Mortal Kombat 4

STORY:  Thousands of years ago, during a war with the corrupt Elder God known as Shinnok, Raiden was responsible for the death of an entire civilization. To avoid a repeat of this event, as well as to protect all realms from Shinnok's threat, Raiden waged a brutal campaign and, at a heavy price, exiled his rival to a dark place known as the Netherealm.

Mortal Kombat goes 3D for the first time ever.

The Mortal Kombat series hadn't changed much over the course of four installments, all of which used the same style of 2D digitized graphics. The overall graphics style of the Mortal Kombat series was indeed starting to look a bit "aged," especially since many other fighting games of the time were using fully 3D graphics (including one of MK's main rivals, Street Fighter). Thus, the first 3D incarnation of the series, Mortal Kombat 4, was the "makeover" that many fans were demanding. However, like the other 2D fighting game franchises that "went 3D" in the mid-late 90's, the translation from 2D to 3D certainly wasn't perfect.

Frantic gameplay with weapons and plenty of jank.

Mortal Kombat 4 plays very much like its 2D predecessors, even though to an untrained eye it might look like a fully 3D fighting game. Fighting still remains on a 2D plane, and overall, not a whole lot has changed about the core gameplay mechanics. The most notable and innovative gameplay enhancement of MK4 is the ability for each character to draw a weapon.

Weapons are unique to each fighter, and every character has several respective weapon attacks that they can perform. If a fighter is hit with a weapon drawn, they immediately drop their weapon to the floor. Afterwards, the weapon can be picked up again by either player. Weapons and other background items could also be thrown at opponents, doing major damage on contact. The weapon system wasn't very deep, but definitely added a fun and "flashy" element to MK's trademark gameplay system.

In addition to weapon combat, MK4 introduced "Throw Breaks" that somewhat remedied Mortal Kombat's "semi-cheap" throwing system. The combo system is still based on MK3's sequenced button presses; however, most of the combos didn't connect for more than three or four hits. A variety of air juggle possibilities also opened up after certain chain combos.

Mortal Kombat 4 gameplay on PlayStation 1.

presents solid visuals overall. While the fully rendered character models have some noticeable jaggy edges, the classic fighters appear very sharp on screen (especially in the arcade version). It was a treat to finally see the iconic MK characters step out of the "lazy" digitized graphics and into the next dimension. Some of the classic MK character moves looked solid in 3D, however, there were a considerable amount of awkward & laughable animations as well. Many of the fighting stances and special moves just didn't have the same impact or ooomph... and definitely lost some of their "charm" from the 2D to 3D translation. In some cases, the new computer generated 3D animations just didn't live up to the originals... but on the bright side, at least the animations this time were "new".

Raiden with the random powerbomb? Cool.

Overall, MK4's combo system and gameplay was pretty entertaining for a while, but just didn't have as much depth or lasting appeal as other 2D & 3D fighters of the time. The character roster was also on the small side, as Midway once again wiped the slate clean and introduced new characters while leaving out many of the beloved classics. The character selection is a mixed bag in MK4... I'm sure some fans absolutely hated the new characters, but no doubt Quan Chi & Shinnok were convincing new bad guys, fitting into the roster very well.

The music and sound of Mortal Kombat 4 is pretty much what you'd expect, with "grim-sounding" and "moody" music tracks. The laughably unintelligible "gibberish" spoken by MK4's fighters during special moves also returns and sounds sillier than ever. Like previous installments, MK4 certainly didn't have the best soundtrack or most pleasing sound effects in the fighting game realm... but it was nonetheless entertaining and, in retrospect, pretty memorable.





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Page Updated: April 25th, 2024
Developer(s): Midway
Publisher(s): Midway
Designer(s): Ed Boon
Platform(s): Arcade, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, PC
Release Date(s): Oct. 15th, 1997         Arcade
June 23rd, 1998
June 24th, 1998
July 31st, 1998
Sep. 9th, 1999            Dreamcast - as MK: Gold
Characters Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Liu Kang, Jax Briggs, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Reiko, Jarek, Kai, Raiden, Tanya, Quan Chi, Fujin, Shinnok, Reptile, Meat, Goro, Noob Saibot

mk4-title.jpg (84582 bytes)mk4-ladder.jpg (71813 bytes)mk4-s3.jpg (52192 bytes)mk4-s4.jpg (27710 bytes)mk4-s2.jpg (69140 bytes)

Featured Video:

Related Games: Mortal Kombat Gold, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat 3 Ultimate, MK: Deadly Alliance, MK: Deception, MK: Armageddon, MK Trilogy, Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe, Mortal Kombat 9, Mortal Kombat X, Mortal Kombat 11, Mortal Kombat 1, Mace: The Dark Age, Soul Blade, Soul Calibur, Rival Schools, Bloody Roar, Street Fighter EX, Street Fighter III: New Generation, Tekken 3

Gameplay Engine  7.0 / 10
Story / Theme  7.0 / 10
Overall Graphics  8.0 / 10
Animation  6.5 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  6.5 / 10
Innovation  7.0 / 10
Art Direction  6.5 / 10
Customization  5.0 / 10
Options / Extras  5.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  5.0 / 10
Replayability / Fun  6.5 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  8.0 / 10
Characters  7.5 / 10

 7.0 / 10

 Review based on Arcade version     


Final Words: Overlooking a few gameplay quirks, Mortal Kombat 4 was a halfway decent sequel, enjoyable for casual and hardcore MK fans alike. What MK4 did right was that it stuck to its 2D roots, but some of its charm was lost in the translation to 3D graphics. The MK team at Midway were obviously "newbs" to the 3D thing, while other fighting game franchises were really starting to flesh out their 3D animation quality.

As a "2D" fighting game, MK4 also had some tough competition in 1997-1998, and certainly wasn't the deepest one out there. In September 1999, a sequel to MK4 (Mortal Kombat Gold) was released as a launch title for the Sega Dreamcast.

~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen
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