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E3 2010: Hands-on with Mortal Kombat

After a decade of wayward spin-offs and convoluted sequels, it looks like the once world-famous Mortal Kombat brand is about to make a serious comeback. Gone are the silly character designs and borderline cartoonish fatalities – this is ultra violence at its peak, a no-compromises bloodbath of limbs, organs and bones. And all this before I even touched the controller.

Yes, it’s a 2D fighter that ostensibly looks and plays like the original three games. But it’s not business as usual – the moves flow into each other much more naturally and allow for a bit of creativity when it comes to juggles and fake-out moves. If you played MK II or MK3, you’ll probably get the hang of it right away, even though some of the classic moves have changed button inputs. Nothing major, just a brief adjustment period for longtime players.

Special moves, like say Scorpion’s spear or Johnny Cage’s fireballs can blend into normal moves way easier than the original games, enabling you to set up some rather brutal combos – especially when you use the powered-up versions of said moves. Much like Street Fighter IV’s EX meter, you can use a portion of this MK meter to execute a stronger version of a given move. Sektor’s teleport punch, for instance, usually hits just once. If you use the powered up version it hits twice, setting up even more hits.

That’s with just one charge on the meter. With two, you can let loose a combo breaker that stops your opponent’s assault cold and ideally givesyou a bit of breathing room. With all three levels charged you’re able to unleash MK’s Ultra Combo equivalent, which closes in and shows your character smashing the hell out of the other guy’s bones. Skulls crack, necks splinter, guts mush up and you end up dealing nearly 50% damage. Plus, each character is said to be modeled individually, meaning every single skeleton will be unique. We saw Reptile’s head was certainly inhuman, and Sektor had more wires than veins.

At the end of each round, all that damage stays with your character. So, by the time you win the full match, you may be missing an eye and have entire chunks of chest, arm or leg missing. Oh and the new fatalities… truly gruesome. Got to be the most vicious yet.

There’s also a new tag mode (seen in the trailer) that wasn’t on display but was shown in demo form. From what we could tell, it’s similar to Capcom’s Vs games, allowing you to select a second character and tag him in or out at will. They can just hop in, or come in with an attack, or pop in with a move and then disappear again… basically like Marvel vs Capcom. Not hating! Just saying.

Now that Street Fighter has a fresh start, it’s only fair that Kombat gets the same. As with SFIV, there’s just enough old and new to get everyone back in the pool, plus anyone who passed the first time around. Can’t wait to play more.

Jun 17, 2010