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Make it a (Virtual) Reality: Mortal Kombat

This week marks the return of Mortal Kombat, a videogame series that regularly rewrites the rulebook on bloodshed. Is it wrong to dream about a virtual reality (VR) adaption of the series? Quite possibly; NetherRealm Studios’ ultra-violent fighter often proves overwhelming on a standard screen. To bathe in the blood of combatants with the help of an Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus might be a bit much.

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Mortal Kombat consists of one-on-one fights in which blood lusting characters are set loose.  No bone, limb or eye socket is spared as combatants rip each other to pieces. The title plays out as a traditional 2D fighter, something in itself would make for an interesting VR adaption, allowing players to immerse themselves in imaginative stages and almost feel as if they were serving as some sort of twisted umpire in each match.

Of course, it’s the series’ iconic fatalities in which the winner is given the chance to put an end to their opponent in the most gruesome way possible that would prove to be the most gruelling action to witness. Along with the usual decapitations of limbs and squishing of heads, some of Mortal Kombat X’s new animations including slicing an enemy’s face off so that their brain limps out from behind, and using razor-sharp fans to cut one poor fighter’s head into three separate pieces. These scenes are among the most stomach-churning in all of videogame history and, while they prove to be amusing in their lunacy on-screen, standing next to a human and watching as they’re shredded, squashed or worse in VR perhaps isn’t the best use of the technology.

And that’s not even entertaining the idea of using VR to allow fans to become one of the fighters themselves. Throwing out the issues this might present in terms of controlling characters, standing face-to-face with some of Mortal Kombat’s beastly characters and then tearing chunks from them doesn’t exactly sound like a pleasant VR experience.

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That’s not to say a VR Mortal Kombat would be without merit, but perhaps only for the strong of heart. The fighting genre is one of the few that doesn’t necessarily feel like it can be enhanced with VR beyond immersion, but if developers were to include it, the feeling of being a spectator of one of these bloody battles would be thrilling.

It would also be exciting to meet some of the series’ more iconic characters up close, just perhaps not under the guise of deadly combat. Meeting face-to-face with Scorpion or Sub-Zero would certainly be a fun use of the technology, especially if players got to see their powers in action without the ensuing gore. Mortal Kombat has a world filled with characters that would be amazing to explore in VR, it’s just that players would have to tread very carefully around them.

The Mortal Kombat series usually manages to avoid overstepping boundaries with its violence due to its sheer lunacy. But in VR, with the feeling of being in these character’s presence as they are mauled to pieces, there’s no guarantee that same comical effect would be in place. It would certainly be an interesting experiment, but perhaps this is one series that is best sticking to traditional screens.