Review: Mortal Kombat X
The goriest fighting game returns with a beefed up story and a mean attitude. Wanna know how it plays? “GET OVER HERE!”
So the first thing to mention is the enhanced story mode. The cut scenes are often as gory as the gameplay, with fights occurring at dramatic points between scenes. It took me about 9-10 hours to finish but I’m sure an Mortal Kombat veteran could clear it far quicker.
What makes this mode so special is its combination of cheesy but fun dialogue with a cast of exotic, weird and distinctive characters. It makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a kung-fu/sci-fi mashup movie, the kind you’d see playing at a midnight madness festival. Sometimes the cut-scenes even succeed in investing fights with added drama and tension. It’s the kind of mode we saw in NeatherRealm studios previous title Injustice: Gods Among Us and it’s just as well implemented here.
You don’t need to know the finer points of Mortal Kombat X (MK X) fight mechanics to complete Story mode. And that’s fine because it serves as a useful introduction to the game’s character roster, and is a good place to find someone you like before properly learning their moves set.
Of course, MK X also features several of the tower modes which have been a recurring feature of the series. Ascending through a series of tougher fights ’till you clear the tower (think Bruce Lee’s Game of Death and you‘re about there), the mode has had several tweaks and variations in MK X. But overall it still feels like the least engaging feature.
In terms of online brawling the matchmaking system for standard/ranked VS matches works well and there are a whole host of other modes that enhance the experience. Team Fights for example, pit two groups of players against each other in a series of simultaneous 1v1 battles. The team with the most overall wins carries the fight. The only slight drawback to online is that the game is more efficient in matching you up with random players than it is at letting you arrange a bout between friends! But this is a minor quibble. MK X’s online mode is slickly presented and well organised. If you’re willing to brave many potential online pummellings it can chew up hours of your time!
And now, down to brass tacks. The reason fighting games keep pulling us back in. I speak of fight mechanics of course, and the sweet science involved in learning their ins and outs. This is what gives fighting games their replayability and also explains why some games in this genre have a leviathan-like lifespan.
MK X finds the series happily embracing NeatherRealm’s Injustice mechanic, with a few subtle tweaks (interactive environments return, but are less pronounced). It fits the series very well and gives fights a tactical element that raises them above the level of mere combo repetition exercises (and/or button mashing). The introduction of the Breaker system and the power charge bar means players will have to think about when and where they deploy their stored energy. Do they use it to pull off a more powerful version of a standard move? To break out of an opponents combo? Or do they wait until its full charged and unleash the superbly gory X-ray finisher?
And speaking of finishers, the series continues to deliver. It has some of the goriest, most bone crunching (and occasionally hilarious) fatalities out there. Whilst they are not for the faint of heart they remain an enjoyable way to end a fight. There are easy versions of fatalities but these are not as rewarding as learning the button inputs off by heart. MK X’s well thought out training mode allows you to practice until you have them locked down and ready to unleash on your foes.
The place to go for additional extras is the Krypt. Effectively a first person journey around MK X’s basement, the Krypt is where you spend the coins you’ve earned on random unlocks. (artwork, alternate finishers etc). It’s genuinely creepy down there and when you add in random attacks from the local wildlife it can really keep you on your toes. But the allure of randomly spawning bargain chests will keep you descending the steps to see what goodies you can emerge with.
To sum up
Mortal Kombat X feels like a series that has finally found its home. With multiple fighting styles for each character the game invites you to keep experimenting and learning new things. A decent fight mechanic, a balanced character roster and a wealth of game options make Mortal Kombat X a bold new chapter in the series.
Version reviewed: PS4
Mortal Kombat X is out now on Ps4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC