Warner Bros. and NetherRealm Studios released Mortal Kombat on PS3 last year, returning the series to its über-violent 2D roots and right back into the top tier of fighting games. The lengthy story mode and robust online options were only the start of what the game had on offer, and that’s before the DLC started rolling in. With the Vita release, all of the content of the original and the entire DLC collection is present and accounted for, and if that’s not enough to make this an essential title, the new exclusive features only possible on Vita make sure there’s enough content packed in to keep you playing until your eyes start to bleed.
The standard ladder climb(s) are here and bring the exact same formula we enjoyed for so long in the early days of Mortal Kombat. The Test Your Might mini game even makes its return, as well as few new ones: Test Your Balance find you balancing a fighter above a pit of spikes with Vita’s accelerometer and Test Your Strike plays much the same as Might, but rewards precision and accuracy over strength. It’s the Challenge mode that shakes up the typical formula the most though. A staggering 300-level tower not only challenges your skills but also teaches you the intricacies of the fighters' combat styles. While some challenges merely pit you against another opponent with a pre-set character, others will teach you how to pull off special attacks and fatalities.
It’ll take even the most hardcore veterans hours upon hours to get to the top of the Challenge Tower, but with this release there’s an entirely new tower called — wait for it — Bonus Challenge Tower, bringing a whole new world of quirky fun along with it. Explosively starting off by putting you in control of the Emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn – something never possible in the original – you’ll eventually find yourself using Vita’s exclusive control options to play a grotesque Fruit Ninja-inspired challenge where you’ll swipe to cut organ parts and dismembered heads in half, while shaking the Vita to explode deadly, game-ending bombs; furiously wipe combatants' spilled blood off the screen to keep seeing the carnage; or even face Freddy Krueger while he’s completely invisible in this 150 level tower. While not every challenge is overly great, there’s not a bad one in the bunch, and the short challenges in both towers are a perfect fit for anyone who’s short on time but desires to get things bloodied up while on-the-go.
The extras don’t stop there either. Every engagement in the game rewards Koins. While these can be spent to skip a level that you can’t seem to get past in the towers, their real use is found in the Krypt. Here, your ‘kurrency’ can be used to unlock hundreds of unlockable items: environmental and character concept art are found en masse, but with luck you’ll also unlock alternate costumes, fatalities and game-changing codes (e.g. invisible characters, more blood, etc.). You’ll also find that the previous DLC characters Skarlet, Kenshi, Rain and Freddy Krueger are all playable right from the start.
The game’s Story mode is nothing short of a stunning, CG-filled movie that shifts from a cut scene to in-game graphics just as each confrontation commences. There’s a quick but stark contrast when this occurs, and it’s here where we find our only fault with the entire package. The cut scenes are outstanding, right up there with those found in Dynasty Warriors Next, and the in-game graphics are equally impressive when in action: character animation is extremely fluid and the exceptional background artwork features full 3D animation that can find anything from an erupting volcano to Shao Kahn shifting around in his throne as he admires the battle, impressively showing off the amount of power Vita truly holds. But it’s in the few seconds in every bout when the camera shifts up close that you'll notice there’s been a significant drop in the character modelling in the transition to Vita. While it’s quickly rectified when the action begins, it’s there nonetheless. Thankfully this doesn’t affect the story from being remarkable and worth the price of admission in itself.
In battle, the controls work wonderfully with Vita’s D-Pad. Pulling off Jonny Cage’s famed shadow kick or Scorpion’s spear attack is exactly as you remember. A handful of simple combos have been added into each fighter’s repertoire, but the ‘build your own combo’ system where you alternate normal and special attacks is back again in full force. Fatalities are now easier than ever to pull off too: instead of pressing the directional buttons, you simple swipe them on the touch screen, eliminating unwarranted actions. X-ray attacks return too; these catastrophic attacks are the most powerful in the game, and let you look beneath the skin to see bones shattering and organs bursting apart. Most impressive though is the fact that the fights play out at a blazing fast speed of 60 FPS, and never slow down, even when the most impressive of backdrops is on-screen and the action gets intense.
Those wanting to pit their skills against a human opponent will be glad to know that there’s both local and infrastructure online multiplayer available, with no Online Pass needed. Ranked, Player and Private matches can all be played 1v1 and Tag Team, with the only missing option being King of the Hill. While Wi-Fi is limited to two players, you can play 4-player Tag Team bouts via ad hoc if you’ve got a couple of friends with Vitas. King of the Hill's omission is a bummer, but everything built into the multiplayer here takes Vita’s portability into consideration and does a great job of keeping things simple for quick play sessions, while still offering a robust online option at the same time. The blazing fast gameplay speed from the single player carries over into the online realm, and we never saw an ounce of lag.
Mortal Kombat on Vita packs the ultra-violent action of the series into your battle-hardened hands, and shows just how hard a punch Vita truly packs. With its $40 asking price for the entire home console game, DLC and large amount of exclusive additional content, Mortal Kombat is an essential Vita title that no fan of the genre should miss.