October 26, 2004 > Mortal Kombat: Deception
Mortal Kombat: Deception
Platforms: Xbox, Playstation 2
by Jeremy Inman
The Mortal Kombat franchise is a major staple in the videogame world, a titan of the industry's fighter genre. With its continual propensity to provide intense and vicious combat and its creation of a mythos that no self-proclaimed fighting game lover isn't well-versed in, the MK series has almost never disappointed its fans. Deception is no exception.
The MK franchise has taken some interesting turns both in story and in gameplay since it first appeared in arcades around the world. Since the birth of the franchise, the title "Mortal Kombat" has referred to a competition in which various colorful warriors with varying backgrounds and motivations compete to become the champion of the tournament. Winning the tournament earns them the opportunity to represent the realms (a handful of different dimensions from which the fighters originate, including the Earth Realm and the Netherrealm to name a few) in kombat against the evil Shang Tsung - a sorcerer bent on controlling the realms for his own twisted purposes. As the mythology goes, Liu Kang, a champion from the Earth Realm, has always protected Earth Realm from Shang Tsung's treachery by competing in and winning subsequent Mortal Kombat tournaments. Kang (a Bruce Lee-ish type warrior) has appeared in every Mortal Kombat title since the original. Only recently, with Midway's last MK title Deadly Alliance, were players denied the opportunity to actually play the game as Kang. The reason? Shang Tsung formed an alliance with fellow evil sorcerer Quan Chi in order to prevent Kang from competing by murdering him before the competition. This brings us up to date with the beginning of Deception. As Shang Tsung and Quan Chi's alliance begins to falter, they are confronted in a last attempt to save Earth Realm by its protector Raiden, a powerful Elder God. A battle ensues and Raiden falls, but just as the fate of the Elder God seems bleakest, and ancient evil ruler of the Realms is mysteriously awakened and now seeks to regain control over all of reality. To prevent this, Shang Tsung, Quan Chi, and Raiden form a new alliance, but inevitably fail to defeat the "Dragon King." Thus players must compete in the Mortal Kombat tournament in order to defeat this new foe.
The gameplay in Mortal Kombat has come a long way from the old 2D arcade fighter. Mortal Kombat 4 introduced 3-Dimensional play to the franchise (allowing players to side step around their opponent) and weapons that could be picked up from the environment while Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance introduced a brand new take on the MK fighting system itself. Deadly Alliance provided each playable fighter with three unique fighting stances that players could switch through on the fly. Each character had two stances that were based on hand to hand martial arts, and a third that was a character-specific weapon. This function added a level of complexity to the kombat and lent itself nicely to the furious battles that MK fans have come to know and love. It also allowed players to develop their own "style" for playing their favorite characters. The new three stance format caught on so well that Midway opted to include it in Deception. Coupled with some very highly interactive kombat arenas (complete with new and classic death traps - a quick and gruesome way to turn the match one way or the other) MK: Deception is host to some of the most furious battles of any fighter on the market. It's got plenty of classic MK quirks to keep fans pleased as well, such as several of the original characters, a host of familiar moves and locales, and the game's famous "fatalities," which allow players to end the fighting career of their opponent with a hyper violent, character-specific finishing move by entering a quick sequence of button commands. The Kombat modes in MK (including Arcade, Versus, and Practice) are sure to please any MK fanboy or newbies alike.
Midway, in an arguably questionable decision, chose to take the gameplay options of Deception even further by including several new modes of play. The most notable addition is Midway's inclusion of a mode call Konquest, which operates much like a standard role playing game. Players assume control of a hopeful MK Kombatant named Shujinko as he travels the various Realms of the MK universe in search of ancient artifacts that will help the Elder Gods defeat the Dragon King. Through this mode, players will run into a number of classic MK characters, including many that weren't even included as playable fighters in the Arcade mode. For the most part, Konquest is pretty sub par. Even MK fanatics, who are likely to delight in the cornucopia of MK goodies hidden throughout the lands, will find the mode of play fairly lackluster. Even more frustratingly, players are forced to complete this mode if they ever wish to unlock all of the game's hidden characters and arenas. And it's only through completing this mode (which serves as the game's main story) that players will even discover the significance of the title "Deception." Other than Konquest mode, which is tolerable, Midway added two new functions that are slightly more confusing. The first is called Puzzle Mode. It functions much like competitive Tetris. Players race to eliminate rows of colored blocks by arranging them with similarly colored falling "breakers," which then drop blocks on their opponents puzzle. There's no actual kombat in this mode, but caricatured versions of the fighters appear at the bottom of the screen to duke it out in order to keep the mode visually interesting. This mode is time consuming and for the most part unrewarding. The third mode is called Chess Kombat. In this mode, players assemble teams using fighters assigned as the various pieces of a chess board to compete in a MK style version of the game. Players can lay traps on the board, cast harmful spells, and move about in ways that are loosely based o the rules of chess. Opponents maneuver to capture the leader of the other team. The MK twist is that when two opponents occupy the same square, the attacker doesn't automatically win the spot, the two pieces must duke it out in Mortal Kombat.
Despite the goofy new modes, Mortal Kombat: Deception is at its heart and soul a fighter, through and through. Fans of the franchise will delight in the host of unlockable "Kontent," including a zombie version of the now-deceased champion Liu Kang, other characters and hidden alternate costumes. With online multiplayer capability and plenty of characters to master, Deception is a fully gratifying Mortal Kombat experience. While the extra modes are fairly unnecessary, they don't detract from the core of Mortal Kombat - fast, furious, and satisfying fighting action.