"One woman with bright purple spandex starts to feel pretty much like the next, with only the moves defining the two. Switching between fighting styles doesn’t feel as remarkable as it did when it debuted in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, either. Nothing seems distinct, not even battle arenas."
The Elder Gods looked into the future and saw Armageddon. Warriors wandering Earthrealm were growing too powerful and too numerous for their own good. In time, mankind’s total destruction would be inevitable. Frightened by this grim eventuality, the deities settled upon a plan: they would raise a mystical pyramid at the edge of a battlefield. There, warriors could gather and compete against one another to thin their numbers and to determine who among them was supreme.
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon begins there, by way of a beautiful video sequence full of action and special attacks. You’ll watch two opposing factions clash in a pile of whirling limbs, swords and projectiles. Then the fabled pyramid rises from the earth and you’ll witness warriors stabbing one another in the back as they race toward its peak. Bodies swarm and attacks mount. The moment is nothing short of spectacular. There are so many, many fighters.
When the game begins, you may be surprised to find that you actually can control most of them. The game’s main attraction, in fact, is a roster of 64 characters. That’s a whole lot of butt kicking and it ensures that your favorite character is represented here. For the more casual Mortal Kombat fan, it can be downright overwhelming. Just testing each warrior in one fight will take over an hour. Mastering each will take much longer. In that aspect, the game is a rousing success, just as it was when it arrived on the Xbox and PlayStation 2 almost a year ago. There’s even an extra character named Khameleon, but she’s not the reason you would want to buy the Wii iteration of the game. That honor is reserved for the controls.
You have three choices: a GameCube controller, a Classic controller or the Wii Remote with nunchuck attachment. The first two options are fairly standard by now and will cause the game to feel much the same way it has on past systems. If you’ve spent years perfecting your Mortal Kombat skills with such a control scheme, you may prefer to keep doing things the way you always have. If you choose motion-sensitive controls, you’ll hold the nunchuck in your left hand and use it to move your character, block attacks and change combat styles. The Wii Remote is held in its standard position, but you have to position your hand a little higher up because your default punches and kicks are performed with the d-pad. Meanwhile, holding the ‘B’ button on the back side tells the game that you want to perform a special move. Once the button is pressed, you can then wave the Wii Remote about and start beating down your opponents.
The way the remote forces you to hold it feels slightly awkward at first and never really becomes comfortable, but you’ll adapt eventually. Then you can start delighting in how easy everything is. Suppose you’re a huge Scorpion fan. He’s pretty cool, so why not? You may remember his grappling move from the past, where he sends out a spike-tipped rope that latches onto his adversary and pulls him or her close. Then Scorpion can follow up with some standard attacks. If you want to execute that move here, you simply hold the ‘B’ button on the under side of the Wii remote, then jerk it away from your enemy and then toward him in rapid succession. It doesn’t even need to be a larger gesture. Abrupt ones work better. Once the sequence is properly input, Scorpion will unleash his familiar attack.
Another character might use the same simple gestures to unleash a swarm of wasps or a barrage of physical blows. You simply need to know which move is tied to which attack on which character. That’s where you’ll have to spend the time to gain mastery, and it’s a welcome change. Even amateur players should have little difficulty adapting to the play style and they will almost certainly find it every bit as consistent as the old-fashioned way was.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Mortal Kombat: Armageddon can quickly become bland. You might not expect it of a game that allows you to slip in an opponent’s vomit or to rip off his head, but it’s true. The massive character roster is probably to blame, but everyone begins to blur together just a little bit. One woman with bright purple spandex starts to feel pretty much like the next, with only the moves defining the two. Switching between fighting styles doesn’t feel as remarkable as it did when it debuted in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, either. Nothing seems distinct, not even battle arenas. Though many of them are creative, the hazards start to feel tiring. What’s the difference between throwing someone in a pit of acid versus a pit of lava? Bones float on the top in one and the scream is more anguished in the other.
Perhaps the developers could have remedied the issue by spending time tweaking characters, but instead they added other diversions. There’s the “Konquest” mode that lets you play as a warrior sent by his father on a quest to save the world. You’ll get to wander around the world collecting coins and unlockables as you seek out and pulverize a long string of opponents. It’s kind of like questing in Soul Calibur. If that gets tiring--and it will--then you can save your progress and play a little “Motor Kombat.” The cleverly-titled racing mode lets you jump into go-carts and drive around several tracks while you battle it out with your competitors. This mode is hampered by the lack of an on-screen map, which makes it difficult to tell where your rivals are unless you constantly look in the rear-view mirror. It never feels as polished as a Mario Kart game, either.
Ultimately, you’ll most likely spend the bulk of your time fighting friends in the “Arcade” mode. That’s where Mortal Kombat: Armageddon shines. Suddenly, the fact that the characters aren’t all that stunning doesn’t matter because you can switch between a few favorites while your friend does the same. Or you can cling to your classic control scheme while a newcomer delights in whipping out incredible fatalities with the Wii Remote. There’s not anything here that will suddenly cause you to love Mortal Kombat if you hated it before, but long-time fans who maybe haven’t played one in awhile--or who didn’t pick up this release when it was available on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox--should find a lot to like. The Elder Gods should be pleased.
Staff review by Jason Venter (June 08, 2007)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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