Mortal Kombat Armageddon

After a two-year hiatus from the mainstream series (MK: Shaolin Monks was released in late 2005), the game that defined video game controversy is back again. This time, the game boasts an AMAZING lineup of 58 characters available upon the start of the game. There are also 4 other characters to unlock, as clearly shown on the screen itself. These 58 characters span all 6 of the first games, as well as some of the side quests like Sub-Zero: Mythologies. The idea of such a selection may seem overwhelming, but Midway did a great job of placing these characters on the select screen. The top row is reserved for the ninja characters, for example, and all boss-like characters fill the bottom row. This is very convenient for players who like to scan quickly for their favourite fighter. The ever-popular ability to randomly select a fighter simply by holding the up button and start is also back for a great way to “mix things up.” You can’t go wrong with so many to choose from!

Fighting: After selecting a fighter, the nostalgic Versus Screen has returned to greet us with a preview of the upcoming battle. The load time is somewhat of a pain still, but that’s more of the PS2 itself instead of the game. Most battles start in about 5-10 seconds, so this is only a minor inconvenience. The battles themselves are very reminiscent of Deadly Alliance and Deception, and a player experienced with these two games will be able to pick up the style very quickly. Gone are the three fighting styles for each character (for obvious memory reasons), but each character (with the exception of big boss-like characters) has a weapon and a normal fighting style. Even though this may seem disappointing to some, the thought of 62x3 styles in the game is daunting and even a bit ridiculous. The two styles more than suffice, and players can now concentrate on what makes their favourite characters unique from other fighters. As far as the kombat itself, the pace is the quickest and smoothest that it has been since MK3 or MK4. The aerial kombat so well-known from the second instalment has found its way back into the series. This is a great mix with the 3-D environment, and in my opinion, it bridges the gap between the realism and the arcade feel of older games. As for the stages, there are close to 20 to choose from, including some revamped classics as Goro’s Lair and the Subway. Almost every stage has an eminent stage fatality, and one stage even has a whopping FOUR possibilities for a finisher. For those unfamiliar to the concept, one can land an early kill (think of ring-out disqualification in a Tekken-style game) simply by setting up an opponent on the edge of a cliff or set of spikes. So, strategy is important when roaming around these vast stages! Overall, the fighting definitely delivers, albeit very picky details which are inconvenient.

Fatalities: Who could even consider an MK title without fatalities? Fans of the canned and scripted fatalities are in for a big surprise. In lieu of creating 62+ unique and canned fatalities, Armageddon instead introduced the brand new Kreate-A-Fatality system. Another step in the player-oriented experience, KAF involves chaining together series of rather easy button combinations. Each series of combinations produces a certain “partial” or entire fatality, depending on the sequence and timing. For example, a simple forward, forward, attack can either rip out a heart or a brain of an opponent. These gruesome attacks range from breaking bones to the favourite spine-rip. These “personalized” fatalities leave a lot of control to the players, and they are easy to perform. While many will miss the canned fatalities, the dozen or so individual combinations can be chained together in several dozen (if not more) combinations. The catch is that the timer for pulling off these moves gets faster with each subsequent fatality. Players are given titles such as “Bloody” or “Evil Fatality,” depending on the length of the combination. These prove to be quite amusing to watch AND to perform. Take note that some of the bosses and weapon-specific characters have their own variations of the main combinations. How many can YOU pull off at once? :)

Setting/Storyline/Background: The storyline in the MK series can be said to be awfully great or greatly awful, depending on how you look at it. The Armageddon story is a great way to explain the existence of dozens of supposedly “dead” characters in the franchise. Also, fans of the game know that dead is a relative term in the series, so anything is possible! Even though the biographies of players are not accessible at the beginning, the purchase of the Premium Edition will appease die-hard fans who demand this. Each Player Video Kard contains about a whole minute of information and biography. As for the endings, this is where many players have mixed feelings. Again, probably for memory purposes, endings have been limited to voiceovers of a story while a player performs several fighting poses in a row. At first glance this seems cheesy and underdone, but are there better alternatives? Again, with a game of this magnitude (see: MK: Trilogy), Something’s got to give. In other words, we cannot expect Midway to give us EVERY character in the series as well as have an equally deep analysis of each character. Instead, tend to look at it as a great compromise. This game isn’t just a cheaply made “best of” game, and in some ways, the stories of the game rival games with much smaller content.
Additional Kontent: Back again are plenty of extras in Armageddon. Gone, however, are Puzzle Kombat and Chess Kombat. Back again, though, is Konquest Mode. This time, the new MK tradition is revamped even more. For a rough idea of gameplay, think of MK: Shaolin Monks. The game is fighting-based and filled with puzzles. Death traps await unsuspecting players, and the game’s storyline is carefully intertwined in the game. One key absence in comparison to SM, however, is the ability to jump. A bit of a pain at first, the lacking of jumping is made up for with the intensity of the fighting. The main character, Taven, is a demi-god and son of an Edenian sorceress.

He is awakened from a deep sleep to realize that he must go on an unknown quest to save the realms. The story is over-the-top, as usual, but is a bit less egocentric than its counterpart from Deception. In other words, Taven merely interacts with many MK characters rather than being the center of the universe. Along the way, you are forced to face various other MK characters in standard kombat. This is a nice change of pace that takes place during the game. Oh, did I mention that you can unlock things during the Konquest? I thought that might grab your attention. Despite the love for the game and the history, unlocking things in MK has always been a big goal for players. In Konquest Mode, these unlockables come in the form of Koins and direct findings. So, while you might find an alternate costume hidden in the bushes, you’ve got to save up for that extra stage that you want. The Konquest Mode is about 5-6 hours, which makes it short for a stand-alone game, but great for a diversion. Here’s wishing that Midway follows in suit with another Shaolin Monks-style game soon. 8/10
All of these unlockable items are found in the Krypt, a theme returning again to the series. This time, however, the graveyard theme is abandoned for a wall-based krypt that says explicitly the contents of the inside and the cost. So, no more paying out half of your koins for Shang Tsung’s sock collection. There are plenty of great things to unlock, ranging from stages, characters, videos, to concept art. Even though the size of the Krypt has shrunk somewhat, the kontent that remains is genuine and rewarding.

For the other “diversion” in the game, there is a Mario Kart-like game called Motor Kombat. True to everything else in the game, the game is over-the-top and even more goofy than other parts. You can choose from 10 of your favourite characters like Sub-Zero or Baraka. The kombatants race around several tracks which are themed after various stages and parts of Konquest mode. Each racer has a special move and a “bump” meter for hitting other players. Of course, death traps lie in the way of unsuspecting players, resulting in comedy and mishap for the unlucky souls. The game is fun, but is only meant as a temporary diversion from the main action.

Above all else, what makes the game enormous is the innovative new feature called Kreate-A-Fighter. Fighter is when MK meets The Sims! You have control of literally hundreds of options for a unique kombatant with his (or her!) own moves, fighting styles, name, looks, and even story. The game gives you a grid with around 1,000 or so colours for each item. Also, as if that weren’t enough, the items that you get from Konquest Mode as well as koins lead to unlocking more features for your character, such as a biker’s jacket or a hooded sweatshirt. The possibilities are seemingly endless. 

What gives the game true replay value is its online feature. Not only can you take all 62 fighters online, but you can take your own personal fighter, too. This leads to many amusing and unique fights to people all over the world. Also, take your racer online with Motor Kombat. The fun speaks for itself there. You can’t go wrong with going online.

Graphics: Based upon the graphics engine of the past two MK main instalments, Armageddon looks surprisingly similar at first glance. However, great detail has been given in order to stretch the PS2’s graphic capability. Animation in the background is more detailed, and stages seem to go on forever. The combatants seem to be much smoother when compared to Deadly Alliance or even Deception. Overall, however, the game feels much like the older game. Some gamers may be bothered by this, but when you consider that 3 of the 7 games have been on the PS2 and other home consoles, the progress is very impressive.

Sound: I’ve always been a fan of the MK sounds. The screams and smacks are very realistic (in their over-the-top setting), and Armageddon only improves upon this. Even with 62 characters, the voices sound distinct and believable, whereas previous versions used similar voices or just one voice for all members of the same sex. The music in the game is chilling and very pertinent to the atmosphere of the game.

Kontrols: As mentioned earlier, the controls are similar to the older MK games. The kombinations are doable, and the fatalities flow together very well. The usage of the R buttons for Motor Kombat is a bit awkward, but after some time, it becomes standard to the player. Konquest controls are easy and fun to use. Tearing your enemies to shreds never looked so easy. Make no mistake, however, the Konquest itself is not necessarily easy, but the controls don’t interfere with this factor at all.
Overall: My review is very long to say the least. However, I feel that writing a short summary does no justice to this game. As an avid MK fan, I’ve waited for this type of game ever since MK:Trilogy. The idea of 60+ characters in on game is just too good to be true. Despite a few shortcomings in the depth of characters and the similarity to previous instalments, Mortal Kombat:Armageddon is the culmination of the Mortal Kombat series. A true fan will overlook any minor grievances, while a passive fan of fighting games can’t go wrong with such a vast roster of characters, a goofy racing game, a meaty story mode, and online play to the heart’s kontent. Please, do yourself a favour and pick this up today. At only€39.99 for the standard version, why not look into the Premium Edition for €10 more, as well? This is a must-have for any MK fan.

Gameplay  7.5

Visuals 7.5

Presentation 7.5

Replayabiltiy 7.0