Expected Retail Price (UK): £29.98 (released June 15, 2007)
Price as Reviewed (US): $43.99
Mortal Kombat has been an annoyingly spelt part of games for almost as long as some of us can remember. The series has grown over the years from a controversial 2D beat-em-up played with a joystick on an old Amiga to the motion-sensing 3D game we're looking at today.
More importantly though, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon is the first major beat-em-up to appear on the Wii, which could potentially make it a very interesting game in terms of how it tackles the Wiimotes capabilities. Can Mortal Kombat, which was arguably a one-trick pony that replied on massive amounts of gore to get attention, redeem itself and make full use of the Wii's potential, or will it prove to just be a poor console port stuffed with mini-games?
Let's find out.
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon doesn't try to explain it's back story to series newcomers, which is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it spares us having to sit through long overdrawn cut scenes and get down to the core gameplay, but at the same time it means we're never entirely sure what's going on and, while some of the storyline is within grasp, other aspects are baffling to say the least.
For instance, why the hell is Liu Kang, once the major character of the series, now a zombie with chained hooks on his hands?
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In a nutshell though, the story for Mortal Kombat casts all the past Kombatants as bloodthirsty warriors whose continued battles threaten to destroy all of existence unless they are stopped. Which is the cue for a massive battle revolving around a flaming monster of some description that stands on top of a massive Incan pyramid which grew out of the ground when everyone was fighting.
The usual stuff then.
Gameplay is split into three separate, and very distinct, aspects. The first and most obvious part of the game is based around 'Kombat', which is the basic arcade matches and versus battles. Players can choose from over 60 characters to play, all of whom have two fighting styles and a set of special moves. The problem is that sixty characters is a bit too many and newcomers are immediately overwhelmed with the choice, especially when no indication of strengths and weakness is given for each character.
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Most newcomers will end up randomly choosing a character until they find one they like and then stick with that one, which is fine – it's just that trying out and getting a feel for each character obviously takes too long.
On top of the Kombat mode is the Kart racing and the Konquest mode. And, yes, we're sick of them using the letter 'K' all the time too. Kart racing plays like a much simplified version of Mario Kart 64, with a small selection of initial tracks and the usual set of power-ups. The main problem for the Kart mode is that each racer can only pick up and use one special move, so the game is more about knowing the racers than knowing the tracks. It's immediately obvious that the lightning shield power used by Raiden is essentially useless, so it's easy to move on to somebody who has a missile attack power instead, at which point the races often become pathetically easy.
Still, Motor Kart Kombat is still pretty fun for some quick multiplayer (four players supported) even though it feels like it should be an unlockable extra rather than an instantly available game mode. It also does nothing to disprove the notion that the Wii can only really do mini-games.
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Konquest mode is much more interesting though, providing a chance to explore a little, albeit along a linear path dotted with arena battles and traps. Konquest expands the story and gives players the chance to earn more unlockables and attempt some larger battles against multiple enemies. It's little more than a novelty though, with none of the strategic weapon-choosing features that played a part in the similar 'Weapon Master' mode of Soul Calibur II.
Konquest mode is enough to interest lonely players, but the real fun of Mortal Kombat, as with all beat-em-ups, is in multiplayer gaming. For multiplayer, Mortal Kombat offers some quick and clean versus battles or some down and dirty racing action, though neither has the strength to stand on their own because both Kombat and Karting modes are lacking in different areas.
Of course, Mortal Kombat is a beat-em-up so we weren't exactly expecting massive innovations in game play. Instead, we're much more concerned with how the game handles with a Wiimote and how gory it looks.