I was surprised to find that half of PC Gamer have encyclopaedic knowledge of Mortal Kombat's backstory. “Skarlet was originally a glitch!” Chris said as I played the ludicrously bloody beat-'em-up.
“Do you know how Ermac got his name?” esteemed production editor Tony asked, as Ermac himself summoned 20 green wisps and used them to cut a quarter off my health bar. It's an abbreviated reference to error macros, apparently.
I was surprised because Mortal Kombat's backstory is so shit. It's cheap, tawdry and exploitative, in a world where spines are ripped out regularly and all women are courtmandated to have 75% of their breast skin on display at all times. This Komplete Edition has a story mode that spans the plots of the first three games, told between bouts in weirdly compressed cutscenes, the grainy video of which betray the Kollection's console roots: it came out on 360 and PS3 in 2011. This version is that one plus the DLC released later.
There's a lot of it, at least. The story mode feels like it goes on for a thousand years, as a sackload of MK characters earn appearances, and with them, the opportunity to spout something wincingly earnest before receiving a horrible injury. It's the excuse for a revolving door of both opponents and player characters: you switch your fighter as the story progresses, giving you playtime with 16 of the game's 30-plus roster.
It's a neat way of acclimatising to a range of combat styles. Many of the characters look like reskinned versions of each other – Scorpion is a yellow masked ninja to Sub Zero's blue masked ninja – but you'll spot an appreciable difference to their fights. Scorpion can whizz off-screen and bash an opponent's blindside, but time it wrong and you'll be left spinning in the air, an easy target for the series' trademark uppercut. Smoke's got a similar move, but he hits both faster and softer, making it less of a problem if you're blocked.
The blocks are on a dedicated button, the combos and special moves easily dialled-in, making MK a game about timing over dexterity, and one that adapts well to newcomers. A problem though: there's no one playing it. I couldn't find ranked match opponents at any hour of the day I tried, forcing me to duck into player matches, or lobbies with about 20 fighters, tops.
I can understand why no one's playing. Mortal Kombat's nasty tone and preposterously be-boobed characters were enough to put me off sinking time into really learning a character. Even if you can punch through that discomfort, it's not as balanced or nuanced as PC-punching-king Street Fighter IV.
MK's developers NetherRealm have released another fighting game – Injustice: Gods Among Us – in the years since MK's console launch, blessed with a less alienating setting and a combat system better loved by the fighting community. Wait for that, due on PC later this year.