The latest installment in the now decade-old Mortal Kombat series reinvents the series and gives the give of gore to a whole new generation.
Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance
System: Microsoft Xbox
Release: November, 2002
Mortal Kombat burst onto the video game scene in 1992 with motion captured graphics and gory fatalities, giving Street Fighter 2 a run for its arcade supremacy and giving conservative politicians all the ammo they needed to implement a games rating system. Through its many incarnations, the Mortal Kombat series has polarized the gaming community. Fans of the series love the character design and gore, and detractors feel the gameplay is shallow and the game pales in comparison to others in the genre.
Mortal Kombat 4 was the first foray into the 3D world of polygons, and wasn’t the success Midway had hoped. (Incidentally, my first foray into the web was Mortal Kombat 4 Online, the first MK4 site on the web. It won some awards and was featured in GamePro’s NetPro section in July 1997 Oh look, scans of that issue). After taking a few years off from the series, Mortal Kombat has returned in late 2002 with a 3D powerhouse for all three next generation systems.
The gameplay in Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance is largely different from former MK games. It uses pieces from all other MK games, and some new elements as well. Each fighter has three styles of fighting, two martial arts styles and one using their unique weapon (a feature first introduced in MK4). The weapon is much easier to use in MKDA than in previous versions, as it is immediately accessible to the player instead of a special move.
The reliance on special moves as a whole has been drastically reduced in MKDA, which might shock some longtime MK faithful. Each character has about 2-4 special moves, and the rest are various marital arts or street fight style kicks punches or chops. This brings the game a bit out of the fantasy roots of the series and adds some realism. However, the trademarked special moves, like Sub Zero’s Ice Blast and Scorpion’s Spear are still intact. The traditional MK uppercut, however, did not make the cut.
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance has a fairly deep points and rewards system, giving players different colored coins for completing training modes and then for competing in the game itself. Then, the player can use the coins as currency to open up one of over 600 coffins in “The Krypt”. Rewards range from artwork, to movies to hidden characters. Only about half of the characters are available from the start, with 11 more unlockable in the Krypt or by defeating the game.
While advanced players are rewarded for learning the game’s moves and combos, MKDA does have the trap of allowing novice players to “button mash” and fair well in fights. The “cheap” nature of some of the fights does detract from the gameplay experience. The single player modes also suffer from inconsistent computer AI that varies from too easy to too hard with little in between.
Interestingly, the game uses the digital d-pad and doesn’t even allow for use of the analog stick. This is a nice throw back to the old school 2D Mortal Kombats, but might take some adjustment for gamers used to ignoring that part of the controller.
As an overall 3D fighter, there are enough moves and combos for each of the 23 characters to keep fans of the action entertained for a long while. The different styles of fighting are combined to create some of the more advanced combos in the game, and are pretty devastating.
Unlike Mortal Kombat 4 which had very similar character models for every fighter, MKDA has incredibly detailed graphics with vastly different models. The returning characters like Scorpion and Sub Zero look awesome in 3D, and some characters like Reptile (who is fully reptilian in look) have vastly updated looks. Returning characters include Johnny Cage, Kano, Sonya, Jax, Cyrax, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Kung Lao, Raiden, Kitana, Quan Chi, Shang Tsung, and Reptile.
The new characters are well conceived and are generally great additions to the MK family. Frost is a masked, female version of Sub Zero who is sure to be a favorite. Kenshi is a ninja type with very impressive telekinetic special moves that show him and the opponent glowing. Bo Rai Cho is a big fat guy. Li Mei could have just as easily been Mileena. Drahma is a cool zombie type character. Nitara is the most “out there” of the new characters as she has wings. Hsu Hao and Mavado round out the cast.
The levels themselves are round, walled arenas, but move incredibly fast and have some great imagery in the backgrounds. The fatalities are gory and graphics, often depicting shattered skulls with brain bits, or a still beating heart. It’s good to see that the gross-out factor of the series is still alive and kicking.
The CG movie in the beginning should be noted as well, as it does a great job of telling the story of Deadly Alliance, and actually killing off Liu Kang, who was the main character of all previous MK games.
Mortal Kombat wouldn’t be Mortal Kombat without the announcer, and luckily he is back to introduce all the fighters and call for a “Fatality”. The announcer’s deep voice does a lot to bring this version of Mortal Kombat in line with the rest of the series.
The sound effects in general are very well done, with tons of gory sounds associated with punching, kicking and the splattering of bloody goodness.
There is certainly a unique thrill of seeing so much blood pouring out of every orifice on the fighters in Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance, and the gigantic amount of blood left on the arena floors is a sight to be seen.
As a longtime fan of the series, I must admit that the game was a shock at first. The reliance on special moves is vastly reduced, but the new style of more realistic hand to hand fighting is done very well, with some special moves added to spice it up. The fatalities, although there is only one per character, are cinematic and extremely well done. The vast amount of secret unlockable in the Krypt is a nice bonus, although some of the cooler playable characters must be found in the Krypt.
The character design and story are among the highlights of the game as well. Rather than going for more palette swaps or cloned characters, the cast of 23 is varied and interesting, and all fit into the storyline effectively. In all, Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance is one of the top 3D fighters of the year, yet still manages to satisfy fans of the series.
Fun Factor: 8.5