Mortal Kombat: Deception
Published by: Midway Developed by: Midway
For: Xbox, PS2, GC
ESRB Rating: M for Intense Violence, Blood and Gore

It's been almost a year now since the second current-gen Mortal Kombat game, Deception, and near two since the revision of MK, Deadly Alliance. And yet, with each new installment of this darkly humorous, gruesomely violent series, the core game play remains intact, though systems and controllers, as well as changing audiences. See, I remember when MK first came out. I remember walking into a pizza place, dark, smoky, and crowded, and seeing the MK machine in the corner, the signature dragon logo sticking out. I wanted to play it, but being all of five, it wasn't appropriate. My parents knew something about the game, probably from sources that focuses solely on the hard-to-execute (ha!) fatalities, and told me that I couldn't play. Of course, I didn?t understand at the time, but then I was only five, and I wasn't ready. But is anyone truly ready to play a MK game? Sure, the fighting is fun, yet simplistic, but the mythological realms full of sorcerers, gods, and fighters vying for the world is so gory, one has to wonder what the point is, really. And it?s not like the developers have never attempted to make a point, by crafting complex back stories and mythologies to go along with the fighters and the arenas.

This certainly is one of the most literate games this side of Final Fantasy. But the premise doesn't mean there's a story for the game, per se, and defeating evil warriors such as Goro and Shao Kahn time and time again does not a story make. Wisely, co-creator Ed Boon realized this, and started designing a proper RPG to go along with the Hong Kong flick violence. More on that in a sec.

Mostly, Mortal Kombat still traces its roots back to the arcade, where not only was it fun to play solo, but more so to play against someone else, preferably a stranger. Unfortunately, since the GC does not support online multiplay, it does not feature fighting against a stranger, unless you pull some random dude off the streets. But everything else is there, as well as all the fatalities, and new hara-kiris (which will be explained), plus GC exclusive bonus characters Goro and Shao Kahn.

Graphics: 6/10

The graphics are mostly a mixed bag. On the one hand, you've got phenomenal fighting graphics?on the other, you?ve got the RPG-lite mode Konquest, which has 1999 era graphics. Not bad then, but certainly not 'good' now. Two other modes beside Konquest deliver passable graphics for what they do: Chess Kombat and Puzzle Kombat. Essentially, Chess Kombat boils down player models rendered in little detail until battle, where you?ll see models rendered as they are in traditional Arcade mode. Puzzle Kombat offers familiar faces, but eliminates proportion?that is to say that the characters look like bobble heads. Once again, this just points to the darkly comical tone that the series is going for. During actual fighting, you?ll see excellent graphical effects, including grisly stage fatalities, environmental effects, destructible parts of the arenas, and more. Character models are quite well done as well, even if they are a bit absurd and look like they came from the imagination of a middle school boy. Clothing moves and sways with the wind, and, gross as it may sound, blood drips and splatters, as well as gets tracked around by feet, in such a over emphasized fashion that it's a wonder that anyone is actually offended by the series. Honestly, the amount of gore is comical. And while the fatalities (which are essentially the fighter's finishing move) and accompanying hara-kiris (which is essentially a extremely gory and over the top way of committing in-game suicide, based on the Japanese form of ritualistic suicide, also called seppuku) are appropriately well done and well animated (they are the series' trademark, after all), they do not make up for any amount of the remainder of the game's graphics.

Konquest mode is, as I said before, one of the worst looking segments of the game. Muddy textures, chunky character models, invisible walls, and extremely bad hit detection, plus the dreaded jaggies (anti-aliasing problems for those not familiar with the term), all round out to make the worst looking RPG this side of RPG Maker 2. I?ve seen better graphics on the PS1 and N64. But what Konquest does deliver is massive levels, which claim to be open ended. This isn?t quite true, since the objectives are all linear, but the large level design does allow a multitude of unlockables.

Game Play: 10/20

While Mortal Kombat has never strived to be Tekken, Soul Calibur, or Virtua Fighter, it has tried to be accessible to players of all skill levels. That means that there aren?t many ten or twenty button combos, and that blocking, as well as hitting, is as easy as it can be. But MK has also tried to offer depth to fans of 'deeper' fighting games, which it cannot do. Simply put, MK cannot offer the depth of Soul Calibur?s Guard Impact system, or Virtua Fighter?s immediate ease of use and incredible depth of play to hardcore fans. So, while MK: Deception does add to the series in that it offers many more moves, stage weapons, stage fatalities, three fatalities per character and one hara-kiri, it just can't compete. It's outdated and obsolete because, like or not, the genre and the fans have moved on. Now, part of MK's immediate appeal was the environment of the arcade. It was the thrill and challenge of besting somebody that you?ve never met, and showing everyone that you were the best combatant. Deception tries to simulate that on the PS2 and Xbox by offering online play?unfortunately, I don?t have either system, so I wasn?t able to test the reliability of the online multiplay.

The Gamecube only has traditional console multiplayer, so I got to play with my buddies when they were around (which was when the game was really fun, Konquest is really only good for unlocking things) and the game was great. It was still fun to beat my buddy till he breathed snot bubbles because that?s what his goal was too. Puzzle Kombat, when tried, was immediately preferred over normal game play and Chess Kombat, because it was more intellectual and more challenging, plus it offered more unpredictability. I wasted over four hours one day playing Puzzle Kombat. It?s that addicting, and that fun. Chess Kombat isn't much better than regular Kombat. It revolves around the same idea, except that the barest hint of chess rules, sharply streamlined since gamers obviously don't know how to play chess (Midway tends to generalize, doesn't it?), and each attack results in yet another round of fighting. It gets old quick, and lasts way too long, because the chess rules don?t really mean anything. Eventually one of the players gets annoyed and sends someone, likely his king, to the other side to finish off that side's king, just to get the stupid thing over with. Ugh. What normal fighting boils down to is just button mashing, even in multiplayer. Seriously, who's going to remember a combo called New England Clam Chowder Fist? Not me. And I won't remember any of the other combos either, because you can't pull them off. And when you do, there?s these annoying little things called Breakers, which stop what ever combo animation you have going, and thrust you across the room in a shower of blood and teeth. Well, maybe not teeth.

In single player Arcade mode, you get this AI that is incredibly stupid at first, and then does what the cheapest human opponent does on the higher difficulties?the same stinking move (usually high powered) over and over, making the only way to break their reign of supremacy the throw button. The final boss fight is also one of the most artificially cheap jerks I?ve ever had the misfortune of playing against. And Konquest just goes downhill from there. This so-called RPG is essentially just glorified fetch quests, resulting in ?koins? and keys that can be used to unlock random junk such as pictures, outdated movies and trailers from schlock such as MK: Mythologies, concept art (which isn?t half bad), and other things (plus the occasional character and arena) in the Krypt. The Krypt is basically a bunch of tombstones with numerical values on them. You can open them if you want? but I don?t recommend it. Back to Konquest. So, you go around something like eight different realms, trying to collect some weird gems that the ?Elder Gods? require of you so that they can do something or other. Basically, there is no story. You?re there to unlock characters and stuff. But it?s not worth all the mundane and oftentimes stupid fetching you?ve gotta do. So avoid that as well.

Sound: 3/10

The voice acting is atrocious, melodramatic, and at best, passable (which is rare). Pretty much, the development team did all the voice work. Co-creator Ed Boon does Scorpion?s voice, and it?s all you want it to be, if you happened to be in a soap opera dimension, or something. The music is what saves this, and it?s actually pretty good. Well suited compositions, plus intricate soundtracks and unlockable tracks are all available for a listen under the Kontent menu, and they are almost all worth listening to. Unfortunately, the sound effects, such as the punching and kicking, are all pretty bad. So it might be best to turn down the sound, and turn up the radio.

Stability: 4/5

While I did not find any bugs or any problems with the game being broken or anything, I have found mention of infinite combos online. These allow the player to keep a combo running, instead of finishing it with an adequately gory move. This exploit is, apparently, used by cheaters in online matches, and allows matches to be finished quickly and painlessly. For the player doing the combo.

Controls/Interface: 5/5

The controls are fine and the interface isn't bad at all. In fact, there is a low learning curve to the game, which Midway, I?m sure, intended. There are customizable controller sets, and the player has access to move lists when in a fight. So, thankfully, there are no problems on that front. Appropriateness -Violence (-5 for killing people in cold-blooded murder; -2.5 for blood spraying everywhere; +1 for game allowing gore to be disabled; -2.5 for gruesome details, such as in the fatalities):1/10 -Language: 10/10 -Sexual Content/Nudity (-1.5 for characters wearing clothing that is sexy or accentuates their sexuality): 8.5/10 -Occult/Supernatural (-5 for game taking place in environments filled with major occult references; -3 for borderline magic, possibly occult, used by enemies): 2/10 -Cultural/Moral/Ethical (-2 for game requires player to reject established authority figures; -1.5 for characters portrayed with stereotypical biases): 6.5/10

Overall: 56/100

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