A case study in how to revive a flagging franchise, interest in the MK brand was once again piqued with the emergence of last year's Deadly Alliance - many getting their first taste of 'Kombat at 2002's Playstation Experience. The first true sequel in the series to avert numbering for now-fashionable subtitling (we'll mention MK Mythologies but once, and have done with it), the title's significance was it's indication of a long due overhaul; to bring one of the 16bit era's brashest brawlers kicking and screaming into the next generation. In full 3D. With a vengeance.
Fast forward two years, and to the version of Mortal Kombat Deception being demonstrated in a strictly over 18's enclosure at Gamestars Live. Press pass in hand and smug grin in place, we glided past a disgruntled looking security guard and once again into the welcoming arms of Outworld... only to discover very little has changed.
In terms of combat (sorry, kombat) mechanic, Deception plays a lot like its predecessor; characters still have three fighting styles, including one weapon-based, which still fails to flow with the same fluidity of a dedicated dueling title. 3D movement is still convincingly smooth, fighting no less frantic, combos handled in the same style-switching manner, and 16bit style unrealistic projectile and special-ability moves once again integrated in a superior fashion to anywhere else in the genre. So far so familiar.
'we're sensing a general impaling theme'
What alterations have been made seem mostly superficial, but nonetheless welcome in a series always prided as much on its gore as its gameplay. This is most obvious graphically, where characters models appear to have the edge on Deadly Alliance, but not by much. Likewise, arena's themselves now offer slight superficial alteration, some being multi-tiered while others allow for arena Fatality's to take place mid-bout. Striking a fellow kombatant into outlying deathtraps, such as closing spiked walls and rotating spiked cogs (we're sensing a general impaling theme), will end a battle prematurely with a gratuitously bloody, satisfying squelch.
Some arenas also boast encased weapons, accessed by hurling opponents into the casing - necessitating tactical maneuvering and freeing said item for the inevitable ensuing mad scramble. Oh, and, centrally for the series, traditional Fatalities are now twofold per character, as opposed to Deadly Alliance's one singular finisher - though none of these we actually managed to see at the show.