The upcoming Mortal Kombat marks the long awaited return to the series’ bloody roots and is the first proper Mortal Kombat game of this console generation. A playable demo of the game is available now for Playstation Plus subscribers and will be available for free PSN users on March 15th, with no word of an Xbox demo as of yet. So does it feel like this latest entry will be a glorious return to form for Mortal Kombat, or does Netherrealm need to keep tinkering?
In the Mortal Kombat demo, you’re given access to one vs one multiplayer, an abbreviated version of the game’s Arcade ladder, two combat arenas and four of the series’ more iconic characters – Scoprion, Sub-Zero, Mileena and Johnny Cage. Right off the bat, the game feels like a much more fluid and competitive fighter than previous entries. While it still maintains a decent handful of preset combos and special moves, the old “dial-a-combo” feel that kept Mortal Kombat from being truly respected amongst tournament players has been smoothed out and revamped.
Mortal Kombat’s new fighting system encourages improvisation more than anything. You’re no longer restricted to the combos displayed in the moves list, you can now chain together any number of basic strikes and special moves into more more effective combos. Don’t get any crazy ideas, Marvel vs Capcom 3 players, you won’t be seeing any combos that will deplete a character’s full life bar. Even so, in the hands of a skilled player, it’s possible to dish out some serious damage.
There are a few new ways to go about causing said damage, at the heart of which is the new Super Meter, and it works a little bit differently than it does in other fighting games. Separated into three levels, you fill your super meter by taking damage or inflicting it (though it builds much faster as you take damage yourself). At level one, you’re able to do an “enhanced” version of any special move, giving it an extra bit of stopping power. At level two, you can use the super meter to perform a “Breaker”, which instantly stops your opponent mid-combo. At level three, you can perform the gruesomely devastating new X-Ray moves. These attacks are usually something completely over the top, resulting in painful looking fractures (among other things) and huge damage.
It doesn’t hurt Mortal Kombat’s case that the game looks so great and sports so much detail. You’ll see characters taking damage as they fight, which is a particularly neat effect in someone like Scorpion’s case, whose face gradually peels away to reveal a bare skull rather than flesh and blood. There was an occasionally noticeable bit of slowdown in the game’s framerate however, an issue I hope will be ironed out before the game’s retail release. It also remains to be seen how well the game’s 26 characters will be balanced and whether or not some will be far more powerful than the rest. It is also possible that the accumulation of energy in your super meter may need to undergo some adjustment for balance purposes, but only time will tell.
Though fairly brief, the Mortal Kombat demo gives a good taste of things to come. So far, it seems like this may be the game to bring the series to new heights and even, perhaps, legitimacy within the world of professional fighting game tournaments. We’ll know for sure upon the game’s release on April 19th.