Mortal Kombat: Unchained Review

The Mortal Kombat series is now about as old as a quarter of today’s gamers, and I believe it’s finally beginning to show. Mortal Kombat: Unchained is a generally mediocre addition in a brand that has perfected the art of mediocrity.

First off, this game is a traditional arcade fighter at its core, and is best viewed — and played — as such. It includes 30 past MK combatants, and each can fight with two hand-to-hand martial arts styles, as well as wielding one weapon. There are many unique modes available in MK: Unchained, but they generally leave much to be desired. The regular arcade mode turns out to be most enjoyable of them all.

Chess Kombat is somewhat interesting, and at first reminds me a bit of Archon, from the days of the NES. First, one must put together a team consisting of a leader, champion, sorcerer, shifter and grunts, which will populate the game board. Then, it is simply a turn-based game, with combat occurring when opposing units meet on the same square. Bonuses are awarded for various criteria, such as initiating the attack, or holding a special square on the board, and the special units always have more health than the grunts; sorcerers are able to cast spells like teleport, imprison, heal and revive. It really does sound like Archon — however, I think I’d rather play that classic over Chess Kombat.

Puzzle Kombat is another mode I found to be semi-useless. In this mode, the player participates in a Tetris-like puzzle game while miniature MK characters duke it out on the bottom of the screen. Better performance in the puzzle game translates to a victory below. There is no real connection between the two other than visually, so it is simply just a puzzle game — and not a very good one.

Attempting to add another genre to this fighting game is the action/adventure story mode of sorts, called Konquest. You begin at a dojo and spend quite some time running around looking for more places to "learn." This was annoying to me. Rather than a typical training mode, you have to jump through hoops to seek out minimal fighting tips. After the "training" comes a quest that the character must embark upon, all the while locating unlockables and collecting money to buy others later. It is similar in execution to MK: Deception, but is nothing really full-fledged. The camera is more frustrating than two consecutive stubbed toes, and in order for it to make any sense at all you must hold down select the entire time. The final annoying straw is the voice acting. It reminded me of second grade, and my classmates attempting to read a play out loud.

As stated earlier, Arcade Mode is where this game shines the most — it’s the reason to play. In traditional MK fashion, a fighter is selected and must battle up the ranks to become the best. The difficulty ramps up with each opponent, and is displayed on the match-up screen between fights. What I like the most here are the fighting arenas. Many have interesting designs, such as the pirate ship with ghosts flying all around it, and most are destructible and multi-tiered. Opponents can be knocked through walls and floors, out windows and off balconies to other areas, where the fight continues much like in console versions of MK. Some of the levels are even dynamic, changing throughout the round. This leaves room to incorporate the instant death hazards Unchained adds to the mix, such as falling off a platform to be impaled on a spike, or getting knocked into a piranha-filled lake. Pains of this nature feel really rewarding to inflict on an opponent, yet awful to suffer oneself. They just look stunning and capture the MK feel, along with the new hara-kiri finishes. Besides administering fatalities on defeated opponents, losers can now take matters into their own hands and commit seppuku, instead. It is both gruesome and graphic.

When it comes to the game’s graphics, it opens up with a very attractive FMV, but takes a bit of a break afterwards. The character models are probably the most detailed aspect of the visuals, and don’t look half bad. The environments that I love so much, however, are barren with minimal detail, and suspended in a void of nothingness. There is also quite a bit of ugliness going on in Konquest mode, with some subpar textures, clipping and pop-in. Otherwise, animations are nice and smooth, with no dips in framerate during the most important part of the game: the fights. Basically, its lack of detail that hurts this game’s visuals the most — besides the blood, that is. Being an MK game, one can rest assured there will be plenty of blood, and as a matter of fact, it splatters all over the place and even remains on the ground for the entire fight. Nice touch.

My main gripe with this game, besides it’s overwhelmingly average feeling, is its load times. Simply stated, they are HORRIBLE — and there are lots of them. Before and after every fight, there is a LONG load screen. There is sometimes a load upon menu changes, and most ridiculously, the game will need to load and hit the UMD in the MIDDLE OF DIALOGUE, thus freezing the flow of the game for a couple of seconds.

One other problem I noticed was with collision detection, where a few times contact was clearly made yet didn’t produce a response at all. This is nothing compared to the load times, though, which mar any kind of continuous enjoyment to be had from this game.

All in all, there is some fun to be had in Mortal Kombat: Unchained, as long as you are sure not to expect more of it than what MK has always been. My recommendation is to play the Arcade Mode — during a rental.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.