E3 Encounters: Mortal Kombat for PS3

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Mortal Kombat and I go way back — I can’t imagine the 90s without it. I still play Mortal Kombat II regularly on the PS3, and know the button commands for every single Fatality by heart, even Shang Tsung’s secret third Fatality that requires holding down the Low Punch button for 30 seconds. Ahem.

Anyway, Jeff Rubenstein and I decided to stop by the Warner Brother Interactive booth at the 2010 E3 Expo to check out the new Mortal Kombat. I met with Steve Beran, a longtime MK series veteran and director of art for the newly named Netherrealm Studios. We talked about the new vision for the gory brawler, got a sneak peek at the new Fatalities and stereoscopic 3D support, and went hands-on for a few matches.

First, though, check out the E3 announce trailer below for a quick look at Mortal Kombat’s visual style, fighting mechanics, and the new “X-ray” attacks.

Mortal Kombat is a re-imagining of the events of the first three games (“the fan favorites” according to Beran) meaning you’ll see lots of familiar faces: ninja specter Scorpion, his rival Sub-Zero, cybernetic assassin Sektor, misshapen clone Mileena, and Hollywood action star Johnny Cage have all made the cut. All told, Mortal Kombat will feature at least 24 fighters — a mix of old favorites as well as newcomers — with more on the way post-launch via PSN downloadable content.

Mortal Kombat will return to the 2D, juggle-centric fighting style popularized by the earlier titles, but the core fighting mechanics are seeing modern, HD enhancements. Most obvious are the devastating new “X-ray” attacks. The camera sweeps in to show the victim’s innards as the aggressor snaps, cracks, and gouges away. “Ribs shatter, jaws break, teeth pop out,” Beran elaborated. “It’s one of the things we’re most excited about.” What’s more, each character possesses unique-looking innards, meaning that Reptile’s skeleton looks different than Mileena’s, Sektor’s guts look appropriately cybernetic, and so on.

The gruesome “X-ray” attacks are the most dramatic example of Mortal Kombat’s new Super meter, which builds in power as you inflict and absorb damage during each match. A well-timed “X-ray” attack can wipe out nearly half an opponent’s life bar, particularly when chained into another juggle combo. “X-ray” attacks require a full Super meter but, at lower levels, the Super meter will also enable you to power-up a character’s special move for extra damage and beneficial effects, or swap in a tag-team partner mid-combo for a brutal two-man juggle. How you best leverage the Super meter is up to you.

Then there are the Fatalities, the most recognizable and controversial element in any Mortal Kombat title. “In this game,” Beran told me, “we starting thinking about the Fatalities much earlier.” It shows. The new Fatalities are ghoulishly inventive: Kung Lao dragging his victim through his buzzsaw-like bladed hat, Reptile giving a venom-spewing french kiss, and Scorpion slicing and dicing with his katana will make longtime series fans quiver with delight.

Oh, I also donned a pair of 3D glasses in order to experience a video of a Mortal Kombat match running in stereoscopic 3D on the PS3. The fighting genre seems to be a good fit for 3D: the detailed characters, sparkling projectiles, and gushing bodily fluids popped off the screen at a smooth 60 frames per second.

Mortal Kombat will hit the PS3 in 2011, with online play being a major focus. What else would you like to know about Mortal Kombat? Ask away in the comments, and I’ll do my best to track down the answer.

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