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Be careful what you pray for.
In 1996, Midway Games was working on Mortal Kombat 4. Its development required Midway to create an arcade system for it -- which was codenamed Zeus -- but the company wanted a way to test their new hardware to ensure it could do the Mortal Kombat name justice (by avoid hitting the Polygon Ceiling). Their "test" was War Gods.
In the distant past, a spaceship carrying a powerful ore with the power to create life crash lands on Earth. Chunks of the Ore are scattered across the planet; over the course of human history, ten mortals find pieces of the Ore, which transforms each of them into immortal warriors. The ten have now gathered to fight over each other's pieces of the Ore.
The game's cast is comprised of:
- Warhead ~ Formerly the US military's best operative, he was sent to a research center where the government was experimenting with the combination of nuclear weapons and the Ore. Just as he arrived, the research center exploded and covered him with fragments of the Ore, creating Warhead. In his Fatality, he calls in an air strike, followed almost immediately by the opponent being nuked to death.
- Kabuki Jo ~ On the eve of a critical battle, a feared samurai discovered the Ore. Overwhelmed with power, he killed all his men in an uncontrolled fury. Ashamed by what he had done and outcast by society, he became Kabuki Jo and became determined to learn to control the Ore's power. In his Fatality, he impales the opponent on his staff.
- Cy-5 ~ In the year 2096, a group of scientists accidentally implant the Ore into an advanced cyborg codenamed Cy-5. The Ore's power gives Cy-5 consciousness, and it kills the scientists. It decides that, if the Ore gives consciousness, then more Ore equals more consciousness. With this goal in mind, it ruthlessly seeks out the other War Gods to claim their ore. In its Fatality, it calls in a UFO, which shoots beams down at the opponent that melt them.
- Pagan ~ Pagan is a mistress of The Dark Arts. She gained ancient manuscripts showing the location of a temple where a fragment of the Ore was once worshipped. When she summoned the Ore, it only increased her desire to cause chaos and destruction. In her Fatality, she summons a Medusa head, which first turns the opponent to stone, then shoots Eye Beams and destroys them.
- Maximus ~ Once a mighty gladiator from Ancient Rome, Maximus battled in a tournament at a festival celebrating the Ore to determine which of his masters would claim the Ore. He defeated his opponents, but the Ore's power overwhelmed him, and his masters were slain as well. He took the Ore for himself, and now he uses it to free the enslaved all over the world. In his Fatality, he chains the opponent to two columns, then chops off their legs.
- Anubis ~ In the Valley of Kings, a grave robber on the search for hidden treasure came across a hidden burial chamber. He stole the treasure within, unaware that a piece of the Ore had been placed there in case someone did try to steal the treasure. His body was destroyed, but his soul was reincarnated in the body of Anubis. In his Fatality, he drops a spiked coffin on his opponent, which opens to reveal their mummified corpse.
- Voodoo ~ In the Caribbean, a witch doctor enslaved his village with his Black Magic. In desperation, the villagers captured him and burned him alive. They threw his body into a forbidden swamp. Unbeknownst to them, a deposit of the Ore lay at the bottom of the swamp, which revived him as Voodoo. In his Fatality, he pulls out a voodoo doll of his opponent and sticks a pin it in, which causes a giant pin to appear and stab the opponent in the stomach.
- Ahau Kin ~ Ahau Kin was an evil Aztec priest. He had a vision which revealed a fragment of the Ore lay at the bottom of his tribe's sacrificial well. He sent slave after slave diving to their deaths trying to claim it. Out of slaves but possessed with desire, he dove into the pit and claimed it himself, this time with success. In his Fatality, he forces the opponent onto a pedestal and rips their heart out.
- Vallah ~ During a blizzard, a Viking warrior princess became separated from the battle. She took shelter in a nearby cave, where there was a mysterious green glow. She hacked through the ice until her sword struck the Ore. She was transformed into the goddess Vallah. In her Fatality, she pushes her opponent onto a bed of fire, where they are burned alive.
- Tak ~ In ancient times, there was a kingdom which worshipped the Ore. A rival kingdom fought a war to capture the Ore. Facing defeat, the king sealed the Ore in a stone idol, which came to life as Tak, the stone avenger of a lost civilization. In its Fatality, it hits the opponent over the head three times, nailing them into the ground, then it kicks their head off.
War Gods is basically a 3D Mortal Kombat 3 clone -- complete with Fatalities -- which replaced the Run button with a 3D button (allowing characters to move along the Z-axis). War Gods also suffered from bad character design and annoyingly cheap AI; the home conversions of the game fare marginally better, as Midway tried its best to fix the AI. The game's developers learned from their mistakes with this game and made sure to avoid them while developing Mortal Kombat 4.
This game provides examples of:
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink: This game has two gods (one Egyptian and one Norse), two witches, an Aztec high priest, a Roman gladiator, a stone idol, a samurai, a modern soldier, and a robot all beating the crap out of each other.
- Follow the Leader: The game was designed to test Mortal Kombat 4's brand-new Zeus engine. After War Gods was released, the dev team figured out what worked and what didn't, then used the knowledge to make Mortal Kombat 4 better.
- Mighty Glacier: Tak.
- Most Wonderful Sound: While the narrator voice is really mediocre and can ruin the mood, the way he says "Faaaaaaataality!" is beyond awesome.
- Playing with Fire: Anubis and Kabuki Jo.
- Polished Port: Midway made sure that the game was at least slightly better on consoles.
- Recycled in Space: It's a 3D version of Mortal Kombat 3 with 3D movement and lame character designs!
- Taken for Granite: Pagan's fatality, where she releases Medusa's head and it turns the opponent to stone before Eye Beams blow them up. Amusingly, the first part of the move doesn't work on Tak, since he's already a statue. He taunts the head until it blasts him to pieces.