7/4/2007 9:53:16 AM
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon Nintendo Wii Review
By Rich Dixon
A friend of mine once described cupcakes as frosting delivery devices, and that's what kept coming to my mind as I played "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon" the past few days. I came in pretty stoked at the idea of getting my hands on a fighting game that used the Wii controls. What better use of motion-sensitive controllers than a martial arts game? However, what I found was more like the frosting on the top of the cupcake: pretty tasty in its own right, but otherwise nothing more than a sweet layer spread over the top of a game that otherwise was nothing new.
If you have any history with video games, you're no doubt familiar with the "Mortal Kombat" franchise. The original game generated significant waves in arcade circles when it debuted a new graphical look that involved digitized images of real human fighters overlaid on a computer-generated background. Nowadays that sort of thing would look pretty routine -- clumsy, even -- but take my word for it, at the time it was enough to gather a crowd of adolescent boys just marveling at the graphics. Since those heady days other fighting game franchises have surpassed "Mortal Kombat" in popularity, but the franchise chugs along with "Armageddon" as its most recent iteration.
Once inside the game you'll find a mixture of the odd and the expected. In the expected camp is the usual arcade mode, in which you choose one of dozens of pre-rendered characters and fight three-round battles on your way to the top. The characters are about evenly split between humans (including the obligatory set of buxom female fighters), monsters, and mystical creatures, and while their fighting styles and moves do differ, it would take several hours in the game before you'll really start to notice. You'll also find an Endurance mode, in which your character gets one life in order to beat off an infinite series of opponents. Add these to the usual Practice and Versus modes (the latter for two-person multiplayer), and you have all the expected elements of an arcade-style port.
Then things get a little weird. First off, you'll also have the chance to play "Konquest," a pseudo-RPG in which you play a character who has to fight his way past an endless series of enemies in order to find his brother and wipe out a dangerous evil. Playing this scenario through means not only fighting, you also explore a map collecting various scattered artifacts and coins. The premise is decent enough, but the execution falls short: the graphics are weak and there's no real exploration of the landscape, since you're limited to following a narrow trail. The second, and weirder, element is "Motokross," a Mario Kart-style racing game with cute, cartoon versions of the Mortal Kombat characters. Again the graphics are nothing to write home about, and the gameplay is about as interesting as your average free Flash game on the web.
Without multiplayer, that's what you get: an arcade port and a few rather weak extras that might be good for a little entertainment when you get bored with the main event. The game is entirely unremarkable, in other words; lacking great gameplay, its only real option to capture gamers is by using the Wii controls in an imaginative fashion. The design team, as it turns out, decided to use the Wiimote as an add-on to the basic controls; your first clue that things aren't going to be all that great is when you start up, and a splash screen informs you that you can play the game with the classic controller. Turns out the Wiimote motion-sensitive controls are limited to special moves and fatalities only: shooting fireballs and teleporting behind your enemy, things like that. Otherwise the controls involve the usual button-mashing that you'd find in pretty much any other fighting game. In short, it's like a fairly stale cupcake beneath a layer of frosting. The frosting tastes good, sure, but if that's the best part of the cupcake, you're not likely to come away satisfied.
Graphics: 6. Would have seemed cutting-edge five or six years ago.
Sound: 6. "Get over here!"
Gameplay: 7. Standard button-mashing, with a little Wiimote goodness spread on top.
Story: 5. There's a bit of a story in the "Konquest" game, but not one that I cared much about.
Replayability: 7. Lots of characters equals virtually infinite permutation, though the distinctions might be lost on all but the most dedicated players.
Overall: 7. "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon" is a first step in the direction of Wiimote-enabled fighting games, but we still have a long way to go.
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon Nintendo Wii Review