Think that logo looks familiar? Poll a group of gamers from any developed nation with an economy, and you'll find very few who don't recognize the Mortal Kombat emblem. At Anime Expo 2009, Guilty Gear creator Daisuke Ishiwatari even named the series when fans questioned the validity of American fighting games -- I was there.
I'm sure there are enough of you out there unfamiliar with MK but haven't said a word for fear of nerd persecution. Rest assured the games' original development studio is preparing a whole new Mortal Kombat fighter for today's generation, and they're promising an experience that'll appease both today's newbies and the '90s generation.
At this year's E3, the upcoming 2011 Mortal Kombat can be viewed at the Warner Bros. booth behind closed doors, for anyone with the right badge or enough patience to wait in line as press and exhibitors cut in every few seconds. Once inside, the NetherRealm team (Does anyone else find the name hilariously appropriate?) gives their presentation.
Before you freak out, keep in mind that NetherRealm used to be Midway Games, the name gamers tend to associate with the MK franchise. In fact, creator Ed Boon is overseeing the latest incarnation as the executive producer and game designer.
Producer Hector Sanchez led the demo, best known to most of you for his work on Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. So what did we see on the screen in that dark little presentation room that day? Nostalgia in its most violent form. I distinctly remember covering my eyes as a little girl during Fatalities, like way back when; yet the nostalgia is still there, warm and fuzzy feelings evoked by seeing Kung Lao drag Sub-Zero through a buzz saw made from his wicked hat. And who can forget Reptile, who pukes acid into his victim's mouth.
"Nostalgia" is the keyword here. In the new Mortal Kombat you'll witness and perform classic signature moves, including each character's Fatalities. Beautifully rendered backdrops are actually arenas found in previous MK games, such as the Living Forest and Pit stages. Like the characters, the environments are improved visually to suit today's HD consoles. Better lightning reveal intricate details, and as a fight drags on, both players get progressively bloodier from taking damage or attack an opponent up close. Everything is now rendered in 3D, but gameplay revolves around 2D planes, a decision Sanchez attributes to player feedback.
A new tag team mode, revealed just recently, adds a whole 'nother dimension of awesome. Though you can just slap together two of your favorite characters, benefits come from choosing fighters that are related in some way through the story. Regardless, every MK fighter boasts unique animations and fighting styles.
The player is also afforded greater freedom in-game, complete with custom combos that reinforce the game's updated mechanics. A three-layer meter gives players further freedom and options, catering to different kinds of fighter fans. Each layer or segment can be used for a regular special or as a defensive maneuver. In each case, you're trading the points within the meter for damage dealt or absorbed.
Resist the urge to use the meter continuously and you'll be in for quite the cringe-worthy treat. Allowing the meter to completely fill up unlocks epic "X-ray" attacks, a special combo that shows the other player's skeleton. Sounds totally random, I know, but the X-ray effect is incredibly well-suited for Mortal Kombat. Example? As Johnny Cage tears into his opponent's torso, the X-ray view shows bones breaking around his fist. Slam someone in the neck and you will actually see the victim's spine snap upon impact. Note that these are not actual finisher moves to be confused with Fatalities.
According to Sanchez, the 2011 Mortal Kombat runs at a faster pace than any of its precessors. Judging by in-game footage, I am inclined to agree. The trailer is ultra-violent -- just in case you missed that memo.
The MK team at NetherRealm are striving to finish in time for Spring 2011. Check the gallery below for some of the video's more gentle moments.