Monday, November 13, 2006

Mortal Kombat: Armageddon: More like Deception+

With the end of the latest console generation looming, Midway decides they're going to go out with the perverbial "bang" with their seventh entry into the Mortal Kombat franchise: Armageddon. Unfortunately, it feels more like a toned-down expansion to its predecessor Deception than a full-fledged game.

How it Looks: Mediocre
The game is done in 3D, as every game since Mortal Kombat 4, and while it doesn't look terrible, it's not new: the graphics use a similar engine, if not the same one, as Deception. Most models and almost every animation from Deception are reused here in Armageddon: If a character loses a round on his stomach, he/she/it will get up the same way as every other character. Recycling isn't limited to characters: half of the arenas are from Deception and Deadly Alliances (Deception's predecessor). The remainder are 3D remakes from the series' past: the Subway from MK3 makes a return, complete with trains as deathtraps. So if you're looking for cutting-edge visuals while fighting, look elsewhere. On the plus side though, there is not a single character that looks like another one, one of the problems of sprite-based graphics. For example, Ultimate MK3 had Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Rain, Ermac AND Noob Saibot use the same sprites, just recoloured and called "new." In Armageddon, all of these characters are in the game and look completely different.

How it Sounds: Annoying/Mediocre
The ambient music in the game is about the only good thing about the sound in Armageddon, as it sets the mood of the battle very well. Other than that, you may want to turn off the sound. Every character grunts, shouts, screams, groans, and roars when they attack, get hit, or jump, and none of it is in any sort of recognisable language, and none of it sounds any good. Sound effects are generally unnoticeable, though, and easily blend in with the background music. The only redeeming thing about the sound is the voice acting in the Konquest mode: it actually has some timing between characters talking! In Deception, when one character finished talking and another would start, there would be no pause in between. In Armageddon, it now sounds like a natural conversation between two or more people. The quality is spotty, but at least it isn't terrible to listen to.

How it Feels: Comfortable
The controls haven't changed at all from Deception: Each basic attack is mapped to one of the four face buttons, and combos are easily made by mashing those buttons. Special attacks are easy to pull off, as they take two directional pushes, then a face button. In fact, all the combos and special attacks are viewable during the fight in the pause menu, so no needless memorisation is needed. Blocking is easily executed with R2 (a parry is done by pusing Back and R2, which is a block that stuns the character if timed correctly), throwing R1, and changing fighting styles done with L1. The only qualm I have is that during fights, the arrow buttons and the left analog stick control movement, though during Konquest mode's non-fighting sequences, only the left analog stick moves the player.

How it Plays: Average
One of the main draws of Armageddon is that any player can win a fight at any given time. This is shown with deathtraps in each area: a red line denotes that hitting a player past that line or adjacent to the line (if you can't go past it) with an attack that lifts them off the ground (like an uppercut), that player will die in a gruesome (but sometimes funny) death sequence and you automatically win. This essentially sums up the gameplay in Armageddon: chaotic. While a seasoned veteran of Mortal Kombat will feel right at home with this game, any player has a chance (even if it's a very small one) of winning a fight. Another main draw is the fact that every character that appeared in a Mortal Kombat game is playable: from the famous characters like Sub-Zero and Liu Kang to the very obscure ones like Rain and Meat to the bosses of previous games like Kintaro and even Onaga. Each one has different strengths and weaknesses, but they mostly feel the same, thanks to the Kreate-a-Fatality system introduced. Instead of pulling off a complicated fatality, you imput much simpiler commands to do smaller bits of a fatality chain, then you can end it with ripping out the spine, or crushing their head. If you take too long between imputs the time runs out and you don't get to do a cool ending. The problem with the fighting mode, however, is that it feels exactly the same as Deception, and while that isn't a bad game, it's not fair to ask gamers to shell out 50 bucks for an updated roster an not much new in terms of gameplay. Alternate modes are the Konquest mode, which feels like MK: Shaolin Monks, a 3D beat-em-up game, but with arcade fighting bits; and Motor Kombat, which is Mario Kart with deathtraps and MK characters.

Game Length: 5+ hours (Konquest mode)
All the modes have unlimited playability, with no ending to them. With 62 characters, there are 62 different endings to read (no graphics, just text and a kata being played out), and with both the arcade fighting and Motor Kombat playable online, there is a lot of replayability..... if you don't mind repetitive gameplay.

Verdict: Bargain Bin
Don't get me wrong: the game isn't bad. It isn't the be-all and end-all of fighting games, but it's a nice pick up and play title to get with your friends. However, if you are wanting a strong fighting game, or if you've played and/or owned Deception and are looking for fresh gameplay, look elsewhere.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

dude, this game rules! although I've only play 1-shaolin monks, i enjoyed the hell out of this game!

4:27 PM  

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