I never expected to like Saints Row the 3rd as much as I did, but underneath its silly surface was an incredibly polished action experience drenched in creativity, mayhem, and fun. When we got word that Volition games was booking appointments for Saints Row 4 at this year’s PAX: East, I couldn’t wait to see what new trouble the Saints had gotten themselves into. Wow, I’m a fan of this franchise?
“Dude, what was the code to turn the blood on?” … “ABACABB” … “Whew, thanks.”
Mortal Kombat will always hold a bit of nostalgia for players, myself included. My friends and I would play Mortal Kombat for hours at the mall, referencing magazine pages we ripped out of EGM’s at the nearby bookstore. (Note: Back in olden times, people went to the mall and played video games, which were installed inside of wooden cabinets. Collections of those wooden cabinets were amassed in what was called an Arcade, where people could take a turn on the game for just 25¢, believe it. See also: Simpsons, Turtles in Time, and X-Men Arcade) We’ve all seen the movies, the first one at least, and probably even owned the soundtrack. Eventually we’d get to play the game on console at home, trying to cheat-code our way into the bloodiest experience possible. Good times.
Fast forward to 2011. Now, blood and guts are everywhere… figuratively speaking, in many video games, eroding the empire that once made MK great. And, after Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe left players bewildered and confused by the scaled back gore and questionable premise, Mortal Kombat returns to its roots in a reboot of sorts under new publisher, WB. The Midway studio responsible for the game is now NetherRealm Studios, and things seem to be back on track in this new demo. With a demo currently available for PlayStation Plus subscribers. It’s time to go over the top again.
If it ain’t broke…
From what the demo suggests, it looks like its time to get back to what made Mortal Kombat great. Many of the characters and environments you know and love are back. No wacky adventures, no 3D arenas, no weapons. The demo allows you to play as Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Mileena, or Johnny Cage (who, by the way, is sporting an excellent “Johnny” chest tattoo). You get to play four levels in the ladder mode, against each of the characters, including yourself. Performing the special moves is like riding a bike, if you’ve played anything between MK 1-4 you’ll already have a good idea what’s going on here. Of course, there are player and level-specific fatalities. The game still has a sense of humor about itself, and it seems as there will be quite a bit of fan-service for the MK faithful.
Once you complete the demo a video sequence shows off a few more characters and features, including the “Test Your Might” mini-games which seem to have been vastly improved. Also familiar to the MK series are tons of unlockable pieces, which appear to be achieved through collecting coins (probably Koins) and breaking open tombstones in the ol’ MK graveyard. Translation: play the game a lot to unlock all the fun crap.
… fix it?
Admittedly, there is a bit of homogeneity with other fighting game series’ here. Some aspects are well received, while others might leave you feeling that there are few features left that really differentiate the current generation of fighting games. MK has a meter for each player, which fills as the fight progresses, and enables a super combo when full. While I’m not thrilled with this, the execution is great. These X-Ray moves, when unblocked, show close up sequences of bones being broken and skulls being smashed while delivering massive damage. The meter is also used for “ca-ca-ca-Combo Breakers” (wrong game). The full version will also have a tag mode, enabling even more complicated combos to be achieved.
Also drawing from other fighting games is the much needed training mode, where moves are displayed on screen. You can even practice fatalities outside of the 3-second span you’re typically provided at the end of a match. Although the demo only allows players to enter the traditional Ladder mode, there appear to be numerous game modes, including a Challenge ladder that will test every aspect of the player’s game, check out the vid for more info:
“Your soul is mine”
Creator Ed Boon remarks that the game was made with the input of tournament professionals, and designed to be a tournament-caliber game. Likely translation: playing online will be an trying experience for most people, as is most likely the case with games like this. With so many unlockables and secret content, it seems to be quite a challenge to design for maximum accessibility without alienating someone in the spectrum of casual-to-hardcore players. However, we are still about a month away from release, there are still characters to be announced, and features to be unveiled. For us mortals, who play for fun, I hope we’re not left out in the
cold Kold. (see what I did there?)