After months of talking about it, referencing “the old days”, and hoping for the best, what is the final word about the new Mortal Kombat? What did I learn about the story, the content, the play mechanics, and everything else that goes with it?

This may well be one of the best fighting games I have ever played.

And if that’s not enough, it may be the best Mortal Kombat to date. There’s a lot to like about this reboot. The amount of content and things to do is damn-near staggering. You’ll be playing this one for a while, and it’s going to take you even longer to unearth all of the hidden secrets in the game.

My favorite entry in the series was always Part 3. It may be “nostalgia blinders” due to it was my entry into the gaming industry. But I was good at it. Very good. So good that I could hang off the top of the arcade machine upside down and beat Shao Kahn. So good that I’d playtest Mortal Kombat Trilogy with one of the steering wheel peripherals. You do something for 8-12 hours a day, 5-6 days a week, you’re going to get creative. This new version plays like Part 3. The only thing missing is the “Run” button.

Gone are the watered down moves and Fatalities. And the lame characters. And the weak storyline, and the convoluted combos taking the emphasis off the special moves. Good-bye to superfluous “Krypt” material and “Vs.” codes, now replaced with useful things to do in the same format. And so long to the removal of the earlier title’s “dark” humor and lame dialogue. What you get is this:

After the events of MK7 (Armageddon), Shao Kahn has killed everyone. Everyone. All that’s left is Raiden, then insane and with the self-righteousness pushing well into “Evil” territory. With a final desperate move, he sends a cryptic psychic message back to his earlier self before the first tournament takes place in hopes that he can avoid this fate (and I don’t blame him).

I find this intro almost a parable for what Midway did to the series (and all of its other franchises) at the end, and Warner Bros.’ attempt to set things right by going back to the beginning. Intentional or not, the irony was not lost on me. And with this newfound knowledge, we’re given the events of the first three games, but Raiden’s luck isn’t as beneficial as “The WB” was in starting over.

In fact, things go in a very different direction by the time we get to the end of the third game’s storyline. New paths are forged, wild events unfold, and it fills in a lot of blanks from all of the games’ pevious backstories. Nods to Sub-Zero’s adventure? Yup. That lame banter from Shaolin Monks between Kung Lao and Liu Kang about the “girlfriend” argument? Almost there, but they twist the dialogue at the last second, and I found myself laughing heartily. Gone are the “frat boys”, and replaced are two warrior friends now. In fact, all the characters are given personality overhauls, and are more true to themselves than ever. Gone are the weak conversations between what could have been interesting characters. Now in the place are deeper characters that made me laugh, literally gasp in shock, and feel a genuine sense of empathy and sadness for. It doesn’t hurt that the voice acting is top-notch. I even liked Stryker and Nightwolf.

The battles are vicious this time. Anyone who complained about Mortal Kombat being “tame” (myself included) can put that to rest. Punching a cyborg lands a solid “klang” against their frames. Blood launches everywhere. Moves hurt now. Like make you wince. Even basic stuff. And unleashing the X-Ray meter…. I cringed a few times. These damage fighters like crazy, and considering how they’re displayed, it’s no surprise. Fatalities and some moves are just mean. After a good fight, your Kombatant will look like they’ve been through the meat grinder.

There’s also the Krypt, which is full of art, music, special moves, and costumes. There’s also the Challenge Tower, which provides even more things to see, do, and unlock. The characters look excellent, the backgrounds have incredible detail to them. There’s even a few verbal nods to the first (and only first) movie. The game made me laugh a few times with its goofy humor and clever wit. It’s like Mortal Kombat from “Bizarro World”. The game is a “best of” from everything positive in the series.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. Going back to the beginning brought back one unpleasant thing: Unbalanced boss difficulty. You are going to hate your life facing Shao Kahn in the story. Overpowered and full of spam moves, you have resort to spamming him back, which makes victories against him hollow. There’s also the random moment where the computer AI will do its normal thing, then beat you senseless without a chance of recovery. It doesn’t happen as much as in the old games, but of all the things to bring back….

If you’re on the fence, if you’re wondering if it lives up to the hype, I found the game incredible. Shocking. Inconceivable. Well-written and acted. Deep. Beautiful. Vicious. Maintaining solid controls. And most importantly, fun. It’s something else, and after seeing the results of the renewed Hydro Thunder, NBA Jam, and now Mortal Kombat, the best thing to ever happen to these games was to be taken away from Midway’s control.

They’ve certainly flourished for the better without them.

Stop reading. Go check it out.

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