Mortal Kombat Armageddon
Release Date: 05/29/2007
Over the past fifteen years, the Mortal Kombat franchise has been called many things, including “innovative”, “gory” and even “disturbing”. However, ever since the series has made the jump to 3D, it seems like the adjective usually associated with it is “stale”. Indeed, despite the games’ root as the big sensation in the fighting genre back in the early 90’s, Midway’s defining franchise has lost a bit of its shine. The quality is still there with a high production value, but to many gamers, each new version only feels like more of the same. While it is enough to satisfy the hardcore fans of the series, one has to wonder if it’s enough to attract new people, or if it can bring back old fans that simply quit after the original fatalities craze faded.
With this latest iteration, Midway has decided to pull out all the stops. They included pretty much every fighter that ever was featured in the series, gave them all a fighting style as well as weapons and incorporated new features such as “kreate-a-fighter” and “kreate-a-fatality”. Gamers responded well for the PS2 and Xbox versions, with combined sales of over a million units. The Wii version has shipped a little less than two months ago, with brand new Wiimote-waving controls. Does it make or break the game? Is it the same damn thing as the other two versions? Here’s the short answer: it’s a good game which offers much more than what I expected. For the longer version, please read the breakdown below.
A god and his future-seeing wife predicted that a day would come where the combined power of every Mortal Kombat fighters would be too much for the realms to handle, which would in turn bring the Armageddon. One wants to kill all of the warriors while the other simply wants to strip them of their power. Since they can’t decide, they put their sons Taven and Daegon to sleep in a rock, with the idea of waking both of them up when the time is right to face Blaze at the top of a pyramid. Whoever defeats him will get the power of a god and will get to decide what happens to the fighters. Of course, things go wrong and one of the two wakes up before the other and goes on a rampage while the good guys of Mortal Kombat are busy facing the bad guys in an all-out war when the pyramid rises. Everybody sees Blaze and races to the top for a chance to win the ultimate power.
For a Mortal Kombat storyline, it isn’t half bad, and they actually put some thoughts behind it. They needed a reason to bring everybody back at the same time, and this fits the bill perfectly. The Konquest mode gets into it all much more deeply, but I have to take points away for the lazy endings. Maybe I’m spoiled, but I’m used to every fighter getting a different ending, while this time around, all you get is a kata and a couple of sentences that explain what happens once your chosen character wins the godly powers. All of this doesn’t add much to the story, but for a fighting game, I would call it above average. It does a good job of pulling you into the Mortal Kombat mythos.
Story Rating: 6/10
The graphics are crisp and clean, and they look surprisingly good. Each character has been lovingly crafted with a lot of attention to details, and even though they don’t look lifelike, the somewhat artificial look makes the game easier to digest. I don’t know if ripping out your opponent’s arms would have been as funny if you had the impression of doing it for real. It might have bumped the game into uneasy territories instead of being a guilty pleasure. Otherwise, the arenas are detailed without being too impressive, and overall, nothing is bad enough to take away your attention from all the fighting going on. Even though I think it could have been achieved on the Gamecube, the graphics are good-looking without being spectacular.
Graphics Rating: 6/10
The sound effects are one of the high point of the game. The development team sure loves their screaming, and they made sure to include a very large number of them. Everything in the game sounds right, from weapons clanging together to bones breaking. If this was only for the sound effects, it would probably get a ten. The music however sounds very generic, from the guitar riffs to the more orchestral pieces. Not one of the songs from the score is good enough to stay in your mind once you’re done playing the game. At least, they do fit the atmosphere of the whole game greatly.
Sound Rating: 7/10
For the Wii version, Midway wanted to make sure to include standard controls in the form of the classic and gamecube controllers, as well as try a new motion-based scheme. The classic methods of playing are competent and act exactly as in previous versions of the franchise, but I do have to say that the motion control is a huge success. I anticipated something very clunky that would make you replicate the exact movement of your fighter as he executes a fireball, but what we have here is simple motions, where your hand movement is acting as your control pad. All you have to remember is the basic ways to execute the moves (half-circles, up-down, left-right and vice-versa) and you can then try them with every fighter on the roster. This means that instead of spending days memorizing the special moves of your favourite character, all of a sudden, the whole roster opens up to you because you can play as anybody and be good at it. A special mention has to be given to the fatality system, which once again feels very natural. You poke at the television and pull back to rip out the heart; you clap to crush your opponent’s head and so on. I never even looked at a fatality FAQ, and simply by thinking of the logical way to execute a move, I was able to perform about a dozen fatalities. Congratulations to Midway for mastering the Wii’s motion control.
Control Rating: 10/10
This category is a mixed bag. On one hand, you have tons of stuff to unlock, from characters to stages to alternate outfits and concept art. On the other hand, once you have played through the Konquest mode once, you don’t really feel like doing it again. The arcade mode is the same as always, which means that you also get sick of it after you beat Blaze a couple of times. Thankfully, the multiplayer section of Mortal Kombat Armageddon is strong and entertaining. The Motor Kombat mode is fun but short, but the one-on-one fights never seem to lose their appeal. Of course, this all depends on who you’re playing with, but trash-talking your opponent while you’re slashing away with a sword or ripping out his spinal cord is a great way of relieving stress. The Kreate-a-Fighter mode also provides plenty of replay value with a lot of fighting styles to explore and many outfits available.
Replayability Rating: 6/10
Remember how I said the controls were simple and perfect? While that’s a good thing if you don’t want to spend your time learning special moves, it also breaks the balance of the game a little bit. Traditionally, the Mortal Kombat franchise has always relied on these moves to mark a difference between each character, but since they are now all executed the same, it means that outside from the boss characters, everybody pretty much plays the same, only with different attack animations and a different outfit. Speaking of the boss characters, while the computer knows how to handle them, a human controlling a boss will almost always win when playing against another human. Some of them cannot be thrown, or are oblivious to certain types of attack.
Balance Rating: 4/10
If you have played a Mortal Kombat game before, it’s just more of the same, but with more characters and more stages. The franchise has been around for 15 years, and while there are some innovative parts (kreate-a-fatality comes to mind), it’s just not enough to call the whole thing original. However, I can’t really blame them because the series has its fair share of fans and Midway has to appeal to them. Thankfully, the control scheme does offer a bit of originality in an otherwise standard affair.
Originality Rating: 4/10
For the first few days, I simply couldn’t get enough of this game. I kept playing until I completed the Konquest mode, and I couldn’t stop thinking about ways to make my created character that much better. However, after the first week, the novelty wore off and while I still play the game a lot, I don’t feel the craving for one more game that I originally had. You will still come back to the game because it’s a lot of fun, especially when playing against someone else, but unless you really like doing the same thing over and over again to unlock everything, you won’t do much outside of multiplayer games after the first few weeks.
Addictiveness Rating: 5/10
Let’s see. This game appeals to fans of the franchise, to rebellious teenagers that will play anything that has blood or gore in it and to fighting games fans that don’t have much of a choice when it comes to the Wii. It might also bring back older fans of the series that tuned out after a while (like me) because they will probably be curious since the game has been labelled “the last of the franchise” – even though it will probably come back in a different form – or because it’s hard to deny that a game that features all of the characters you used to like is pretty attractive.
Appeal Factor Rating: 6/10
The Konquest mode is competent as an adventure game, but the fights get repetitive and it’s pretty short compared to other full-blown games of the genre. Motor Kombat is a great distraction, but once again, it feels very short with only five tracks. The tutorial is very well done and explains the new control scheme effectively. This game doesn’t have any real flaws, but outside of the controls, it’s nothing that stands out too much either.
Miscellaneous Rating: 5/10
Average Rating: 5.9
Final Score: 6 (Fair)
Short Attention Span Summary
Mortal Kombat Armageddon remains a standard fighter with a twist. The control is the real star here, and the huge roster of fighters is a treat for the fans of the series. While the game is effective and plays great, you can’t help but feel like you have been there before. The extra modes are good for a time, but the novelty quickly wears off. If you liked the previous games in the series, then I can’t see a reason why you wouldn’t want this one. If you were on the fence previously, you should give it a try. However, if you already own a good number of fighting games and you are searching for something new and original, the controls might not be enough to sell you on something you have probably already played before.