price: $29.99 (Available Here)

Overview

It’ll be a little over 2 whole years since Mortal Kombat was released in the U.S. and Europe come its Australian release date of May 1st. Originally banned by the Australian Classification Board due to “the impact of the violence in Mortal Kombat being higher than strong and thus could not be accommodated within the MA15+ classification”, the newly instituted (long-overdue) R18+ rating has resulted in the game’s ban being lifted and its imminent release under the new category. The Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition comes with all previously released DLC characters and skins, among some other alterations and minor additions, at a low price. Are you read to enter the tournament?

Story

Sprawled across 17 chapters, Mortal Kombat carries on directly after the battle of Armageddon. At the top of the pyramid where Blaze had stood tall, Raiden and Shao Khan are the last remaining combatants. With Raiden’s defeat and the beginning of Shao Khan’s ultimate rule over all 6 realms appearing imminent, the Thunder God sends a desperate message back to his past self; “he must win!” We then transport back in time to Raiden at the first Mortal Kombat Tournament, who looks at his amulet to find it cracked with those vague words echoing in his head. He initially interprets these words to mean that Liu Kang is the chosen one…

If you know the story of MK 1, 2 and 3, then you will – for the most part – recognise the series of events presented over the following 6 hours or so. However, there are significant changes in the timeline that Raiden himself instigates after discovering that Liu Kang’s victory over the sorcerer Shang Tsung in the first tournament – securing Earthrealm’s safety – only resulted in his amulet being damaged further. This is when Raiden realises that things must be different for the future is bleak otherwise. What ensues is somewhat of a butterfly effect as alternate events take place that change the course of MK history forever and create an all-new timeline for future games to follow.

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I know the core game has been out for 2 years, but there is still a chance that any number of readers (certainly the majority would be Australian) have not experienced the game/Story Mode yet. Therefore, I won’t say much more…BUT, there are many satisfying twists and turns and a reveal at the conclusion that sets-up a sequel. Also, if you assume – because of its chronological order – that the next game may deal (possibly loosely) with characters/events from MK4, it looks extremely likely. As it relates to the story presented here, I have to express how impressed I was…fighting games aren’t known for this, but NetherRealm pulled it off splendidly. Being a lifelong MK fan, I’ve always enjoyed the well-established relationships and backgrounds of each individual in the universe. There are personal tales that go beyond the tournament, which is merely a setting…unlike in other titles.

Gameplay

Mortal Kombat breaks tradition from the “low” and “high” designations in control schemes of past entries; basic attacks (face buttons) are now broken up into “front” and “back” punches and kicks. ‘R2’ blocks, ‘R1’ throws and ‘L2’ flips stance (does anyone actually use that?!). Enhanced Moves, Combo Breakers and X-Ray Attacks (which do considerable damage) are all linked to your Super Meter (ala Street Fighter). The meter is made up of three bars. Enhanced Moves use one bar and are executed by pressing the block button at the same time as your desired special move inputs. Combo Breakers utilise two bars and are executed by pressing block and forward together when on defence. X-Ray Attacks require a full bar and can be executed by simultaneously pulling both triggers, although beware…they all have unique conditions for connecting so you must time/plan their use accordingly.

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Mortal Kombat is jam-packed with modes and features like no other fighting game before it. Single-players can test their mettle in the classic Ladder, Story Mode, Challenge Tower – made up of 300(!!) challenges – and the “Test Your…” mini-games (includes Luck, Might, Sight and Strike – are only unlocked and available after mastering them in the aforementioned Challenge Tower). Of course you can also have single matches against friends or A.I. And speaking of friends, there’s also the Tag Battles and a tag-team variation on the Ladder. The ending received for finishing a Tag Ladder is always that of the first player’s chosen warrior, even if the other lands the final blow to the boss – Shao Khan.

There are almost 30 stages to choose from (including time of day variants, e.g. Rooftop at Dawn, Day or Dusk). 7 of those arenas have stage fatality opportunities with some fan favourites such as The Dead Pool and The Pit (with spleen busting spikes!) making a return. If you would like to hone your fighting skills, there are the Practise, Training and even Fatality Training modes (the latter was oft requested to aid people’s input-memory retention). And then we have Online, which includes King of the Hill mode – where up to eight players can act as spectators and play the winner of a fight – and is somewhat of a mixed bag when it comes to performance/connection stability. The servers have been improved upon incrementally, and although I usually had fairly smooth experiences with it, I have had a match or two interrupted. I’m not a big online player, so it’s largely unimportant to me.

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There is a “koin” system in place whereby you earn the currency by winning matches, pulling off finishers, completing challenges, etc. They can be spent on skipping the tougher challenges in the Challenge Tower (the final one, no. 300, is notoriously difficult…yeah I skipped it, wanna fight about it?!) or to purchase and unlock “kollectibles” in the Krypt. The Krypt is huge (warranted a map for heaven’s sake!), divided into four quadrants: the Deadlands, Hollow of Infestation, Meadow of Despair and Bloodmarsh. All up, there are a whopping 303 items – including 4 secret – to be claimed, which ordinarily range from concept art to alternate costumes and fatality inputs to be added to your move-list in the pause menu (although in the Komplete Edition, that’s not necessary…will elaborate soon).

Nekropolis is basically a museum – which can also be accessed from within the Krypt – where you can view all of your unlocked content. As you enter, the Gallery dead-on in front of you is where the unlocked artworks, fatality inputs and music pieces are housed. On either side of that are individual shrines for the entire roster; in the initial release, even after purchasing the DLC separately, Kenshi, Skarlet, Freddy Kruger and Rain did not have their own shrine. That meant you could not re-view their endings or player statistics, although there was a sly work-around found in order to view their character models. But with the Komplete Edition, it’s all there – even their character objects (which are displayed, hovering over a vessel in front of the shrine) are present from the get-go; they are usually unlocked upon completion of the Ladder with the respective fighter.

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As a matter of fact, every character, fatality and alternate costume (15 DLC skins included) is unlocked from the start in the Komplete Edition…I personally enjoy having to work to earn new content though. Aside from the four DLC characters mentioned above – which don’t have alternates – Kratos will also be playable, exclusively in the PS3 version. Ed Boon has mentioned in the past that the game disc is literally full…and it’s easy to believe. The one frustration I have with the title is the lag experienced during Quan Chi’s winning pose, Shang Tsung’s transformations and rarely in the middle of a fight with sub-boss Goro. I expected that to get fixed by now, but that may be an impossible ask; it certainly has zero chance of happening now.

Visuals

Mortal Kombat brings back the gore that was missing in MK vs DC Universe, and by the bucket-load. As if the return of gruesome fatalities (don’t forget the disturbingly cute babalities!) weren’t enough, the development team introduced the X-Ray moves, which are akin to mini-fatalities in their own right. I don’t know how someone can get a blade through their eye socket, out the back of their skull and continue fighting, but it looks spectacular! (I sound deranged and blood-thirsty….within the context of the game!!!). Each character’s insides have been uniquely modelled in 3D just to demonstrate the internal effects of these attacks, fatalities and stage fatalities; all uber-violent and bloody (an element that looked comical in past games, but is more detailed and realistic here, although nowhere near perfect yet).

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Graphically, the game looks great on the heavily modified Unreal Engine 3. Character models are highly detailed, as are the stages they fight within. There’s a good sense of depth and space on the 2.5 plane thanks to the implementation of various foreground and background objects and sufficient, effective lighting. Tonally, the visuals represent exactly what the game is about, even spilling into the menu design and secondary presentation elements. Cut-scenes in Story Mode are compressed and therefore lower resolution than gameplay, but you can blame the DVD format for that limitation (won’t be an issue in the near future). Character damage is also too clean for my tastes, but does provide a great indicator of the war one had just experienced.

Audio

For me, the music of MK is instantly recognisable; from the films and the games. Dan Forden has been with the NetherRealm crew practically from the beginning, and what’s great about his work on Mortal Kombat is the fact that he creates a level of nostalgia in remixing the music found in the stages across MK 1, 2 and 3 whilst bringing something new to them in the process. It’s still that odd, signature MK sound; a mix of prominent electric guitar, electronic/techno elements, exotic instrumentation and rock percussion that by all means shouldn’t go together, but somehow Forden always makes them work cohesively. The Subway and Rooftop hooks (perfect examples of this formula) in particular always stuck with me, and hearing their catchy, updated versions here was awesome. Now they’re stuck in my head all over again.

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On the SFX and V.O front, Mortal Kombat also delivers in usual MK fashion. Every hit is felt through the impact of the foley/audio. Johnny Cage is cocky as ever, while Shao Khan is even more antagonising and vocal than usual. My personal favourite piece of voice-acting comes when Kano executes his “choke” manoeuvre; the victims humorously sound like they are being violently shook, not choked. No audio elements have been added or reworked for the Komplete Edition, and I did find that the volume levels in the game are still not very well-balanced (at least for me), which is disappointing but not as big an issue if using headphones. If you’re in the same boat, just remember to drop your TV/headset’s volume when switching to another game or other media unless you want your eardrums blown out.

Overall

FINALLY! Australia can engage in “kombat” once more! Can and should! Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition is amazing value for money. Not only was the original the most jam-packed fighting game in recent memory at full RRP, but now with the added content found here and at its discounted price, there’s even more reason to buy NetherRealm Studios‘ brutal fighter. It’s a true testament to the talent of the team when their 18th overall title in an extremely enduring and popular 20 year+ franchise is the highest rated and best yet. Mortal Kombat is the first title in the series with enough depth of mechanics to warrant its inclusion in pro fighting game tournaments like EVO after all.

That being said, I actually went back to this after playing and reviewing Injustice: Gods Among Us – a stellar fighting game proving that NetherRealm can hit home runs outside of their ballpark – and was shocked by how much slower it felt in comparison. I don’t even believe it to be the case in all instances; it depends on the character used as well…but NetherRealm have made massive strides in perfecting variation in control, play-style and scale since its debut in 2011. Yet, Mortal Kombat has a similar low-floor, high-ceiling to Injustice and can be enjoyed by all manner of fighting gamer. I am excited for the next-gen of MK. But for now, Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition will keep you busy for weeks on end. And for US $30/AUD $40 dollars?!…LET MORTAL KOMBAT BEGIN!

9-5-capsules-out-of-10

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.

I am a graduate of the Bachelor of Interactive Entertainment (w/ major in Games Design) course at Qantm College, Sydney.

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