Publisher(s) – Midway
Designer(s) – Richard Ho, Carlos Pesina & Herman Sanchez
Producer(s) – John Walsh, Jonathan Murfey & Daniel Markham
ESRB – M
These days regarded s a failure of gigantic proportions, Mortal Kombat: Special Forces was one of the first attempts from the creators of the series to create a number of spin-offs concerning individual characters; another being Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. The game was created by John Tobias, but he left Midway before it was complete, and thus was rushed out to retail largely unfinished; causing the co-creator of the series Ed Boon to resent the game greatly, and publicly disavow himself of any involvement with it. Looking back at it, it’s no surprise that it wasn’t a great commercial success and that Boon despises it to the extent that he does.
Graphics – 5/10
The game wasn’t even finished when it was released to the public, and as such, it is rife with glitches. Even though it may have been fairly advanced in terms of graphics at the time, it counted for much less than it did for other games, since it is largely unpolished. On top of that, I think the conceptual design is particularly weak; especially taking into account that it takes place within the Mortal Kombat universe. Indeed, it has come as quite a surprise that Boon has allowed the inclusion of the brown ninja Tremor as a future DLC for the latest Mortal Kombat game.
Gameplay – 5/10
Special Forces lays out considerably less like a traditional fighting game, like most titles in the series, and something much more akin to Streets of Rage, only with a small, and for the most part significant, RPG element. Indeed, it’s even possible to kill the last boss, Kano, by simply shooting him with a machine gun until he dies, as opposed to fighting him head-on, as was most probably intended. Aside from that, the style of combat also remains very much unrefined and seems like yet another aspect of the game that was rushed.
Controls – 8/10
The best thing I can say about this game, and a way in which it is actually better than many other early PlayStation titles, is that the control scheme is nowhere near as unnecessarily complicated since movement is a lot easier to get to grips with; despite the initial absence of an analog stick for use in a 3D game. It misses out on a perfect score, however, since the combat mechanics are particularly weak.
Lifespan – 4/10
Aside from the game having pretty poor gameplay, the experience can lonely be made to last just over 2 hours, which not long before that, seemed like the norm, but at that time, felt like pretty much nothing, since developers had proven that games made in the same vein could be made to last unanimously longer. I can’t help but feel that if the developers had made the RPG element in the game count for more than what it did, which perhaps may have been part of John Tobias’ original plans before he left Midway, then the game could have been made to last considerably longer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
Storyline – 4/10
The story of Mortal Kombat: Special Forces follows the long-time character, Jax, as he fights to take down the criminal gang, the Black Dragon, led by Kano, along with henchmen such as Jarek and Tremor. It speaks of almost every action film of either the eighties or the early nineties and has next to no originality about it. Aside from that, not only is there some incredibly bad voice acting, but there is also an inconsistency with the whole Mortal Kombat mythos since Special Forces were meant to be the first game chronologically, yet Jax has metal arms, whereas he didn’t have them in Mortal Kombat II, and was first seen to have them in Mortal Kombat III. The whole affair has even compelled Ed Boon to also consider the game non-canonical to the rest of the series.
In every other aspect of this game, as well as the story there is hardly anything original about it. The only thing I can commend the developers for is their willingness to try something different with what at that point was considered to be one of the be-all and end-all of fighting game series, but unfortunately, it ended up backfiring on them severely and came off as nothing but a watered-down attempt at a 3D Streets of Rage.
In summation, Mortal Kombat: Special Forces has earned its rightful place in video gaming obscurity, and is a title worthy of no amount of money from any gamer’s pockets. It is largely considered to be a major catalyst behind the dissolving of the relationship between the two Mortal Kombat creators, and since the series has since regained much of its former popularity since then, this game definitely put it at its lowest ebb.