Mortal Kombat X
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Xbox 360 [June], PS3 [June]
The king of fighting games returns in Mortal Kombat X, seemingly the only series able to churn out a new instalment 20 years later without being bombarded with sequel hatred. That is of course, not counting the all-too-famous controversy surrounding the games. Mortal Kombat X is just as insanely brutal, violent and gory as ever so there’ll always be someone a little upset about it, but rest assured this is a game that never says sorry and holds no bars – MKX is a faithful instalment in the long running series that’ll please all old and new fans alike, read on to find out why.
Continuing on from the story of the last Mortal Kombat game, MKX gives players a fairly epic tale for a fighting game, spanning over two decades and with a slew of fan favourite and brand new characters. Not that fighting games usually – or ever – have good story modes, but this here is at least a good way to experience what the title has to offer and introduce the new characters. But in terms of the story itself, it’s garbage stocked with some of the worst video game writing I’ve heard. I didn’t think you could jam so many bad clichés or unfitting angst into 2 hours of story. Daddy and relationship issues have no place in Mortal Kombat.
Thankfully, the core gameplay experience here is a far cry from that. Mortal Kombat X has the most polished fighting the franchise has seen, if not that any modern fighting title has. The balancing is on point, there’s a ton of combos for every character, and the new fighting style system can really change things up. There’s essentially three versions of every character, some making for a very different combatant. I liked having to try out the different versions of my favorite characters to find what style best suited me.
This is the first time there’s been a real generational jump in the series, with most of the new characters being related to some of the existing ones, the sons and daughters of some of Mortal Kombats longest running characters now carrying the torch for the future. It’s a neat way to introduce new characters and take on the next step of the lore and some of the newbies are brilliant to play as, but unfortunately it means there is way too much of a focus on the ‘Special Forces’ team, which has always been a weak point of MK. The game’s 24 existing on-disc characters are quite substantial, but the actual choices in who they are are weak. Some of the absolute best and most beloved characters from the franchise only exist as enemies in the story mode, and more are even without a cameo. It’s the worst choice in character selection I’ve seen since being a MK fan, and my biggest gripe with the game.
I’m surprised to see certain offline modes missing, most notably the fan favourite two vs two tag-team matches, but MKX opted for a more online oriented approach. There’s a good few game modes available, and best of all are the Chat Rooms, which act like a lobby. You can arrange fights, challenge others to matches and get larger groups together for the likes of King of the Hill, what I would say is the premier attraction. Even when playing with other Aussie’s, we experienced lag spikes with full green ping, but for the most part it’s a stable system that some polish will make into a great online hub to test your skills. The Krypt makes a welcome return to the game, and is better than ever, exploring its nooks and cranny’s is genuinely entertaining and enticing for those few desirable unlocks.
A particularly important new feature is the game’s Faction War. Players pick from a handful of MK lore factions and earn points from everything you do in game, online or off. These add up, and provide unlocks for the players of the winning team, with unqiue – but admittedly nonsensical – Invasion modes happening on a weekly basis. It’s not very necessary to the main experience, but is a nice touch to help keep things fresh and something I think, and hope, evolves over time to prove a more noteworthy addition. In the meantime, the Hourly, Daily and Weekly Towers will keep you occupied when you want a change of pace, and are the best way to challenge friends on the leaderboards.
One thing I can’t take away from Mortal Kombat X is that the game is seriously awesome to look at. The animation is chunky and solid, it adds weight to the fights, and you’ve never seen ultraviolence rendered so beautifully. The Fatalities are something to behold, and the x-ray abilities will have you cringing. The Mortal Kombat brutality is once again perfectly realized in game, Warner Bros. proving they’re certainly no push-over and let NetherRealms go to the deepest corners of their crazy imaginations to bring us the gore. But over-the-top violence and murdering aside, MKX is actually one of the best looking games this generation has produced so far. The character and environment modelling is superb especially, making everything else all the more satisfying. Forcefully removing someone’s intestines from their body and mashing them into a ball with your mind has never looked so good, and you’ll be coming back for more for years to come.
In practice, Mortal Kombat X is one of the most plainly enjoyable and likable gaming experiences I’ve had in ages. But on paper, there’s a lot not to like, and it feels like a missed opportunity for NetherRealms to create a genuinely next-gen fighter with the amount of time they’ve put into it. With a questionable character roster and poor offline choices, MKX is a game with a pitch perfect core let down by poor design choices. That doesn’t change the amount of fun you’ll have ripping your mates limbs off or toppling online lobbies with some well-honed talents though, and once you embrace the new generation of Kombatants not even the sight of your own entrails will wipe the grin from your face.