Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition Review
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Reviewed on Xbox 360
"This tournament, the 10th after nine Outworld victories, will determine Earthrealm's fate..." Created by the Elder Gods, the Mortal Kombat tournament gives the Earth Realm a chance to defend itself against encroachment by the other realms spawned by the Elder Gods. Once again, Outworld is battling to subsume Earthrealm, and it's up to fighting game fans to keep the realms separate. Yet even when Outworld fails, the combatants are moving outside the usual competition for a new tournament.
Mortal Kombat, when it was released in April of 2011, was something of a thorn in my side. This reboot of the franchise (now that Midway is gone and Warner Bros. picked up the gauntlet) is a polished return to the classic, 2D style of Mortal Kombat, with all the good and ill that entails. I enjoy it. The thorn came in the form of Warner Bros.' downloadable content strategy. It just felt like too much was being walled off and parceled out, $5 at a time, to those who wanted to be early adopters. Additional fighters like Rain, Skarlet, Kenshi and even Freddy Krueger could all be purchased, after launch, for a little extra moolah. Yes, those characters aren't critical, but their obvious absence was a constant taunt.
With the Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition, I get everything that I wanted from the original game, all at once, and with a few extras. The "Komplete" edition (I'm not sure if I loathe or am bemused by Mortal Kombat's decades-old need to misspell everything it touches) includes the four downloadable warriors, all fifteen "klassic" (should it be "klassik"?) skins, a code to download the original Mortal Kombat film to your console, and a code to download an album of "songs inspired by the Warriors." I'm not sure I needed those last two. The album kind of tickles my funny bone, and while I will probably never take the time to rewatch the movie, it does give me a warm fuzzy feeling to know it's there. Mostly, I just wanted all that content that trickled out post-launch and makes Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition the game that Mortal Kombat wanted to be, at a more reasonable price.
I really like fighting games. I also suck tremendously at fighting games. Just launching the tutorial, I was grinding my teeth trying to evade a few basic attacks in what should have been the very simplest of tutorials. Perhaps that's why my fondest fighting game memories aren't hard-fought battles of skill, but button-mashing frenzies, several decades gone by. Because of the "super meter" that enhances attacks or even permits brutal (and usually fatal) "X-ray" attacks, Mortal Kombat is far more of a game that requires character knowledge and practice to master than its button-mashing–friendly ancestors.
I hadn't been playing long before I'd worked up a serious sweat. That wasn't because of the overmuscled and under-clad female characters. That was because keeping up the furious combos and rapid blocks was working me into a real frenzy. I'm one of those people who lurches and leans when playing fighting games, looking completely ridiculous next to those folks who have mastered calm and minimalist button-presses with the accompanying perfect timing.
Despite the over-the-top silly story, the fighting in Mortal Kombat is still compelling after all these years, and requires a lot of focus. Thanks to the return to 2D and a few new features, Mortal Kombat is once again a game that really allows skill to shine. It's not the most refined of all fighting games, but offline it's a strong contender and easily able to serve your fighting game needs.
The Mortal Kombat franchise has always made gratuitous violence a point of pride. This new entry presents violence that is, at times, pornographic. That's not to say that it's sexual (although a few of the finishing moves decidedly are), but that it belongs to that same category as grindhouse horror films that revel in grotesque and often campy violence taken to extremes that would be comic if there wasn't so much blood. The Krypt even tracks how many pints of blood each character has spilled.
While not necessarily the most violent Mortal Kombat ever released, it is the most graphic. There's a reason that recent discussions of video game violence on programs like The Daily Show have featured the fatalities and X-ray attacks from this Mortal Kombat. This is not a game for the faint-of- (or young-at-) heart. Fortunately, having your skull shattered isn't so bad when there's a Lightning God on hand to instantly heal your wounds.
The story mode includes extensive videos of the unfolding story of the Mortal Kombat tournament. It's around the same level of writing and production as the film of the same name included in the Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition. That makes it tongue-in-cheek fun, if not necessarily an engrossing plot. Not surprisingly, virtually every character interaction results in a match between kombatants (yes, I'm actively battling the spell-check to put those in). Win the battle, and the story unfolds a little further. The plot is familiar, at least if you've ever even brushed against a Mortal Kombat property, although it's a little jarring to always see Kratos (from the God of War series) hanging around in the background (although in the Xbox 360 version he has another name and doesn't swing those chain blades around). I suppose Kratos isn't as out-of-place as he would have been, had everyone in Mortal Kombat not become far more heavily (and even grotesquely) muscled.
If story mode isn't enough, there's the "Challenge Tower" that is a series of fights with specific goals and plenty of individual fights, all of which help earn credits that unlock further features. Of course, there are even online battles against human foes. Now that the game has been available for nearly a year, I didn't encounter the same multiplayer issues that many people had around the game's launch, so online matches seemed perfectly playable, if under-populated. Most importantly, there are the standard arcade-style matches, with tons of mini-games that can modify play (or even make it outright ridiculous). There's simply enough fighting action to keep any fan busy for a long time. The Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition is an easy recommendation for any console collection.