STAFF REVIEW of Mortal Kombat: Deception (Xbox)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004.
by RichVGS

Mortal Kombat:  Deception Box art When I think about the game Mortal Kombat, it conjures memories of my youth (not that I?m old or anything?I?m still in my mid-twenties?that?s not old, right), a simpler time when a quarter actually allowed you to play a video game at the arcade. Oh, the arcade. Spending countless hours and quarters at Aladdin?s Castle, the local mall arcade, or the mini arcade at the movie theater. People would surround the newest and hottest games eagerly awaiting the chance to challenge the resident arcade wizard. All this was before the annoying days of people putting their quarters on the screen, signifying that they were next (this would lead me to throwing said quarters onto the ground and then lead to a fist fight which usually resulted in being ejected from the arcade for the day).

Yes, it was a happy time when parents would dump there children into arcades and go on about their business, secure in the idea that nothing could go wrong or ruin the fragile little minds of their children. All that changed, however, the day Midway introduced a fighting game by the name of Mortal Kombat to an unsuspecting public. There was no game like this ever before in terms of violence and blood. Many years, attempts at getting the franchise banned and sequels, Midway is at it again, sticking to their successful run on home consoles with Mortal Kombat Deception.

Mortal Kombat Deception opens with Raiden making a last stand against the evil sorcerer Shang Tsung and the diabolical Quan Chi for control over the Earth realm. Despite Radien?s valiant efforts, he is ultimately defeated at the hands of the evil invaders. It looked as though the Deadly Alliance had finally achieved their ultimate goal, but such bonds were meant to be broken. With that, Quan Chi and Shang Tsung turn on each other and begin battling to achieve sole control over all realms. It is then that the legendary Dragon King returned to the land of the living to claim all the power of the universe. In a moment of desperation, Quan Chi, Shang Tsung and Raiden join forces in an effort to stop the Dragon King, unfortunately they do not succeed. Now it is up to you to take to the fighting arenas and try to stop the Dragon King in Mortal Kombat.

Since Mortal Kombat?s humble beginnings, each MK game has tried to be more and more about storyline, but Deception takes an odd turn. The game contains the main attraction fighting game as well as three additional games inside. The story of Deception primarily unfolds in Konquest mode, which is a combination of a role-playing game and a fighting game (think Shenmue II, but not as detailed or interesting). Like previous Mortal Kombat versions, the most story given is in the form of cut scenes shown upon defeating all opponents and the Dragon King. For more story and background, stick with the Konquest mode.

In addition to the arcade and Konquest modes, Mortal Kombat Deception also comes equipped with two additional mini games: Puzzle Kombat and Chess Kombat. Puzzle Kombat (I hate to do it, but I have to compare a game to another game), in my opinion, is the bizarre love child of Puzzle Fighter and Dr. Mario. Here is how it works: two items will drop (either colored blocks, colored circular bombs or a combination of the two) and you need to match colors in order to build up like colored columns or destroy them by dropping like colored bombs which will send additional blocks to your opponent?s puzzle. Each ?puzzle fighter? comes equipped with a special move that will make life difficult for your opponent (Scorpion can mix up the blocks taking away the opportunity to execute multi-block combos). Like the fighting game, you must win two out of three matches to move on, which tends to make the game so tedious that seeing the end doesn?t seem worth the time or effort.

Concerning Chess Kombat, don?t let the name deceive you. While the game?s structure is similar to chess, it plays much differently then what most of us are used to. Some of the main differences include the role of ?the sorcerer,? whom in addition to taking the role of the Bishop, the sorcerer can cast spells such as kill, hold, heal and resurrect (all of which can only be used once during a match). You can also set traps that will give players an edge if an opponent tries to capture your piece on a spot you have set a trap on. But perhaps the biggest difference between chess and Chess Kombat is what happens when you try to take an opponent?s piece. Should you be the taker or the taken, you will go into fight mode. Each piece has a predetermined starting amount of health and it can increase based on if you were the attacker and if you possess control of a power square. In theory, it is possible to take an attacking opponent?s piece if you are a good fighter. Traditional chess players may not like this variation on the game because it takes much of the strategy element out of the game. For people like me who could care less about strategy (and generally suck at chess) this levels the playing field between chess experts and beginner level players. Thanks Midway for making me look like a better chess player then I really am.

While these side games are fun, the main concern here is the fighting game itself. If you?ve ever played Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance, you?ve played Deception for the most part. This is an almost carbon copy with a few exceptions. Each fighter has two styles of fighting and a third style involving weapons as well as their own signature moves and fatalities. The main differences between Deception and Deadly Alliance include new characters and fighting arenas, but the biggest change is that almost every level is interactive and contains hazards that can mean instant death if thrown at them. Such instant death traps include grinders, crushers and spike pits.

Sure, these changes are cool and everything, and the addition of the mini games and Live play is fun, Deception still feels like a glorified expansion pack for Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance. Had Deadly Alliance been Live playable, Midway probably would have never released Deception as it is, at least not with a $49.99 price tag attached to it. It is to the point that if you put Deadly Alliance and Deception side-by-side, I probably would not be able to tell you which is which. Perhaps this isn?t a problem for hardcore MK fans, but I?ve come to expect more bang for my buck. This would be a much more attractive game with a $29.99 price tag?

?We interrupt this review of Mortal Kombat Deception to bring you this unscheduled rant!?

It is situations like this with Mortal Kombat Deception that I think there needs to be some sort of an agency established that each game company must submit their games to, as well as the price they would like to set. At that point, the agency representatives would rate the game and set the price for the game. Companies would hate it, but it?s not much of a choice when the only other option is shelving the game and never releasing it. Finally games would be priced fairly and only truly great game will be allowed to charge $49.99, and we the consumers would feel confident that a $49.99 game would be well worth the price. I would personally like to volunteer myself for the position of President and Supreme Commander of said agency. ALL HAIL ME!!!

?We now return to your regularly scheduled review already in progress.?

?by pressing every button at the same time continuously. Basically, if you?ve ever played a button meshing fighting game before, you should get the controls in not time. I will again add that this is almost a carbon copy of Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance, so if you?ve played Deadly Alliance, then you know all the important stuff.

Graphically speaking, the environments are very well done. One particular arena has glass floors that show cracks relative to how and where a fighter hits the floor, which eventually leads to fighters breaking through the floor and falling to the next level. Another location looks like its straight out of Club Med, but when the lightning crashes, paradise turns into something out of a mental patient?s nightmare (palm trees turn into giant snake creatures). Another fun detail of the paradise location is if you knock your opponent into a palm tree, a coconut will fall and hit the fighter on the head. Don?t worry gore fans, there is plenty of ultra violent and bloody fatalities to perform (you sick freaks) to satisfy your raging bloodlust.

Sounds like every other Mortal Kombat game. This is a franchise that never puts much effort into the soundtrack or sounds effects of the game. When Midway doesn?t directly recycle sounds and music from previous games, the new music sounds like it was composed on a WAV program in the span of about five minutes. If there was ever a game that needed some custom soundtracks, this is it. I?m not looking for the best sound ever in video game history. All I?m looking for is some effort, and it seems like Midway decided to cram for the test five minutes before the start as opposed to actually taking the time to prepare. For shame Midway, for shame.

Overall, Mortal Kombat Deception provides some great fun in the form of mini games like Chess Kombat and a game of Puzzle Kombat here or there. However, the main event fight game leaves much to be desired. While it is not a bad game by any means, it seems like Midway got lazy and used the introduction of online play as a reason to release a new $49.99 game. I can?t say for sure that this is a title for hardcore Mortal Kombat fans because I am one and feel really cheated. Perhaps I had too high of expectations when I wanted to see some faster control response and a tag team fighting option, but some changes aside from new locations and characters would be nice. About the only reason a player would want to play this title over and over again is to unlock all characters, see the different ending cut scenes and earn money to purchase hidden treasures (mostly concept art) just isn?t enough to hold my interest. Hopefully Midway got all the laziness out of their system before beginning on the next Mortal Kombat game for the new generation consoles.

From the Inside, Keep on Gaming!

Overall: 6.4 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 4.2 / 10


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