Mortal Kombat V: Deadly Alliance


Review by Dave Giarrusso



Graphics: 9

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

I’m a Mortal Kombat fan. Ever since I first laid eyes on Sub Zero’s fatality in the original game, I’ve been hooked, much like one of Scorpion’s unfortunate foes. A short history of the series (in this fan’s humble opinion) is as follows: MK1: great. MKII: Fantastic, improving upon the original game in every way. MK3 / UMK3: Letdown. Gameplay slips a notch and fatalities are uninspired and too similar to one another (read: exact same exploding limbs and bones animation every time). MK4: First entry into the 3D fighting genre, not a bad game, but a rather dull MK game with dull character models and sluggish weapons based play. Worth mentioning that Quan Chi has the coolest fatality in this game. So with the last two games leaving fans (this fan included) disappointed, would anyone care about the next installment?

Enter MKV: Deadly Alliance.  The first Mortal Kombat game in the series not born in the arcade (Mythologies and Special Forces don’t count, gang), MKV corrects many of the mistakes of the previous two installments and delivers a fun game that will most certainly keep players coming back for more.

For starters, the game simply looks FAN-fuh-reakin-TASTIC.  Models are nicely colored and detailed, the physics of the clothing are on par, and the character designs are just awesome.  Check out Shang Tsung, Sub Zero and Quan Chi.  These guys are Badass Mofos to the nth degree.  And how ‘bout those ladies?  New blood (haha – blood!) in the MK series, Li Mei is hotter than Scorpion’s skull, and is one of the more playable characters to boot.  The only real gripe about the female characters is (and I can’t believe I’m writing this, but it’s true) that they all appear to be based on a live-model who had a freakishly bad boob job.  Like really, painfully bad.  Ladies, when they look painful, like a tiny balloon stretched over a grapefruit, then I really have to wonder what is running through your heads.  Anyhoo, note to Team MK: BIG boobs are just fine, but please, make the next go-round look more natural, m’kay?  The in-game boobs look much nicer than the artwork, although they flop around a bit too much to be believable.  But hey, in the end, it’s a minor grievance.

So the game looks great, but how does it play?  It plays wonderfully.  Each character has a slew of “regular” moves that are supplemented by the obligatory “special” attacks and combos.  Both “dial-up” combos and those of the regular variety are included here.  The “run” button is gone, but the overall gameplay is pretty quick and tight, so it’s not terribly missed.  New to MKV is the ability to switch fighting styles on the fly.  Each character has two distinct fighting styles, and a third weapons based style.  Swapping between each of the three is where the game really comes into its own as a great 3D fighter, as skillful players can begin a combo in one style, and finish up the combo in either of the other two.  And again, as with the character designs and the overall art direction, each character’s different style looks damn good.

For the most part, characters are well balanced, BUT the game loses a few points for some decidedly UNbalanced elements.  For example: SOME, but not all characters have an “impale” move that allows the character to impale the opponent with their weapon.  If successfully executed, the weapon cannot be removed and continues to drain the victim’s energy until the round ends.  Likewise, SOME, but not all characters have a “reversal” move that allows an attack to be thwarted leaving the opponent open to some serious ass kicking.  Although a little tougher to pull off than the impale moves, there’s simply no reason to have not given the reversal move to everyone.

Still, these complaints are minor in the grand scheme of the game.  Players can still match their skills with two reversal characters or two impale characters if you want to really harp on the issue.

Backgrounds: simply the best backgrounds of the MK series, bar none.  They’re just beautiful, particularly the Lin Kuei temple stage.  Snow falls on the icy ground, ice stalagmites dot the arena area, reflections are glassy and smooth, it’s just gorgeous.  Each backdrop also has a smattering of “interactive” elements, like the aforementioned stalagmites, but also stone statues and other groovy junk.

Howsabout the trademark MK violence?  MKV offers up a new level of cartoony/realistic violence.  This time out, characters sport real time damage, much like another Midway favorite, Ready 2 Rumble.  We’re also treated to blood-dripping wounds during play.  Bust Kano in the chops and watch the blood spatter and drip down Kano’s face, down the front of his outfit, and into the ground.  Now that’s just kool.  The blood also remains on the arena floors – walk through it and you’ll track it all around.

Well, what about the fatalities?  Are we gonna talk about the fatalities?  Sure, this game IS an MK game after all.  With a game that’s as good as this one is, and with the MK series really being known for its imaginative and over the top fatalities, it’s worth mentioning that the fatalities in this game are, overall, quite boring.  They’re primarily either A) things we’ve already seen in the other installments of the franchise (Kano, Sub-Zero borrowing from Kano, Sonya, Reptile, Frost borrowing from Sub Zero, Kitana, Raiden, Shang Tsung…) OR B) they’re just dull and uninspired (Kung Lao, Bo Rai Cho, Kenshi, Quan Chi, Mavado…)  Honestly, some of the in-game moves are more grisly and interesting than most of the fatalities, and that’s really saying something.

To put it another way, in the old days, players absolutely relished performing the fatality moves, they were even better than the proverbial icing on the cake.  With MKV, most players I know skip the fatalities because they’re boring and waste precious time that could be spent starting up a new game.  Mind you, they’re not ALL bad, but for a game that is otherwise quite good, there’s just no excuse for the design team to crap out on the fatalities.  It looks like they just got tired and cranked these out at the end of a long day.

So what’s left then?  Well, the game has a really great “Krypt” where players can spend their hard earned “Koins” (earned during play) in order to unlock additional characters, game art, behind the scenes nonsense, and all kinds of other fun stuff.  It’s set up quite nicely, and offers players yet another reason to keep coming back to the game.  MKV also contains a very nicely done training mode, one that is suitable for both novices and seasoned veterans alike.  There’s a ton of other kool stuff in this game, almost too much stuff to mention, but here’s a quick sample.  In each match, after a player is Kod, the energy bars refill while the downed player stumbles to his or her feet.  It’s a perfectly brilliant way to make players ignore the real reason for the delay – disc loading.  The characters taunt and mock each other, particularly Scorpion and Jax.  Speaking of Jax, his gunfire move leaves empty shells strewn about the battleground.  Projectiles leave a vapor trail.  Load times display wonderful artwork.  “Test Your Might” makes a triumphant comeback and for the first time we have “Test Your Sight,” a variation on the old shell game previously seen in another Midway coin-op, Tapper.

All told, Mortal Kombat V: Deadly Alliance is easily the best bang for your buck since the stellar champ of the series MKII appeared way back in 1992.  It’s got tons of personality, exceptional graphics and design, fantastic sound and voices, and most importantly, very good gameplay.  While the fatalities are lacking, it’s probably good that the design team has some room left to improve, because now that they’ve effectively resurrected the MK franchise, gamers are going to be chomping at the bit for MK6.  And next time, maybe they’ll get the fatalities right too.


Go to Digital Press HQ
Return to Digital Press Home

Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:28 PM