Mortal Kombat had a heavy coating of nostalgia working for it prior to its launch, but it also had to contend with the series' long and storied history of brokenness and balance problems: Nearly every character in Mortal Kombat Trilogy had an infinite combo, for instance, which serves as a perfect example of what competitive fighting game players remembered about the franchise. Not to say that the old Mortal Kombat games weren't fun, because they were, they just weren't "tournament ready."
So, when April finally rolled around and Mortal Kombat landed in disc trays around the world, that's what everyone expected: The fun, over-the-top, painfully broken hodgepodge of violence and pseudo-Asian mythology we've all come to know and love over the last twenty-odd years. Little did we realize that what we were actually getting was not only the best fighting game of 2011, but one of the ten best games to come out all year.
From a strictly mechanical standpoint, Mortal Kombat has hit every single design nail square on the head. Its EX-move, Combo Breaker and X-Ray systems all provide the gameplay depth and technical intricacies needed for a truly sustainable fighting game, (depth which was lacking in previous entries), but by constraining all three techniques to the same special meter, NetherRealm Studios added an additional layer of strategy and play style customization to the game. Meter usage is a conscious choice in Mortal Kombat, because the use of an EX-Move may remove your ability to perform a Combo Breaker or X-Ray attack, both of which can easily change the outcome of a round when applied properly.
All of these major improvements are buried deep within the bowels of the experience, however, and most players don't care about tier lists or frame data, and wouldn't give a second thought as to whether or not Ermac vs. Kano was 4:6 or 5:5 after the latest balance patch. For those not mired in the intricacies of fighting game design, NetherRealm Studios crafted not only the best story mode ever created for a fighting game, but also a wealth of challenges and alternative modes to keep things fresh through hours of couch multiplayer and button-mashing sessions. Couple all of that with the fastest, most intuitive online lobby system available in any fighting game to date, and you've got a recipe for excellence Capcom and Namco Bandai could stand to learn from.
Joystiq is revealing its 10 favorite games of 2011 throughout the week. Keep reading for more top selections and every writer's personal, impassioned picks in Best of the Rest roundups. The list so far:
- Mortal Kombat
- Key specs
- Reviews • 18
- Game format Optical disc, Downloadable
- Online features Multiplayer, Voice chat, Video chat, Store, Browser
- Drive capacity 250 GB
- Controller type Wired, Wireless
- Motion controls Accelerometer, Gyroscopic
- Video outputs HDMI (v1.3), RCA / composite
- Released 2012-09-25
Microsoft Xbox One