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True The Whispers Of Beginning Decay

Title: Wrote an MK preview
Posted: March 17, 2011 (07:37 PM)
I wrote this initially as a favor to Jason (the other Jason) but I know there are a lot of MK fans here as well, so I wanted to share. I think it turned out rather well:

For years Mortal Kombat has been on a downward spiral, suffering from the same affliction many popular titles encounter: a loss of identity. What began as a brutal, no-holds-barred pioneer slowly devolved into a clunky, watered-down mess. Whether the several, sometimes non-violent, directions the game took was an attempt to market it to a wider audience, an effort to be taken seriously or simply a de-sensitized fan base, none can say. It was, however, evident that a change was needed if MK was to survive or even contend with the brilliant Street Fighter IV. So what’s the best way to instill new life into a series that has had more disappointing sequels than the Silent Hill franchise?

Strip it down to the bare essentials, those things that made it popular in the first place.

Which is, seemingly, what Netherrealm studios has done with their latest release, the simply named Mortal Kombat.

Like many, I got a chance this week to play around with the demo, and must say that I’m ultimately impressed with what I saw—albeit nervous at the same time. I had heard many rumors that Mortal Kombat was a re-imagining of the first game with a larger roster, enough gore to make Tarantino nauseous and a brand new engine to drive it into your brain. And while the demo didn’t reveal anything in regards to the story or how it’s going to work with so many new characters, it did grant me a very disturbing insight into the core element that made MK a cultural phenomenon: the violence.

Though I only had the opportunity to play with four characters—Mileena, Sub-Zero, Scorpion and Johnny Cage (who’s even more of a tool, if that was possible)—each with only one Fatality, it’s evident that Netherrealm has put in the time and effort to make something memorable…whether you want to recall it or not. Most likely, the full version will provide more than one but even those were enough to shock then intrigue me. I won’t go over them all, as you really must play this demo and see for yourself, but my favorite that I absolutely must mention was Scorpion’s. He rips out his sword, slicing horizontal towards his enemy’s waist so fast that the upper torso lands squarely on the legs and stays there. He completes the same miraculous feat with the victim’s head, like a building block of body parts, then proceeds to kick the torso, flinging it back and spinning the head high into the air. One last vertical swipe severs the head right down the middle, and the two parts—brain exposed—fall to the ground.

It was utterly brutal, a little unnecessary and over-the-top, but it shook and amazed me nonetheless. It’s also evident—through the CGI preview at the end of the demo—there will be a fair amount of environment Fatalities that go far beyond characters simply falling on spikes. One had a prone Liu Kang struck so hard in the face by a racing taxi it took his head clean off, leaving his tense, twisted corpse twitching. Another showed Scorpion ramming Sub-Zero’s face into a pool of magma. When he pulled it away, the face had been completely burned off, the skeleton’s jaw still clacking and molten lava oozing out his eye sockets.

To further add to the shock value, MK has also added a new element: X-Ray attacks. Any time you’re hit or land a blow, it increases your three-sectioned power bar. When one is filled, it allows you to use combo breakers and more devastating special moves like Scorpion’s flaming spear. When you have three filled, you can execute a very brutal, damaging combo where time slows and the game X-rays the victim to show their skeletal structure and inner organs. Unlike other games, these combos are universal, implemented by pressing the two shoulder buttons simultaneously so you’re free to sit back and watch as Sub-zero grabs the other players stomach, freezes it, crushes it and then head butts them in the jaw, shattering it to pieces.

With that one element added to mechanics, several more seem to have been removed. Styles and weapons seem to be missing. The 3-D plane is gone, no longer requiring—or better put allowing—a player to side step and counter. They’ve also simplified the combos to mixtures of two and three buttons, most of them not requiring any additional responses like pushing forward or back. Such would seem foolish, but in both playing and watching the ending trailer, they appear to have made the combos far more forgiving in terms of customization. Missing a button that’s not listed won’t always end the combo—provided you find another one that will work, and the once lapse in special move response has been eliminated. If you can program the combination fast enough, you can link special moves to combos, slam someone with Johnny’s shadow kick after three hooks, then nail their airborne body with a fireball before they have a chance to defend themselves—or even land. Most of these aren’t listed, and it’s hard to say if they will be, but I must say it adds an intriguing and engaging element. It allows the player to experiment and actually immerse themselves into fighting by putting them in control.

But it’s there that I wonder how MK will be received by gamers. Will they become enthralled or frustrated at having to learn a new system yet again? And better, how will they go about executing these combos without the ability to side-step and counter, especially if they’re using someone who lacks any type of stun move? You can “jump” into the combos much like you could with the old school Mortal Kombat 3 run combos (which I really miss and think that was the closest MK came to having a unique and mature style) but that becomes predictable after a while, much like it did with Street Fighter. In order to win, gamers are going to have to devise new and unique skills. It’s going to force gamers to develop techniques and either evolve, or suffer massive defeat—perhaps prompting some of them to give up entirely. When you think about it, it truly is a brilliant move. Well, brilliant or stupid. The most renowned fighting games have always required a strong commitment in order to be excelled in and MK lovers are no different. I am curious to see if a reinvention of a long-running style is going to invigorate gamers or frustrate them beyond belief. Will they embrace it or shun it?

Based on what I’ve seen and played, I’m embracing…

For now.

This song actually relates to the post. I'll let the first person who can tell me how borrow my copy of Tactics Ogre.


hmdUser: hmd
Title: Re: Wrote an MK preview
Posted: March 17, 2011 (10:08 PM)
Because like Mortal Kombat, Mutha's Day Out was big in the nineties?

TrueUser: True
Title: Re: Wrote an MK preview
Posted: March 17, 2011 (10:15 PM)
No. Good try though.

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