The tenth iteration in the infamous Mortal Kombat franchise, X marks the series’ first appearance on the next generation of consoles. After the resounding success of it’s predecessor, Mortal Kombat, does this brutal experience match up with it’s brothers and earn a space in the franchises history book?
Starting off with what you all came here for, the gameplay is fantastic. All of the series mainstay abilities and mechanics are back, but with a few new twists thrown into the mix. The game sees the return of the newly introduced X-Ray moves, as well as stage interactions and the much lauded return of Brutalities. The fighting system is strong, and incredibly approachable for new players, whilst maintaining the abyss-like depth for the MK fans who need something to sink their teeth into.
Whilst there have been tweaks to things like how a brutality is performed, fans can be rest assured that features like Fatatlities and ridiculously lengthy combos have been left untouched. However, there are still a few issues with the engine used here. Much like Netherrealms’ previous release, Injustice: Gods Among Us, enemy AI can be frustratingly difficult, even on a Normal setting. Opponents can repeat specials until your character falls, making a fair fight something of a mysnoma. Admittedly, this isn’t something that happens often, but when it does it can become extremely disheartening to somebody looking to hone their skills with their favourite fighter, and leave the player feeling cheated. Nevertheless, the game is still as addictive as ever.
Speaking of your favourite fighter, with a roster like this, you’re guaranteed to be feeling satisfied come the character selection screen. The game is packed full of classic combatants such as Sub-Zero, Scorpion and Liu Kang, but the real stars here are the newcomers. It’s refreshing to see a developer put so much hope into characters that they are fully aware the fans have no knowledge of, and it’s even better to see such a strong reaction to their implementation. Whether it’s Cassie Cage, the daughter of series veterans Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, or D’Vorrah, the bug-spliced fighter from Outworld, the game nurtures it’s latest additions as if they were classic fighters. However, once again with good must come bad, and the exclusion of fan favourite Goro as pre-order only DLC feels cheap and incredibly unnecessary. Couple this with the notion that players are able to purchase ‘Easy Fatality’ tokens, a reduced button pressing initiation for players who don’t want to memorize a few easy buttons, and you have some unfortunately unsavory practices hiding behind this vast wall of content.
In terms of content, the game is absolutely fit to burst. Mortal Kombat X boasts a fully fledged Story mode, complete with pre-rendered cutscenes and boss fights. I won’t summarise the story here, it’s just too complicated and jarring to cut down to a few sentences. However, it’s a fun 4-5 hour romp through Outworld & Earthrealm, filled with cameos and memorable moments. The kung-fu movie stylings work particularly well here, with choreographed fight scenes taking the spotlight in many instances. The campaign does well not to outstay it’s welcome, however the same cannot be said about the constant switching of characters. Whilst I support this idea, it can be frustrating at times when you just get used to a certain fighter, only to be switched to a completely different style and aesthetic when you get comfortable. Yes, this may keep you on your toes but more often than not I found it to be a nuisance rather than an important feature. A few more fights with each character would not have been amiss, if only to justify the time you spend with each fighter.
Traditional challenge towers are back (in which you fight a random succession of eight enemies before fighting Goro and main villain Shinnock), but with it are several other variations on the traditional tower theme. Test Your Might is a button mashing minigame, that while has very little to no replayability, is a fun jaunt the first time around (if you want to break your controller, that is). Perhaps most interestingly is the new Test Your Luck tower, which pits you against several enemies, with each fight varying in conditions. For example, during the fight there may be damaging heads falling from the sky, or randomised lighting strikes that affect both you and your opponent. I found these to be by far my favourite tower in the game aside from traditional, as it keeps you on your toes and continues to be just as interesting and addictive the tenth time around as it was the first.
Another returning feature of MK:X is The Krypt, albeit in a very different form. Before, The Krypt would be a large room in filled with collectables that you would unlock with Koins. Whilst that core concept remains the same, the entire feature has been flipped on it’s head. Instead of maneuvering around a static room, the feature now plays out in the style of a first person dungeon crawler. You spend your time venturing through dungeons and unlocking collectables, as well as obtaining essential items and even fighting the odd beast on the way. This is a fantastic distraction for those looking for a break from getting destroyed by their opponents, as well as putting an interesting spin on a very generic formula. The risk/reward feeling of opening tombs is as addictive as ever, and I feel I’ve only really just scratched the surface.
Straight from the start up screen, you can see this is a game built for the next generation. Visuals are truly stunning, with eye popping (quite literally in some cases) backgrounds and beautifully rendered character models. However, whilst many of the models have been crafted down to the smallest detail, some have been left looking blocky and cartoon like in comparison. For example, whilst Cassie Cage is beautifully built, with no detail left from the character, her mother Sonya looks dull and uninspiring. This isn’t a big issue with a roster so big, but it stands out in a few occasions and can provide a jarring surprise. No, otherwise the game is gorgeous. Stages have enough personality to be regarded as combatants themselves, with passers-by ready to be used as projectiles and cars ready to be used as trampolines. Down to small details such as trash talks before fights, and face-offs in character selection screens, Netherrealm studios have thought of everything.
And of course, this wouldn’t be Mortal Kombat without it’s viscerally disgusting gore. Fans can rest easy knowing that ten titles into the series, the game hasn’t lost any of it’s lust for blood. Fatatlities, Brutalities and X Ray Moves provide enough cringe-enducing scenes for even the most seasoned MK veteran such as myself. Fatalities are easier to perform than ever, without sacrificing any of the satisfaction they’re universally known for. However, if there was one complaint I could make for any of these features, it would be the X Ray Moves. Whilst they are perhaps my favourite of the super-moves in the game, after a while they can feel incredibly similar, all focusing on similar areas, with some of the more mundane fighters bringing nothing new or spectacular to the table.
If anything can top the work put into visuals here, it’s sound. The bone-crunching, spine-cracking sound effects are nothing short of vomit inducing, and it’s great. Music here is cheesy and generic, but it works. Mortal Kombat is Mortal Kombat, after all. I’d be worried if it started blasting electronica at me. Generic power-metal plays subtly in the background as your fighter caws and shrieks in pain, and it all works beautifully.
Finally, we get to Online. As of now, I’ve spent a fair chunk of time fighting other players, loitering in lobbies getting challenged and engaging in Faction warfare. However, not everything is peachy here. The implementation of Factions is lazy at best, and it’s a feature that can quickly be forgotten past the title screen. Online combat is stable enough, with only a few disconnections occurring during my time with the game. Whilst I can’t blame the game for it’s players, fighters spamming the same move for an easy win can become extremely irritating, and it could be said the game does very little to encourage that. I’ve had some incredibly exhilerating matches, some I’ve lost spectacularly, but that’s okay. If a fighter displays skill and kicks my ass, that’s fine, that’s a fair fight and I’m impressed. Uppercutting me in the corner of the stage until I give up is not. Players, take note. Other fighters aside, Online works pretty well. Whilst factions is forgettable, the meat of the online capability is stable enough to be enjoyable, provided you don’t mind getting your ass kicked by everyone better than you.
In summary, Mortal Kombat X is a great game. Sure, there are issues, but in the grand scheme of things, these really do seem like nitpicking. A stunning amount of extra content, entertaining story mode, competent online capability and daily challenges can provide enjoyment for combatants for months to come, even if the game likes to pull out it’s own tricks now and again. If you were on the fence about Mortal Kombat X, buy it. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed, even if you do get a little angry.