Mortal Kombat review

  • Brutal, bloody fighting
  • Good roster, lots of extra features
  • Lengthy story mode is surprisingly fun
  • Still not as balanced or tight as SF
  • Hard to punish whiffed moves, projectile spam
  • Coin reward system is both stingy and needless

Without a doubt, Mortal Kombat’s heyday was the mid ‘90s, a time when it and Street Fighter ruled not just arcades, but home consoles as well. It enjoyed a brief resurgence in the mid 2000s with sequels like Deadly Alliance and Deception, but with each new game came more goofy finishing moves, uninspired character designs and a needlessly complex plot. These were followed by MK vs DC Universe, which neutered the violence and gruesome finishing moves that made the series a success in the first place.

With so many missteps since the last major hit, what could the franchise do to regain its former glory? Ignore all the mediocre stuff and take things back to the original three games that started it all.

Above: And that means a lot of blood

For the most part, this new MK sticks to the characters and tone of the first few games, meaning tons of vicious, mean-spirited attacks with just a hint of humor; groin punches and hilariously excessive fatalities are in, farting attacks and tacked-on kart racer minigames are out. Even the roster preys upon the world’s fondness for MK1-3, pulling just about every single character from those early days into one game. It’s clear developer NetherRealm’s goal was to tug at our misty-eyed recollections of the past, and on that front, it totally succeeded.

Above: Classic backgrounds reappear, like this tournament scene from the very first game

Above: The MK2 armory returns with loads more background detail

Above: I’m sure we all remember the Living Forest?

Above: Even MK3’s memorable areas have come back, and in many cases have story-based context now

Beyond the superficial pandering lies a commendably fun scrapper that mixes successful elements of the first three games. Combat falls somewhere in between MK2 and MK3, with emphasis on chaining normal moves into specials; stringing combos together is slightly more freeform than MK3’s infamous “dial a combo” system that only allowed combos with pre-set button combinations, but it’s also not as open to experimentation as say, Street Fighter IV.

Speaking of SFIV, new MK freely cribs from not just Capcom’s workhorse, but also, of all things, Rare’s Killer Instinct. Along the bottom of the screen is a meter that fills up as you deal and receive damage. When one section is full, you can execute an “enhanced” version of any special move your character has; in other words, it’s the same as SFIV’s EX moves, where Ryu’s fireball deals an extra hit or in this case, Kano throws two knives instead of one.

Above: C-C-C-C-etc

Two full sections give you the ability to cancel someone’s combo and break free of their attack. Both enhanced attacks and combo breakers have tactical applications that can increase damage or set up more elaborate moves, so they’re far from copycat afterthoughts. If you refrain from using those moves and fill up the meter completely, you have access to X-ray moves, which are this game’s equivalent to Street Fighter's big-damage Ultra Combos.

All these elements form a game that mostly plays like MK2, just with more juggle, combo and interrupt options. It’s great, flashy fun for button mashers yet rewards those who want to dissect each move and how it reacts with another, so in our opinion that makes this the “best” Mortal Kombat to date. That said, I noticed several instances where moves would connect when they really shouldn’t have, even cases where my fighter would be jumping over another and magically reappear back in front of the computer, somehow being thrown. Most of the time special moves behave like they should, but there were more than a few times were I legitimately could not understand why one move has priority over another, or why the hit range on one move is as wide or tall as it is.

But that’s getting into tournament-level play discussion, which is not how most of us will judge the new Mortal Kombat. And in all fairness, MK has always favored style over substance, and this time the “style” is shredded faces, broken bones and splattered blood, which all combine to create a thoroughly violent experience.

Above: Blood splatters dynamically on your fighter and the opponent, so no two victory screens are quite the same

Above: Take too much damage and the kombatants actually lose pieces of their head and costume

This persistent damage is purely cosmetic, but it does indeed add to the flavor. It helps convey how much these guys are pounding the hell out of each other, and when one finally stands tall as the winner, with his costume tattered and teeth showing through his jaw, it truly feels like a victory. Before, blood flew around the screen for the sake of blood flying around the screen; now, it helps sell the dark, macabre atmosphere.

Topping all this off are the aforementioned X-ray moves, which are devastating new attacks unique to this version of MK. Land one of these suckers and you can deal up to 50% damage, which, while cool for comebacks, is perhaps too much. We want to always have a chance at victory, but uh, some of these moves can turn the tide in a very un-fun way.

Above: Plus how the hell are they walking away from this??


Above: A sample of ‘em. Note Kano barfing all over Noob’s leg – that barf stays there for the match!

These features make up the guts of the game (no pun int… fuck it, pun intended) and power all the other single and multiplayer components. I’ll get into those on the next page, which are all surprisingly awesome and worth checking out.

More Info

Release date: Apr 19 2011 - Xbox 360, PS3 (US)
Apr 21 2011 - Xbox 360, PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: PS Vita, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Fighting
Published by: WB Interactive
Developed by: NetherRealm
Franchise: Mortal Kombat
ESRB Rating:
Rating Pending


  • MightyMorphinPoltergeist - August 17, 2011 12:52 a.m.

    I demand this be re-reviewed by a non Capcom employee/fanyboy. : P
  • Alucard918 - May 21, 2011 10:10 p.m.

    This game is insane! In my opinion it also is way better than SFIV... jus sayin.
  • jok3rxfear - May 11, 2011 1:02 p.m.

    TBH. Bad comparison of Games, I own both SSFIV and MK. And they play very differently. 9/10 for both the games. 5/10 for the review.
  • helmanruiz - May 2, 2011 12:37 p.m.

    I have had more fun with MK than i ever did with both SFIV and MvC3 combined.
  • kingsmikefan - April 26, 2011 5:37 a.m.

    You fucking retards. "It's a capcom advertisement." He thinks SS1V is a better game, and he went into detail saying that it's not really a fair comparison, but he had to make them because people will bring that up. If you fucking read that shit, you would know that, but you want to bitch so you ignore it.
  • yagirlfriendsfavoriterapper - April 23, 2011 3:54 p.m.

    The 3 MK games on PS2 had a combo breaker aimrite?
  • hanktherapper - April 23, 2011 2:47 a.m.

    I finally decided to buy this game. It'll be the first fighting game I've played in 10 years.
  • Headie - April 22, 2011 6:14 p.m.

    Great review and from a reviewer that knows what he's talking about. One i'll be picking up in the bargain bin in a few week. Most interested to hear about the hitbox issue. I play fighting games purely for multiplayer (same console/online) and the hitbox thing would be a pretty key point for me. I have absolutely no interest in the 1player side of the game. I'd just like to know that when i hit it connects. I play my fighters seriously and i found your review honest and informative. Most of the people whining are just whining for the sake of it. Give MK a bit of time and see how it holds up in 3-6 months thru Tournies (not official MK 1's, but Multi game lans etc. Maybe it will have some hidden depths. I'm pretty convince SSF4 will still be getting played at the big events. Whereas this may sit in a corner somewhere with ppl pleading to have some1 to play against. I shall get it when the price comes down, but i doubt it's got the legs of the others Nope i aint a SSF4 fanboy, but i play it and watch enough tournies to see the depth in the game. Nope, I don't like MvC3 (Too much for my eyes to handle lol) Yep i love VF5 (PS3 & Xbox 360 & Arcade). Have since VF2 in Arcade and Saturn. Probably not a more hardcore beater out there So VF > All OFC this is just my opinion, like the reviewer had his. Nothing devides faneboy gamers more than the old MK vs SF debate Just ban SSF4 and MK and bring out VF6 already and lets put this 1 to bed :P
  • GayforGilbert - April 22, 2011 2:16 a.m.

    This sure read more like a seven.
  • AntistasMetroid - April 21, 2011 1:45 p.m.

    Im glad you reviewed this mr. brelston. your fighting game chops are second to none when it comes the fine details of these games. ive actually been playin this for a couple of days and you hit the nail on the head in every point you made. good review. fair score.
  • happydude007 - April 21, 2011 2:13 a.m.

    Well said Sinosaur
  • Imthedoctor - April 21, 2011 1:44 a.m.

    I just played this today, and i gotta say it's amazing, i'm definitely buying it. Online was annoying though, i'd beat the guy for one round pretty handlily..then he'd just jump to spamming to win the match..pretty low
  • bread_or_decide - April 20, 2011 8:52 p.m.

    This game had me at "barf that stays there for the match."
  • trenen - April 20, 2011 8:34 p.m.

    The Babalities in this one are hilarious. Makes me want the Friendships too!
  • gatorfan122394 - April 20, 2011 7:53 p.m.

    Lets put it this way, game informer gave it the 2nd lowest review and as an average of an 8.6. just because gamesradar is biased doesn't mean this game isnt better than 8
  • TriforcePlayer - April 20, 2011 6:39 p.m.

    I'll get this either early May or whenever Noire comes out
  • bron1417 - April 20, 2011 6:24 p.m.

    great review Elston! as a huge MK fan i loved the review. and people really do need to stop complaining. it's not a big deal at all. also....KOMBAT TIME!!
  • Heyexclamationpoint - April 20, 2011 5:52 p.m.

    I actually found Shao Kahn and Goro/Kintaro pretty easy, as long as you spam projectiles (Shao Kahn) or constantly jump kick/uppercut (Goro/Kintaro, though Goro is much easier to beat, Kintaro has those annoying counters). Some of the fatalities made me gag. And most would consider me to be a serial killer in the making!
  • WtfInternetguy87 - April 20, 2011 1:20 p.m.

    Mortal Kombat is a pretty awesome game. I am in agreement though that someone who holds a strong opinion of street fighter being a better fighter needs to take off the rose colored sunglasses. Street Fighter has some issues that haven't been addressed since the day it came out. For starters turtling is a major issue in SF games. Down back champions be damned. Also they keep adding shoto variants instead of just balancing the roster. I enjoy street fighter just as much as the next guy but I'm not in love with it enough to say its a better fighter after all this time.
  • Romination - April 20, 2011 5:45 a.m.

    I've heard that playing through story mode and the challenge tower give pretty good training for most of the characters. Besides, for how much you complain about the training in SF4 and MvC3, is it really a problem they don't have one?

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