Three Ways to Die in the New Mortal Kombat (and One You’ll Never See)By Jared Newman
Sub-Zero’s corpse torn asunder on the screen in front of me, I’m standing next to Eddie Ferrier, associate designer of the new Mortal Kombat. I had to ask: How did you guys come up these nasty Fatalities?
Ferrier can’t quite articulate the process. And how could he? Moments ago, he commanded Kung Lao to set his bladed hat on the ground, spinning in perpetuity. Kung Lao reached over the blade to grab Sub-Zero’s ankles on the opposite side, pulling the fallen fighter through, groin first. He lifts both halves of the body, remarkably intact but dripping blood. Ferrier, fumbling through a vague explanation about brainstorming with his colleagues, cracks a subtle smile. He’s been working on Mortal Kombat games since the beginning. I can tell he loves the job.
With Midway gutted in liquidation, its assets sold, new Mortal Kombat IP holder Warner Bros. is diving back into the gory fighting franchise with renewed vigor. The new game, simply dubbed Mortal Kombat, has more manpower behind it than any previous game in the series, Ferrier said. And yet the game is simple again. Just as Street Fighter IV returned to form after so many Alphas and Turbos and Hypers, so too will Mortal Kombat. Yes, it’s a 2D fighter again, and the fatalities are disgusting.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Mortal Kombat, not just because of the over-the-top, almost comical gore, but because I actually liked the game. Most critics panned the classic trilogy as mindless compared to the finesse of Street Fighter, even as throngs lined up for battle in arcades. I admired the game’s simplicity, and the way it brought together experienced players and novices. In what other game are you thankful to get bludgeoned by a skilled opponent? Here the reward is a Fatality — a shameless display of violence that sees the loser executed in the most imaginative ways.
This is why I made sure to let Ferrier beat me, not that I had a chance anyway. His second Fatality, performed by Sektor, began with a cluster of weapon targets hovering on the victim, Reptile. A missile emerged from Sektor’s stomach, launching Reptile’s remains in the air. And those targets? They became guidance for another volley of missiles, picking off each limb in explosive close-ups.
Fatalities aside, what I like most about the new Mortal Kombat is how it feels like the old Mortal Kombat. You can jump over projectiles, move in for a roundhouse kick or perform those improbable uppercuts that launch your foe high in the air. Old special moves are intact, so I had no problem dialing in ice blasts, venom balls and Scorpion’s signature spear. For experienced players, it’s back to Mortal Kombat’s old system of free-form, juggle combos rather than blind dialing of long button sequences, which ultimately corrupted the series.
What I’m not sold on is a new power meter that lets the player perform enhanced special moves. Build this meter up with Sub-Zero, for instance, and he can launch an ice ball that can’t be jumped over. It just adds a layer of complexity that seems unfitting for a back-to-basics sequel. However, a fully-accumulated meter also allows one of my favorite new additions, the X-ray attack. Execute one of these moves mid-match, and you’re treated to a close up of fist hitting skull, foot crunching ribs or, most amusingly, fingers poking eyeballs. Extreme gruesomeness is no longer the exclusive domain of fatalities.
For my last death, Ferrier offered me a choice: Get knocked off The Pit II — same as the one in Mortal Kombat 2 — or murdered by Mileena. I chose the former for old times sake, and had second thoughts about missing Mileena’s send-off as Scorpion’s body careened to the ground, but all was rectified when he hit bottom. Ferrier made sure to point out someone else’s organ, rotting on a nearby spike.
Oh, and that one fatality you won’t see? Ferrier mentioned off-hand that some ideas were just too over-the-top, and better left alone. Like what? Well, he said, one such demise involved stabbing someone in the throat, wiggling open a cavity and tearing the head apart with bare hands. I can’t decide whether I’m glad or disappointed that didn’t make the cut.
Mortal Kombat is coming to Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 next year.