Sometimes, life is about the simple pleasures. The contented cooing of a sleepy puppy. The smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls. The sickening crunch of Scorpion stomping your rib cage while an X-ray view displays the internal damage in real time. In 3D.
Yes, friends. I have played the Mortal Kombat PSN demo, and it is good. Comprised of four characters and two stages, the demo is a meaty preview of what to expect when the full game hits PS3 on April 19th (April 21st in the EU). PlayStation Plus subscribers are getting early access this coming Tuesday, March 8th (March 9th in the EU) and it’ll be delivered directly to your PS3 as long as you enable Automatic Downloads in your XMB settings. All other PSN users will be able to download the demo on Tuesday, March 15th.
The demo comes with four playable fighters: Johnny Cage, Mileena, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero. Fan-favorite Scorpion is nastier than ever, packing his trademark throwing spear (“Get over here!”) and a wicked new sword, while rival ninja Sub-Zero forges weapons from ice and shatters internal organs with a touch. Hollywood prima donna Johnny Cage hits below the belt, and sai-wielding mutant assassin Mileena makes no effort to hide her gleaming five-inch fangs. You’ll also get two environments: The Living Forest and The Pit, complete with its gruesome stage fatality.
Mortal Kombat’s stereoscopic 3D viewing mode is exclusive to the PS3, and I was lucky enough to try it on a massive 60’’ 3D Sony Bravia. Stereoscopic 3D lends an impressive sense of grandeur and scope — the environments seem to stretch on into infinity but don’t distract from the fighting. “We didn’t want 3D to change the basic mechanics or complicate things needlessly,” Mortal Kombat creative director and series co-creator Ed Boon told me. “Our 3D implementation makes the characters pop from the background a little more, and helps you focus on them.” By rendering the fighters in 2D for its stereoscopic 3D mode, Mortal Kombat’s action remains visible even if you’re not wearing 3D glasses. This is a handy detail if you’re playing with a group on a 3D TV and find yourself short of 3D glasses — everyone will be able to play and watch whether they wear 3D glasses or not. If you’re not wearing glasses, the 3D backgrounds will look a bit blurry but the characters will appear crisp and clean.
Gameplay-wise, the Mortal Kombat demo is loaded with special attacks, combos, juggles, and ultra-powerful X-ray attacks that will leave your opponents reeling (and your stomach heaving). The action is fast and satisfying, with a 2D, side-scrolling feel that’s much closer in spirit to MKII or MK3. A standout example lies in the glorious return of the turn-around kick, which is a powerful juggle combo starter where you jump over an opponent and kick after you clear his shoulder. Judging by my hands-on time, turn-around kicks — a staple of the classic games but downplayed in later entries — are back in full force. According to Boon, this is by design. “We know turn-around kicks are an essential ingredient this time,” Boon told me. With a little practice, I was able to easily perform my signature Scorpion combo from Mortal Kombat II: Turn-around jump kick, teleport punch, spear throw followed by an uppercut or combo for an easy 25-30% damage. Not bad, but I’m sure some of you can do much better!
The Mortal Kombat demo supports two modes: One-on-one Versus battles (the final game supports two-on-two tag battles as well), and a short single-player Ladder mode. Protip: Completing that Ladder mode in the PSN demo unlocks a jaw-dropping video montage of the final game, complete with glimpses of new fatalities, returning characters, and impressive new stages. I won’t spill any secrets, but consider that video to be required viewing.
Oh, and one more thing: The “Toasty” guy is back. I’ve seen him! Have any questions about the features or feel of the upcoming PS3 Mortal Kombat demo? I’ll be delighted to provide further information, just ask away in the comments.