In the world of videogames, issues tend to be solved in a much more entertaining manner than in our own reality. Perhaps all of our problems would be wiped away if we set up some sort of all-encompassing tournament, allowing the greatest fighters we have to duke it out for the sake of... okay, maybe just for our personal entertainment. Better yet, let's just have our world leaders play each other in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.
The dark, blood-drenched fighting arena is back for another current gen outing, marking the seven millionth time you've frozen someone and punched them to pieces with Sub-Zero. This time, the folks at Midway are even more dead set on proving that you can never overload a fighting game with options, players, and mini-games. Saving the extra content for later, the first thing you're likely to notice about this installment is the insane amount of characters that are playable, most of them right from the start. There are over sixty total... SIXTY. Armageddon includes just about everyone you could ever want to play as from the Mortal Kombat universe, and then some.
If your love for Mortal Kombat has always leaned towards the more superficial side of things, all the half-gruesome, half-retarded aspects of the series remain intact. The character designs are still by and large ugly creations, seemingly crafted from board meetings comprised of thirteen year-olds, and inspired by composition notebook margin drawings made in Algebra 1. That's MK for ya, and it wouldn't be the same without the saturday-morning-cartoons-soaked-in-crimson aesthetic.
Armageddon includes just about everyone you could ever want to play as from the Mortal Kombat universe, and then some... the folks at Midway are even more dead set on proving that you can never overload a fighting game with options, players, and mini-games.
Luckily for all of us, the more recent Kombat games keep straying further and further from the "every character is exactly the same with a slightly different set of moves" motif of the originals. With little exception, each fighter is outfitted with either two switchable martial arts styles, or a single style that can be swapped out on the fly with their own unique weapon. Button mashing success is certainly achievable, but it's much more enjoyable to at least learn some of the basic moves. No matter how competent the mechanics are, though, it's probably going to boil down to repeated attempts to toss the other player into the various environmental hazards scattered about. It might be satisfying to punch your friends silly, but it's really satisfying to knock them into that pit of spikes, or maybe that meat-grinder over in the corner.
A great deal of the fun you'll have with the title still depends on your knowledge of finishing moves and other nasty means of opponent disposal. There's nothing less satisfying than hearing the the command of "Finish him!," only to follow it up with a wimpy elbow to the face. To add to the killing spree, Armageddon has introduced a Kreate-a-Fatality system that allows for even more dismemberment, depending on the sequences inputted within the allotted time. Outside of the pure bloodshed, the combat benefits from some aspects of Deception that were either dropped or improved upon. The combo breakers remain and, with the combination of block and back, you can parry attacks and spin your opponent around for some much deserved punishment. This combines with the addition of aerial combat and other nuances to help make Mortal Kombat just a little bit deeper where it counts.
The action doesn't stop outside of the arena. Like the last two MK games, there's a ton of extra stuff to keep you occupied between rounds. There's so much to do that it can be a bit overwhelming at first, even if the other games only serve as cleverly implemented distractions from the fighting the series is structured around. Front and center is the Konquest mode. The experience is thankfully much more smoothed out, cribbing some ideas from Mortal Kombat's only decent action title: Shaolin Monks. Make no mistake, you still won't enjoy Konquest mode if you don't like Mortal Kombat. Between evading traps, collecting bonuses, and punching legions of martial artists, you'll be squaring off against other kombatants in traditional fighting arena style. It's worth playing through, if only to soak in the bad kung fu movie atmosphere and cornball storyline while unlocking things.
Kreate-a-Fighter is expansive enough to entertain most, and the degree to which you can customize your personal fighting avatar depends on how much "koinage" you've picked up in the game. Unlock enough features and you can pretty much create a reasonable facsimile of anyone, fictional or not, that you desire. This sounds like a full plate already, but most hilarious of all is the Motor Kombat game, which is also playable online. This kart racer takes the place of the chess and puzzle games from the last two installments, but, unfortunately, the fun kind of stops at the concept itself. As funny as it is to watch MK mainstays like Baraka roll around big-head style in tiny cars, the track design is bland and the gameplay is riddled with catch-up AI and boring projectile attacks. Even games with your most inebriated of friends won't last very long, and you'll find yourself back at the player select screen in no time.
But that's okay. You're not here to race karts, you're here to uppercut your friends into fans, or to go online and scream into your headset in the Xbox Live multiplayer arena. Fans of this long-running series will really enjoy digging into Armageddon. It may still be one of the sillier franchises, but it goes above and beyond in its delivery, and will keep even the most obsessive players working hard at it for quite some time.