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Game Profile
GENRE: Fighting
PLAYERS:   1-2
November 18, 2002
Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe

Ultimate Mortal Kombat

More in this Series
 Written by Ryan Smotherman  on January 03, 2003

Full Review: Get over here? and play this game. It rocks!

It's been 10 long years since the Mortal Kombat craze began in the arcades of America. With it's digitalized characters, buckets of blood, and shocking fatalities, the original Mortal Kombat did the impossible and gave the infamous Street Fighter 2 a run for it's hadukin shooting money. But my how things have changed. A decade later arcades are on the verge of extinction, falling prey to super consoles that can pull off graphics that are hard to top, and so much more. And many, like myself, thought the Mortal Kombat series was all but gone, with its last release, Mortal Kombat 4, debuting over 5 years ago. This is why being the long time fan that I am of the series (I've been with it since the start), that it humbles me to see such a quality offering from the folks at Midway. The console only Deadly Alliance, or Mortal Kombat V if you prefer, is not only a quality Mortal Kombat offering, it's the best the series has yet to see, and easily the best fighting game released on the Xbox in the last year.

Going into development on Deadly Alliance, the developers looked to take the series back to its roots. And I'm happy to say they were quite successful. The game is easily the darkest and more importantly ? best playing, game in the series to date. The story in the game revolves around the alliance of two evils ? Shang Tsung and Quan Chi ? in their quest to overtake both the Earthrealm and Outworld with the revival of the Dragon King's ancient army of the dead. To make things easier, the two evildoers first do away with the Earthrealm's mightiest warrior, Liu Kang (yes, he's dead), and the ruler of the Outworld, Shao Kahn. With them out of the way this should be a cakewalk, right? Not exactly. The thunder God known as Raiden is still around, and he has assembled the finest fighters in the biz to prevent Shang Tsung and Quan Chi;s tyrant of destruction. This my friends, is Mortal Kombat.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Deadly Alliance marks Mortal Kombat's return to what made the original so great. Just look at the one brutal fatality per character, the return of Test Your Might, where you mash the buttons as fast as you can in order for your character to break an object, and the seriousness has been took up a notch (after the original MK, the games just started getting silly). The game also features all of the characters from the original (Raiden, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Kano, Sonya, Johnny Cage, Reptile, Shang Tsung, and a short appearance by the now deceased Liu Kang), as well as many characters found throughout the series (Cyrax, Jax, Quan Chi, Kitana, and Kung Lao), and just like any good fighting sequel, a bunch of new characters have been thrown in for good measure, many of which stand out just as much as the now classic characters (not Bo' Rai Cho though, he's mind-numbingly horrible). All in all, there a good 23 characters to play with and master, which, needless to say, can take you a good while. Not to mention the fact that a good deal of those have to be unlocked first.

One thing that probably won't be very familiar to MK veterans is the gameplay system, but this is most definitely for the better. Deadly Alliance is the first MK title to first truly take the series into the 3D fighting realm, thanks in part to the ability to walk in any direction around the playing field (ala Soul Calibur). Gone are the days of every combatant sporting the same exact moves ? you know them: uppercut, foot-sweep, roundhouse kick, etc. ? and don't expect to be using a high punch, low punch, high kick, low kick buttons set-up either. Deadly Alliance simply gives you 4 attack buttons that do various things depending on the character. The actual combat relies heavily on moves that pop your opponent into the air so you can perform a juggle, and performing preprogrammed combos (yep, just like in MK3). I'm not a huge fan of this set up, but it does work fairly well if you're good and memorizing and pulling off the button combinations. The only real problem with this is that the controls can be a little unresponsive at times, but it's nothing too major.

What really makes the game play so well is the fact that each character has three different fighting styles ? two forms of martial arts and one weapon form unique to the character ? that can easily be switched between by hitting the L-trigger. Although your special attacks remain the same no matter which style you're using, your basic attacks and combos are different, and there are combos that even require you to switch between the different styles (they're quite hard to put off, but are worth it). The game even includes a Fatality stance that you must switch into to finish off your opponent. Of course, like in pervious MK titles, these don't affect gameplay and are just a novelty at best. But naturally they are something you want to check out a few times, and just like in the other MK games, some are really cool, while others are a bit questionable. I'm just thanking God they left out the Babalities and Friendships.

Probably the biggest innovation when compared to past games in the franchise is just the incentive the developers give you to play the game. Thanks most in part to the Koffins. 676 in all, the Koffin's are where you unlock the games various hidden characters, new costumes and stages, and a plethora of other additions. But to get into these Koffins, you're going to need points that can be earned in the arcade mode (good luck, the computer is one tough cookie), by Testing Your Might/Sight, and by taking on the over 200 mission Konquest Mode. The Konquest Mode is probably what I'm most disappointed with in the game. Many compared it to the fabulous Mission mode found in the incomparable Soul Calibur, but it's really nothing like that. More than anything it's just a glorified training mode where you learn each character's moves and combos. Every now and then they'll throw an odd ball task at you that is reminiscent of Soul Calibur, and you face yourself in a best three out of five match at the end (not very challenging), but for the most part the Konquest mode, unfortunately, isn't all that great unless you want to learn how to use a particular character. Plus, it's something you're pretty much forced to go through if you want to get all those koffins open.

Visually, while Deadly Alliance can't hold a candle to Tecmo's still technically impressive Dead or Alive 3, it does stand on it's own merits, especially considering that it's a multi-platform release. The overall look is that of what should be found in a Mortal Kombat title ? with supernatural levels (my favorite being Shang Tsung's spirit filled haven), solid character designs that sport highly realistic animations, and a good dose of projectile and special move effects. And in regular MK tradition, the blood still spills out of your opponent in unrealistic bucket loads, and it also seems as if they didn't put enough effort into the fatality effects ? some are decent, however, others can look downright cheesy. Audio wise, fans should come to expect pretty much the same sound effects that they've heard throughout the series. That being the announcer and hit popular phases (Fight!, Flawless Victory, Fatality, etc?), the brutal sound of slams, smacks, and weapons against flesh, and the horrid screams of pain that come soon after that. And, of course, we can't forget the most popular phase of them all, Scorpion's ?Get over here?, is there and accounted for. Deadly Alliance's soundtrack and little voice acting are also very well done, fitting the MK theme like a blood-soaked glove.

Last thing I feel I should mention before wrapping this up is that the game is absolutely loaded with extras. There's a Mortal Kombat history video, a making of the game, and a MK inspired music video by the rock band, Adema. And that's just what you begin with before you start opening the koffins for even more goodies. The game is really paying homage to its roots, and offers a nice history lessons for the newcomers to the series.

Bottom Line
I can honestly say that I didn't expect much from this game, which probably explains why I came back from playing it pleasantly surprised. The developers did a fantastic job bringing new life into a series that many wrote off years ago, and it's good to see it come back and while not revolutionize the genre, give if a good, swift kick in the rear end. Deadly Alliance contains all that which makes a great fighter ? great fighting system, sharp visuals, and tons of extras, with the elements of the Mortal Kombat franchise, extreme violence, awesome characters, and those yummy fatalities, with very few flaws. Giving fighting and long time MK fans more that enough reason to add this title to their gaming libraries.

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