This new version of Mortal Kombat has been billed as a franchise reboot, a return to the days when it ruled the arcades. And it's entertaining in short bursts, particularly if you're competing with friends in the same room.
Online, the King of the Hill mode recreates the arcade experience in which the winner faces contenders who have stacked quarters (figuratively speaking) on the machine, but it's easy enough to find a quick match if you just have a few minutes to kill.
And "kill" is the operative word, with the series' notorious "fatalities" making a flamboyantly gory return. The graphic mayhem makes mixed martial arts look like tickle fighting.
Beyond one-on-one and tag-team matches, Mortal Kombat offers a surprising amount of solo action. The main event is an eight-hour campaign that recasts the events of the first three MK games of the 1990s, and the story is too preposterous to interest anyone but die-hard fans. It does introduce you to the fighting styles of most of the game's 20-plus combatants, but their battles are separated by stiffly animated, awkwardly written cut scenes. These non-interactive sequences will try most players' patience and, unforgivably, they can't be skipped.
Between the different modes, Mortal Kombat offers an awful lot of content for fighting-game fans. It reminded us, however, of one of those restaurants that serves huge portions of lousy food. -- AP
RATING M for Mature
PLOT A slugfest
DETAILS Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $60
BOTTOM LINE As brain-dead as ever