“The original arcade trilogy together for the first time in a single package, just the way you remember it. Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 enhanced with online play, leaderboards, and Achievements. Maybe you were king of the arcade, but how do you stack up against the whole world?”
Just the way you remember them from the days of your prime! Nothing more (unfortunately), nothing less (thankfully), which is a real shame as it wouldn’t have killed NetherRealm to have touched up the character sprites and level details a little bit. In fact, why the heck wasn’t this game given a complete visual overhaul and called Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection HD instead? I put it down to two things: laziness and staying too true to keeping the collection ‘arcade perfect’, as has been emphasised uncountably by the developers. What they mean by ‘arcade perfect’ is that they’re going to do nothing more than port the game to modern consoles. Great, eh? Both the character sprites and levels are really showing their age (the first one is nearly twenty years old, man!), and if that’s what they mean by ‘arcade perfect’, then they ought to be ashamed of themselves. In fact, maybe they should have constructed a real life Pit level and jumped onto the spikes themselves from the sheer embarrassment that they’ve drummed up. Furthermore on the subject of clinging to the ‘arcade perfect’ thing, some eyebrow-cocking optional visual filters have been included in the settings menu as a blatant attempt at covering up the creaking visuals, but they turn out to be nothing more than severely poor cover-ups. They make it look worse, in fact! I mean, trying to trick your audience with poor visual filters in an attempt to pave over the obvious cracks in their work is one thing, but completely failing with the execution is just plain embarrassing. There are five visual filters, including the default one: Klassic (default), Painted 1, Painted 2, Smooth, and Arcade. All of them are shit; ‘Smooth’ just looks blurry and makes me want to spray Mr Sheen all over my screen and polish it. Urgh. Again, a complete visual overhaul would have been wonderful, but it just didn’t happen. ‘Arcade perfect’, eh? The only thing this game does perfectly is deflate the player’s happy memories beyond belief.
Those classic lines of “GET OVER HERE!” and Raiden’s infamous and universally recognisable “AZEEBADADDEE!!!” and “ADDABAZZAR!!!” and their primeval charm are still very much there, as well as all of your favourite sound effects and retro soundtracks… when you’re actually able to hear them. Blame it on the bugs and glitches that surround the game and poke at it with a thorny stick as they wreak their raging havoc on Mortal Kombat’s beloved sound effects. There’s no doubt that you’ll experience your unfair share of audio drop-outs, failed sound effects (especially move announcements) and a stuck record-like repeating soundtrack, to name a few. Believe me, less than a few in any case is bad enough, but these particular titles takes it to the next level… and the next level… and then to the boss… IT JUST DOESN’T STOP! Horrid.
Unforgivable glitches aplenty. Hardcore dedicators to the classics, and those who really put the time in, should be able to work their way through the game’s screw-ups without much trouble, but anyone playing any of the three titles will inevitably experience a mix bag of glitches along the way, and there’s no telling what particular ones will jump up and bite them on the bottom. Multiple times, no less. There was one particular glitch/whateveryouwannacallit in MKI where I was playing as Sub-Zero against Raiden on the Pit level, and Raiden – who was at half health – performed his “AZEEBADADDEE!!!” (or Torpedo to those who are unfamiliar with it) move, which I managed to duck out of and uppercutted him before he was able to impact me, and, completely out of the blue, it sent Raiden screaming and hurtling down into the spikes as if I’d performed a stage fatality! That most certainly wasn’t the case, however, as all I’d done was uppercutted the dude when he was at half health, which should have chipped a bit of his health away and nothing more. WHAT THE HECK?! Glitches aside, there’s no doubt that you’ll have a great time playing through the three titles. And whether you’re a novice or a master, it doesn’t matter – it’s all very much a learning process in the most raw form where you find your best-suited character and develop your very own idiosyncratic fighting style, which just so happened to be a staple of the classic fighting games of the early nineties, and the MK games do it best. That spirit certainly hasn’t died. Another staple of classic fighting games, particularly the MK series, is the simple controls, and they honestly don’t come more simpler than this, making each and every match something very special indeed. That’s putting the glitches aside metaphorically, however – something that can’t be applied to the actual game – so you’ll no doubt have your ups and downs with the annoyances, but many hours of joy with the good stuff too!
The bane of the game’s existence. And a very unfortunate one too. Online multiplayer is close to completely unplayable, with MKII suffering the worst of the bunch. The whole thing is plagued with EXTREME FUCKING LAG and it never lets up. Call it a glitch in the system or whatever you want, but it just won’t do. Matchmaking feels like an utter chore; picking ‘Quick match’ simply doesn’t do anything at all; ‘Friendly Kombat’ won’t find you a match until you create your own match, play it and you’re put back in the lobby. What an absolute joke. I honestly wish it were just a funny joke, but it’s the reality of the game unfortunately. The only match type that resembles anything even close to functioning at all is Ranked, but even then you still have to put up with the scumbag lag, and it renders the whole thing redundant and utterly unplayable.
Now, there’s two schools of practice here. Jumping into the game and getting to grips with it all is as easy as 3.142, but in terms of the difficulty, it’s a nightmare. All three games – MKII especially – won’t go easy on anyone, let alone newcomers. Even on Very Easy, the game is unbelievably insane, and I reckon that even a Very Very Easy would be stupidly hard. There’s a reason for this, however, but it’s not a very upstanding one: The games are ports of the original coin-operated arcade machines, which means that the difficulty has to be stupidly high/unfair for the fact that the arcade proprietors back then wanted to make as much money as possible from their machines, and what better way to do it than by turning the difficulty up waaaaaaaayyyyy past maximum in hopes of exploiting the coins of many, many, many kiddies on pocket money day? It’s a horrible and inexcusable ploy, but we’re stuck with it and it’s damn hard to conquer. And if, like me, you were never a fan of blocking in Mortal Kombat, I’m afraid that’s going to have to change if you wish to stand a chance at succeeding in the game at all. Grr. That said, and as mentioned up there, jumping into the game and getting to grips with it all is as easy as burping (I hope you find that easy…), and it’s a joy to be able to go from match to match (no matter how hard) knowing that you’re fully at ease with the controls and functions of the whole thing.
Until a patch is put out (if it ever happens), multiplayer is a big no-no. I played hours of the multiplayer just for the purpose of this review, because there was absolutely no other reason to play it in the state that it’s in. I wanted to enjoy it, but it’s just impossible to do so. Now, take the standalone Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3’s multiplayer – it’s brilliant! It’s brilliant because IT WORKS unlike this pile of rubbish. Of course, sometimes you might not find an opponent to play against in the standalone, but that’s down to nobody else playing online at that exact time, as opposed to Arcade Kollection’s matchmaking simply failing to work at all. And when you do manage to find a game, you’re bitchslapped with horrible lag, so you wouldn’t want to play it anyway. Thanks for the Catch-22, NetherRealm! Bastards… Okay, so it’s well established that the multiplayer yields a big, bold “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”, but that’s not to say that the river of replay value has run completely dry. Oh no, no, no, for it’s single player to the rescue! Now, the standalone UMK3 is a brilliant game, but after playing the original MK and MKII in the collection, all attention instantly shifts to those two little beauties and the standalone is easily tossed aside. They’re not beauties in their execution, but in terms of their replay value, they’re fantastic. The original MK, in particular, has that special little something running through its veins that you just can’t help coming back to. Put it down to it being the first-born of the series, or whatever you want, but you just can’t help coming back for more! MKII warrants something special and attractive too, but the brutal difficulty, even on the easiest setting, will turn players off within a minute… but it’s so hard to shake off the urge to give it another go every now and then. And as for UMK3… well, it’s the wild card of the bunch, I’m afraid, and only if you become bored of the other two – or if it’s your favourite, of course – does it prove useful. So, in essence, single player = yes, multiplayer = fuck no!
An epic disappointment if there ever was one. I was extremely excited about this game – finally being able to play the originals and all that – but all it did was turn glorious nostalgia into nausea. My biggest gripe is that the guys and gals at NetherRealm were way too attached to the ‘Arcade perfect’ thing, which, to be sharply honest, is complete bullshit. Authenticity? Hardly. Laziness and lack of love and respect for three classics? Undeniably so. They pushed the whole ‘complete with all of your favourite glitches just the way you remember it’ thing waaaaaaayyyy too far… BUT WHY?! It’s just a broken game, and there’s no two ways about it. In fact, here’s another insult: the very existence of the game is like pissing on the ashes of a beloved relative. With all of that said and done, providing you can work around the glitches and maintain your sanity, you will have a blast playing through the golden oldies again and again and again; all without having to pop fifty pence after fifty pence into a coin slot, much to the disdain of arcade owners worldwide. You’d be bankrupt if you were playing MKII at the arcade, though, believe me. Also, the Back button to pause the game? Umm… WHAT?!
Buy, trial or avoid?
For the first time in Gamesoup history, there’s two things to consider here: If you have very fond memories of banging away at the three classics standing in front of an arcade cabinet or on a humble controller at home, this collection is an essential purchase the hardcore fans (with mega emphasis on hardcore fans). For those new to the series, however – while it might be a nice thought to see where Mortal Kombat 9 or the ill-fated Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe originated from – this particular handful of badly cut gems won’t be doing you any favours. You’re more than welcome to try, though! Just remember to wear a pair of gloves to prevent blisters when playing Mortal Kombat II. (You might want to think about investing in damages insurance too.) Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
Final score: 4/10