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Review: Kick it with latest 'Mortal Kombat'

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
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Midway Games' "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon," now available for the Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox, boasts a full roster of playable characters.

"Armageddon" is the first in the series to feature every character from the 14-year-old "Mortal Kombat" universe. There are more than 50 3-D fighters in all including Scorpion, Kung Lao, Sub-Zero and Motaro.

Like any good fighting game, however, only a handful of characters are available at the start. Part of the fun is unlocking the rest, each of whom has a unique look, fighting style and weapon preference.

And if you don't want to go with a preexisting character, "Armageddon" is the first "Mortal Kombat" game with a "Kreate-a-Fighter" mode. You can select from thousands of physical features and attributes to design a custom fighter, give him or her a name, and then start a game to test their skills against others.

The fighting, which is fast-paced, requires mastery in three key areas: hand-to-hand combat, weapons and magic. Learning how to punch, kick, jump and spin -- not to mention linking successive moves into "combos" -- takes some time to get right. Therefore, you won't get very far in this title if you try your luck by random "button mashing."

It's also fun to learn how to fight in the air with the many aerial moves offered in this game.

Another "Mortal Kombat" calling card is the notorious "fatality" move, which refers to the way one fighter can kill the other. In "Armageddon," a new Kreate-a-Fatality system gives players the ability to create custom fatalities by stringing together button combinations.

Midway has also expanded a few of its game modes. Aside from the single-player game (against the game's artificial intelligence) and a two-player mode (on the same television), "Armageddon" also offers a deeper Konquest game (a story-based adventure) and expanded online play for head-to-head matches over the Internet - with faster response times than found in 2004's "Mortal Kombat: Deception," and the ability to play your custom fighter in cyberspace.

But even with all of these additions, "Mortal Kombat" is still the same old 3-D fighting game: Each player picks a character and fights in a number of different environments. In other words, "Armageddon" just gives the player a lot more of the same stuff. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; but if you are looking for a revolutionary new game, this is not it.

Also, while this game's graphics look OK (better on the Xbox than the PlayStation 2), it doesn't compare to fighting games on the Xbox 360 such as Tecmo's "Dead or Alive 4."

"Mortal Kombat" fans can pick up "Armageddon" for $39.95, or they may opt for the Premium Edition ($49.95), which also includes a playable version of the original "Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3," more than 60 minutes of bonus DVD video content, a collectible metal case (with four unique box fronts in total), and an animation cell cover art autographed by franchise co-creator Ed Boon.

Midway Games' "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon" is a new 3-D fighting game.



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