The game begins at what appears to be the ending of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. It reveals that nearly every warrior in the Mortal Kombat Universe have killed each other in the battle of the Pyramid. Only Raiden and Shao Kahn have survived and Kahn is beating the shit out of Raiden, about to kill him. Realizing that he can't win in the present, Raiden sends a message back in time to himself during the Mortal Kombat Tournament of the first game so that he might be able to alter events of the future. Throughout the game you play as various warriors as they try to defeat Shao Kahn and essentially rewrite the history of the first three games.
One really good thing I noticed about the plot was that IT ACTUALLY HAD A FUCKING PLOT! For some reason, an actual plot is very hard to find in tournament fighters and it's even harder to find a good one. With the story of this game, however, it was not a half assed effort. It was obvious that the writers actually put a lot of thought and effort into developing an engaging story that gamers could actually follow and made for an unexpected change of pace.
With the alternate timeline, you got a familiar, yet fresh take on the first three games. Events don't always go the way they did in the original three and at times you actually hoped they would go different, cheered when they did, cried when they didn't, and felt you heart drop when they took a turn you didn't want them to go.
There are a few things to complain about, however. For one thing, before the plot of this game was announced, I was really hoping that the story would continue directly after Armageddon, so I was slightly disappointed that they decided to take things in this direction. The only other bad thing I have to say is that your point of view in this game is narrow and, as a result, half of the events occur off camera. For example, you'll play as Striker during one part of the game, while Raiden and Liu-Kang are killing Motaro while you’re busy fighting other enemies.
All around however, the plot of this game was compelling, well written, great for this genera, and is definitely one for the books.
Get ready for a long section because there is a lot to talk about here. For starters you had the combat style, which went back to a 2D fighting plane along with only one fighting style, on par with the first three games. Depending on your point of view, this was either the best move the developers could have made or the worst. Some people loved it and some people hated it and I myself can’t decide. However, once you take that factor out of the equation it’s still a really solid fighting system that is very easy for anyone to jump into. The fighting moves are great, special attacks are great, the controls are great and the fatalities are a little bit simpler but just as satisfying and gory as ever.
One of the major things they added to this game is something they call tag team fighting. This is where the player, or players, control two different characters and swap out to fight another tag team of opponents which can either be fun as hell or frustrating as shit if the person you’re playing with is a complete dick. Still, it’s definitely something worth wile and is, in my opinion, the best tag team system out there.
Along with this is the challenge latter in which the player does various challenges to earn coins that you can spend at the Krypt, (an area where you buy in-game bonus stuff for those of you who don’t know). Some of these are simple, such as performing specialty moves or finishing an opponent with a fatality while others can be hard as hell but all around provide a great challenge to the player and hours of entertainment. The graphics and attention to details in this game were also a huge improvement over any Mortal Kombat game and is the best looking tournament fighter I have ever seen, (it doesn’t have any of that cartoony crap you get with the Street Fighter games). The characters and environments all look stunning and there was obviously a lot of work put into these things.
Finally we had the best innovation of the game; the super meter. This is a bar that loads up whenever you attack, block or perform a set of combos that allow you to do special attacks with increased damage; pretty standard for most modern tournament fighters. There are two things, however, that separate this bar from the crowd. The first is that when you get the meter to a certain lever it allows you to break off an enemy combo. The one, however, that everyone talks about and everyone loves is the X-Ray move. When the meter is full and when it’s triggered it shows the character performing various moves and shows an X-Ray view of the damage it does, such as shattering bones or rupturing organs and is very cool to watch. It’s just something that’s very pleasing to the eyes and puts me in a good mood every time I do it to an opponent.
There are a few drawbacks to the gameplay, however, just like there are with any video game. For example, there are a lot of cheap ways to beat an opponent in this game. Often spamming the same attacks over and over again does the trick as does performing combo after combo with an opponent in a corner. You also have the fights with Shao Kahn who is ridiculously hard because he does exactly that. It’s infuriating to say the least. The final negative thing I have to say deals with the Krypt. While there is a ton of stuff to unlock within most of it is very underwhelming, mainly consisting of concept art and music. What fun is that to unlock?
All around, however, the gameplay was just awesome. The graphics were beautiful, the combat was great, and there was just so much stuff to do and kept me coming back for more.
Where do I even begin? In my personal opinion, the Mortal Kombat games have the most interesting and diverse cast of characters of any tournament fighter and this game really fleshed them out in ways that no other tournament fighter had done before. I think anyone would agree that after the third game, the cast of characters started to grow ridiculous in both creativity and numbers. So in this game they stuck to the essential characters which I think was best thing they could have done.
While the fighting moves and such were tame in comparison to previous games there was one great thing the creators added to these characters; depth. Unlike previous Mortal Kombat games or any other tournament fighter, these characters weren't as shallow as a pond. You could actually see and hear the emotions of the characters through the expressions on their faces, body language and dialog. As a result you're much more interested and involved with the characters and you really want to see them succeed. I think the best example of this has to do with Scorpion as in this game the writers and animators really make you feel the pain he goes through. Sure it it's not BioWare depth but it's far better than anything any tournament fighter has ever made.
As with all the other elements of this game, there were faults. Even though the game gave a whole new depth to the characters, the voice acting was kind of bad and very cheesy. There were also a few things I couldn't help but nitpick at, mainly dealing with the new looks of some of the characters. Mainly, I didn't care for the way Shao Kahn, Goro, and Kintaro looked. In previous installments to the franchise, they always towered above the other characters and this gave them a monstrous quality. In this game, however, they were...well....smaller and seemed more like mutated men then monsters. My guess is that they were trying to go back to the original designs and size of the characters but in the process they seem slightly...underwhelming when compared to six generation versions, (that's the XBOX/PS2/GameCube era).
All around, however, this was easily the best cast of characters I've ever seen for a tournament fighter. Are they perfect? No. Do they have anything on RPG characters? No. Do they have their faults? Yes. But at the same time they were the best developed cast of tournament fighter characters I’ve ever seen. They were complicated, interesting, and very fleshed out. Truly one for the books.
What else can I say about this game? It's fucking awesome and one of the best tournament fighters I have ever played. Sure it had its faults but they weren't anything I couldn’t look past. For its genera, it had a great story, great characters, great graphics, great gameplay, and I believe that this is the standard by which tournament fighters will be made from now on. If you haven't checked it out, I would highly recommend doing so because it's worth every second of your time and you'll love every second of it.