Mortal Kombat X delivers a near-flawless victory.
The Mortal Kombat series has been painting the fighting game landscape red for over two decades, often with mixed results. While the series rose to stratospheric heights of success and infamy in the early ’90s, NetherRealm’s bloodied one-on-one brawler has often stumbled like one of the series’ humbled Kombatants as fans and press alike delivered critical brutalities to the former overlord of the arcade scene.
Reinvigorated by the success of their surprise hit Mortal Kombat 2011 reboot, along with the critically acclaimed Injustice: Gods Among Us, developer NetherRealm Studios has returned with another foray into fighting scene in Mortal Kombat X. Though still not quite yet ready for EVO, this refined bloodbath features a plethora of content that’s sure to please longtime fans of the series, while offering a masterful evolution of the brutal formula that’s defined the franchise for a generation of rabid fighting game fans.
While it seems strange saying it, one of the biggest draws of Mortal Kombat X is the game’s story mode. Centered around the exploits of a new generation of Earthrealm heroes as they rise to meet the threat of yet another Outworld invasion. Set over a 25 year period, the story ultimately delivers a thoroughly entertaining thrill ride that bounces through the entire cast of the game, allowing players to experience the unique play-styles of Mortal Kombat X’s sizeable roster as they try yet again to foil the plans of the sinister sorcerer Shinnok. Taking roughly four hours to complete, this mode is surprisingly well-written and engaging, making it nearly worth the price of admission alone as it provides what’s essentially the best interactive Mortal Kombat flick fans could ever hope for.
Mortal Kombat X brings sizeable roster of Kombatants to the table. As expected, series mainstays like the dueling ninja assassins Scorpion and Sub-Zero are present and accounted for, along with the likes of Johnny Cage, Kano, and Liu Kang. However, there are also a surprising number of new fighters who join the ranks, making up nearly a third of the game’s burgeoning 29 character cast. Cassie Cage, the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade is a refreshing addition to the roster, offering a balanced blend of power and speed that makes her a well-rounded threat in the ring. Other characters, like the arrow-slinging Kung Jin and six gun wielding mercenary Erron Black offer great zoning opportunities for fighters who prefer to control the flow of a bout. Jacqui Briggs (Jax’s pugilistic progeny) is also a blast to play as, as she makes mincemeat of her foes up close with a pair mechanical gauntlets, making her an excellent choice for a rushdown fighter.
As if he number of characters wasn’t enough to keep you busy, each one also features three modes, effectively tripling their play-styles by altering their movesets and capabilities in a similar fashion to the Bust and Slash modes from devloper SNK’s later Samurai Shodown titles. This serves as a welcome addition to the series, exponentially expanding the list the number of play-styles to master and adding a new found level of depth for completionists to explore as they look to find their ideal brawler.
With how enjoyable these new characters are to play as, it’s disappointing that other characters like the bulky Outworld Emperor Kotal Kahn and his insectoid servant D’vorah feel like such duds, offering largely uninspired movesets that make them ultimately forgettable when compared to, say, the testicle-popping antics of an angry Cassie Cage.
Once you’ve wrapped up the game’s story mode there’s a wealth of other content to keep you busy in Mortal Kombat X. The towers from Mortal Kombat 2011 return yet again, providing a series of gauntlets to overcome as you climb to the top of each once. Standard Tower comes the closest to replicating the feel of the original arcade games, as players work their way through ten bouts to ultimately take down Shinnok himself. Clearing this tower awards you with a brief cinematic as well as new costumes and other goodies. Other towers, such as the Test Your Might and Test Your Luck towers are a mixed bag. Test Your Might challenge players with a variety of button-mashing rounds similar to the Endurance Rounds from the original Mortal Kombat. While challenging, it’s an ultimately shallow and forgettable experience you likely won’t come back to once you’ve completed it. Test Your Luck, on the other hand, dynamically changes the fight by introducing modifier-based gameplay that’s sure to test the limits of your skills. Various hazards such as random teleporters, raining explosives, and quirky buffs and debuffs radically change the flow of the combat, offering an exhilarating and random experience that’s thoroughly entertaining.
In addition to the Standard Towers, there are also Living Towers, which offer regularly updated timed challenges for players to undertake. While the concept is cool enough, these towers get old rather quickly, and are easily overshadowed by the game’s other, more robust modes such as online and the completely unexpected Krypt Mode, which plays out similarly to the classic dungeon crawlers such as Dungeons & Dragons: Eye of the Beholder and Wizardry, as players explore the hallowed Outworld Krypts, unlocking treasure in the form of new costumes, fatalities, concept art and more with the Koins earned in single player and online multiplayer modes. While shallow on the surface, Krypt Mode is surprisingly immersive, and exploring the imaginative and haunting realm in this quirky first-person adventure is pretty much the closest we’ll ever get to seeing a Mortal Kombat/Shadowgate crossover.
Mortal Kombat X also introduces a new mode called Faction Wars. This persistent meta-game tasks players with joining from a number of factions, all vying for online dominance. While clans don’t compete directly, every action performed by online connected players contributes to their Faction War effort, with points being tallied on a weekly basis. Winning factions receive various spoils including unlocks and custom rewards, adding an incentive to keep racking up the score for your faction.
In terms of presentation, Mortal Kombat X is equally gory and gorgeous. Powered by Epic’s Unreal Engine 3, the character models are simply astounding, offering a stunning level of detail and some fantastic animation. Attacks send showers of glistening blood and flashy particle effects bouncing around the stages, breathing breathtaking life into the deadly duels unfolding on-screen. The stages are equally stunning, with such standouts as a waterlogged Outworld cover, where corpses crash against the pier as they’re tossed about the raging sea, and Shinnoks Lab, which offers a view of the wily sorcerer’s collection of freakish oddities, including a bloodied, fleshless monstrosity reminiscent of one of Attack on Titan’s titular terrors. As good as the game looks in action, it’s the game’s ghastly detailed fatalities, whose stomach-turning results are a true testament to the game’s detailed visual prowess.
Of course, ever since the days of dimly-lit arcades Mortal Kombat has always been at its best when played against another human adversary, and Mortal Kombat X is no exception. Offering the standard host of local and online modes you’d expect, MKX is a thoroughly enjoyable time as players duke it out in head-to-head Kombat. During our time with the game the online performance was largely solid, with only slight hiccups here and there while throwing down online. There were slight issues with interruptions during cross-country matches, but they happened so infrequently it was rarely an issue.
While it doesn’t quite reinvent the fighting game wheel, Mortal Kombat X is a superbly refined experience that succeeds in expanding upon the established formula in smart, effective ways. Though some of the new characters and modes are hit-or-miss, the good more than outweighs the lackluster in this entry.
By offering a torrential downpour of content, developer NetherRealm Studios has offered arguably the finest iteration in the long-running series. If you’ve never been a fan of Mortal Kombat’s dial-a-combo mechanics, stiff and deliberate controls and buckets of blood, MKX isn’t going to make you a believer. However, if you’re a fan of the series or just looking for a highly entertaining fighter to sink your teeth into, Mortal Kombat X offers more bloody and brutal content than you can shake a severed femur at.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Playstation 3 ; Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment ; Developer: NetherRealm Studios, High Voltage Software (PS3, Xbox 360); Players: 1-2; Released: April 14, 2015 (June 2, 2015 Xbox 360, PS3) ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $59.99
This review is based on a retail copy of Mortal Kombat X purchased by Hey Poor Player.