Since its debut back in 1992, Mortal Kombat has appeared on nearly every videogames system on the market, including those which strictly speaking weren’t powerful enough to handle the fast-and-furious nature of the series’ gameplay. That the latest instalment has come to both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 simultaneously is no surprise, but whether one system excels beyond the other is a very different kettle of fish.
On both formats, Mortal Kombat features the exact same set-up. From the scrolling menu system depending on how many players wish to play on a single system to the gameplay modes available, whether playing on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 Mortal Kombat is the same videogame presentation. The traditional Arcade mode returns, renamed as ‘Ladder’ and tasking the player with successfully taking down ten successive opponents, including two boss fights at the end. Unlike earlier instalments in the franchise, the ‘Test Your’ mini-games don’t appear on the Ladder, instead being selected from the same area on the menu or being playable as part of the Challenge Tower gameplay mode.
The Challenge Tower is a series of three hundred individual challenges increasing in difficulty, ranging from basic fights to alternate rulesets, to altogether different events. A very welcome addition to the Mortal Kombat formula, the Challenge Tower provides the perfect break from the basic fighting system present in the Ladder, Versus and Story Mode options.
As explained at length in Electronic Theatre’s in-depth review of the PlayStation 3 version of Mortal Kombat, the Story Mode in is unquestionably one of the best ever featured in a Beat-‘Em-Up game. Offering a continuous, enthralling plot over the course of numerous chapters, it cannot be underestimated just how progressive the Story Mode is for the genre. The way in which characters costumes are tailored to fit the sequences of events is noteworthy, and the adaptation of what were once seemingly random backdrop designs earlier in the franchise into a believable world is nothing short of remarkable. Fighting games often offering a somewhat nonsensical plot or lack of real motivation beyond that of beating each other to a pulp; Mortal Kombat changes all that, and sets a new storytelling standard for the rest of the genre to catch-up with.
A tutorial is also present, revealing many of the Mortal Kombat’s hidden secrets for newcomers and long-time fans alike, and the Krypt featured in the more recent releases returns much as it always was, allowing players to spend Koins earned in any game mode. Here players can unlock music, concept art, gameplay manipulators and other bonuses, some more interesting than others.
The final gameplay mode is that of multiplayer gameplay, available both off- and online. Online gameplay offers Ranked, Player and Private matches, as well as game rooms for King of the Hill (winner-stays-on) match types. Playing against human opponents really puts the fighting system through its paces: some characters fight very differently to how players may remember, yet stay true to their original move set. For example, Kung Lao’s abilities still centre on his bladed hat and teleportation, but his attacks are much swifter than they had been previously and can be linked together for a great amount of successive hits.
Mortal Kombat is a very technically accomplished game. From cunningly hiding of loading times in the Story Mode to the incredibly detailed backdrops, Mortal Kombat is a very well presented modern vision of a game born more than a decade ago. The suspension-of-disbelief is broken somewhat on the rooftop and underground stages thanks to a billboard for NetherRealm Studios – in the story mode, these stages occur just as Shao Khan’s forces invade Earthrealm, thus it’s the first most of the human civilisation will have ever heard of outworld, or the Mortal Kombat tournament, and so the image depicting a ninja and showcasing the word ‘netherrealm’ is a little out of place, to say the least.
The Mortal Kombat series may have graced more formats than there have been editions of the game, but on the current-generation consoles it’s on best form. Just as with the PlayStation 3 version, the biggest hurdle gamers will face is that of the unruly D-Pad, but those most concerned with such issues will likely have a specialised control pad already. In every other aspect, Mortal Kombat is a top tier production, and despite nothing receiving an exclusive character on Xbox 360, it’s just as essential a purchase.