Midway's bloody Mortal Kombat series has returned after a long hibernation with the surprisingly good Deadly Alliance. This is the first game for the current generation of game systems, and takes good advantage of their processing abilities. Deadly Alliance takes place as the Earth realm is enjoying a relative peace. This all changes when two evil characters, Shang Tsung and Quan-Chi join forces in a bid to over-take the Outworld Realm. They kill the emperor and then set their sites on Earth and announce their plans in brutal fashion. Seeing this threat emerge, the Sorceror Raiden calls together a group of Earth's warriors to fight this new threat. Long-time fans of the series will be happy to know that many Kombat series favorites such as Johnny Cage, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, have returned along with some new characters. However, one character in the series dies in the opening sequence.
MK: Deadly Alliance features a complex fighting system with dozens of moves, huge chains and of course, the infamous Fatalites. There are three different fighting styles for each fighter in the game that you can toggle during each round. Each character in the game has a unique set of styles, and they're mostly divided into two martial-arts fighting styles and one mode used when the weapons are equipped. The many fighting styles give the game a lot of depth, and players should be able to find a character who's style will suit them well. In addition, each player has an array of devastating special moves plus the expected finishing moves that they can use to kill opponents. Most of the older characters have updated versions of the signature moves, so you can freeze opponents as Sub-Zero or use Scorpion's hook to grab opponents, which gives the game a strong link to its ancestors. In addition to these standard moves, MK4's weapon system is much more elaborate. The weapons are integrated more fully into MK's traditional fighting system, making them more useful and intuitive. You no longer have to pick up weapons since they're automatically equipped and you have a lot more flexibility when you use them. This expanded weapons system adds a new dimension to the gameplay. Since each character has a unique weapon to use, it makes the game one of the best weapons-based fighters to date. The gameplay mechanics are much simpler than they were in the older games and the move lists are more logical and intuitive than they were previously. It helps a lot that Deadly Alliance is the first title with fully 3D arenas. Instead of taking place in a 2D fighting plain, you can now dodge attacks on the fly. This gives Deadly Alliance a much better flow than previous games making for a much more satisfying experience that's equal to the best of the current generation of fighters.
Deadly Alliance features several different modes of play. All of the standard modes, including practice, arcade and versus (where two players battle head to head) are included and all are fine if you're just looking for a quick battle. However, Deadly Alliance includes an entirely new mode that extends the game's longevity that comes in the form of a new Konquest Mode. This is incredibly deep and challenging. You start by creating a player profile to use throughout the quest. In this mode, you have to win a number of different challenges including standard battles, "blood missions" which are special move challenges, endurance matches, and mini-tournaments to go through. In addition, there are some cool mini-games that will test your wits and even some boss battles. Each time you successfully complete one, you earn Kurrency that you can use in the Krypt to unlock special items such as extra characters, costumes and arenas. There are dozens of these missions in the game, and it will probably take you quite awhile to get through all of them, though this is the only way to unlock items. This mode is incredibly deep and challenging. Its inclusion is most likely because Deadly Alliance has been specifically developed for home use while the older games had their roots in the arcade. This means that the extra modes seem to fit in better, though the gameplay stays true to its arcade roots with frenetic, intense battles.
With so many moves at your disposal, it is very important that the controls be intuitive and responsive. Midway has done an excellent job, and the fighters move and fight smoothly with little lag time.. Deadly Alliance uses the Gamecube's D-pad effectively, making the game a pure joy to play. It's easy to understand why this was done though using the analog sticks for 3D movements would have been cool. While the buttons are oddly shaped, Midway has done an excellent job of mapping commands to the controller's face that makes performing the complex moves simple. Navigating the menus is actually important, but the interface here is very easy to learn, making it easy to change options and modes.
Graphically, Deadly Alliance retains the dark feel of the previous games. Deadly Alliance's apocalyptic environments are enhanced with brilliant special effects, impressive lighting, and spectacular weather effects such as rain and wind adding to the game's fantastic sense of realism. While this MK is a bit less gritty than the previous games, the smoother appearance looks fantastic on the Gamecube. Deadly Alliance's smooth character animations are impressive and much more detailed than they were in the last MK game with improved movement and more detailed character models. Each character looks amazing, especially in close ups where you can see the vast improvements in facial animation and bone structure. Players will enjoy seeing the revised looks of some of the older combatants, and the new characters fit in with the older ones well. The game moves at a fast frame-rate throughout which allows for some intense battles. As usual, the game is incredibly bloody, and a lot of red liquid spills during the course of each match. One cool thing about this is that the blood spilled from previous rounds stays on the floor during subsequent rounds, gradually becoming darker as it dries. The game's production values are outstanding, making this by far the best-looking MK to date, and one of the better-looking fighters on any system to date.
Therefore, while many players probably discounted the game immediately, this is actually a solid fighting title. While it's cool to see the old fighters come back to life in glorious 3D, the new Konquest mode is what will keep you hooked. The vastly improved weapons-based gameplay gives it a lot more depth than previous home versions. The interface and controls are tight and responsive, giving MK: Deadly Alliance a smooth feel that's easy to get into. The game's trademark Fatalities also make a return appearance, which is cool as well. While there are some minor blemishes, this solidly produced title offers some very intense action. All of these elements come together nicely in a polished title that's fun and challenging. While the series' reputation isn't as golden as it once was, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance should go a long way in restoring the franchise's luster.