Here's a crazy idea: get one of the most successful and brutal fighting franchises and add gesture-based controls. Sound like a disaster waiting to happen? I thought so too. Fortunately the team at Midway has pulled off a miracle. Armageddon for the Wii not only delivers the goods, but the gesture-based combat is surprisingly responsive and actually enhances the overall package. Suffice it to say, if you're a blood-thirsty fighting fan and you happened to overlook last year's PS2 incarnation, this version is definitely for you.
With that in mind, let's get this disclaimer out of the way: Armageddon for Wii is a direct port in every sense of the word. Controls aside, this is the exact same game we played last year. The visuals are untouched, the Kreate-A-Fatality mode still sucks the big one and Kreate-a-Fighter returns in all its glory. The differences? Aside from the addition of a Wii-exclusive character - Khameleon, who is essentially the female version of Chameleon, also featured in the roster - there isn't much of a reason to pick this one up if you've ploughed through the PS2 version.
That said, the addition of motion-controls to execute special moves is perhaps the game's biggest selling point and we're happy to report that the system does not disappoint. In fact, the controls are so intuitive and responsive that with a simple flick of the wrist you can nail every fighter's special moves with ease. Here's how it works: press and hold the B button, then make any number of movements with your wrist, be it up and down, side-to-side, or in a half circle motion, then release the button and watch as your opponent dishes out the damage.
I'm still surprised at how well the system works and rarely is the game unable to register your movements, though it does happen from time-to-time. Sadly, your regular punches and kicks haven't received the same kind of polish, as they're all assigned to the D-pad, which makes for a rather clumsy experience. Thankfully, anyone who doesn't fancy the Wii-mote can plug in their GameCube or classic controller, both of which are 100 percent compatible.
As for the game's story, in Armageddon, alliances are broken, old rivalries are rekindled and just about every fighter the series has ever seen squares off in an epic battle to determine the fate of the world. Armageddon is nigh, and there isn't a whole lot the elder gods can do about it.
Well, that's not necessarily true; having spent a number of centuries encased in stone, two demi-gods, Taven and Daegon, reawaken to compete for their parents' powerful weapons and prevent the foretold Armageddon. The first to defeat the guardian Blaze becomes defender of Edenia, and so Konquest mode begins. As Taven, players embark on a quest not unlike the sleeper hit Shaolin Monks. In fact, the two have quite a bit in common, with quick-fisted combo action and plenty of traps littered throughout the various realms, some of which you can use to torch, mutilate, and impale any poor sap that happens to pass in front of your bare hands.
The surprisingly challenging Konquest mode will last the average player close to ten hours and while it's as enjoyable as the previous two outings and there are enough items to collect to keep any fan from putting the controller down, it ultimately feels a tad on the unpolished side. While the sub-par visuals and animations aren't necessarily eye-catching, and the repetitive nature can put you to sleep, the cumbersome controls are the weakest link here. Performing combos on enemies that surround you can be hit or miss, literally. With the lack of a targeting feature, Taven will more-often-than-not miss his targets, leaving him wide open for a pummelling. Further to that, Taven might have a few special moves at his disposal, and a variety of kicks and punches to unleash, but in the end, the four-punch combo is enough to emerge victorious on all fronts.
But if playing as Taven isn't enough to float your boat then you might want to give the other 60+ warriors a shot. Armageddon boasts the biggest roster set yet, with almost every MK combatant to-date, including all of the boss characters as well as the more forgettable fighters like Kobra, Bo Rai Chau and the entire roster of MK 4. The game even sports the illustrious palette swapping Chameleon, and the Wii exclusive Khameleon (confused yet?) from MK Trilogy. But having that many characters in one game does have its drawbacks. Instead of having two separate fighting styles and one weapon style like in Deception, most characters are now limited to two in total, with most of the boss characters only having one style to rely on. Granted, it would have been a nightmare for Midway to animate and code that many fighting styles, but it's a disappointment nevertheless.
Regardless of the lack of fighting styles, Armageddon does improve on its overall combat system. For one, aerial combat has made a welcomed return, appearing last in the exceptional MK 2. It's possible to juggle your opponents in the air with a series of punches and kicks, or toss them straight to the ground to continue on with the combo. Secondly, it's now possible to parry attacks by pushing the block button and back on the controller at the moment your opponent strikes. If timed correctly your opponent will be stunned, giving you a few precious seconds to move in for the quick combo.
Lastly, and perhaps the most notable change aside from the controls, is the new Kreate-a-fatality feature. Whereas in every MK game-to-date, fatalities were performed based on pre-set button combinations, Armageddon instead lets players input multiple button sequences to string together a series of devastating attacks, most of which leave your opponent limbless or missing some sort of bodily organ.
There is a catch though. While the sequences are simple enough to input, often requiring players to press little more than a direction and a single button, you only have a set amount of time to enter the sequence, and as more successful combinations are performed the time in which you can continue on with the next attack greatly decreases. In other words, everyone will be able to pull off a fatality, but only the most skilled fighters will be able to string together all 10 attacks.
This may sound like the addition Kombat fans have been waiting for, but bear in mind that there are no character-specific fatalities, which have essentially been the soul of the series and one of the reasons why the original Mortal Kombat did as well as it did. Why the developers chose to eliminate one of the series' staples is beyond me, and I only hope that we see the classic feature make its return in the next instalment.
Perhaps the game's finest asset, however, is its Kreate-a-Fighter mode. Ever wanted to see Lara Croft in the ring? Or maybe see how well the Terminator would fair against Kahn? Kreate-a-Fighter lets you create just about any fighter you can imagine, tweak their aesthetic features, give them their own set of moves, and even write a short bio to complete the full package. Better yet, the sheer amount of outfit options, provided you have the koins to purchase them, is enough to whet any fan's creative appetite. It is worth noting, though, that your creative juices are limited to one fighter per-profile, so unless you want to create multiple profiles and load them up each time, one fighter is all you're going to get.
Visually the Wii version is near identical to its PS2 brother. Character models are adequately detailed and the environments provide some interesting, and often deadly, possibilities thanks to the return of stage-based fatalities as well as destructible objects and equipable weapons. Sadly, the game doesn't boast a true widescreen mode as it slices off the sides of the screen, though as a consolation prize you can at least run the game in 480p.
Armageddon for the Wii may have arrived late, but it was well worth the wait. The new motion-controls - a feature we cringed at when first announced - unexpectedly make the game that much more enjoyable. Admittedly, it's a shame that the Wii version doesn't boast more exclusive content. Khameleon offers nothing more than an aesthetic mod of her male counterpart and the challenging survival mode (you don't regain any health in between matches) is only fun for a few play throughs. Either way, Armageddon is undeniably one of the deepest most robust fighters I've laid my hands on in quite some time, and would be a welcomed addition to any fighting-fan's library.