*Review based on the Nintendo 64 version*
Mortal Kombat was all the rage during the 1990s. Essentially a far more violent alternative to Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat garnered serious attention for its violent content. It fascinated gamers, upset paranoid parents, and caused quite a stir back in the day. Though amid all the attention the series received, it often went unnoticed back in the day how inconsistent the actual games were in terms of quality. While some of the Mortal Kombat titles hold up as fun fighters, others aren’t quite so enjoyable. Unfortunately for Mortal Kombat 4, it falls into the latter category.
The big addition to Mortal Kombat 4 were the 3D graphics. The first three Mortal Kombat titles were partly remembered for their pre-rendered visuals, which used digital models of live-action actors. Those visuals haven’t exactly aged well, but they do still stand out among games from the time. The same cannot be said for the graphics of Mortal Kombat 4, which not only look dated, but downright ugly. The ridiculously blocky polygonal characters certainly show that this game was made in 1997, and look more prototypical than the visuals of the first three games.
Of course, graphics can be forgiven, especially when one considers not only the game’s age, but that the particular generation it was released in was treading new territory, so things were bound to look a bit experimental. Less forgivable is the gameplay, which feels slow and stiff compared to many other entries in the series.
Though Mortal Kombat 4 still provides the combos and violent fatalities that fans of the series had grown to love – which can lead to small bursts of fun when playing with friends – the overall feeling of control just feels like it lags behind what its predecessors achieved.
Truth be told, Mortal Kombat was never as intricate and sophisticated as Street Fighter, with Kombat often taking cheap shortcuts with its characters and movesets. It’s no secret that the series’ two most beloved characters, Scorpion and Sub-Zero, are just palette swaps of each other, and many of the characters have always boasted similar fighting styles. That’s still prevalent here, with many of the characters’ basic attacks looking eerily familiar to one another. Though Mortal Kombat 4 does have a couple of gameplay tricks up its sleeve.
Perhaps the most obvious additions in terms of the actual gameplay are the inclusions of weapons. During battle, characters can whip out a signature weapon, which changes up their fighting style. On the downside, these weapons are incredibly easy to have knocked out of your hand, and you can’t pick them back up until the next round. So whatever newness they bring to the table is pretty short-lived.
There are also two-on-two battles introduced this time around, with can be applied to not only versus modes, but also allows two players to tackle the story mode together, which is a nice touch. A tournament mode is also featured, giving the game a decent touch of variety.
Of course, this all only helps so much when the aforementioned gameplay feels kind of bland. The slower movements and stiffer controls don’t exactly ensure long play sessions, so this is one of the Mortal Kombat titles that fans of the series may play more for laughs and novelty than to experience a deeper Mortal Kombat game.
There also seems to be a bit of an inconsistency with the AI, with the difficulty seemingly fluctuating between fights. You could be playing on any difficulty setting on the story mode and the fights will go from being a cakewalk to pretty darn challenging and back again. This fluctuating difficulty even applies to singular fights, as you can lose a fight and then come back from a game over and win that same fight without any trouble.
If you manage to overcome all of your opponents in story mode, players are “treated” to different endings with each character. These endings fall under the category of being so bad they’re good, and help contribute to the game’s more ironic appeal when compared to other Mortal Kombat titles.
Mortal Kombat 4 may have been a decent jump to 3D for the series back in the day, but it would be a lie to say it’s aged very gracefully. It may provide a little bit of fun with a friend, though perhaps not for the right reasons. At any rate, it is at least better than Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, which was released the same year. So that’s something.