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Bloody Good Fun

Mortal Kombat is back! After a decade of increasingly less fun games, Mortal Kombat returned to its 2D roots under control of NetherRealm Studios. Better yet, this game did away with a majority of the characters: all playable characters, and all stages, are from the first three Mortal Kombat games, except for one new exception character.

The gameplay is similar to that of most fighter games. Players choose a character and can fight their friends in versus mode or a series of increasingly difficult and randomly selected A.I.-controlled enemies in Ladder mode. The A.I. is much less cheap than it was in previous games, though they will still react a little too quickly to moves you're still entering. Online play is also available, though don't expect to fight many people on your level.

New modes include a tag-team mode where players fight 2 on 2, switching out at will, and the Challenge Tower, which features 300 missions using various match-ups and special rules (no arms, defeat a number of enemies).

Fighting itself isn't too complicated. The game offers a combo list for each character and included is how to perform those combos, special moves, and fatalities. The list can be opened at any time, but a lack of fast scrolling gives more motivation to actually learning the attacks than just pausing the game every few seconds. As you give and take damage a meter will fill up for both your and your opponent. You can use the segments of this Super Meter to augment your special attacks, break a combo that could end the match, or perform a devastating X-Ray attack that really shouldn't leave your opponent standing (Dual blades through eyes and skull...twice? Get up and fight you wimp!).

The biggest addition is the new story mode, which resets the Mortal Kombat story with a message sent back in time, a warning. Earthrealm's thunder god Raiden takes this warning and runs with it, causing at first minor ripples in the original story, but then escalates into great changes over the course of the first three games. Several characters are left dead where once they lived, others have changed loyalty, and still others have changed in different ways. In the end, there's a clear break from the original storyline, as befitting of the series' new developers.

The story gives more depth than ever to the series and characters. Unfortunately, the pacing is off when players will be thrown in 1 on 2 battles early on, one of which can turn players off for a while. The fight in particular pits players against two characters who spam teleporting and stunning attacks, and many have to resort to cheap, repetitive tactics to pull out the two victories needed to continue.

Mortal Kombat's story mode and challenge tower, as well as the return to classic 2D fights, adds new light to the fading franchise and gives it a promising future, a sequel that's all but promised at the end. As a final note, players may want to abandon their analog sticks for the control pad, to input commands with less mistakes. Or, better yet, find a compatible fight stick controller.

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