The Mortal Kombat series has always had a keen following. However, many would argue that it lost it’s shine around the turn of the century. Though each has been enjoyable in their own right, the 3D outings in the series had been met with a mixed response by both critics and the core audience. Understanding the decline in respect for the series, co-creator Ed Boon saw fit to return to the very beginning, in terms of both gameplay and setting. 2011 brought about a reboot of the series, simply titled Mortal Kombat.

As we approach yet another reboot with the reveal of Mortal Kombat 1, it’s time to look back at the previous reboot. Essentially bridging the plot of the original trilogy of 2D titles, the Story Mode of 2011’s Mortal Kombat reboot is key to the success of this ninth release in the series. It’s not a reboot to the extent of ignoring the subsequent fiction and characters. Instead, it’s retelling the original tale from the beginning once again. But this time, with much more in the way of detail. And a very commendable delivery.

Mortal Kombat (2011) screenshot

Mortal Kombat Taught Fighting Games How to Deliver a Story

While it may have become common place today, back in 2011 Mortal Kombat‘s Story Mode was a hugely unexpected reinvention. No longer were you limited to a couple of stills and a few lines of text. Now, we are presented with a fully animated, well scripted scene-by-scene of the events. Players fight their way through each sequence. Successive chapters offer different characters for a number of fights: first Johnny Cage, then Sonya Blade, Scorpion and so on. Each progressing the cinematic delivery of the story.

Irritating difficulty spikes do occur in the Story Mode, most notably with the game’s re-envisioning of the original Endurance matches. Mortal Kombat features a tag-team gameplay mechanic wherein players choose a team of two to take into battle, switching between each almost instantly. However here in the Story Mode the player remains a solo fighter throughout, tasked with taking on teams entirely alone. This is an unfortunate blemish upon the face of the Story Mode; an otherwise immaculate presentation. Especially in terms of technical details. Using the in-game character models to elegantly brutal effect, spouting fan service out of every pour and hiding loading times cleverly between sequences make for one of the most immediate, memorable Story Modes ever offered in a fighting game.

Mortal Kombat (2011) screenshot

There’s Still More Fight

The Story mode is joined by a host of other gameplay modes. The usual Arcade ladder and ‘Test Your’ mini-games that are one of the most memorable parts of the 16-bit titles. But perhaps the most noteworthy is that of the Challenge Tower. An extensive variety of challenges gradually increasing in difficulty. This mode explores the wider possibilities of the Mortal Kombat formula without stretching into the realms of chess or kart racing. From survival challenges to entirely removed shooting gameplay, the Challenge Tower offers plenty of variety in accompaniment to the core game modes.

In terms of fighting mechanics, Mortal Kombat has done away with all the stance options and varying martial arts. It’s returned to the original formula of basic, counter and special moves. The combo counter from Mortal Kombat 3 returns, as it’s clear that the developers have aimed to keep the combat system as close to this most fluid 2D outing. The biggest revision of the formula would be the Special Meter, which includes Combobreaker, Enhanced and X-Ray moves.

Mortal Kombat (2011) screenshot


Combobreakers act here as they ever did. A staple introduced by the Killer Instinct series, allowing the player to interrupt their opponent with split second timing. The Enhanced moves add extra damage and a new visual effect to your chosen characters special moves. X-Ray moves were made famous during Mortal Kombat’s development process, and can be devastating during play. Zooming in close, the X-Ray moves has obviously been influenced by the Xbox’s underrated Fight Club, showing the damage inflicted on tissue and bone directly.

Each of the three techniques requires a greater amount of the Special Meter, with the X-Ray moves demanding a full quota. The Special Meter is built slowly through landing blows, but more swiftly through receiving them. Due to this, the X-Ray moves can often be used as a last-ditch effort. They allow players to regain ground after a firm beating. And given that the meter retains its charge between rounds, it will quickly become a key component of many strategies.

Mortal Kombat (2011) screenshot

A Mortal Kombat Reboot for the Times

This original Mortal Kombat reboot remains a very well presented game. At the time it offered some remarkably detailed, believable character models and eye-catching backdrops. Even today, it stands up well. The animation is simply fantastic throughout and, despite the often odd shapes and sizes of many of the characters, the collision detection is near-perfect.

From the initial announcement right throug launch, Warner Bros. Interactive had aggressively pushed the quality of this Mortal Kombat reboot. Yes, it did look to be the fine point between fan service and attracting a new generation of gamers. And yes it did look as though it was set to harness the power of then current-generation hardware in a way that so few competing titles had done. But still it was wise to reserve judgement until the final game arrived with us. And when it did, it was unquestionably a return to form. Two further sequels since have seen Mortal Kombat regain it’s place as a top tier fighting game. Here’s hoping that the upcoming Mortal Kombat 1 can maintain that status.

Categories: Games