Mortal Kombat has the prestigious honor of being one of the most popular franchises in history. If you are a gamer, and haven’t heard of Mortal Kombat, you are not a gamer, sorry. The series boomed early, and then “jumped the shark” with MK3. Several lame action platformer games were done, a failed move to 3d with MK4, and then the series was surprisingly resurrected about two years ago with Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance(MKDA).
This year, Midway has released Mortal Kombat: Deception. The story goes into what happens after the Deadly Alliance. The Dragon King is back, and he’s taken Reptile’s body. I won’t give any of the story away, but there’s a reason the game is called Deception.
The game has come back in this version doing everything bigger and better. Nostalgia galore in old arenas, and fighters have been updated. Characters now have two fatalities instead of one. There are Hara-Kiri moves which are self-inflicted fatalities. There are combo breaking moves. The backgrounds are more interactive, featuring weapons, deathtraps and multi-level stages. Modes include online play, Puzzle Kombat, and Kombat Chess. Getting the collector’s edition will give you an additional DVD with both Mortal Kombat 1, and a bunch of interviews/history of the MK series.
The fighting in Mortal Kombat: Deception is entertaining. They went with the same idea in Deadly Alliance where each character has three different fighting styles, one of which uses a weapon, though the weapon impalements have been removed from the game (they were cheesy anyway.) Mortal Kombat: Deception has added a limited-use combo breaker, and uses a memorization combo system. You input a series of specific buttons with little regard for timing, and the game does your combo for you. Normally you are at the mercy of the opponent when this happens. Now three times per match (per match, not per round) you can perform a combo breaker, and interrupt someone’s combos. These do no damage, but do knock the opponent down giving you some breathing room.
In addition to beating your opponent to a pulp, certain arenas contain weapons which you can pick up and use against your opponent. There are also arena-dependant deathtraps. These work similar to the Pit or Dead Pool levels in MK1/2, the main difference is that these can be done during a match, ending that round instantly. There are also various parts of levels which can be broken away/knocked through/pushed over/etc. to reveal another section of the arena. This is similar to MK3’s multi-level arenas, or DOA’s idea of multiple areas in an arena.
These traps, and multi-section areas are marked with a red or yellow outline, so you have a clue of where you should be avoiding. This adds a little more strategy into the game as you jockey for position around the arenas. In reality it’s pretty rare that a match will end due to a deathtrap. Most occurrences of the deathtraps occur on a handful of maps. One of these maps has you fighting on a plateau where every few moments, the outer layer of the plateau breaks away, leaving you with less and less spots to fight. I avoid that level as it’s pretty random on who can beat who, and a lot less reliant on skill.
To the delight of the MK fans around the world (myself included), they brought back the uppercut! This was sorely lacking in Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance. The uppercut is accompanied by its old-school sickening sound effect, and the occasional “Excellent!”. That being said, the fighting revolves mostly around the use of special attacks, and comboing when possible. This is an exaggerated over-the-top fighting game, so it doesn’t have the depth that say, a Virtua Fighter 4 would contain. To me, this is fine, I play the MK series for the fun, fatalities, gore and blood. The fighting system may not have the depth of some others, but it’s far from flawed, or lacking in strategy.
In standard MK fashion, at the end of the match you can perform a fatality on your opponent. These are good in Mortal Kombat: Deception. They are a little more violent, and gorier than in the last game. There is also a Hara-Kiri move which the loser would input in the same way that the winner would do his fatality. If you pull off the Hari-Kiri move before the victor gets his fatality input, you will kill yourself in an equally violent fashion. This allows the loser a tiny bit of pride in an otherwise humiliating defeat.
Some of the characters from Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance are gone (Kano, Sonya, Jax, Johnny Cage), and some are back from past MKs (Ermac, Baraka, Mileena, Noob Saibot, Liu Kang). You get 12 fighters to start, and then have to unlock the rest. Returning from the last game is the Krypt in which you use coins obtained by playing the various modes to buy chests which contain arenas, characters, outfits, art, soundtracks, etc. There are also certain chests which can only be opened with a key found in the single-player conquest mode. Overall, it’s easier to unlock characters than it was in Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance since there are FAR less chests, and many of the characters are unlocked through playing the single player game all the way through.
Speaking of the conquest mode… In the single player conquest mode, you progress through a 3d world in typical action/adventure game style, fighting other characters, solving little quests and unlocking secrets via keys you find. The mode has built-in training sessions much the way that MKDA did where you start with basic attacks, then low attacks, and then the different styles, etc. Overall, this mode was average at best. You rarely fight as the same character, so you don’t really get a chance to memorize the moves. On each of the different realms (Earthrealm, Outworld, etc) you fight as different characters. This got old, and while I didn’t hate every moment, I was playing the single player game only because I had to.
The keys which you find in the conquest mode can range from simple, to painful. You can’t really unlock the bulk of the characters until you’ve beaten the conquest mode. Certain characters are time dependant, so unless you look at a hint guide/faq/cheat list, you won’t be able to unlock everyone. How else would you know that on Friday the 13th, in the woods, at 4am is the only time the chest appears? You wouldn’t. So you do what I did, you beat the game, then you look at a FAQ, then you go back into single player, and go hunting for the unlockables.
The two other modes (chess, and puzzle) are more gimmicky than fun. The chess game I played a few times, and have no desire to ever do it again, and the puzzle game is the only part of MK that my wife will play with me. These features are cool to be included, but they are not on my “Top 5 Reasons to Buy MKD” list. I will say that I enjoy the puzzle game, but not as much as the similar Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo. It’s a nice break from the frantic fighting once and awhile, but I get bored after the first game or two, and go back to the real fighting.
I enjoyed the audio in Mortal Kombat: Deception. The sounds are beefy, loud, and in your face, just the way they should be. You get the nostalgia when Shao Kahn yells “Finish Him!” at the end of the match, and when Raiden spews his gibberish as he’s flying towards you. The game’s soundtrack has a few remixes of old MK songs, but also many new ones. They fit the dark attitude of the rest of the game. There’s no option to import your own music into the game however. I don’t really care one way or the other as I enjoy the MK soundtracks.
The graphics are well done also. Mortal Kombat: Deception has about the same amount of detail as there was in MKDA in the characters. The backgrounds seem larger, and a little more immersive/busy. Pipes flow with blood, gears turn, etc. Little things going on in the background help what’s already a pretty game. The game does support 480 progressive mode, BUT I was pretty disappointed when I realized that on my widescreen TV, the left 2″ of the screen are chopped off. This honestly isn’t a huge deal in hindering play, but I cannot see the first digit in the number of hits I’ve done in my combo on the left side of the screen. Annoying yes, showstopper? No.
If I had a complaint in the visual department of Deception it would be the blood and gore. They used the same fake Jell-O blood that we saw in Deadly Alliance. This stuff shoots out in gobs, and is very chunky and fake looking. I wish it was more realistic blood. I understand that the blood looks how the developers intended it to look, and it does fit in the exaggerated world of MK, but if it was a little more realistic looking I’d like it more. I want to go “ow” when I see fatalities. This is a minor quip. The body/facial damage is back again this year, and it helps convey by looking at the screen who’s winning and who’s losing. I can’t take any points off there.
The biggest surprise I had with the game was online mode. This was pretty well done. Stats are kept, and you can join a game based on parameters (level of violence, skill level etc), or just join a quick match. When someone joins to fight you, you can see their stats, and deny or accept. One problem with this was that joining a quick match took literally 10 minutes to find a partner every time I’ve done it. The online play is booming, I’m not sure what the exact problem is, but by very definition, quick match should not take 5-10 minutes to connect to someone and start fighting. After the fight you can choose to rematch or not which is also cool. I have play 10-15 matches against someone equally skilled on a few occasions. This is great, and you can usually say, ok, best of 7 or 11 or whatever and then add that guy to the friend list. I would have liked to see a tournament mode, but overall, I can’t complain much.
I was worried that online would suck due to lag, and idiots trying to cheat their way to a win by simply using the more powerful characters/attacks. This was not the case at all. I’ve played many hours online and didn’t notice much lag. About once per match (not round, match) there would be stutter enough for myself, or my opponent to mess up one of our combos, or miss a throw that should have hit, but overall I was happy with the latency.
The people I’ve met online were also cool. Some are worse than me, many are better, but overall, they were just out to have fun. No one tried the same “cheap” tactics over and over, or did any exploits from what I’ve seen.
This was really harkening back to the days when my friends and I would spend all day long in the arcade playing MK1 and 2. Usually with fighting games you get tired of pulverizing the computer AI, and if you don’t have friends you toss the game away after a month. Even if you DO have friends, unless you each know a few characters it’s always going to be Scorpion versus Baraka, or whatever limited set you use. Anymore, if you master 2-3 characters you are doing well. Each character has three styles with TONS of moves and combos in each style. You’ll probably get one maybe two guys you can use a lot. (Mine are Ermac and Scorpion for those that care.) Having someone new to fight against brings more replay value than any fighting game I’ve ever played. I’m still pumped to play online.
Overall, there was so much good, and so little bad with Mortal Kombat: Deception. Minor quips would be the funky widescreen support, the cheesy looking blood, and the removal of some favorite characters (The Mighty Oot still cannot believe that after bringing his boy Kano back in Deadly Alliance, he’s not in Deception). On the plus side, the combo breaker is a nice touch, and just more of what made the last game great, more arenas, more fighters, more fatalities, etc. I can’t say enough about the online mode. If you are a fan of the Mortal Kombat series, you need to get this game. Maybe I’ll see you online sometime, my gamer tag is CPaladino.
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