Review: Mortal Kombat: Deception (XB)

Mortal Kombat: Deception
Genre: 3D Fighter
Platform: Xbox (Also On: PS2, GC)
Developer: Midway
Publisher: Midway
Release Date 10/4/04

MOOOOOOOOOORTAL KOMBAAAAAAAAAT! Like apple pie to Americana, Mortal Kombat has been a staple of the fighting game world for years. From the decent Mortal Kombat 1, to the still best in the series MK2, through the lean years of MK3 and 4, to the Phoenix style rebirth of MK: Deadly Alliance and all the merchandise, cartoons, and offshoots in between, Mortal Kombat is arguably the most successful and prolific fighting series of all time. But successful and prolific does not a good game make. Deception has been endlessly hyped to the ends of the Earth and around Jupiter. It also carries Midway’s highest promotional budget to date. We know what can happen when a game is over hyped (y helo thar Fable!). Is MK:D worthy of the hype? Or should we expect to see Ed Boon apologizing in a few weeks?

This review is brought to you by: ‘Stratofortress’ by Stratovarius.



Story

Mortal Kombat games have always had a good, fleshed out back story and this one is no exception. After the events in MK: Deadly Alliance the only person left standing in Shang Tsung and Quan Chi’s way is the Thunder God Raiden. They battle ferociously with Raiden gaining the upper hand. Just as it seems victory is in Raiden’s grasp, Shang Tsung absorbs a soul and, excuse the Trogdor reference, burninates him with a flaming dragon. With Raiden out of the way, the two sorcerers turn on one another…until Onaga the Dragon King decides to make his presence felt. Raiden, obviously feeling no ill effects from complete annihilation, joins Quan Chi and Shang Tsung in blasting Onaga with fireballs. Onaga shrugs off the combined might of the warriors three like they were flies. In a final act of desperation, Raiden uses all of his power in one deadly blast, seemingly destroying them all…until the smoke clears with Onaga left standing.
The rest of the story is revealed in the Konquest Mode. You follow Shujinko on his quest to find ancient artifacts known as Komidogus for the Elder Gods. Not much else can be said about this mode without spoiling anything, but it does a nice job of explaining why Onaga has returned. It’s also not what you would expect.

Story Rating: 6/10

Graphics

Somehow the character models appear to have taken a step DOWN from Deadly Alliance. Maybe it’s my eye sight waning in my old age, but they don’t seem as crisp as the last game. The backgrounds however are vastly improved. There isn’t an arena in this game that isn’t completely gorgeous. From dark and brooding to downright cheerfully bright, every arena is worth its weight in Gold Koins.


Konquest Mode on the other hand is another story all together. For arguably the most important mode in the entire game one would think more effort would have been put into every aspect of it. If I’m going to spend fifteen to twenty hours wandering around different realms looking for koins and treasure chests, the least I want is for the textures to not look like they were drawn with crayons, or for every single person you run across to be made up of about six polygons. You traverse through 6 different realms, but the only thing separating them from one another is that someone used a different colored crayon, and maybe some lava in the Netherrealm. Big whoop. I’m no graphics whore, but if you’re going to force me to play something for twenty hours that bores me out of my skull, I at least want something pretty to look at. And no, Kitana doesn’t count.

Graphics Rating: 6/10

Sound

Mortal Kombat has never really been known for its gripping soundtrack and this one is no exception. The songs are serviceable at best, with some rehashed songs from previous MKs for stages such as The Dead Pool and The Living Forest. The majority of them have the old school kung-fu flick vibe going which suits the game well enough for what it is. There’s nothing you’ll find yourself humming for hours on end, but they get the job done.

Sound effect wise we have your typical fighting game noises, such as ‘Crunch,’ ‘Pow,’ and my personal favorite ‘AGONIZING DECAPITATION SQUISH,’ only raised to the nth power because this IS Mortal Kombat after all. Boon and Co. did an amazing job on the sound effect you hear when you land on spikes. I think I’ve figured out where the majority of the development time went.

Konquest Mode…AGAIN with the failure. If you’ve ever played Mega Man 8 you undoubtedly remember Mega Man screaming at ‘Bass'(pronounced like the fish, not the musical term) and Dr. Light saying ‘You must recover all the energy immedilly m…Mega Man!’ Now picture EVERY SINGLE PERSON THAT SPEAKS sounding like this. After hour three you’ll long for Scorpion’s spear through your eardrums. But on the bright side, the game comes in a spiffy shiny package!

Sound Rating: 6/10

Gameplay

It’s a fighting game, you don’t exactly have to know a lot about the atomic weight of pickles do deduce how to play. You can use either the D-Pad or the analog stick to control your fighter. I’ve found in my experience not just with this game but all fighters, 2D and 3D alike that the D-Pad just feels more solid and less floaty, though I don’t think anything can help this game. The face buttons are your various attacks, the white button executes your character’s throw, the L Trigger switches your fighting stances, a feature first seen in MK:DA, and the R Trigger blocks. Holding the L Trigger and pushing towards your opponent while he or she is comboing you will trigger the ‘new’Combo Breaker system. We’re stealing from Killer Instinct now. You get three breakers per match to save yourself from a drubbing, but when they run out you’re at the mercy of the game. Speaking of which, the combo system relies more on pressing buttons in a predetermined sequence than any real skill on the users part. This would be servicable if it were responsive. The game seemingly picks and chooses when it will allow you to finish your chain.


This is especially evident with Konquest Mode, Boon and Co.’s answer to Fable. Remember the Konquest mode in MK:DA, where it didn’t try to fool you into thinking it was more than anything but a glorified tutorial? Take that, but pile everything that was bad about Fable on top of it, stir it around, and out pops MK:D’s Konquest Mode. You follow the newfound main character Shujinko from his childhood training with Master Bo Rai Cho all the way until old age. This takes roughly around 15-20 hours. It feels like you’re aging with Shujinko. You can do pointless fetch quests for nearly every NPC you run across, but these serve as nothing more than a way to get Koins for the Krypt. Very few of them advance the story, and quests that do are highlighted with a green line that stretches to the heavens so you can’t miss where to go next. If these coins served a real purpose this go around it wouldn’t be so terrible, but they don’t. You unlock three of the secret characters with koins. The rest are found in various ways throughout Konquest mode. Some are found in treasure chests…that are time sensitive…some are DAY sensitive. Heaven help the poor soul that doesn’t browse the internet. He’ll never find Lui Kang.

Gameplay Rating: 4/10

Balance

This is Mortal Kombat we’re talking about; balance isn’t a word usually associated with this series. The series has never progressed past ‘Easy first few stages, then the computer kicks into overdrive and doesn’t let you move, and if you somehow get to the end the boss is going to rip you a new one twice.’ The game is challenging, but not for the right reasons. Opponents can be completely docile one round, not letting you move the next. They can also seemingly pull off things that you can’t, in ways no human could control. Look no farther than new mid-boss Noob-Smoke. The fight harkens back to the Endurance matches in MK1, except the two characters share one life bar and they tag in and out when they switch styles. While fighting them at one point I put the controller down and just watched them mercilessly rip me to shreds in ways that the programmers obviously didn’t mean. There’ s no way they could be that sadistic.

Balance Rating: 4/10

Replay Value

Like with all fighting games, once you unlock everything and beat the game with every character, there isn’t much reason to go back to it. Unless you’ve got friends to play with or Xbox Live I can’t see much need to go back to playing this unless you really like to watch the same fatalities over and over and over and over and over and over. It will certainly take some time to unlock everything that deserves unlocking (seriously, do we really need 200 koffins in the Krypt filled with pictures of the development team? Does anyone care?), but after everything is said and done you’ll find yourself moving on to other, more exciting games. I hear there’s this hot new game called Pong everyone’s raving about.

Replay Value Rating: 5/10

Originality

There’s not really much innovation left in the fighting genre, but to this game’s credit it tries, and on some hands succeeds. New to the series are multi-tiered fighting arenas. Similar in style to Dead or Alive 3, you have to wonder why something that’s so well done wasn’t implemented in MK:DA. The stages also feature new ‘Death Traps’ to go along with their multi-tieredness. IF you land in one it’s an instant round over. This feature isn’t for everyone, but thankfully you can turn them off. Another new feature is the Hara Kiri system. After a defeat, you don’t have to just stand there and let your opponent perform a fatality on you. You can perform a fatality on yourself! These range from the generic (Scorpion kneeling down and breaking his neck), to the gruesome (Tanya ripping her femur bones out and stabbing herself in the eyes), to the downright silly (Sindel jumping in the air and attempting to perform the You Got Served forehead slide which breaks her neck).


However, when the game manages to do something right, it has to muck it up and do something terribly wrong to balance out. I think it’s time to just kill the idea of Fatalities. The well has run dry. Oh look, another decapitation. Never seen that one before. The guy exploded! Oh noes! Any Titanic jokes you want to throw at me too as long as we’re hitting these phenomena at the height of their popularity? There’s only so many ways you can kill someone before it gets old. Baraka pulls out his MK2 decapitation to the letter, but catches the severed head on his blade. WOW! That is sooooo fresh! I can count the number of fatalities that don’t suck on one hand.


I haven’t mentioned the ‘new’modes until now. We’re fortunate enough to get Puzzle Kombat (a Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo ripoff, and by rip off I mean replace the super deformed Capcom characters with super deformed Mortal Kombat characters and you’ve got a new game) and Chess Kombat (a bastardized game of chess that doesn’t rely on how good are you at chess or any kind of strategy you can formulate, but how good you are at fighting). Why these are here I don’t understand. Lackluster at best, they serve as nothing more than a waste of space. If you need some Koins to unlock the rest of the developer pictures I guess Puzzle Kombat could help, but Chess Kombat serves no purpose other than to mock you. They could’ve done something worthwhile with that space, but they chose not to. Suffer!

Originality Rating: 5/10

Addictiveness

I have to admit, as bad as the fighting is, and as bad as Konquest Mode is, and as bad as Puzzle Fighter is, you just can’t stop until you’ve unlocked everything. You’ll sit in your chair thinking about smacking yourself for playing something you know you shouldn’t, but your brain will tell you ‘Just a bit more, that koffin might have a character or a video instead of another developer picture! You can’t put the controller down, I won’t let you! The game is good! GOOD I SAY!’ Your brain lies, but you don’t want to admit it.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

Appeal Factor

Everyone loves Mortal Kombat. No one loves fighting games that don’t play well or have anything to offer. This enigma makes my brain hurt. Causal fans are going to love this game for the blood, gore, death, maiming, killing, destruction and stabbings. Fighting game fans are going to retch at the awful fighting system. Xbox Live fans will love it because it gives them yet another outlet to shout obscenities at people they don’t know over a headset. Diehard MK fans have already bought this game and are now sitting on message boards talking about ‘Super Unlockables.’ You can either look past this game’s numerous flaws and enjoy it, or you can sit back and wonder where your fifty to sixty dollars went. I’m doing the latter. I miss my money.

Appeal Factor Rating: 6/10

Miscellaneous

Now THIS is where the game shines. While there are far too many developer pictures in the Krypt, there’s plenty in there that you will actually care about. Old promo videos, movie clips from MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero, character bios, alternate character bios, alternate costumes, the list goes on and on. You also get ten character bio videos (twenty-five if you have the Kollector’s Edition) where the developers do something that’s not take pictures of themselves, mainly talk about their game and their characters. Some even have interviews with the actors that played the characters when MK was still a 2D digitized fighter.

Fascinating stuff. If these were longer I’d say that they’re almost worth a purchase, they’re that good. Those with the Kollector’s Edition also get another bonus besides a shiny box…MORTAL KOMBAT 1. Now THAT is a bonus. There seems to be a slight problem with the music (it sounds like someone forgot to turn the music volume up and the sound effect volume down), but other than that it’s the best home conversion of Mortal Kombat 1 that’s ever been released. It’s good for a nostalgia trip.

Miscellaneous Rating: 8/10

Final Scores:
Story: 6/10
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 6/10
Gameplay: 4/10
Balance: 4/10
Replay Value: 5/10
Originality: 5/10
Appeal: 6/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Misc: 8/10
Final Score: 5.5