A gamer lives out the fantasy of dispensing brutality

by Kenny Lindsay

It’s way past my curfew; the pool hall is starting to get busy with all sorts of weirdos and if my parents knew what kind of place I was hanging out in I would no doubt get grounded. Some dude talks on a new-fangled phone attached to what looks like a car battery; others place bets on their next game of eight ball. A couple hooligans are gathered around the foosball table. Me, I’m in the corner bouncing a guy twice my size around like a ping-pong ball, about to tear his head off. Then it’s over, though the classic rock music rings out, “Fatality’… Scorpion wins!” “Oh shit,” the guys behind us blurt out and the air is filled with shock and laughter after witnessing what you would normally see in an R-rated horror flick. It was very satisfying for a skinny little kid like me to actually punch a guy’s noggin off his torso. The first Mortal Kombat was just the start of many fighting-style games to follow; based on shock value, brutality and how many ways you can actually kill a person, its popularity grew into a clutch of games with which game nerds far and wide are familiar.

Mortal Kombat: Armageddon is the latest in a series of seven titles published by Midway Entertainment. I know a lot of gamers have been anticipating its release so I’ll go ahead and get the bad news over. For some obscure reason Midway decided to include a new racing mode called Motor Kombat. Yes, Motor Kombat. And it’s about as stupid and infantile as it sounds. You basically race around some tracks with a few of the classic MK characters that look more like bobble-heads attached to little Hot Wheels. And race is an understatement. The vehicles are slow and unresponsive and the only point is to earn a few credits. Why this was included is beyond me. It’s as if the whole fighting premise wasn’t good enough and they had to toss in some race cars. What’s next, Kombat Tennis? That actually might be a little more interesting.

The good news is that Mortal Kombat has kept that gruesome allure and has made the whole challenge of figuring out moves and fatalities a lot easier. In the past, it wasn’t uncommon to have to execute a huge sequence of commands in order to achieve a certain move or finish. In fact, they’ve come up with new modes to not only customize fatalities but to create your own character as well. It’s probably the best thing that has happened to the MK games.

Making your own fighter is awesome. It’s detailed right down to hair color, eye color, costume, gender, fighting style, special moves and even breast size (for the lady fighters). Hours can be spent putting together a character that you can also bring online. My little minx was damn near unstoppable, until of course my wife, a Mortal Kombat veteran and former martial arts student, came along. Come to find out she had been practicing while I was at school or work.

Fatalities have been made easier by letting the player decide what horrific act is to be performed on his wobbling foe. With simple, consecutive moves, you’re allowed a certain amount of time to rip off an arm, break a neck, pull off a head and smash it or otherwise completely disassemble someone to your liking.

The conquest levels also have come a long way compared to the first introduction of that mode. Standing alone it’s almost as much fun as the combat modes and if you’re into storylines it’s just the ticket. The adventure mode is extremely easy and major improvements have been made in the action and combat. You can actually cause fatalities throughout the quest while constantly unlocking little knick-knacks such as alternate costumes, characters and levels. The first secret combatant unlocked is called Meat and that’s pretty much all he is, a lump of flesh with no skin and, frankly, he’s rather disgusting. Though, having beaten the game I was little disappointed with the ending. If you’re expecting something as good as the intro scene don’t hold your breath. The replay value isn’t worth a whole lot either.

Most of the combat levels are interactive. In certain places and with the right combo of moves you can throw your opponent into an oncoming subway train, through a giant fan, a lake of lava or into a rock-crushing machine with catastrophic and bone-shattering results.

Altogether the whole game comes together quite well – setting aside the Motor Kombat debacle – and stands out with the customizable options, but honestly I’d wait a few weeks to pick up a used version to save a few bucks. I can imagine it will not be long until they’re available.

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