The new Mortal Kombat does a lot to try to get back the series' famous edge. It evokes memories of days when our parents would look on disapprovingly as we ripped off our opponents' heads, tore out their hearts, and stole their souls. In this newest installment, the Fatalities are bloody, the new X-ray Attacks offer some cringe-worthy bone snapping, and the boobs…well, the boobs are huge. But none of these things make Mortal Kombat the massive success it is. The overwhelming amount of play modes does.
Let's compare Mortal Kombat to Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (MvC3), 2011's other, big fighting game. The single-player options in MvC3 include the standard Arcade and Training Modes plus Mission Mode, a glorified tutorial that helps people learn each character's moves and combos. Essentially, MvC3's solo modes are only there to help combatants train for multiplayer battles.
In Mortal Kombat, however, the single-player options offer enough content to compete with the multiplayer offerings. Story Mode is impressive for its sheer scope. It'll take as long to complete as the campaign of most shooters, with fully voice-acted cut-scenes taking you from one battle to the next. Are they corny as hell? Sure, but that doesn't take away from the rare joy of actually engaging in such a richly developed adventure, which offers a much more interesting way to learn the complexities of most characters than running them through a bland Arcade Mode. Even Soul Calibur, a series known for its extensive solo campaigns, can't compete with the production values here.
It's OK, Ivy. At least your breasts are still ridiculously huge.
Separate from the Story Mode is the Challenge Tower, which offers hundreds of battles, each with their own unique conditions for victory. This is the game's secondary single-player mode, and it's still far more interesting than any of the options in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or Super Street Fighter 4.
I'm sure people will argue that the competitive modes are the meat of any fighter. They may contend that Mortal Kombat isn't as finely balanced as Capcom's fighters or that it will never thrive in the tournament scene. You know what? I don't care. The tournament scene doesn't concern me. Frankly, it doesn't concern 99 percent of the people who buy these games. My life also doesn't center on keeping my win/loss ratio above 50 percent. I just want enough content to justify a 60 dollar purchase.
Honestly, Mortal Kombat is making a lot of other fighting games look lazy. Why couldn't Marvel vs. Capcom 3 have a Story Mode? Imagine how much fun it would be to see those characters interact with each other and how epic a tale Capcom could have told. Instead, MvC3's "story" mostly consists of still pictures with short subtitles. Street Fighter 4's poorly animated sequences that bookend each run through its Arcade Mode aren't much better. It's cheap fan service screaming at you to move along and just start competing online already.
That's about the entire story you get in Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
Capcom could really learn the value of single-player content from Mortal Kombat. I haven't tried a match online (well, I have the PS3 version, so I technically can't go online), but I already feel like I've gotten more than my money's worth. Mortal Kombat has come from being a fighter mostly known for its violent novelties to one of the richest and deepest entries the genre has ever seen. It has not only set the bar high for itself but for all of its contemporaries.