Mortal Kombat Review

Mortal Kombat has been around the block more than a few times and recently returned to form with last year’s truly excellent reboot of the series on the Xbox 360 and PS3. So, presumably, it’s good news for the select few who own a PS Vita – as this is the version that’s just landed on Sony’s handheld; however, how has Mortal Kombat fared in its transition to a pint-sized form? Is it still a kwality game, or is the port a bit krap?

Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Reviewed on: PS Vita
Also Available On: Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date: Available now

Mortal Kombat has always been known for its brutal, (e)visceral gameplay – and has been the subject of considerable ire over the past 15 years from those members of society who don’t see the fun that can be had by  ripping someone’s spine out. Thankfully, those individuals were largely protected from exposure to such gory awesomeness, as gamers had no choice to but to play Mortal Kombat on their TV; however, thanks to the Vita, you can now do your best to gross out your fellow passengers on your commute to work courtesy of the handheld port of Mortal Kombat.

The Vita has gotten a fair bit of stick about how many of its games seem to shoe-horn touch controls in – seemingly often for the sake of it. Thankfully, NetherRealm Studios only seem to have gone anywhere near touchscreen input where absolutely necessary and have, instead, relied on utilising the Vita’s excellent d-pad and face buttons to their fullest in order to replicate a true Mortal Kombat experience.

NetherRealm Studios have done a truly great job in creating a solid version of Mortal Kombat for the Vita. The gameplay mechanics and fighting engine seem pretty much identical to the ones used in the console versions of the game. As a result, the gameplay is sublime, with tight, responsive controls that allow you to pull off the various special moves and bone-crunching combos with satisfying precision. All of the moves from the console versions of the game – complete with fatalities and gruesome X-ray moves – are present and correct, meaning that if you already know your way around the game, you’ll have no problem jumping right in with the Vita version.

If you feel obliged to use the touch controls of the Vita, you can use the touchscreen to pull off fatalities (where directional inputs are replaced by swiping across the screen). Somewhat more useful, however, is the ability to trigger your X-ray move by tapping on the “X” at the business end of your power meter. Take note, other Vita developers, little touches like that are how touch controls should be used.

The developers made the conscious choice to prioritise a smooth, solid frame-rate for the Vita version – and they certainly succeeded in this respect. Mortal Kombat on the Vita whips along at a silky smooth 60 fps, with only the occasional and very minor dip in frame-rate when transitioning out of the graphically-intensive X-ray moves. The impressive frame-rate does come at a bit of a price, however; the polygon counts and texture resolution of the various fighters and environments have taken a fairly severe hit in comparison to the console versions of the game.

Whilst Mortal Kombat on the Vita looks stunning in motion, close-up shots of the fighters can look a little janky. This trade-off is particularly obvious in the story mode of the game. Yhe between-fight cut-scenes seem to be pre-rendered footage generated from the graphically excellent console versions of the game, but often cut abruptly and jarringly to a close-up of one of the characters rendered in the Vita engine. Thankfully such moments are short-lived, and you’re knee-deep in fast, fluid fighting awesomeness before you know it.

Mortal Kombat on the Vita is crammed to the brim with content. Every mode – the arcade and tag ladders, the (very corny) story mode, multiplayer via ad-hoc or PSN and the Challenge Tower – are all present and correct as is the “Nekropolis,” the vast graveyard-cum-realm of the undead where you spend your hard-earned ‘Kombat Koins’ to unlock a vast swathe of concept art, alternate character costumes and game modes. As if that wasn’t enough, you get all of the DLC characters from the PS3 version , a brand new Vita-only Challenge Tower and a new set of mini-games. The mini-games are a fun enough diversion and seem to be how Mortal Kombat on the Vita satisfied the apparent edict from Sony to use the touchscreen and accelerometer in the game. Test Your Slice steals borrows the gameplay mechanics of Fruit Ninja, but replaces fruit with (you guessed it) dismembered body parts, whereas Test Your Balance charges you with the task – armed with nothing but an accelerometer – of preventing your character falling off a beam into a spiky pit of pointy death.

Faithfully recreates the excellent gameplay from the console versions of Mortal Kombat
Responsive and precise controls
A huge amount of extra content, some of which is exclusive to the Vita
Character models and environments heavily simplified to maintain frame-rate

All in all, if you’re a fan of fighting games, you can’t go wrong with Mortal Kombat on the Vita. Although the models of the characters and environments have taken a major hit on polygon count, the blisteringly fast frame-rate and wonderfully responsive gameplay are more than worth that particular trade-off. Everything that made the recent console version of Mortal Kombat great is present and correct on the Vita – and, thanks to the generous sprinkling of extra content, the handheld version of the game represents excellent value for money.

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment provided the review copy (downloadable version)
Mortal Kombat (Vita) – Official Game Site

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  1. Diarmuid

    Very good review Dan. For anyone thinking of getting this, don’t make the same mistake as me. Do NOT download it, get it on the physical card. Its over 3GB.

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