After 2011’s successful revival of the Mortal Kombat series, and the following refinement of Netherrealm’s fighting engine with Injustice: Gods Among Us, Mortal Kombat X was already looking like a promising prospect long before release. Now we have the game in our hands, we get to see what the current gen can do for the brutal scrapper.
Mainly set 25 years after the events of 2011’s game, MKX sees a new generation of fighters step up to defend Earthrealm, this time against sorcerer, Shinnok. Many fighters fell during the last game, now enthralled into the service of Qhan Chi, and new fighters include the offspring and relations of returning characters, such as Cassie Cage, the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, Jacqui Briggs, Jax’s daugher, Takeda Takahashi, son of Kenshi, and Kung Jin, cousin of Kung Lao.
The new tale flips from past to present, using the same story telling mechanics of the last Mortal Kombat, sprinkled with some QTE events. These are implemented in a decent enough way, and although I’ll never welcome QTE events in any game, here they’re not that bad.
The story flows along, switching control from character to character, although this time the story feels shorter, with fewer characters and a smaller scale. There’s a large selection of characters that make an appearance, with full move sets and fleshed out specials, that are sadly unplayable. These include fan favourites like Barkaka, Kabal, Sindel, and Nightwolf. These may become available over time, or via unlockables, but after many hours of play, I’ve not encountered them in playable form.
Luckily, the actual roster of characters is large and full of variation, and most of the classic characters are still present and correct, only this time, each character isn’t simply locked into a single form.
Mortal Kombat X introduces new character variations, with three different options for each;. These variations make minor changes to a character’s appearance, and alter the special moves and abilities they posses. Each retains their core specials, such as Scorpion’s spear, or Sub-Zero’s ice blast, but each also has additional specials. One form for Sub Zero, for example, has specials that revolve around ice clones, whilst another focuses on creating ice weapons.
These variations add subtle, and some not so subtle changes to the way each character fights, and changes the tactics used to win a fight, and those opponents need to defend against you. Whilst it doesn’t create two more different characters per se, it still adds a good deal of variety, and adds more depth to the overall combat. It’s a great idea, and one that certainly warrants more experimentation in future releases.
Specials are accompanied by the return of X-Ray moves, which are even more brutal than before, as well as the special meter being able to enhance various moves. There’s also a stamina meter that affects your character as it depletes.
Stage interactions return, with more influence from Injustice, with items that can be thrown at your foes, or jumped off to give you an advantage. You can even pick up passers by and hurl them at your foes should you feel like it.
The whole feel of the combat is a little smoother and faster this time around, and I found it to be more approachable, and so should be more more appealing to new or casual players. Underneath this more welcoming layer, though, is a hardcore fighting engine that’ll tailor for advanced players. Just the fact that MK uses an actual block button, instead of holding away from your opponent, promotes more skill, and there’s a deep fighting system to be explored here.
The potential for combos is strong too, something the series has been criticised for in the past, lacking the same depth in this area as the likes of Street Fighter. Some characters lend themselves to combos more easily than others, but all have the potential to be deadly in the right hands. Sadly, during my time reviewing the game, online servers weren’t functional, but from local multiplayer, I can see great potential in MKX‘s online combat, which is enhanced by the new Faction system.
The Factions system is a persistent online mode that keeps track of your performance when you’re playing, be it online or off. You choose a faction to represent, and as you play, you earn faction points, which are added to your faction’s total. At the end of each week, winners are chosen (faction and players). There are also faction-specific kills and fatalities. Again, as with online multiplayer, the Faction system wasn’t operational during my time with the game, so how this will actually work remains to be seen, but it’s interesting, and I look forward to seeing how it pans out.
Alongside the solo and multiplayer modes, including tournaments and Mortal Kombat‘s towers, which features various ladder-challenges, there’s the Krypt, the mode that holds secrets and unlockables, which returns from the last game. This time, however, the Krypt isn’t a simple menu, but is a first-person, simplistic adventure along the same lines of Dungeon Master or Legends of Grimrock. You move around a number of 3D worlds, using Koins to unlock rewards. To progress through the whole Krypt, you need to find items that let you bypass various obstacles, and there are even quick, QTE enemy encounters.
It’s simple, but as always shows how much attention to detail the devs put into the game. I had a lot of fun exploring the mode, and it’s certainly a more interesting way to unlock new content.
Of course, then there’s the gore. It’s an unavoidable aspect of Mortal Kombat, and Mortal Kombat X unquestionably has the most gruesome, and downright disgusting depictions of it thus far. The fatalities here have been ramped up to a whole new level, and the current gen technology has clearly been put to use in showing us what the insides of people look like one the outside. Some fatalities are more unsettling than others, such as Ermac’s bowel-removal, or Scorpion’s face slash, but it’s all par for the course, and it’s Mortal Kombat, so is to be expected.
Mortal Kombat X also adds a collection of new brutalities, which are executed by following specific instructions to end a fight. These moves, and all others are easier to learn thanks to the ability to tag various moves from the move list, which causes the inputs to appear onscreen during the fight. So, there’s no more pausing and going into a menu to remember a fatality input. This is a good thing.
You can even unlock easy fatalities tokens from the Krypt, which lets you execute any fatality with a simple button combination. These are limited, though. As are skip fight tokens, which let you bypass difficult confrontations.
Although Mortal Kombat X introduces a lot of new features, what I was more happy to see was the staple fighting left alone for the most part, as the last MK was a great evolution that just about nailed it. The fighting here is very similar, with the same overall feel, but it’s been tweaked just the right amount to make it even better, and smoother.
The new characters a largely a success, even if they’re a little bland when compared to older members of the roster, but they’re balanced and have potential to become new favourites. Cassie in particular is surely going to become a favourite.
The 60fps is truly superb, and makes combat so much more enjoyable. With the visuals looking so good, MKX is just about the most visually pleasing fighter, and one of the most playable around. The accessibility, which welcomes both new and experienced players is also a good achievement, as it balances both camps well, without alienating either.
There’s little doubt that this is the best overall Mortal Kombat yet, and although I missed some classic fighters, and felt a little underwhelmed by the story, which I feel pales in comparison with the last game’s, this is a brilliant fighter, and it has potential to be a big hit online.
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