The Worst Games I've Ever Played: Mortal Kombat: Special Forces
If you follow my hubs, you know that Mortal Kombat is my all-time favorite fighting franchise. From the absurd violence, unique characters, and convoluted lore, it's one of the premier series for stupidly awesome fun. However, the series went through a dark period during the late 90's that saw a string of bad releases like the sub-par MK 4 and abysmal MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero. As disappointing as those two games were, they don't quite reach the stratospheric levels of suck Mortal Kombat: Special Forces
Before you do anything else with your life, you have to check out the intro cinematic for this game, which I've posted below. It's hysterical and I can only imagine how many people back in the day had the dreaded thought of "I've made a huge mistake" when they expected a hardcore MK experience and were instead greeted with this.
Incredible, right? So anyway, the story begins with Kano and his Black Dragon pals escaping from Arkham Asylum or something to probably try to take over the world, probably. Since everyone else is busy, it's up to Jax and his metallic arms of justice to pummel these obscure faces of evil. The first red flag is the protagonist. I like Jax enough, and he has his fans for sure, but were there really that many people clamoring for him to have his own game? Here are five characters that would have unquestionably been better choices: Scorpion, Liu Kang, Kitana, Raiden, and Goro. Before you laugh at that last one, sit back and imagine how sweet an action-style Goro adventure would be. Nothing at all happens outside of Jax systematically dismantling Kano's minions before gotcha-grabbing the one-eyed Aussie himself. Moving on.
An off-screen character named Gemini plays the Oracle to Jax's Batman by relaying important information as well (as flirtatious quips) via radio. She's hardly worth bringing up, honestly. Kano's crew of evildoers are the most interesting characters by a mile for how hilariously lame they are. Here's a quick roll call of this not-so-fantastic four.
No Face: An explosives expert who wears dynamite strapped to his chest and wields a flamethrowers. No Face also lacks semi-important features such as ears, a nose, and hair. A strange amalgamation of Metal Gear Solid 2's Fat Man, X-Men's Pyro, and Voldemort.
Tremor: The obligatory ninja character. This one is brown, probably because his specialty is being s**t. Actually, Tremor can cause earthquakes just by punching the ground. He's also, as the kids say, super swole.
Tasia: A deadly assassin chick. She sports Leonardo-esque dual katanas. That's really all I've got for possibly the blandest female MK character this side of Sareena.
Jarek: Unlike those other goobers, this loser first made his debut in the main series, MK 4 to be exact. I told you that game was rough. Anyway, he's Kano's right-hand man, wears a stupid vest accented by an even stupider soul patch.
Hoo boy. Special Forces is a craptacular attempt at a third-person action adventure game. You mainly go around punching the tar out of everyone that's not you, and engaging in fisticuffs is the key to victory. New combos can be unlocked, but they're a waste of time constantly hitting the quick-jab button (aka "X,X,X) will conquer EVERYTHING. Enemies drop like flies once they're locked in your flurry because enemy A.I. has evidently been programmed to "punching bag". This applies to bosses too. I toppled all of them by getting all up in their grill and spamming that same combination to humorous success.
If you grow tired of utilizing game-breaking melee assaults, Jax can also use firearms. Guns are powerful, but aiming is practically non-existent so it's a pain in the ass moss most of time They also like to give you guns without ammo, because screwing with players after they'd already been duped into purchasing this game is cool, I guess.
For a series filled with creative, memorable stages, Special Forces goes out of it's way to put players in the more boring locations possible. Jax mostly travels to boring industrial settings like factories, warehouses, and other nondescript buildings. The stages look like they were plucked out of an amateur game designer's level design portfolio.
Since this is a PS1 game, you're usually running around collecting keys and/or keycards to access areas. The levels are massive, featuring identical rooms and no map whatsoever, so good luck keeping track of your whereabouts. A particularly tedious temple area forces players to endure a long and complicated switch puzzle that has you running back and forth so much, I'm surprised Jax hadn't dug a trench with his footsteps. Oh yeah, you're only able save progress in between levels, so depleting your lives means starting that level from scratch and re-doing all that memorizing, collecting and puzzle-solving again.
The worst level is easily the final one, which takes place in Outworld. By the way, this isn't the desolate, terrifying wasteland Outworld is normally depicted as, but rather a weird labyrinth suspended in some kind of void. Walkways are narrow and lack railings making it quite easy to either walk off accidentally, or be pushed off by jerky enemies. Falling results in instant death, by the way. Outworld is also gigantic and the end can only be reached by entering scattered, far-off portals in the correct order. Between trying to explore every inch of the zone to find all the portals, figuring out which ones go where, and moving VERY SLOWLY to avoid slipping off the path, this took ages to get through. I doubt I need to explain why getting a Game Over here will make you want to set fire to a kitten orphanage.
This is the worst Mortal Kombat game of all time. The plot is pedestrian, the characters suck, the gameplay is atrocious, and the graphics are hideous even by 2000 standards. I wish I had more to say about it (not really, because that would mean more playtime) but it's so bare-bones that it feels like it was slapped together in a week with using previously unused assets. As bad as the Sub-Zero game was, at least that one had some imagination and effort put into it. After completing Special Forces, it's no wonder why series co-creator Ed Boon barely acknowledges its existence.
To read about another terrible game I suffered through, check out my feature on Bullet Witch.