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Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition

Score: 90%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Fighting/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

If you already own Mortal Kombat, stop reading this right now. Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition is essentially a "Game of the Year" version of last year's tremendously successful reboot. If you've been stuck under a rock for most of the current generation of gaming consoles, a "Game of the Year" version is usually a critically-acclaimed release repackaged with all of its corresponding downloadable content already on the disc. Most well-received games get one of these about a year after release: Red Dead Redemption, Borderlands, and LittleBigPlanet are a few notable examples. And here we are, one year after NetherRealm gave the single greatest Western contribution to the fighting genre. Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition is a must-own for fighter fans who don't already own the original release. Somehow, though, I doubt there are many serious fighting fans who don't already own Mortal Kombat.

Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition doesn't change anything about the core game, and that's a good thing. It's a remarkably handsome game that features incredible motion capture animation work, detailed character models, and horrifying ways to destroy said character models. This franchise reboot is more than a return to form -- it's one of the most gruesome and violent games ever made. After the T-rated Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, NetherRealm decided to follow up with a fully-concerted effort to nauseate their audience. And the end result is nothing short of glorious. Fatalities are beyond over-the-top and often go way past overkill. It's one thing to trisect a human being, but it's another thing entirely to cleave the severed head in two afterwards. The sheer amount of excess is completely welcome, and the current hardware is more than up to the task. All this, and the load times are almost nonexistent.

Sound design is classic Mortal Kombat. Most of the music is appropriately grim and menacing, and the "dun dun dun" that precludes each Fatality is enough to send a thrill up your spine. Every landed hit has an incredible sense of impact to it; it's almost as if the developers want you to feel every hit you're giving and receiving. Voice work is charmingly cheesy. The story might be on the serious side, but several of the characters find excuses to ham it up. It's a good thing, too -- Mortal Kombat features a diverse cast of interesting characters, and they each deserve their share of the limelight. Of course, it wouldn't be a proper MK game without the gravelly-voiced announcer, and he's as great as he's ever been.


Gameplay:

Mortal Kombat received no small amount of acclaim for one of its most unexpected successes. Fighting games invariably feature stories that range from mind-numbingly stupid (Dead or Alive, looking at you) to unintentionally hilarious (Soul Calibur V). Mortal Kombat bucks this trend by featuring a Story Mode that is, for lack of better words, awesome. It's a slightly altered version of the events in the first three games, told through a clever narrative device. As the game opens, the Battle of Armageddon is about to be lost, and Raiden is about to be killed. He somehow manages to send a message to his past self -- specifically, right at the time the first game took place. The younger Raiden must figure out what the message means in order to change Earthrealm's destiny. What's really entertaining about Story Mode isn't just the story, though: it's the structure and pacing. Fights don't just happen "because;" they happen as the direct result of something happening in the narrative. Some of these excuses are to be expected; for example, Shang Tsung generally isn't questioned when he tells two people to fight. Others are surprising in entertaining ways; for example, when Jackson "Jax" Briggs decides to beat on veteran douchebag Johnny Cage for not shutting the hell up.

Mortal Kombat marks the franchise's return to fighting on a two-dimensional plane. And what a triumphant return it is. What's particularly great about the fighting system is how it simultaneously brings the game back to its roots and modernizes said roots. The development team at NetherRealm learned some lessons while messing around with that extra dimension. If you've stuck with the franchise through its lifespan, you may notice little idiosyncrasies introduced in some of the three dimensional installments (such as Deception).

You'll be absolutely gobsmacked if you go in thinking that the Story Mode is all the single player content in Mortal Kombat. Fight Mode features a ton of gameplay modes, including the classic Ladder all fighting fans know and love. You can even make a go at the ladder with two fighters. And then there are the tests. Test Your Luck forces you to play a slot machine before you fight. This machine determines your opponent as well as rule modifiers. It's challenging, rewarding fun. Test Your Might returns, and it's much the same. Test Your Sight is a humorous MK take on the shell game run by con artists everywhere. Lastly, Test your Strike is a twist on Test Your Might that forces you to strike only when the power bar rests in a specified sweet spot for a few seconds. The Tests are fun diversions, but they only become available as you make your way up the Challenge Tower.

Finally, there's multiplayer. Naturally, you can play with others in the same room; this can be done in either head-to-head or tag team matches. This allows for local four player action. And naturally, you can take your game online. The structuring is solid, and allows you to either party up with your buddies or go up against complete strangers.


Difficulty:

There are five difficulty settings to choose from, though the default mode is admittedly well-balanced. Be careful, though; Mortal Kombat is no pushover. It will make you fight for your wins, and it isn't afraid to put you down if you lack ability. You must possess a keen sense of timing and quick reflexive thinking skills to come out on top.

Training is not a mode in Mortal Kombat: it's a menu screen. There are four teaching tools: two standard tutorials (one for regular fighting and one for Fatalities) and two practice modes (one for one on one and another for tag team). This game is very interested in appealing to newcomers and helping veterans keep their skills honed.


Game Mechanics:

Mortal Kombat has always placed special emphasis on combos and juggling, but this installment finds ways to improve on an already great system. Enter the Super Meter. Although it's not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination, the meter brings out some of Mortal Kombat's best moments. You can use segments of the meter for parrying attacks, breaking combos, and powering up standard moves. However, if you build the meter up completely, you can use the whole thing on an X-Ray move. These attacks trigger a slow-motion sequence in which the victim of the attack is subjected to a gruesome and explicitly-detailed series of internal injuries. None of these look even remotely survivable, but they are as much fun to watch as they are to execute.

Mortal Kombat rewards all of your victories with Kurrency, which can be spent in the Krypt on special unlockables. These range from concept art to Fatality Kodes to other assorted Nekropolis Kollectibles. This is a great way to incentivize the gameplay, but the fun factor alone should be enough to keep players coming back. All the goodies are simply the icing on the cake.

So I've gone on and on about the core game; what specifically is different about the Komplete Edition? As with other "Game of the Year" releases, this one features the downloadable content that found its way to the marketplace over the past year. Specifically, the four new characters and the fifteen Klassic Skins. The Skins are self-explanatory, but the characters are a bit more interesting. Skarlet, Kenshi, and Rain are back in action, but the fourth is a true blue cameo. It's A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger (Haley, not Englund). He's an interesting choice for this franchise, and not an out of place one, either.

There are a few non-game-related extras in this package, as well. You can download the original Mortal Kombat film via Zune and an included code. It's a nice bonus, though the film is far more mindless than the game is. If you're a fan of the music, you might be interested to know that you can download Mortal Kombat: Songs Inspired by the Warriors, a full album featuring the work of artists such as Them Jeans and Skrillex. The Komplete Edition features an exclusive track by ArrabMuzik.

If you like fighting games, you probably already own Mortal Kombat and would do well to pass on the Komplete Edition. After all, most of your costs would go towards something you already have. If you want the new characters and skins, they can be purchased through the Xbox Live Marketplace. However, if you like fighting games and don't already own Mortal Kombat, this is a comprehensive package. You'll be paying full price for a game that's almost a year old, but it'll be worth it.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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