Mortal Kombat PlayStation 3 review

Mortal Kombaaaat! Aaron goes for a flawless victory with the reboot of Mortal Kombat…

It’s time, once more, to brace yourself for blood, gore and sick bags, and to replace your hard Cs with the letter K, as the original one-on-one gore fest returns, this time in a rebooted format.

The Mortal Kombat series has been going for a very long time, and for a while, was the only scrapper that could even dare to challenge Capcom’s mighty Street Fighter series. And, although the actual gameplay never really approached SF‘s quality, the addition of digitised graphics, over the top violence and the now infamous, graphic fatalities were enough to give Capcom a run for its money, and MK became a massive hit.

Spin on past a couple of great sequels, followed by a myriad of sub-par releases, and Mortal Kombat eventually became a shadow of its former self, most notably feeling the fans’ wrath over the distinctly watered down Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe.

NetherRealm Studios has taken on board the fans’ anger, and with the release of this Mortal Kombat redux (a.k.a Mortal Kombat 9), aims to appease its long time fans, and I have to say, I’ve seen few titles feature this much love, attention and fan service. Get ready to be impressed.

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Your soul is mine!

Packed with game modes, features, hidden surprises and most of the best characters of the series, Mortal Kombat is a true return to grace, with combat replaced with good old fashioned 2D MK goodness, rendered with excellent 3D visuals and some of the best arenas you’re likely to see.

Underneath the polish and ton of extras, which we’ll get to later, is a revamped fighting engine. Feeling much more like the original games, only a little faster and smoother, combat is more tactical than before, and it’s been beefed up thanks to a couple of extra features.

First are the new power meters. These are split into three sections, and as you fight, they fill up. Once you have a section filled, you can use it to augment one of your chosen character’s special moves, by tapping R2 as you press the last button command of the attack. So, for example, Liu Kang can use this to fire more powerful fireballs, or can augment his powerful flying kick with flames, doing more damage. It’s a great feature, and one that really adds to the game. However, this feature really comes into its own once you fill up all three sections.

With a full bar you can, with a press of L2 and R2, pull off your character’s ‘X-Ray attack’. New to the series, these brutal specials zoom into your opponent as you land hits, showing their internal organs rupture and bones smash. It’s all very gruesome, and satisfying to boot, and one of these damaging attacks can turn the tide of a bout. Luckily, they’re easily blocked if you’re prepared, so they don’t unbalance the game.

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Another new feature has been ‘borrowed’ from Capcom’s Versus series, and is the tag mode. This lets you pick two fighters at once, and during a fight you can instantly switch between them with a tap of L1, and can also use quick tag moves by inputting special combos. This two-on-two mode is a great addition, and although the mechanics aren’t nearly as refined as Capcom’s titles, it works well and adds another dimension to the MK series. The quick tag moves could have been made easier, though, and are overly difficult to pull off.

Are you sitting Komfortably?

The game’s story (which is one of the game’s many modes) is a kind of retelling of the events of Mortal Kombat 1, 2 and 3. After Raiden is about to be struck down by Shao Kahn, he sends a message back to his past self, warning of the danger. Armed with this future knowledge, Raiden aims to rewrite history in order to stop the upcoming Armageddon, beginning with the first game’s Mortal Kombat tournament on Shang Tsung’s island.

This makes for a great revisit of the classic games, as players get to go through the first three entries’ stories again, with updated characters, arenas and remixed music, as well as a far more advanced fighting engine, which still keeps the original feel.

It’s a great retooling of the tale, and is just what fans have been waiting for. It can’t fail to bring a smile to your face as you fight in the revamped, but still instantly recognisable arenas from the original games, such as the dead pool and tower from MK2 and monk-filled courtyard and pit arena from MK1.

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The story may be a simple series of fights, but these are broken up by some great cutscenes with surprisingly decent voice acting.

Elements of the story have been taken from the games’ history as well as the MK films, and it all makes for an enjoyable romp, and one that’s actually longer than you may think, spanning three games.

Krazy Kontent

Outside of the story, the modes are impressive in number, and surprisingly varied. There’s the Fight menu, which contains the standard arcade ladder mode, tag ladder and a host of ‘Test’ modes. These hark back to previous games, and include Test your Might, which, like the original games’ bonus mode, tasks you with breaking various, increasingly tough objects. Test your Sight, is a cup and ball gambling game (only played with severed heads and eyes, lovely), and Test your Strike is similar to Test your Might, but you have to smash specific objects by getting the exact amount of power before hitting.

The most interesting mode, however, is Test your Luck. This is a combat mode that first spins a slot machine to determine various bonuses and modifiers before you fight. Such modifiers include no specials, invisible health bars, limited ranged attacks and much more. It’s an interesting mode, and one that’ll certainly be a favourite multiplayer option.

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A mode that’s sure to last players a while is the Challenge Tower mode. Featuring 300 different challenges, stacked up in the tower, you have to progress from the bottom of the tower to the top, completing different challenges. These begin with simple training-style tasks, such as blocking fifteen hits within a time limit and hitting a fatality, but eventually evolve into much more difficult tasks, such as beating twenty enemies before they reach you, defeating an invisible Reptile and fighting enemies who can do two hundred percent damage.

As well as the challenge modes, there’s also a training mode, which is very welcome, indeed. This includes the basics, but also has a dedicated fatality training mode that lets you practise each character’s fatalities. This is great, as fatalities are one of the main selling points of the game, and in the past they’ve been far too difficult to pull off, and have even been hidden entirely. This isn’t a problem here, and in the middle of a match, you can quickly pause and view the input for your fatalities and other moves with ease.

Kash Konverter

As you win fights, complete challenges and generally play the game’s modes, you’ll earn Koins. This is the currency of Mortal Kombat, and once you have enough, you can visit the game’s interactive extras section. Depicted as a foreboding landscape of tortured souls, corpses and hapless victims, here you can spend coins unlocking masses of content.

These extras include a bevy of concept art, level music, alternate costumes, extra fatalities (characters can have multiple, once unlocked) and Kombat Kodes, which unlock modifiers such as no blocking, no specials and so on.

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There’s a crapton of stuff to unlock, much of which can be viewed via the Necropolis, the game’s extra content viewer.

Gods of War

For PS3 owners, there’s also a very special surprise in the form of God Of War‘s Kratos, who’s included as a fully playable character, complete with GoW-centric special moves and characteristically gruesome finishers. Well, after his escapades in his own games, did you expect anything else? As far as other game characters go, Kratos is possibly the most suited to Mortal Kombat. He’s a tricky character to use, as he’s slower than most, but he’s a welcome addition to the roster.

Speaking of the roster, Mortal Kombat‘s is impressive, with twenty-six to begin with and more unlockable. It’s not as many as some of the later entries prior to this, but the list is mostly balanced, and is centred on the first three MK games. Each character has also been refined, with improved specials and more balanced abilities, in an attempt to eliminate the cheaper characters.

This success is hit and miss, though, and some characters do have distinct advantages. In my opinion, there are far too many teleporting characters, which really hinders those that don’t have such an ability, and some have very cheap attacks. In fact, missile attacks and teleports are going to be an easy tactic for button mashers, and there are plenty of characters that offer this option, and will, no doubt, cause arguments on the couch or over PSN.

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Fighters have always had this problem, though, so you can’t criticise MK too much. It should be noted, though, that a skilful MK player will almost always demolish a button masher, so practise will make your life much more enjoyable.


With such a large amount of attention to detail and sparkling presentation, aside from some balancing issues, there’s not much to find fault with here, but there are a couple things that some may have a problem with..

One potential problem, oddly enough, is with the actual combat. Although it’s great, and hugely enjoyable, Mortal Kombat has never been as fast or fluid as many of its rivals. Attacks just don’t flow as smoothly as, say, Street Fighter or Marvel Vs Capcom, and this is arguably the most important aspect of the one-on-one genre.

Mortal Kombat, as good as it is, still feels a little clunky and sluggish at times, and although you do get used to it, you never feel you have the same amount of precise control as you do in other titles. Many players will certainly prefer smoother, more responsive combat, but of course, this is a subjective thing. So, it may not be an issue for others, and there’s undoubtedly an army of fans who will disagree, preferring MK‘s feel.

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The other problem I initially had when playing MK was blocking. Unlike most other similar games, Mortal Kombat uses a block button, instead of simply pressing away from your attacker, which I find far more natural.

Again, this is going to be subjective, and many may prefer the block button approach. It does add more challenge and requires more skill, so hardcore fighting fans will relish the challenge, especially when they take the battle online against others. After a while, it does become second nature, and blocking is very, very important, but some will hanker for the usual block method. The block button does come in very handy for inputting fatality commands whilst keeping your fighter stationary, though.

Finish him!

As reboots go, Mortal Kombat is a winner, and really does go out if its way to deliver huge fan service. Visually, it’s a great title, and the production values throughout really shine through, with excellent solo play features as well as a great online component. Oh, and it’s got some of the most disgusting, brutal and OTT fatalities yet seen in a Mortal Kombat title, most of which are easy to execute.

MK fans simply must have this in their collection, pure and simple. After a few disappointing releases and poor attempts to cash in on the 3D fighter market, this goes back to basics and hits it out of the park. Not quite a flawless victory, but pretty damn close.

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Mortal Kombat is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.

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4 out of 5