Welcome to First Impressions No. 3. This is a feature focusing on games that we’re trying for the first time and our immediate knee-jerk reaction. Be prepared for some interesting feedback on old and not-so-old games.
Game: Mortal Kombat (2011)
Developer: Netherrealm Games
Publisher: Warner Bros.
System: Xbox 360/PlayStation 3
Played by: Lyndsey, Jamie (for Xbox 360)
In the interest of full disclosure, I will say this from the beginning: I used to be a serious Mortal Kombat enthusiast. Mortal Kombat is and was the first series I got heavily into way back when in the 1990s. If you follow GI regularly, there’s lots of references to my past with the MK series strewn over the site.
I fell in love with the series in 1993 with the release of the second game. That’s partially why there’s a tournament going on here at GI. MKII sucked me in with interesting story, characters and gameplay that I’d never really given a thought to before. I wasn’t playing Street Fighter II and it didn’t appeal to me as much. But as time progressed and I grew up, my feelings about the quality of the series diminished. The high point for me was probably MK3/Ultimate MK3/Trilogy. Afterward, nothing particularly warrants any play for me. Until now.
When I first heard about the MK reboot, I was severely skeptical. I had been burned by the awful movie sequel, and the fourth through seventh games weren’t good and had gotten away from what it meant to be Mortal Kombat. It had several objectives I felt needed to be completed for me to even begin playing it: The first was to recapture the feel of Mortal Kombat; the second was to get rid of the cartoony distractions; and the third was to update the gameplay to the level of modern-day fighting games. Mortal Kombat has had some growing pains to be sure but I’m happy to say I’m in love again.
The first thing I noticed about the game was the level of detail. MK is gorgeous. The fighters get progressively worse as they’re battered about and it’s surprisingly well done. The gore is unbelievable, and that’s saying a lot even for Mortal Kombat. It goes a long way that the originator of gore has updated in a tasteful way one of the many things that made it famous. Now, my feelings about Dan Forden’s soundtrack are still out. I haven’t heard much of anything in the game yet and since this is preliminary, I may or may not care for it. Forden is one of my favorite game music composers, having gained my ardor with Mortal Kombat II. I’m anxious to see what he came up with for the reboot in terms of new and remixed compositions.
Looking at the controls, I am impressed. As someone who has consciously avoided the series for five games, it felt like old hat to pick up the game and jump right into doing moves. No changing of moves for the sake of changing moves to be different. No random move sets that don’t make sense for characters. To put it another way, Scorpion feels like Scorpion. Kitana feels and plays like she did in Ultimate. Everything felt comfortable and fluid once I got a little used to the new timing. The mistakes of MK4, Deadly Alliance and Deception have been rectified for me. I was ready to take it back if Scorpion’s moveset had been changed again; it was that crucial that he be playable and familiar.
My biggest question about the game’s lineage was answered, however: Does Mortal Kombat recapture the feeling of old? Yes. Everything I loved about the first three games is present but updated. It’s as if Netherrealm had to throw off the shackles of Midway to make the Mortal Kombat sequel that should have been made nearly 20 years ago.
I couldn’t help but notice the combination of its past and hopeful future. The graphics are easily on par with Tekken 5/Dark Resurrection/6 – a benchmark in video game graphics, in my opinion – but still retain the MK feel. The music, from what little I’ve heard, is remixed in some places but entirely new in others. The characters are all combatants that appeared in the first three games; no one after except for Quan Chi has made appearance yet. Though I realize that it can be argued that Quan Chi was a central behind-the-scenes character of MK1 that hadn’t been realized yet. Also, the gameplay feels like Ultimate MK3 updated without a Run button.
All of this adds up to a feeling of coming home with MK. I feel this is the game that I should have been playing in 2002 when I was desperate to hang on to my nostalgic love for the series. If you’re an old-school MK player like myself, don’t hesitate to buy it. It is quite possibly one of the best reboots ever achieved in video games.