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Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3

Finding myself reminiscent of those button-mashing days on my Sega Genesis, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 by Midway was the perfect remedy for my nostalgic feelings. Midway has transposed their arcade hit for consumption on Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360. The presentation seems wholly identical to the older version as the menu structure and the tournament setup appears identical. The only thing I seem to be missing is a coin slot on my 360 for continues.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Mortal Kombat is a bloody fighting game that spawned countless sequels on various consoles and a couple major motion pictures. The game is geared around quick response time, reactionary defensive moves, and ultimately annihilating your opponent with horrific death sequences. Players have the ability to punch, kick, jump, grab, block, sprint and perform special power moves from a distance.

The core gameplay remains untouched for the re-release. Single player is divided into climbing the opponent ladder of four levels of CPU difficulty and tournament elimination play. The latter can also be played in two player offline multiplayer as well as the 2 on 2 Versus mode. The Versus mode allows for two players to each select a duo of fighters for a little tag team action. Eight player tournaments can also be setup for two players with each player taking 4 characters.

When beating up on CPU opponents gets old, players can turn to the Ranked and Player matches in Xbox Live multiplayer. Similar to the single player game modes, players can join up into teams for Versus mode. Lag is fairly nonexistent when accepting others with solid connections. Unscrupulous players will drop on you, but the match is still recorded as a win for you in ranked play. The matching system works very rapidly and players can jump into a multiplayer match within seconds.

Midway included a few options and help guides for your perusal. Blood effects can be turned off for younger players. Vibration effects can also be removed. There is a page outlining the default control scheme, which cannot be changed. Also, there is a brief three page help section which gives a slight overview of the gameplay. I would have liked to see more strategy hints in that section, but those can be found online easily.

The achievements are broken into 12 tasks for a total of 200 gamerscore points. Roughly, the points are split 60% / 40% for single player / multiplayer tasks. The majority of the points require a good memory of button combos when it comes to defeating the CPU or an Xbox Live user. The difficulty isn't overly tough for a competent player, but they will take a sizeable chunk of time to complete. For instance, winning 100 Xbox Live matches for that last 30 points will take many hours of play time. Overall, the achievements provide a respectable amount of challenge and certainly add to the replay value.

Visually, this is far from the best looking arcade title on Live Arcade. The ancient blocky pixels and the limited color scheme give UMK3 a dated appearance that doesn't look any better in high definition. The animations are just as dated and seem jerky in comparison to recent titles. On the positive side, Midway did provide horizontal and vertical screen adjustments within the pause menu for your preference. Unfortunately, stretching the screen to the maximum for a high def TV makes the title look much worse. The minimal screen size provides the greatest graphical quality. Finally, the frame rate stays rock solid regardless of the number of characters or effects on the screen.

All of the classic sound effects are bolstered in place for your auditory enjoyment. Combo hits, special moves, and those bloody fatalities all sound just as visceral as they did years ago. As far as music is concerned, the game has a sparse amount of background tunes. The menu is eerily silent and could have used one of the old school Mortal Kombat intro tunes on the giant arcade machines.

Unlike most of the other Midway Live Arcade releases, the lack of visual upgrades doesn't necessarily harm the quality of the title due to the complexity of the control system, the replay value added by the achievements, and the addictive nature of beating a Live opponent. The 800 marketplace point cost is adequately priced and certainly in line with its Arcade fighter counterpart, Street Fighter II. I can easily recommend this title to anyone who has a love for the series or for those looking for a tough achievement challenge.