As part of Midway Summer Gamers Day in Chicago, I got to sit down and spend some time with a build of Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks that was, in the words of Shaun Himmerick, "90-95% complete". After spending an hour or two playing the game, I can go ahead and give some of my impressions and give some insight into how the version we played differs from the demo.

Most people are familiar with the demo, so I shall not go into too much detail about what is duplicated between the two versions. I also won't go into too much detail concerning the intro video, except to say that it was very well done and is very much worth seeing, from Shang Tsung's constant morphing to Sub-Zero demonstrating his most famous fatality on one of the masked guards. During the build we played, we encountered a ko-op only secret in the section where one must use an Oni's body to break through a wall. There were two panels on the ground by the back wall; if you pressed one of the panels in single-player mode, Raiden would tell you needed an ally to reveal that secret. In ko-op mode, pressing both panels caused the back wall to break open and reveal a hidden area.

The area after the wall-breaking area in the demo is NOT the Baraka fight in the full version. In the full version, the Baraka boss fight takes place at the end of the siege of the Wu Shi Academy. Instead, the players find themselves at another Pit. However, before crossing, a pair of Oni drop down onto the bridge... and are then instantly pulverized (along with the bridge) by two large boulders. Before dropping down into the Pit, Raiden advises to use the right analog control to look down to see where you'd drop to. This is recommended as you can then aim yourself to drop down onto a platform on which rests a large sword. This sword is extremely useful against the Oni Warlord, who will be the first boss you face. You will need to defeat the Oni Warlord (a huge brute with a mace) in order to gain the Long Jump ability which you need to cross the bridge. Then you will need to defeat two masked guards in order to leave the island.

From there, there is a cut-scene involving the award ceremony at the Wu Shi Academy, and then the Tarkatan assault on the academy begins. You get to see plenty of footage of the assault on the academy in the videos we have available.

As has been mentioned in the presentation, experience plays a big part in the game. As you defeat enemies, you gain experience which can then be used to upgrade your abilities. Experience can be spent at any time by going into the pause menu and going into the Moves menu (by pressing R on X-Box or R1 on PS2). You don't see what the abilities are that you're purchasing until you're actually able to purchase them. Experience can also be earned via bonuses found laying around (in this build, in the form of green sparkly lights) and Fatalities.

The Fatalities in the build we played had the same exact commands as the one in the E3 build (and presumably the demo). In fact, on a whim, I tried the command sequence for the "bunny fatality", to find it still worked. They also provided the commands for two fatalities for each kombatant. The only change that I noticed was that instead of clapping at Kung Lao's rabbit trick, the opponent waved his hand dismissively. Personally, I preferred the old version, but as has been stated by Shaun Himmerick in a comment in the last Developer Diary, the game is well past the point where such changes can be made. Fatalities add a 550 experience point bonus; however, one disadvantage to Fatalities is the fact that unlike when you defeat an opponent by knocking his lifebar to zero, you do not get a health bonus. Therefore, if an opponent is near defeat and you're hurting for health, it's much more to your advantage to hold off on the Fatality.

Speaking of health, in ko-op mode it is much to your advantage to keep an eye on your partner's health. Your success is tied to your partner, as is your failure; if one of you loses all health, you both "die" and are sent to the Continue screen.

The pause menu also contains a statistic that we didn't get time to get information on, but is sure to be an interesting part of the gameplay: "Smoke Missions". Our guess is that during the game, Smoke will send you on side missions for some unknown purpose.

Another thing we noticed is that instead of being a minigame, Test Your Might is in fact used as part of main gameplay. It's used for bypassing obstacles, overpowering boss characters, among other things. In our time with the game, Test Your Might was an integral part of one section of the Wu Shi Academy, as Kung Lao uses his might to open floodgates to bring fires under control.

The game is also rife with cutscenes. In addition to the intro video, we also got to see cutscenes showing the awards ceremony, Sonya Blade having a brief run-in with Baraka, and a meeting between Shang Tsung and Raiden. We cannot comment on the voicework in these cutscenes, as it really was too loud to make anything out. Still, the rendering itself was of high quality and should be something to look forward to.

Finally, a bit of a storyline note for those curious: we do NOT see the older Sub-Zero murdered by Scorpion. His death occurs off-screen, and is alluded to during the game.

In closing, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks was a fun ride while we played it, and we think that it will be a very welcome addition to the Mortal Kombat family of games. The game will be released for X-Box and Playstation 2 on September 19th.

While mention was made of Mortal Kombat: Deception Unchained and Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play at Gamers Day, only the latter was available for play. I did observe someone playing the first Mortal Kombat on it, and it appeared to be almost arcade perfect. However, when I went to play Mortal Kombat II, the system locked up. It should be noted that this is not an indication of the quality of the port; obviously it is still a work in progress as they were using a development system to demo the game.

And now, we're proud to present videos we took at Gamers Day. These videos are not direct feed, as there were not enough demo machines to allow for us to get direct feed. The videos are in Quicktime format; you can download Quicktime here. The first video shows Kung Lao facing off against Tarkatans and a masked guard in the catapult area, as he uses them to his advantage to defeat enemies and clear away obstacles.

The second video shows Kung Lao working alongside Johnny Cage as they work together within the Academy walls themselves to fortify the defenses and rid the building of the Tarkatan invaders. Pay special attention to Cage, as he uses his signature moves, including a red shadow uppercut!

Finally, this short video gives a brief demonstration of Test Your Might; as described above, Kung Lao works to open floodgates to help fight the fires caused by the Tarkatan hordes.

As an extra bonus, we have for you here a video that was taken on the spur of the moment. In a previous update, we mentioned Brice Mellen took on Ed Boon at Mortal Kombat: Deception. We happened to be at the next unit over when this happened, and were able to get video of them playing their first three of five matches.

For the record, Brice won four matches to Ed's one.

And finally... as expected, there was nothing official said about Mortal Kombat 7. We did a bit of asking, and what little we can tell at this point is that the game will have a huge roster, but it's not so much a Mortal Kombat Trilogy 2, as it has its own storyline. Also, it was apparent they were interested in improving the fighting engine over Deadly Alliance and Deception, including features not previously seen in other fighting games. More info will be forthcoming in the months to come, but as one might imagine right now the people at Gamers Day were focused on Shaolin Monks; other than three or four key people, MK7 and MK:SM are being worked on by two totally different development teams.

This will bring to a close our coverage of Midway's Summer Gamers Day. On behalf of Scott Howell, I would like to thank you all for taking the time for joining us as we preview the next installment of the Mortal Kombat series. We would also like to thank Midway Games for inviting us to this event and allowing us to give this look at the game to the MK community. Keep it tuned here, as we continue to provide news updates leading up to the release of Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks and beyond!