Mortal Kombat Armageddon Reader Review
It seems that fighting games can reach saturation point, and when you've been going as long as Mortal Kombat has, you fast realise that you have left some of your characters behind in favour of new ones. And fans end up thinking, "I wonder what happened to Stryker?" and "Do you remember Sheeva? She was a good character, wasn't she?". Seems someone from Midway had a similar thought, but probably more along the lines of, "Hey! let's do another game like Trilogy, and get every character we've ever made together in one game! The fans will go nuts for it!"
So, cue a very thinly veiled story that claims that the realms are on the brink of destruction, because of the restless souls that are endlessly fighting in Mortal Kombat. All have been tempted to a huge pyramid, where the promise of godlike power lays in wait. The reality is of course that they are all going to die, Blaze (seemingly by magic and shattering all sense of continuity) surfacing to guard the temple and dispose of whomever ends up at the top. So much for continuity. Of course, cue the beatings and everyone stepping over each other to get the "prize"...
It's lovely to think this game has 64 characters, after all, it's a nice number and an impressive one at that, The problem with having 64 characters is that it really is a challenge to make them all individual. And some are, but the majority... well, they're not. There are some stunning redesigns in this game - Rain, for example, is a stroke of pure genius. Sheeva is also a bit of a mini-masterpiece. But where you have good sides, you have the redesigns which are so bad it makes you want to cry. Motaro looks like his two halves were created by two different people. They didn't even bother with Sonya Blade, who has the sheen of a doll - where did the Sonya of my dreams in Mortal Kombat 3 go? And Stryker... the least said about that atrocity, the better...
But hey, who cares right? They're all going to bleed the same way. Err... no. And this is where the game falls apart somewhat. The very moment you open the moves list, anyone who appreciated the beauty of the past two games will be horrified at how much compromise has been made. And the rest will wonder if they missed something. Using Deception as the best comparison available, things haven't just gone downhill - they've plummeted down a vertical shaft and left the mess that is Armageddon. This game just isn't anywhere close to as technically minded as it would like us to believe - everything from the much harped about "Ariel Kombat" (Which is jerky and dull to watch) to the Pit Fatalities have been dumbed down to an incredible extreme. It just feels so bad, to have so much choice in the character roster and yet end up discovering that there really isn't much to each character anyway. And don't think they bothered with balance either, some characters are far too overpowered and some unimaginably hard to use. Comparing it to Trilogy is a little unjustified. At least Trilogy had some technically sound moments.
Visually, the game doesn't improve much either. Some characters look a little on the plastic side at times, the blood effects are just now noticably awful, and the animation. Oh, my eyes, the animation. Choppy, jerky, inconsistant and just plain bad. I'd personally leave the characters in their initial stance. It's about as smooth as it gets. After that, I just don't understand what they were thinking. And the music isn't really any cause for celebration, acceptable at best. The screams and sound effects are just a little too much on the silly side now (See a video in the Krypt and prepare to be envious. People get paid to act like that? Where is the justice in the world?), and the thuds and crashes are what you would expect from a fighting game and don't seem to get much better.
Perhaps the most painful losses to comprehend are the unique fatalities, being replaced with a "Kreate-A-Fatality" system. Whilst this system is very easy to use and you can make a reasonably good looking fatality from it... it robs characters of their very identity. Scorpion's 'Toasty'. Sub Zero deep-freezing his foes and them snapping them apart. You will fast begin to mourn them as you pull off vast chains of small fatality moves, which are fine the first time but get old very quickly. It's just not right at all, and feels wrong on every concievable level, some of which you never even knew existed. Once you memorise a decent chain, you'll never stray from it, and get bored pretty quickly.
So, time to move from that then to the training mode, Konquest. This has been recreated into a beat-em-up adventure game throughout the realms, and meeting the vast cast of the game - the plot as thin and fragile as wet tissue paper. The areas are a little on the basic side, but the combat and battles are rather challenging, and the story - of what little you can salvage - has some mild entertainment value. Ploughing through a room of Shadow Ninja with an icy mace, or smashing little demons with an almost comedy-looking mallet, is as good as it gets. Sadly, however, the game takes a cue from "Mythologies", and it was only destined to end in tears. Death traps are the cause of far too much frustration, the monolith diversions a little on the boring side, and the combat is still a little too basic in its execution to prove a challenge to most. This creates a Konquest mode which stops and starts frequently, much like the combat, lacking grace and fluidity. What little there is to love is lost under a mountain of bad ideas and poor execution, and serves merely to expose the limitations of what is possible in such a small space. Think Mythologies in 3D and you'll have the Konquest mode summed up in a nutshell. Albeit a very accurate nutshell.
But there is a place some work went into though. The "Kreate-a-Kombatant" feature, probably designed due to the huge response to online play, ends up being one of the more striking features, especially when placed aside another game to do a similar thing in recent years - Soul Calibur 3. Whereas Soul Calibur 3 suffered extensive clipping issues with attire, In MK: Armageddon there is very little - more to the generic figures but still. Thankfully, it's also a little bit more polished in its look (although the majority will of course first choose to make a ninja. Because the MK Ninjas are so cool) so creating a character - despite the obvious lack of build changes - can make you stand out from the crowd quite a bit. The major flaw is, while there is plenty of scope for originality... there is also a little bit too much fan service going on, and very notably so when you glance through the options. Want to make an Akuma from Street Fighter? They got those dress options and hair styles covered, even the possessed face is very Akuma. Oh, you're a Final Fantasy fanboy who wants to make Sephiroth? Got that base covered too, down to the hairstyle and all. A quick check through the hair styles alone and you will be reeling off names like Goku... Guile... Paul Pheonix... I'm actually a little shocked that there is no legal action underway, after all, this is very blatant when compared to the likes of City of Heroes/Villains.
When you've made your fighter (I created myself a nice white MK Ninja), you can then go on and totally build up their fighting style from scratch. Again, this is a great addition, but I didn't get combat presets, so I ended up trawling through the animations to find things that flowed together. And while many moves do look cool, it's in chaining them together you see that this really doesn't work, even further exposing the rough animation and lack of polish that the series had but one game ago. As for specials, you're picking from a selection of the already-present moves and hoping they fit in with your own ideas. And weapon stance? Not good either, just as problematic as the normal combat. At least I got a preset for this though.
So, I spend my time making a character and I get online... and wish I hadn't. Maybe it's the initial influx, but boy, the game is laggy. And that bug where characters can move before the fight begins - you know, the one that the fans made a fuss of in the online play in Deception? Yup. Still there. A few online bouts, and you'll have had about enough. Rendering the past couple of paragraphs totally pointless. If you can't get a good online experience... what was the point?
The final nail in the coffin for this game is in "Motor Kombat", another attempt at ripping off a well-known franchise. This time, Mario Kart. Only without the polish. Or technical brilliance. Or imagination. Or anything that makes a racing game, let alone a karting title, somewhat enjoyable. Uninventive tracks, controls which are about as laughable as they get, track hazards that are just an annoyance rather than anything entertaining, sloppy AI... it's a painful, agonising disaster area that really screams desperation, containing nothing in the least that could be classified as redeeming or entertaining. Nintendo must be cackling away somewhere at this poor imitation, because it really is a complete waste of space. Much like The Krypt, which I won't even dignify with a paragraph of its own, so hateful is it this time around, stuffed full of filler Concept Art and lacking anything of even reasonable quality.
Which just sums up the problem with the game in its entirity. It's a complete waste of space, a monumental cock-up of a title that is both hateful and vile. Where it succeeds marginally in delivering some fanservice, it fails miserably on every other level - from bugs and glitches to design and execution. It's what we hate most about sequels, being nothing more than a means to milk the fanbase of a little extra cash by saying, "All your favourites are here! Pit your old favourites against the newcomers you've come to love!" Forgetting to mention that the game behind it really isn't very good. Most notably, Armageddon serves only to prove the old addage that quantity does not necessarily equal quality. Too rushed, too buggy, too much compromise... fans may glean something from the dying corpse of a game that lies within, but others will feel cheated of their hard-earned cash, as I do.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions... the express elevator, well, that's reserved for the guy who came up with the idea of Armageddon...
3 / 10