Mortal Kombat Vita Lowers the Bar for Visuals

It’s been years, maybe decades, since the visual non-appeal of a game has actually impeded my enjoyment. I can readily recall Independence Day on the Saturn being rendered nigh unplayable for its issues, but I can see charm in botched digitized sprites or wonky character designs. But Mortal Kombat on the Vita? Ugh.

I’m not sure what happened here. Maybe it’s a struggle with new hardware. That could be why Mortal Kombat’s graphics are such a barrier to entry, expecting a bit of flash from freshly purchased consoles not uncommon. Oh, and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and BlazBlue look phenomenal on that small screen.

I’ll credit Mortal Kombat for not cutting many corners. Stages in Warner’s reboot expand the franchise and its universe with lurid, graphic action behind the fight as often as the fight itself. MvC3 conceded defeat and cut all background ties, but kept the essence sans animation. Mortal Kombat pays for that completeness, smudging its characters to the point that models are not covered by textures so much as they are smeared by a lingering N64 video processor. It’s worse when you consider the story cinematics are populated with models culled from the console games. Oh, and those are downsampled with drastic, lingering horizontal artifacts, so no, they’re not perfect either.

Crucial is the frame rate, locked at a stable 60fps unless the X-ray moves come into play. There’s a dip when those are exited. What seems like an unnecessary hurdle is the resolution, MK like MvC3 running native, but for MK, it’s wholly lost because of the textures. A trade-off in resolution would have been greatly preferred for some texturing. Short of the razor sharp backgrounds, the boost is imperceptible. Fight close-ups to intro the combatants are embarrassingly culled from an era where Mortal Kombat 4 was struggling to impress. The models and their flimsy polygon counts feel as if they’re about to collapse Lego-style.

There is a great product here; I wouldn’t discourage a fan from picking it up, less one who grew up with say the Game Boy edition. We’ve come a long way. The seemingly endless level of content, from new challenge levels to included DLC characters and more consumer friendly attitude (no online pass) make it a great end user experience…

… it just looks unimaginably awful.