When Midway Games filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, most of the company’s development studios and game properties found new homes. Midway Chicago, the team behind the Mortal Kombat series, quietly joined the Warner Bros. Interactive family, and it didn’t take long for Warner to reveal that this studio was working on a new Mortal Kombat game.

When this news hit, the Internet immediately latched onto the idea that Ed Boon and his team (renamed NetherRealm Studios) was working on the sequel to Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (another property owned by Warner). As much as I enjoyed watching Scorpion harpoon Superman, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe wasn’t really a Mortal Kombat game.

In the weeks leading up to this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, NetherRealm Studios released a teaser video for its new product. Fan reaction couldn’t have been greater. Like Street Fighter before it, Mortal Kombat is returning to its 2D roots, and it will be bloodier than ever.

The game is being designed like a band’s greatest hits album, collecting the most beloved characters and arenas from the series’ past. Sub-Zero can freeze Scorpion in his tracks as the angry trees from the Living Forest look on. Are you tired of watching Johnny Cage hit Liu Kang in the family jewels? A perfectly timed uppercut will send him flying into the pit.

Most of the characters are equipped with moves and weapons previously seen in the series, but the fighting that unfolds and the combos that are constructed are based mostly off of player ingenuity. “I want players to discover their own combos,” says Boon. The game offers plenty of pre-scripted combos for each character, but players will find new ways to chain the sequences and special moves together. You’ll even be able to create combos that link the attacks of tag partners.

Pummeling your opponent doesn’t just bring sadistic satisfaction. As the hits land, you’ll also be powering up a Super meter that can be tapped to enhance any one of the character’s special moves. When the Super meter is filled, you can tap into an X-Ray move. As the name implies, this move highlights the brutality inflicted on the bones and organs of a fighter’s body through a zoomed-in x-ray lens. You’ll see jaws shatter, spines snap, and if you’re using Sub-Zero, you’ll see what happens to a liver that is frozen and crushed by a hand.

These moves are as brutal as anything the series has offered before, but they don’t stack up to the level of gore tied to the new Fatalities. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ed Boon told his team to make these finishers as disgusting and controversial as they could. Scorpion slices his opponent in two at the waist, and as their torso precariously balances on the legs, he severs their head, which also balances like a grotesque game of Jenga. Not finished, he kicks his opponent’s torso to disassemble the pieces. As the head twirls through the air, he cuts it clean in half with a vertical slice. To say this game is violent is an understatement. To say it could be the most violent game ever made may be a fitting descriptor.

The roster so far…
The character select screen shown during the E3 demo features 26 slots for characters with additional slots set for random selection and DLC. While not the ludicrous size of the roster in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, this is a sizeable list that Boon says will consist of fan favorites, as well as a few surprises. Here’s who’s been revealed so far.

Johnny Cage
Kung Lao
Shao Kahn

[This article originally ran in the August 2010 issue of Game Informer]