Mortal Kombat has seen action on the PC before. In the heyday of the series, both Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 were released on the PC under Acclaim's license. Midway then published Mortal Kombat Trilogy and Mortal Kombat 4 on the PC before the fighting game scene all but dried up. It wasn't until a few years ago that the gory series returned to the platform in the form of the Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection, which brought the original arcade trilogy to the PC for the first time in almost a decade. With the reboot of the series being successful, WB Games decided that it was finally time for the series to reappear on the PC with Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition. There are a few issues, but it's one of the best fighting games on the platform so far.
Mortal Kombat is a 2-D fighting game that only shares a few things with other 2-D fighters. There is a large roster of fighters, and each has an arsenal of special moves to mix with regular moves to create combos. That's where the similarities end, as far as the fighting mechanics are concerned. While other games like Street Fighter are content with high combo counts and the mastery of technical moves, Mortal Kombat focuses on the brutality of fighting. You can still perform combos, but the emphasis is on hitting hard while sacrificing fluidity. Punches and kicks stagger opponents and spin them while special moves offer an extra punch. It's further accentuated by the presence of blood with just about every hit, except for a few body blows. Everything from the simple jab to a full-on buzzsaw to the chest produces copious amounts of blood, and special metered attacks, like the X-ray move, add broken bones and muscle tears to the mix. All of this culminates in the series' trademark fatality moves, which include beating the opponent with his/her own limb, slicing body parts into multiple pieces, and tearing a person in half lengthwise.
This recent iteration, though dubbed a reboot by many, is actually more of a culmination of everything that's worked in the series thus far, and it also culls extraneous features and modes. Free-form combos have replaced the "dial-a-combo" system, so combos are no longer canned and predictable. Though there is still a stance change button, it is only for aesthetics. The weapons system, which was first introduced in Mortal Kombat 4, and the create-a-fatality system from Armageddon have been removed in favor or more traditional fatalities. The game hasn't completely gone back to the system where everyone has the same moves, but everyone still has a sweep move and an uppercut, and damage becomes visible on characters over time. The new special meter allows for some depth since players choose whether to expend it on breaking combos, powering up special moves or executing the devastating but risky X-ray techniques.
Speaking of characters, the lineup is mostly comprised of fighters from the first game through Deadly Alliance, with Kenshi being the only member of that roster. The only new characters are Skarlet, a ninja who thirsts for blood, and Freddy Krueger of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" fame.
The fighting style is enough to differentiate the game from other 2-D fighters, and the lack of gimmicky modes brings the focus back to fighting. The back-to-basics approach eschews needless complexity in favor of straight-up brutality. Fans who have strayed from recent iterations will be enticed by the effective fighting, and those who have stuck with the series will find the streamlined approach to be refreshing.
There are several modes available for solo players. There are the standard ladder modes, which let you play fight after fight until you defeat Shang Tsung, Kintaro and Shao Kahn before learning of your fighter's fate. The expected difficulty levels are also present, but the ability to play in a tag-team format and solo mode makes it more enjoyable, especially if you want some co-op play.
Tutorials are available in Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition, but they've taken a deeper turn. A basic tutorial mode teaches you the basics, some special moves, and the game's newer techniques. You also have a free form practice mode, where you can beat up on a dummy all day and see data from your moves. What proves to be more valuable, however, is the fatality training section, which teaches you how to perform everyone's fatalities and includes proper spacing to take away the guesswork about required distances.
The minigame modes hearken back to the ones in the first game as well as some new variations. In Test Your Might, you power up your fighter just enough to break objects of different densities, from simple wood planks to rock-hard diamonds. Test Your Strike is a variation where you're doing the same thing but trying to keep your strength meter in a certain range in order to break a specific item in the stack. Test Your Sight has you playing the old shell game — except the shells are severed human heads and the ball is an eyeball. Then there's Test Your Luck, which is a standard one-on-one match but with a slot machine full of rules. The rules vary wildly in complexity, from losing the ability to jump to fighting upside-down. With the random nature of the slot machine, no two bouts are the same, and it provides a nice change of pace if you get bored of standard fights. The ideas behind Test Your Luck are expanded greatly in the Challenge Tower, which is a set of 300 challenges that create arbitrary goals and situations for each fighter. The only difference is that you can't select which character you want to use for each of the challenges, making a few somewhat painful.
The deepest mode is Story, and while it isn't the first time a fighting game has done this, it is certainly one of the better implementations. Instead of resetting the tale, the game opens with the end of the events from Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Just about everyone is dead, with only Shao Khan and Raiden left standing. Sensing the end is near, Raiden makes a last attempt to prevent Shao Khan from taking over the entire realm. Using all of his strength, he takes his memories of every tournament and sends them back in time to himself, thus setting up the story line reset that takes on familiar scenarios with new directions.
One of the reasons this works so well is because Mortal Kombat was always big on telling stories. Other fighting games concentrate on the fighting experience alone, but Mortal Kombat always makes an effort to build up the lore surrounding the fight. Even though the tale takes some silly turns, it is at least believable enough to work. Like Challenges, you're forced to play as characters you may hate, but the different perspectives add some depth to the story. With the tale lasting several hours, there's plenty to do in this mode alone.
While the number of modes in online multiplayer isn't as numerous as the offline portion, they're just as varied. You have the expected ranked and player matches available in both single and tag varieties. There's also a lobby system where players can set up the rules for each bout or just watch others fight while waiting to be challenged. Then there's the King of the Hill mode, which creates a room for players and has everyone trying to dethrone the winner. It is the next best thing to reliving the actual arcade days, and it's made more authentic since people watch as the winner continues to win and comment on the gameplay.
Unfortunately, the online multiplayer isn't as strong as the rest of the game for a few reasons. For starters, the online community on the PC version is quite small. That's understandable considering the game came out two years ago on the home consoles, one year after the same consoles got the Komplete Edition and a few months after the developer's next game, Injustice: Gods Among Us. With the majority of gamers having already played this game on other platforms, what you're left with are the die-hard PC fighting game fans and recent converts to the PC. Even then, finding a match in any mode is quite difficult since it seems like these same online players tend to go to the lobbies, making every other avenue deserted unless you convince friends to play alongside you. When you get an online match going, the performance fluctuates. While the game never stuttered when playing online, some controller actions didn't activate until later, so jump kicks wouldn't execute until you're about to land from your jump. The controller delay and small online community means you'll really be looking to local players for multiplayer matches.
All of these modes gain coins to spend in the Krypt, where you can unlock a variety of things from concept art to extra costumes, fatalities and songs. The Krypt is larger than before, and it's a maze with sectioned-off areas where you'll see bloated corpses, headstones, and a few people trapped in torture devices. The scattered nature of the Krypt layout can be annoying because you'll often get lost trying to determine whether you've found a hot spot. The amount of locked-away content and the prices for each item mean completionists will be spending a very long time with this title.
Graphically, Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition is still great, especially when you consider it debuted a little over two years ago on home consoles. Built with Unreal Engine 3, the game has some great-looking fighters that animate well and come to life as the damage builds. Backgrounds tell exactly the same story and are mesmerizing in that there's so much going on when compared to other fighters. You'll be forgiven for ogling the backgrounds instead of watching the fight. It all runs at 60 frames per second, but it did the same thing on the consoles. Given the higher resolution, particles and shadows stand out a little more. It is an improvement, and it may still be considered great fighting game graphics a few years from now, but there isn't a big night-and-day difference if you're a console gamer who's trying to see what the fuss is about on the PC.
From an audio standpoint, the game is also quite good. Effects hit hard, and each hit still sounds solid — though a little wetter due to the copious amounts of blood being splattered. The music borrows liberally from past Mortal Kombat games with remakes of classic stage tunes, and the new material happily goes along in that tradition of serious orchestral stuff as opposed to the electronic techno stuff that's associated with the old movies. The voices are great and acted well in story mode and in pre-fight taunts. Fans will notice the announcer has changed to sound more sinister with less bass in the delivery. It works well enough as a replacement, but Dan Forden's "Toasty" call at random uppercuts still evokes smiles from fans.
Even though it is two years late to the scene, Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition shows you can create a compelling fighting game experience without only catering to the genre's multiplayer aspects. The single-player modes alone give the game an amazing amount of things to do, and the multiplayer still remains an addicting part of the game. The solid fighting formula seems to have found some comfortable footing over the years. The online experience could be better, especially with such a small community, but the game is solid enough in other areas that it is easily one of the better fighting games for the platform and worth checking out.
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