When Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe was released in 2008, one of the main criticisms which was levelled of it was the violence - there was nowhere near enough of it. As I said in my Batman: Arkham City review, it seems the developers were reluctant to portray Batman and co. involved in any significant level of violence. Fatalities, a trademark of the Mortal Kombat series, were significantly nerfed, and the game lost much of its fun value as a result. In Mortal Kombat, NetheRealm Studios have made up for this, and then some.
The level of violence in this game is absolutely ridiculous. If you haven't played the game, try checking out the Top 10 Most Violent Fatalities list elsewhere on this blog to see some of them, after ensuring there are no Conservatives within a 25-mile radius so as not to get the game banned, every copy burned to cinders and buried in a desert somewhere. Blood flies everywhere throughout fights and stays in the arena until the end. The new X-Ray moves mechanic allows characters to use a special move, which, if successful, treats viewers to a 5-10 seconds of gore in violence-o-matic x-ray vision. The fatalities, overly-violent finishing moves, cause limbs, blood and organs to fly in every direction. If you don't like violence, whatever you do, don't play this game.
For everyone else, though, I highly recommend it. It's arguably the best fighting game of this console generation, with a substantial character roster made up of characters from the first three Mortal Kombat games, now in HD. There are a vast number of special moves and combos for each fighter, which can be viewed at any time during a match, and range from the classic Mortal Kombat uppercut, to Sub Zero's ice projectile, to Scorpion's "Get over here!" spike-to-the-face attack. Each character has at least one alternate costume, and other characters can be downloaded, including Freddy Krueger, for some reason.
There are a number of different modes, the main modes being Ladder, the standard mode in which the player must fight through 10 progressively difficult fighters to reach the end, and Story mode. The story is an alternate universe re-telling of the plot of the first three games. Shao Kahn and the Outworlders challenge the fighters of Earthrealm, or Earth, as it's more commonly known, to Mortal Kombat, a fighting tournament. If the Outworlders win, Shao Kahn gets to take over the Earth. For a fighting game, the story is quite well-written, the interactions between the characters and good-quality voice acting making the story mode more than just a way of connecting a few fights together, and towards the end I started to actually like some of the characters. This does, however, mean that one cutscene involving Sindel will annoy a lot of players, without wishing to spoil the story.
It is a fighting game, though, and as a result, there is plenty of fighting in the Story mode. This leads to some quite daft moments where characters fight in violent, bone-shattering fights for the most contrived of reasons, such as when Johnny Cage kicks the crap out of a woman because she won't let him help her, or when Jax breaks Cage's spine because he makes fun of the fact that he's friends with a woman, after which Cage gets up and apologises. This doesn't make the game worse though - it makes it funnier. It doesn desensitise the player to the violence after the eighth time something like this happens, but fatalities make up for this.
Being a compilation of the stories of three different games, each of which ends in a boss fight, the difficulty is slightly inconsistent. It's mostly fine, but towards the end of each third of the game there are one or two extremely difficult fights to represent the boss fights in the original game, after which the difficulty goes back to a reasonable level.
Other modes include Tag Ladder, like Ladder with two characters, playable in single-player or offline co-op, and Challenge Tower - 500 challenges which the player can complete, hich range from defeating two enemies to defeating an enemy after your fighter's arms have detached. The challenges are quite varied and don't repeat themselves as much as one might think, there being 500 of them. There is also Test Your Luck mode, which adds a number of game-changing, often genuinely funny special effects to a match. This is especially fun in multiplayer.
Multiplayer can be played with up to 4 people offline, and is brilliant. Defeating a friend by punching their head into liquid can be a source of much fun, laughter and smugness. There's also online multiplayer, but Mortal Kombat is designed to be played with people in the same room, so you can laugh in their faces after a flawless victory.
There's not much wrong with the game, really. Some of the modes are unnecessary, such as Test Your Sight, which don't seem to have any reason to be on there other than to add a couple of associated challenges to Challenge Tower. Also, online multiplayer is only available to those who buy the game new. Finally, Shao Kahn, the main villain, is an extremely cheap fighter, but not on the level of Street Fighter IV's Seth.
Mortal Kombat is one of the best fighting games available for any console. It's excessevely violent to the point of ludicrousness, and should provide many hours of gory laughs. In single-player or multiplayer, it's an excellent game.