Mortal Kombat (2011)

I recently finished the 2011 Mortal Kombat sort-of reboot and I thought I'd tell you all about it, bekause it was pretty good. Mostly. But first I'm going to need you to open this link up in a background tab. Done that? OK then, read on.

I used to be a big Mortal Kombat fan back in the day. Mortal Kombat Trilogy was one of my favourite games and I even played a little bit of Mortal Kombat 4. Then I pretty much lost all interest in the series. So what won me back? Well, the premise of this game is that at the end of the last Mortal Kombat game, Raiden realises everything is fucked up and sends a message back through time to his earlier self, right before the events of the first game. So basikally this game is Mortal Kombat Trilogy again, but remade better.

The Story

So Raiden gets this message, which konsists of the unhelpfully vague line "He must win" and a series of visions of events that maybe he needs to change? Or make sure they happen? Or something? Future Raiden was dying when he sent the message, but still.

You then play through the events of the first game with a few alterations, mostly retkonning in karakters who were added to the backstory later on (eg. Sektor and Cyrax). Things pretty much go as they did the first time, and if you've seen the movie then you know how this goes. Liu Kang wins, Earth is temporarily safe, etc.

You then go through the events of MK2, and Raiden starts to make a few more changes to the timeline. For one thing, Smoke gets to stay human and it's Sub Zero who gets turned into a cyber ninja (except not a ninja - it's komplicated dumb). Mostly this plays out the same, with Liu Kang kicking Shao Kahn's arse.

All this time Raiden is getting increasingly worried, because nothing he's doing is fixing the future, so he goes to the elder gods to try to get them to intervene. They won't because (for those not familiar with the lore of Mortal Kombat) the elder gods are dicks. Eventually he figures out what to do and Shao Kahn is defeated for realsies, leaving the door open for Shinnock to take his place as supreme bad guy.

A few details change, a bunch of people die or whatever, but it's pretty much just the story of the first three games redone. It's pretty kool.

The Karakters

Early on the karakters are great. Johnny Cage in partikular steals the show. In the MK2 sektion we meet some new karakters and they're OK, but there's a noticeable drop off in quality. It's the MK3 sektion where it really goes to shit though. Instead of sticking with karakters we have some investment in or letting us see more of some of the MK2 karakters, we basikally get introduced to a whole new kast that does not have time to establish itself.

We want to know what's going on with Johnny, Sonya, Liu Kang, Jax and Kitana, and instead we get Stryker and Kabal and Nightwolf. They each basikally do their own thing, separate to the others, and we never really learn anything about them or have any reason to be interested in who they are. The MK1 team is still hanging around in the background, but they don't really do anything. It's a problem with kombining the three games into one, and with the way the game's struktured, letting you play as each karakter only for a few sequential fights and then never again.

The Gameplay

There's still the old fight your way up a tower of random enemies and kill the boss game mode, but there's also a story mode in which you switch to a new karacter every few fights and watch some uskippable kutscenes between each one. And when I say unskippable, some of them are really long, so it's an issue.

The aktual fighting feels really similar to the old Mortal Kombat games. There are a few changes, like instead of high and low punches and kicks you have front-limb and back-limb punches and kicks. They work exactly the same though so it's just a semantic difference. Some special moves are different kombinations, but unless you went straight from one of the old games to this one that's not likely to be a problem.

There's also a meter that fills up as you fight and you kan spend 1/3rd of it to do an extra-powerful version of a special move or, more usefully, you kan spend the whole bar to do an "X-Ray" move, which does a whole lot of damage and looks really kool. They're not quite fatality-level gory, but they involve broken bones, ripped out organs, etc.

There are a few handikap fights, where you have to beat two or three opponents without getting your health back, and those are a real pain in the arse, but the game does this thing where if you lose a few times it'll drop the diffikulty to let you win. Unfortunately it seems to take a kouple of fights after that to get back to normal, so you end up getting stuck for a bit and then breezing through the next kouple of sections, which is a bit disappointing. But it's better than getting stuck.

Boss karakters (eg. Goro, Kintaro) don't seem to be any tougher than any other fight most of the time, which makes for a bit of a shock when you take on Shao Kahn and he just shrugs off your attacks and murders the shit out of you, but again the diffikulty will just drop to the point that you kan win anyway, so it's not too bad.

The Sexism

OK, so Mortal Kombat's never really been known for positive portrayals of women. I've heard that Sonya was put into the first game basikally at the last minute when they realised they had no female karakters, and karakters like Kitana and Mileena have always been dressed absurdly. But this game aktually seems to take it to a new level.

First there's the outfits. If anything, they're worse than the old versions - for the female karakters anyway; a lot of the dudes aktually look way kooler now. But kompare the original Sonya to her 2011 incarnation:

That sekond outfit is a bonus kostume not used in story mode, but I'm not sure which is worse anyway. Either way, she does not look like a special forces soldier (which is what she supposedly is).

And then there's the story. Our introduction to Sonya is for her to be beaten up by Johnny Cage. She's a soldier, he's an aktor. And then he reskues her from someone else immediately afterwards. It gets worse though.

You remember that scene in the movie where Kitana komes out to spar with Liu Kang on the beach and give him some advice? The people who made this game must have really liked that scene, but they also wanted Kitana to be a bad guy to begin with. So they kompromised in the worst way. She komes out to kill Liu Kang and is such a bad fighter that he thinks she's just sparring with him. She's doing her best to murder him and he just thinks it's a game. It's just the worst.

It gets better from there on, but there's still the fakt that there are very few female karakters at all, and none of them are centrally important to the plot. You kould argue that Sindel is, but only as essentially a living spell komponent, not as a person.


All kriticism aside, it's a really fun game and if you have any nostalgia for the early games of the series then you'll probably enjoy it. And even if you've never played any Mortal Kombat game before, I'd still rekommend it.

And yes, you must spell everything with a K. It's a rule.

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