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Mortal Kombat Deception

Ancient Chinese thinking dictates that where there is yin, there's yang. Light and dark, good and evil - a balance. So back in the early '90s, when Streetfighter 2 ruled the cutting-edge podium of 2D fighters, a balance was needed. Enter Mortal Kombat - a 2D scrapper that incorporated great visuals, sinister characters and buckets of gore. Rather than balance the Chi, Mortal Kombat blew the competition clear out of the water.

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (Issue 13, 7.8) introduced new characters and fighting styles to a relatively Kombat-starved Xbox audience. Deception picks up the blood-soaked baton and continues the series in fine fashion, and beats its little brother into submission with the addition of several great new features. We join the story where Deadly Alliance left off - Raiden is defeated, Shang Tseung and Quan Chi have turned on each other, and Onaga, fearsome Dragon King of the Outworld, has returned to claim power. In short, bad news all round.

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At the heart of the title is the classic Kombat mode. Here you fight various opponents, new and old, on your way to facing off with Onaga, who's filling in as the Goro-esque embodiment of evil. The game engine is buffer than ever, with movement faster and smoother than in Alliance. Controls feel more responsive too, resulting in easier, quicker combos. Also, the analogue stick can now be used during combat, which translates into a much more intuitive, less stilted experience. There's a definite graphical improvement over Alliance too - the characters look crisper and move smoother.

The great interaction of combat styles returns, with each character boasting two hand-to-hand methods and a proficiency in one weapons-based discipline. Each style has more distinct advantages than ever, and this plays a huge strategical role in defeating opponents. A quick pull of the Left trigger lets you switch styles. It's immensely satisfying to execute style-branching combos, where kicks and punches are mixed with swipes and slashes in one fatal flurry. These aren't unstoppable however, because Deception is more weighted to defensive play than other MK games, thanks to the great new combo Breakers (see Breaker Breaker, page 083).

All of these elements combine to produce a much more thoughtful and tactical Mortal match-up than ever before and really go some way to making this one of the most complete scrappers yet. Giving blood may be an honourable activity, but this series has always loved taunting the peace-loving hand-holders, and these fighters could fill an entire hospital's blood quota in one go, letting more claret than a Victorian leech.

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The AI opponents are yet again wise to players who simply perform one or two moves and repeat them to death, so it's vital to learn as many different combos as possible. This'll also stand you in good stead for multiplayer, which is obviously where the action's at in Deception. Brilliantly, Midway has seen fit to include Live play this time round. We'll be reviewing the online side of the game in a future issue, but if it's anything like the normal Versus game, we can expect smooth, responsive bloodletting of the highest calibre.

Another much-trumpeted feature of Deception is Konquest mode. Essentially a massively expanded training mode, players assume the role of a young Shujinko. We follow his quest to retrieve the six kamidogu from the Chaos, Nether, Earth and Outer Realms for the Elder Gods, unwittingly freeing Onaga on the way. Along his travels Shujinko encounters other fighters, who'll either challenge you to fight or train you in their speciality martial arts. Old favourites like Sub Zero, Scorpion, Ermac and Bakara line up with new guys like Kenshi to tutor you their every combo and special move, to then take into Arcade mode and kick serious ass.

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