Thunderbolt logo

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance

Ah, Mortal Kombat. So many fond adolescent memories of dismembered corpses and arenas drowned in blood. Let’s face it, gore was in vogue back in the 1990s. And because I wanted to be another cool kid that played the infamous video game series of life and death I practically begged to my folks to give me Mortal Kombat games. I can remember the first time I heard that excited “FINISH HIM!” or the ominous “Fatality.” Yeah, those were some good and brutally grotesque times back in the day. So when I found a copy of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, I immediately gave it a shot for old times sake. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint.

I think Raiden’s got a splinter stuck in his toe and Frost is helping him get it out.

It has been a long time since the brave warriors of Mortal Kombat weathered all invasions of the Earth. Ever since that last fateful tournament, the surviving fighters went on with their normal lives. Raiden became the Elder of the Gods, Johnny Cage has gone back to Hollywood for his next blockbuster, and Sub-Zero has become the Grandmaster of Lin Kuei clan. In this time of peace, the bloody battles of the Mortal Kombat tournaments are fazed out of necessity- a mere footnote in the pages of the Earth’s history. But little do our heroes know what kind of evil force is building in the realm of Outworld. The evil sorcerers Shang Tsung and Quan Chi have teamed up in one last diabolical plot for the domination of Earth. These all-powerful baddies are using all the magic at their disposal to revive the mythical army of the legendary Dragon King. Should they succeed, not even the Earth’s defenders can stand a chance against such might. Seeing this imminent threat, Raiden has summoned all of the old fighters together for one last hurrah against the evil duo.

Okay, so it’s time to start making people bleed again. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I haven’t touched a game from this series since Mortal Kombat II on the Genesis. So it kind of goes without saying that I was in for a rude awakening when I put this game in my Gamecube. This game comes complete with a varied selection of fighters, with even more that need to be unlocked. There are still all the old favorites in the roster, with Sub Zero, Kung Lao, and Scorpion heading up the charge. There are also a few new faces as well, with the dark and brooding Mavado to the mystical Shang Tsung. With the blend of old and new, you’re bound to find at least one fighter that you like.

This might sound picky but do you think machine guns are fair in fighting games?

Once you’ve chosen your favorite hero or villain, it’s time to get down to the dirty work. All of these fighters come with their own unique movesets and special abilities. Now I may sound old fashioned, but whatever happened to a simple uppercut or a basic projectile attack? Apparently, the game designers have taken the gameplay up a notch or two. Unlike in previous Mortal Kombat games, these movesets are separated into three specific fighting stances. Take Shang Tsung for example. His default stance is the Snake, which includes fast-striking punch combos. With one simple press of the shoulder button, our villain goes into Crane stance, which places more emphasis on kicks. If you feel compelled to try something else, the evildoer will whip out his trusty blade to hack his opponents to shreds. All three of these stances have their strengths, weaknesses, special moves, and handling techniques. When you factor in guarding, high and low attacks, specials, counters, and all of the other standard fighting game jargon, you’re presented with a considerable amount of attack variation and enough strategy for you to master.

But despite all of the various attack combos and stances, there is one glaring, nagging flaw that overcasts the fun. The controls in this game are poorly meshed with the gameplay. Actually, that’s just a little too euphemistic. The controls are horribly done. Instead of making good use of the analog stick, you’re forced into the tried and true directional pad, which is awkwardly placed on the controller. Unlike the smooth and fluid controls of Soul Calibur 3, there is a fair amount of lag and unresponsiveness when you try and execute your attacks. It’s as if all the attack animations are done in freeze-frame. You can execute an uppercut with the greatest of ease, but you’ll have to wait a second before the controls register your next move. And when you’re facing down the most dangerous sorcerers known to mankind, it can be incredibly aggravating to just sit there and watch as your fighter stands idly instead of dishing out the pain.

Frost is still fighting even though she’s got one hand and one foot frozen to the floor.

But once you’ve got the moves down, it’s time for you to take on the varied modes of the game. You’ve got the generic Arcade Mode ready to be beaten countless times and the VS Mode to make your friends bleed. But the real meat of this game lies with the Konquest Mode. In a presentation reminiscent of Weapon Master Mode from Soul Calibur 2, you are allowed to choose a fighter and supposedly embark on a journey of knowledge and self-discovery. Actually, you’re presented with a series of countless challenges that involve specific objectives. You’re usually pitted against an opponent and instructed to use the various stances and fighting styles to win the match. Sometimes you’ll have to execute specific combos to win, other times you’ll have to work on your defensive strategies. While the Konquest Mode is supposed to be an alternative to the standard arcade mode, it serves as the training for all the deeply technical aspects of the game. Once you’ve done your challenges, you can reap your monetary rewards down the Krypt and unlock countless features, costumes, characters, and just about everything else a standard fighting game can throw at you. And since most of these unlockables require a fair amount of money, it’s a fair chance that you’ll spend hours unlocking every single one of them.

Luckily, annihilating your foes never gets old with this game, partly due to the excellent presentation. You’ve got a whole cast of detailed and homicidal fighters that are practically oozing with realistic blood and gore. Everyone on the roster from Kung Lao to Raiden are portrayed with wonderfully realistic texture and lighting effects. You can see everything with crystal clarity, from the tip of Shang Tsung’s deadly blade to the soft glow of Sub-Zero’s freezing attacks. All of the fatalities are back and bloodier than ever. Also, all of the massive arenas are jam packed with statues, innocent bystanders, weather and lighting effects, and just about anything else that can draw you into the realm of the Outworld. There’s also a decent soundtrack to back up the drama and tension of the conflict at hand. Also, all of the characters have their respective voices meshed into their fighting habits. Even after all these years, it’s still magical to hear Scorpion yell, “Get over here!” one more time.

When Jax asked for time to ‘warm up’ that’s not what he meant.

For some reason, Mortal Kombat has endured the test of time and landed here on the next generation of consoles. But why should this last? Is it the classic and memorable characters? Is it the gameplay style that has continually improved? Or maybe it’s just the novelty of literally ripping your foes into pieces. I don’t know. This game is not the best fighter on the Gamecube, but it still has enough gameplay elements and unlockables to keep you busy. Besides, there’s no better way to vent some stress than to dish out a few fatalities. But in the meantime, this game is well worth the clearance price and the time needed to invest in it. We’re all still waiting for that ‘Flawless Victory’ of a fighting game. And even though Deadly Alliance can’t measure up to that standard, it can still stand on its own.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

You should follow us on Twitter.