Mortal Kombat (2011 video game)
Cover art featuring Scorpion and Sub-Zero
High Voltage Software (PC)
|Publisher(s)||Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
|Distribution||Blu-ray Disc, DVD, PlayStation Vita card, download|
Mortal Kombat (popularly referred to as Mortal Kombat 9 or simply MK9 for short) is the ninth main installment in the Mortal Kombat series of fighting games. It is a reboot of the franchise and was developed by NetherRealm Studios (formerly known as Midway Studios) and published exclusively by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The game was released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 systems in April 2011, and a PlayStation Vita port was released in May 2012. An expanded version of the game, titled Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition, was released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in February 2012 and for Microsoft Windows in July 2013.
Although beginning during the events of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, the plot is a retcon to the earliest period in the Mortal Kombat series, the trilogy of Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3. The storyline involves the divine protector of Earth, Raiden, attempting to change the aftermath of the events of Armageddon by contacting his past self as he faces defeat at the hands of the evil emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn. While having characters and levels rendered in three-dimensions, the gameplay distances itself from the fully 3D graphics one seen in the last four games, bearing closer resemblance to that of the 2D era of the series, using a camera that is perpendicular to the two-dimensional playing field.
Upon release, Mortal Kombat received very positive reviews and won several awards for fighting game of the year. It was also a commercial success, selling more than two million copies in the first month alone. Due to its extremely violent content, the game was banned in Australia due to the lack of an appropriate ratings category, and South Korea, and it has been reportedly indexed in Germany; the Australian ban was later lifted due to the introduction of an R18 classification and the game was released with many other R rated games in May 2013. Mortal Kombat is going to be followed by the sequel Mortal Kombat X in 2015.
Principal gameplay involves one-on-one 2.5D style fighting. Mortal Kombat uses a single two-dimensional fighting plane (at 60 frames per second), although characters are rendered in three-dimensional fashion, intended to give depth and range to portrayals of various projectiles. Unlike previous Mortal Kombat games, four buttons on the game controller represent attacks and are each linked to a corresponding limb.
A new feature is the "super meter", which can be charged by various actions during battle such as performing special moves, getting blocked by the opponent, or getting hit by them. The super meter can be charged to three levels, each of them enabling a different action to be performed. At the first level, it can be used to deliver an enhanced version of one of the character's special attacks; two levels can be used to interrupt a combo attack, and the full three levels allow for the delivery of a special attack called an "X-ray move". The X-ray move unleashes a series of attacks during which the game provides an internal view of the character being attacked, which shows their bones and organs being broken or ruptured.
Extra features include a story mode during which the player plays as multiple characters, a Fatality training mode (allowing players to practice executing finishing moves), the Challenge Tower, tag team fighting, and an online mode. The Challenge Tower mode is a single-player option that includes 300 specific challenges of various difficulties providing currency rewards upon completion; players have the option of using in-game currency to bypass other difficult challenges, completing them later. Among the various challenges are "Test Your Might" (rapidly pressing buttons and using specific timing to destroy blocks of varying difficulty), "Test Your Sight" (following an object hidden under a cup or skull and revealing the object after a shuffle), "Test Your Strike" (destroying a specific block in a stack) and "Test Your Luck" (fighting under certain conditions, such as no jumping). The four-player tag-team feature is an original feature, allowing two players to play together. During tag gameplay, two new types of attacks become available. The first of them is the "tag assist" attack, in which the off-screen character temporarily jumps in and performs certain attacks during the active character's combo. The other is the "tag kombo", in which the active character performs a combo that is finished by the off-screen character as they enter the fight.
The online mode includes a "King of the Hill" option, where up to eight players can act as spectators and play the winner of a fight. Spectators may also rate the fights and use the "forum" to determine how to perform various combos or moves observed during a fight. A single-use online pass is also included with the game which is mandatory to access the online components. Online passes are also available from the PlayStation Store and Xbox Live Marketplace.
"Raiden is about to be killed by Shao Kahn, and just before he delivers the last blow, Raiden sends a mental message to his earlier self by saying that he must win, and the camera rewinds back to Mortal Kombat 1. The Raiden from Mortal Kombat 1 then gets the message and experiences a premonition. The game then spans Mortal Kombat 1, 2, and 3, retelling the story with an enlightened Raiden, who has changed the course of events. Eventually, everything the player has seen happen before — Liu Kang winning, Lin Kuei turning into cybernetic ninjas, has been altered. You might see a cybernetic character who wasn't before, and a different version of events."
During the events of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, both the forces of light and darkness have been annihilated, with only the thunder god Raiden and Shao Kahn remaining to represent them. A severely weakened Raiden is about to be killed by Shao Kahn, but casts a last-minute spell on his now-shattered magical amulet, directing it to contact his past self with the vague message "He must win".
During the events of the first tournament hosted by Shang Tsung, the past version of Raiden sees visions of the future courtesy of a now-cracked amulet. Raiden initially comes to the conclusion that the fighter Liu Kang is to win the tournament and save Earthrealm from Outworld. Pivotal characters such as Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Jax Briggs, Kano, Sektor, Cyrax, Nightwolf, Kitana, Jade, and Sub-Zero are introduced, the latter being murdered by the hellspawn Scorpion. After being offered by Raiden to send a request to the elder gods to return the Shirai Ryu to the realm of mortals, Scorpion initially spares Sub-Zero's life. But after being manipulated by Quan Chi, the sorcerer, Scorpion kills Sub-Zero. Cyrax also spares Johnny Cage's life after defeating him in the tournament, after Raiden's advice, thereby going against his assignment, which in turn makes way for speculations about Cyrax's dedication to the Grand Master and the Lin Kuei. In time, Liu Kang remains the only Earthrealm champion, and succeeds in defeating Shang Tsung and the Shokan Prince Goro. However, Raiden's amulet continues to deteriorate, a sign that future events remain unchanged. Disappointed with Shang Tsung's failure, Shao Kahn orders his execution, but relents when the sorcerer suggests holding the second tournament in Outworld. Shao Kahn returns Shang Tsung his youth. Raiden initially refuses, but is forced to relent when Shang Tsung threatens to unleash Outworld's armies upon Earthrealm.
Two Lin Kuei ninjas, Kuai Liang (as Sub-Zero to honor his brother Bi-Han, the original Sub-Zero) and Smoke arrive, in Outworld to fight in the tournament on Lin Kuei terms. They are pursued by cybernetic Lin Kuei assassins, including Sektor and Cyrax, who attempt to take them back to Earthrealm to transform them into cyborgs. Raiden attempts to change the timeline by rescuing Smoke from his transformation, but as a result, the younger Sub-Zero is automated in his place. Meanwhile, Kitana uncovers the existence of Mileena, a mutant clone of herself crafted by Shang Tsung. But when she confronts Shao Khan with Shang Tsung, the emperor instead becomes grateful to Shang Tsung, saying that at last he has a 'true daughter' and revealing to Kitana that her real father was a "weakling" Edenian king, not Shao Kahn as Kitana had supposed. She realizes that Shao Kahn himself had ordered Mileena's creation. Infuriated by the betrayal, Kitana defects from her father and joins the Earthrealm warriors. In the final round of the tournament, Raiden once again tampers with the timeline by substituting Kung Lao for Liu Kang, the original winner of the Outworld tournament, as the champion of the second tournament. Shao Kahn, however, kills Kung Lao, with Liu Kang retaliating and mortally wounding Kahn. Raiden notes the timeline is still unaffected as his amulet continues to deteriorate.
Healed by the sorcerer Quan Chi, Shao Kahn enters into an alliance with the Netherrealm and has Quan Chi resurrect his wife, Sindel. In doing so, they nullify the ward that prevents Kahn's access to Earthrealm, initiating a full-scale invasion. Shortly afterwards, Raiden prevents the murder of Johnny Cage by slaying Motaro. Joined by fighters Kurtis Stryker, Kabal and a now-cybernetic Sub-Zero, the Earthrealmers attempt to stop Kahn. Sub-Zero then discovers a spell being attempted by Quan Chi. Raiden then foresees that the spell, once completed, would bring billions of souls of Earthrealmers under Shao Kahn's control, thus vastly multiplying his power. Sub-Zero fights Noob Saibot, the undead older Sub-Zero, resurrected by Quan Chi. Nightwolf stops Quan Chi from completing his spell. But when Raiden's amulet further deteriorates, Raiden decides to have a talk with the Elder Gods, accompanied by Liu Kang. Shortly after Raiden and Liu Kang left, the remaining fighters are attacked by the Lin Kuei but they successfully defend themselves. But after that, many of them are murdered by Sindel, who had been vastly empowered by the souls extracted from Shang Tsung's body, thus killing the sorcerer. Nightwolf sacrifices himself to kill Sindel and stop her advance. Raiden fared no better; for Elder Gods refused to intervene, citing that Kahn's invasion itself is not a violation but merging of the two realms without winning Mortal Kombat is. Raiden and Liu Kang return, only to discover most of their allies murdered, including Kitana. Feeling trapped, Raiden confronts Quan Chi in Netherrealm where, to his horror, he discovers that Quan Chi has enslaved the souls of Earthrealm's fallen warriors. Learning of Kahn's imminent arrival in Earthrealm, Raiden realizes that the message "He must win" refers to Kahn himself — if he is allowed to merge Outworld and Earthrealm, he will be punished by the Elder Gods for a violation of the Mortal Kombat code for taking a realm without winning the tournament. Liu Kang, however, blames Raiden for the death of their allies and attacks an approaching Shao Kahn. In an attempt to prevent the history from repeating itself, Raiden accidentally electrocutes Liu Kang, killing him. Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage recover and attack Shao Kahn, only to be knocked unconscious effortlessly by him. Grief-stricken, Raiden surrenders to Kahn and resigned to his fate. But the Elder Gods intervene, possessing Raiden and restoring his strength which he uses to defeat and punish Kahn for breaking the Mortal Kombat code.
After killing Kahn, Raiden vows to rebuild Earthrealm with survivors Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade. Quan Chi is then revealed to be an agent of Shinnok, who intends to take advantage of the chaos and the elimination of Kahn to conquer both Outworld and Earthrealm in the name of the Netherrealm for themselves, foreshadowing the synopsis of Mortal Kombat 4.
In a November 2008 interview, Ed Boon stated that game sales for Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe would dictate what features would appear in "the next game". In 2009, Midway Games Chicago filed for bankruptcy and was purchased by Warner Bros. Interactive. This led the game to be developed by NetherRealm Studios, becoming the first installment in the series to be published exclusively under the Warner Bros. label. On June 18, 2009, Boon confirmed on his Twitter page that developers were performing motion capture for the game and that it would not feature superheroes. Dan Forden was also expected to return as the music composer for the game. In late 2009, Boon stated that the franchise was returning to its bloody origins and that the production team were aiming for a "Mature" rating, as opposed to the "Teen" on the previous game. Boon also showed concern about content being classified under the "Adults Only" rating.
Mortal Kombat was officially revealed on June 10, 2010 with a release for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2011. It was revealed at the Sony E3 press conference that Mortal Kombat would be 3D compatible, and Boon said that in dealing with the 3D capability, more attention to detail was required so as to not obstruct the gameplay. Boon said that the extras mode from previous games ("The Krypt") would return with an "elaborate and sophisticated unlocking system" and put "the other games in the series to shame." He also said they intended for Mortal Kombat to be accessible to the casual player and more "engaging", with experts on the fighting genre consulted. New features were made to create a deeper fighting experience. Some mild humorous elements were also included, such as the Babality finishing moves. At the time, Boon said that the production team were considering a PC port of Mortal Kombat as "there seems to be a market for [PC games] in Europe."
Mortal Kombat runs on a heavily modified version of the Unreal Engine 3, similar to the engine used by its predecessor, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Developers recreated the entire fighting engine so that it was restricted to a two-dimensional plane of fighting, with senior producer Hans Lo stating at gamescom 2010 that the change from 3D gameplay to 2D was advantageous for Mortal Kombat, as it increased graphical detail for characters and arenas and improved gameplay speed. Another new mechanic is the inclusion of "blood physics" (blood loss is portrayed as being more natural and being clearly visible on characters or surroundings). Developers stated that online gameplay for Mortal Kombat would be a main priority, declaring interest in capabilities to link the player's progression feed to their accounts on social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter, and recreate the feel of socializing with players in an arcade.
According to Dave Pindara, one of lead artists for Mortal Kombat, environments were developed to create active objects and effects such as "scripted cinema events", "dynamic lighting effects" and "characters and objects that animated and reacted to the fights." Arena development began with 18 arenas, but development of environments with different times of day and original arenas related to the plot scaled up arena development to roughly 30 arenas. One unique feature is included with each stage such as "The Desert" which has a "sand tech", allowing for realistic sand motion during characters' interaction. Dan Forden, lead sound designer, said the intent was to create a "cinematic game audio experience". Sound effect design included use and enhancement of the "bone-crunching audio design" of previous titles and, while the "dynamic experience" was vital, small details such as the "rustling of fighter's clothes" and background sounds were also included. Music for each stage was similar to previous games but with "a completely new arrangement".
Boon said that there was a focus on including characters from the first three Mortal Kombat games and that "if you have a favorite character from those games, you're probably going to see him or her in the game." The game's developers stated that the characters had been designed with the intent to make each character unique - each having his or her own individual stance, victory pose and Fatality with no shared animations. Lead designer John Edwards said that characters are differentiated by features such as power and speed. Producer Shaun Himmerick said that the internal and external character design required "two months or ten weeks". Boon said that an exclusive character was planned for the Xbox 360 version, but "unfortunately, the circumstances didn't allow us to make a 360 exclusive." He also said they were in talks to include Sweet Tooth from Sony's Twisted Metal franchise.
On April 5, 2011, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and NetherRealm Studios announced Mortal Kombat was finished and ready for mass production, with pre-orders having gone "gold". Asked what would be the correct way to call it, for example "MK9" or "MK2011", Boon answered he would say "The Mortal Kombat game they rebooted in 2011."
On August 31, 2010, a teaser trailer "Shadows" debuted on IGN, featuring a track "Another Way to Die" from the band Disturbed's album Asylum. On September 28, 2010, the slogan "Kombat Begins In..." appeared with a clock counting down on the Mortal Kombat official website, the countdown ending on Monday October 11, 2010. At the conclusion of the countdown, a link to the Facebook page was added to the website and an accompanying Facebook application was also released that showcased a teaser trailer for the game.
On October 4, 2010, the "Environment Bio" trailer of the Mortal Kombat arena, The Pit, was released to explain the in-game backstory on its origins and evolution. Similar videos featuring The Living Forest, the Dead Pool, and Kahn's Coliseum were released afterward, also explaining background information on the stages. In a similar fashion, character profile videos were released for Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Mileena, Liu Kang and Raiden. In April 2011, Playboy models Jo Garcia and Brittney Palmer (dressed as Mileena and Kitana, respectively) promoted the game in a sponsored vlog advertisement. In April 2011, Bespoke Arcades created a series of arcade machines to promote the game at the Gadget Show Live 2011. In April 2012, two live-action cosplay trailers featuring Rachelle Glover (Kitana) and Danni Levy (Mileena) were released; they were later combined into one commercial video titled "Fight Anywhere".
On March 8, 2011, a demo version of the game was released for download globally, initially exclusively for PlayStation Plus members. The demo (an arcade ladder with single- or two-player capability) showcases four characters (Johnny Cage, Mileena, Scorpion and Sub-Zero) and the stages The Living Forest and The Pit. Performance Design Products sponsored the inaugural National Mortal Kombat Championship, which took place in Las Vegas in May 2011. Mortal Kombat was also internationally presented in the 2011 Evolution Championship Series (Evo), being recognized as a "main tournament fighting game". Professional gamers Justin Wong (winner of the PDP championship) and Carl 'Perfect Legend' White (the Evo 2011 champion) spoke positively of Mortal Kombat 's place in future tournament events.
Mortal Kombat was available for pre-order in three different editions: Standard, Kollector's Edition (includes a copy of the game, art book, Sub-Zero and Scorpion figurine bookends and a downloadable content (DLC) skin, dubbed a Mortal Kombat Klassic costume), and the Tournament Edition (includes a fight stick controller instead of the bookends and art book). A European version of the Kollector's Edition was also released, which includes the game, art book, a Scorpion & Sub-Zero figurine, a Steelbook case and downloadable skins.
In the United States, pre-orders at retailers Toys "R" Us and Wal-Mart were provided with classic Mortal Kombat skins for Kitana and Mileena, modeled after their Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 appearances. A classic Jade skin (also using her UMK3 model) was also included with preorders of Mortal Kombat or Mortal Kombat: Annihilation on Blu-ray (both released April 19, 2011). GameStop, Best Buy and Amazon.com also participated in preorder bonuses and included classic costumes and Fatalities for Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Reptile respectively. Mortal Kombat-themed costumes were also provided for the owners of Xbox 360 avatars who preordered any version of the game.
Netherrealm Studios released the Klassic DLC pack (containing the classic outfits and Fatalities that were exclusive to pre-order deals) on June 7, 2011. Downloadable characters include Skarlet (a red female character based on a rumor about Mortal Kombat II), Kenshi (first introduced in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance), Rain (first seen in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3), Kratos from the God of War series, and Freddy Krueger from the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. A free compatibility pack is available alongside each character that contains "klassic" skins for two characters and is available to all players. A "Season Pass" available to Xbox 360 users offered the first four DLC characters together at an overall discounted price. Warner Bros. is one of the first game companies that introduced the concept of season pass: a long term, pre-paid, post-launch downloadable content plan.
PlayStation Vita port
The PlayStation Vita version of Mortal Kombat was announced on January 18, 2012. It was released on May 1, 2012 in North America and on May 4 in Europe. The Vita version of the game includes all the features from the Komplete Edition, and adds new costumes and a new Challenge Tower that are not available in the console versions, as well as touchscreen controls for finishing moves and other exclusive features.
On January 9, 2012, Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment announced Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition. This version was released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on February 28, 2012 in North America and on March 2 in the United Kingdom, and consists of the game with all of the downloadable content released for it. The North American release also includes download codes for the album Mortal Kombat: Songs Inspired by the Warriors, as well as the 1995 film Mortal Kombat (available via the PlayStation Store or Xbox Live).
In May 2011, Ed Boon hinted on his Twitter account that a Mac version of the game was more likely than a PC one. By February 2012, developers stated there were no immediate plans for a PC version, but were "gauging interest". On May 22, 2013, it was announced that the Komplete Edition would be released for Windows on July 3, 2013. Initially, the game became only available through Steam but a retail version followed during the first days of August.
Prior to the game's release, Techtree listed Mortal Kombat as "one of the reasons for people to own a gaming console in 2011", with PC Magazine and 2D-X editor Jeffrey L. Wilson claiming this was one of the most anticipated titles of E3 2010. The E3 2010 showcase version of Mortal Kombat received the Best Fighting Game of E3 and Best Stage Demo of E3 awards by GameSpot, and the Best Fighting Game of E3 award by GameTrailers. Later, Mortal Kombat won several Game of the Year type awards for the best fighting game of 2011; some of them are listed in the table on the right.
Reviews for Mortal Kombat were very positive. GameZone's David Sanchez considered describing Mortal Kombat as "a fitting reboot for the series" to be an understatement, as "while offering plenty of nostalgia" the game is also "a major step up for the series". Andrew Reiner of Game Informer called it "the best Mortal Kombat yet." According to Mark Waltron of GameSpot, "over-the-top, bloody, and bursting with content, Mortal Kombat is a return to form for the franchise." IGN's Ryan Clements called it an "amazing" game that "combines the novelty of extreme violence with a great fighting engine." Neidel Crisan of 1UP.com stated it "has simply set the standard for future fighting games to follow." Eurogamer's Matt Edwards was more critical of the game, but added that "to judge Mortal Kombat harshly simply because it isn’t the equal of BlazBlue or Street Fighter IV on a technical level would be unfair to what the game does right." Brett Elston of GamesRadar was also more cautious in his review, stating it is "a successful sequel that both reboots and redeems the wayward series, though it’s not a flawless victory."
Mortal Kombat's gameplay was generally well received due to its balance, violence and use of what GameTrailers called a "classic 2D template". Reiner wrote that "the only area where Mortal Kombat feels antiquated is in its AI." Waltron praised the game for having "one of the most in-depth story modes to grace a fighting game." Crisan compared it to "watching a full length CG movie", and said that while "incredibly corny, it's also oddly addicting" due to its over-the-top plot. One complaint concerned the shifting levels of difficulty in the game's story mode, described by Clements as forcing the player "to fight cheap tactics with cheap tactics." According to Elston, "character balance, inconsistent detection and a stingy coin reward system drag down an otherwise bloody good time."
According to Ed Boon, during its release month, Mortal Kombat sold two million copies between both PlayStation 3 and Xbox versions. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, publisher of NetherRealm Studios’ Mortal Kombat, reported that Mortal Kombat had sold close to three million units as of August 2011. According to Warner Bros., this covered the cost of the entire Midway asset acquisition. One year after the game's release, GameZone's Sanchez stated that Mortal Kombat has still remained "the best fighter currently on the market," calling it "today's greatest modern fighter" and "one of the most compelling fighters to come along in years."
The PlayStation Vita version of the game was also well received. Dan Ryckert of Game Informer called it "the most complete version of Mortal Kombat available," while Brett Zeidler of Destructoid hailed it as "a perfect example of keeping the best graphical fidelity possible and including an already astronomical amount of content." According to Walton, "despite a few control issues" regarding tag team combos, "Mortal Kombat on the Vita is every bit the great and gruesome fighter as its console counterparts." Steven Hopper of IGN recommended this "great port" for those who did not play the original release enough.
The PC version of Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition was well-received despite being released two years later than the console versions; the PC version received an 82/100 Metascore on Metacritic, with users of the same site rating it an average score of 8.9/10. In August 2013, questioned about the sales performance of the Windows version of the game, Boon tweeted that it was "WAY, WAY above expectations".
Ban on the game
In February 2011, the game was refused classification by the Australian Classification Board due to "violence that exceeds strong in impact". Warner Bros. unsuccessfully appealed the decision to the Classification Review Board, who ruled "the impact of the violence in Mortal Kombat is higher than strong and thus could not be accommodated within the MA15+ classification." The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service listed the game as a prohibited item and the Australian Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor asked to be briefed on the Mortal Kombat decision, citing "public disquiet on the issue". In 2012, the Vita version of Mortal Kombat was banned in Australia as well. A spokesperson for Warner Bros. commented: "We felt that because of the Vita's size, the smaller screen would minimise the impact of the violence in the game and we felt it might fit within the MA15+ category. Obviously, the Classification Board of Australia did not agree." In 2013, however, Mortal Kombat was given an R18+ classification, after R18+ classification for video games was approved in Australia.
Mortal Kombat was also indexed in Germany by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons due to "drastic representations of violence," and was banned in South Korea due to its excessive depiction of blood and gore. The Australian ban for all versions of Mortal Kombat was lifted in February 2013 due to the introduction of the R18+ rating and the game was released there on May 1, 2013.
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