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Mortal Kombat 4

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Reviewed by Raymond Almeda I have never been a fan of the Mortal Kombat series...until now. Just when it looked like the N64 might never get a truly killer fighting game, along comes this refreshing blast from the past. Mortal Kombat 4 is a heart- ripping, bone-breaking, skull-crushing fighting game in the tradition of great fighting games. It's a game that gets just about everything right. If you only own one fighting title for N64, make it Mortal Kombat 4. The memorable characters of Mortal Kombat 4 are those we have become familiar with over the years. Killer kombatants like Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Raiden, Scorpion, Goro, and Sub Zero once again make an appearance, this time in a beautiful polygon style. Overall there is an impressive variety of fifteen main characters from which to choose, each with unique moves and weapons. Animation is smooth and fluid. While not as detailed as with the characters of the inferior BIO Freaks, these classic personalities have set the standard for years, and they have never looked better or meaner than they do here. Remember the lame characters of the otherwise commendable Fighter's Destiny? I'd like to see how Bob from Brazil or Pierre the Clown would fare against the likes of Goro. Picture a French clown having his heart ripped from his chest (a rather pleasant thought, actually), and you get the idea. Mortal Kombat characters are interesting, at times even frightening, and that's one factor that makes this game such a success. And Mortal Kombat 4 pits its fighters against one another in equally memorable 3D environments. Naturally, each character has his or her own environment that reflects the relevant backstory. The level design is compelling, with many areas animated with disturbing visuals (chained prisoners, demonic faces, etc.). The context of Mortal Kombat 4 thus suits its excellent characters. Better yet, these environments possess assorted weapons that may be used in the heat of kombat. For example, it is sometimes possible to pick up and heave a large rock into the head of one's opponent. It's fun for the entire family! Also, each character has his or her own customized weapon. Scorpion, for example, can brandish a long sword and slash his opponents. And these weapons may be knocked from the hands of individual fighters, where they become anyone's to grab and wield. It's all a deliciously nasty pleasure that provides some frantic gameplay situations. Not only does Mortal Kombat 4 look great, it plays wonderfully. Despite the incredible visual effects, the gameplay is extremely fast and smooth. The framerate is always very high, the head-to-head action very intense. Mortal Kombat 4 thus accomplishes what past N64 fighters have failed to do: deliver gameplay along with the graphics. Of course, that gameplay is consistent with past entries in the MK series. MK is a fast-paced combination of frenetic hacking and slashing, punctuated by the occasional fatality. There have been few changes to the core 2D gameplay here. If you are a fan of Mortal Kombat, you will feel right at home. But if you are not a fan of MK, this game just might change your mind. And yes, every bit of the expected MK violence and gore is here. Nintendo censors have wisely allowed the whirling hands of hell to do their trademarked dirty work untouched. Fatalities are often uncomfortably gruesome to witness, and as Martha Stewart says, that's a very good thing. Mortal Kombat 4 utilizes new audio compression routines that pack loads of digital speech into the action. Virtually every significant speech present in the arcade title is present here. Speech isn't essential for a great fighting game, but it certainly does help create a killer atmosphere. Mortal Kombat 4 is a near-perfect translation of the popular arcade game. One of the best console fighters yet, Mortal Kombat 4 is the probably the best MK yet, and certainly the best N64 fighter. With the game retailing at an attractive reduced price point, N64 owners in search of a hot fighting title are encouraged to make this one a purchase.

Overall 9.25 out of 10

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