Klassic series makes bloody return

Mortal Kombat 9

"Back in 1991, Midway Entertainment forever changed video game history when Mortal Kombat was released in arcades. The game garnered mass attention for its controversial brutality and unprecedented graphic violence for its time. Throughout the years, the series has added more characters and backstories, jumped into the third dimension and continued to evolve, even matching up against characters from the DC Universe in a crossover game in 2008. Now in 2011, the series goes back to its roots with Mortal Kombat for the Xbox 360 and PS3.

"Mortal Kombat’s story is an alternate re-telling of the first three games in the series. The basic premise involves the emperor of a dimension known as Outworld, Shao Kahn, who holds a tournament to the death in which our world, known as Earth Realm, must fight for survival. Constant fighting has led to the imminent destruction of existence, which prompts elder god Raiden to send a message to his past self to try and alleviate the impending doom. This allows events to be changed within the Mortal Kombat fiction.

"Besides Earth Realm’s human combatants such as action star Johnny Cage, Shaolin monk Liu Kang and special forces agent Sonya Blade, there are other kinds of species in the tournament, including robots, demons and wizards, among others. Each fighter has a unique set of special moves and the ability to completely eradicate the enemy with a "fatality." These can range from ripping an opponent’s heart out to sawing them in have with a buzz saw. Players must use these abilities to complete the main story mode of the game as well as the arcade ladders.

"The game provides a steady challenge along the way with some 2-on-1 and even 3-on-1 battles thrown in for good measure. One huge test of skill and patience, however, is the final fight against Shao Kahn. Even on the normal difficulty, there are bound to be a few thrown controllers due to how unforgiving the AI is. Unfortunately, as with most single player modes in fighting games, players must be cheap to defeat Kahn. Besides some interesting backstory as to how certain characters have evolved, the game is pretty standard fare where the player must fight through to the end.

"One huge staple of Mortal Kombat, as with many other fighting games, is the multiplayer mode which this game delivers in spades. Players can battle each other online and off with any of the 27 playable characters in a variety of stages. Bringing back the classic arcade feel, there is even an online "King of the Hill" mode where players take turns watching others fight before getting a turn. Also new to the series is the option to tag in and out with a partner, always keeping opponents guessing.

"Rounding out the included modes is a set of skill-based minigames to further challenge the player. The most notable of these is "Test Your Luck," in which the player decides how many reels to spin to affect the fight in numerous ways such as draining health, disabling blocking, doubling damage, and so on. Overall, it is a good mix and a nice change from the obscure additions to the other recent games, with just as much pure action and skill. These factors and more are put to the test in the Challenge Tower, a set of 300 ascending objectives that can range from a simple battle to a zombie defense game. The variety of objectives is entertaining and each one feels fresh. Some are especially challenging but can thankfully be skipped if players have enough Koins, the game’s currency.

"Besides the fighting modes, there is also a section full of unlockables called The Krypt. Players can use Koins earned in the other modes to purchase music, concept art, alternate costumes and secret fatalities for each fighter, which is a nice addition that pushes players to collect everything they can. Another Mortal Kombat hallmark is its vast majority of secrets. From hidden battles and unlockable fighters to moves that transform the opponent into a baby, there’s plenty to discover here.

""Mortal Kombat" is a good mix of classic fun with new additions that add to the experience. The updated graphics and music work well to evolve the series while the shifting difficulty will drive some players insane. With new fighters planned to be released eventually and a solid online community, there is plenty of replay value. While the future of the series is unknown, Mortal Kombat’s return to its roots will have longtime fans and newcomers alike screaming "Finish Him!" all night long.