The Mortal Kombat series has such a rich and controversial history; so much, I’m very grateful that I got to witness it from its humble beginnings. Ever since I stepped up to a Mortal Kombat arcade cabinet with the iconic Johnny Cage artwork on the side, it has remained a captivating and bloody experience that’s kept me crawling back every single time. With each new entry, the characters grow more intriguing, and the fatalities continue to become even more gruesome. The latest entry, Mortal Kombat X, is no exemption as it carries on the tradition of breaking bones and showing off oodles and oodles of blood-spattering gore. NetherRealm Studios has once again chosen not to hold back, and, without question, takes the series to a whole new level of pain, ultra violence, and gory finishing moves.
In 2011, Mortal Kombat 9 showed us all that the series still had a killer uppercut under hidden its sleeve with impressive graphics and vastly improved gameplay. Not to mention, a flawless transition to 2.5D that was without a doubt the best direction for the franchise. Following suit, Mortal Kombat X utilises the same formula but makes it even better with interesting new characters, heaps of fighting styles, extreme gore, as well as a mountain of modes and content. The amount of things to do in this game is beyond phenomenal, so if you’re a super fan of the MK series like me; prepare yourself for a brutal, fatality-fueled thrill ride. Everything is about to get very, very bloody!
NetherRealm Studios have gone above and beyond by making the Mortal Kombat X’s story mode the biggest and in-depth of any fighting game in history. The story spans over 25 years following the ending of the previous game where the heroes and the NetherRealm survive a civil war. In short, the elders have lost their power to the Kotal Khan, and now it’s the job of the heroes of Earthrealm to take back control.
There are 12 chapters in the story, with each being centered around a particular character and their perspective on the events. Basically, the story mode introduces you to a cast of new and old characters in a film-like campaign of cutscenes and interactive quick-time-events. So, much like the last game; you watch a cutscene and then compete in a round of Mortal Kombat. If you win, the story moves forward. Simple. However, as mentioned, the cutscenes now include QTEs; which I thought were pointless, as failing to push a button on time invokes no penalty and only slightly alters the action that’s playing out on-screen. Overall, the narrative is both entertaining and engaging, and I was interested to learn about the history of some of Mortal Kombat’s most well-known fighters. At the time of writing, it’s an effort well and truly beyond what we’ve come to expect, and I don’t think fans will be disappointed.
In saying that, while a fantastic story mode is certainly encouraging, MKX is also packed full of alternative gameplay modes to keep players coming back. Living Towers, Team Battles, King of the Hill, Online Practice, Survivor, and Test Your Luck are just a handful of what’s on offer. In the Living Towers mode – which is an advancement of the Challenge Tower from MK9 – there are three monolithic towers that feature hundreds of fights for players to tackle. The first is the ‘Quick Tower,’ where the challenges on offer will change every few hours. The second is the ‘Daily Tower,’ where players can participate in eight difficult fights that alternate every 24 hours. Finally, there is the ‘Premier Tower,’ where the difficulty ramps up even further, and the challenges and matches update only once every seven days.
Fortunately, for those old-school fans among us, the traditional Tower returns to deliver that classic arcade experience we all know and love. The classic tower is made up of eleven fights, which concludes with a boss battle and some narrated story segments for each character. The mini-game borrowed from the iconic MK1 ‘Test your Might’ also makes a warmly welcomed return. Essentially, this is another tower mode that grows progressively in difficulty as you move up; with the addition of modifiers to create unique and challenging match environments. Modifiers such as the black strobe effect or random portals showing up on the screen always make for an unpredictable match every time.
For me, and I think many other fans, it was the revolutionary special X-ray moves in Mortal Kombat 9 which immediately grabbed our attention when the game first released (or got banned, if you happened to live in Australia). They were an astonishing visual marvel, whether you were crushing your opponent’s ribs or stabbing them in the shins. Naturally, this gruesome feature makes a return, and it’s even more cinematic and bone-shattering than before.
Despite so many improvements, however, I have to admit that I’m feeling a little disappointed with the lacking number of combat arenas – you see, MKX includes only 13 stages, whereas MK9 had a total of 25. In saying that, the stages are a more dynamic than their predecessors; introducing the environmental interactions that were first seen in NetherRealm Studio’s previous game, Injustice: Gods Among Us. Essentially, by getting close to special glowing elements within the environment, you can press the R1/RB button to interact; which will either perform a special attack or help you to evade an opponent. Some of these interactions include making a long-distance jump, swinging off of branches, or simply grabbing your opponent’s head and slamming their face into an object for extra damage. While it doesn’t quite make up for the slimmer variety, it does add a fun cinematic touch to every fight.
The control scheme is similar to MK9, and, again, is very quick and responsive. In addition, each character now has a choice of three different fighting styles; with each utilizing a set of unique abilities. While this isn’t exactly new for the series (first introduced in MKV: Deadly Alliance), it does take it one step further by impacting the characters core attacks in the way of offence and speed. Mastering a character’s fighting styles will also take time as each style also includes completely different special moves and button inputs for combos. Personally, I was pleased to see it make a comeback as it provides greater playstyle variety and encourages a more a strategic approach to character selection.
A good example of the difference between the fighting variations can be seen in my favourite character, Sub-Zero. You are given the choice of the ‘Cryomancer,’ ‘Unbreakable,’ and ‘Grandmaster’ variations. The ‘Cryomancer’ variation gives you the abilities to create ice weapons such as hammers, daggers, and swords. The ‘Unbreakable’ variation focuses on your defenses, in which you can create ice shields and armor to withstand damage. And, lastly, the ‘Grandmaster’ variation lets you form ice clones that can serve as a shield or throw at your opponents. Noted: all the fighting variations retain the classic signature moves of the character, such as the slide attack and freezing projectile.
You also can’t talk about Mortal Kombat X without mentioning how well the crisp graphics and dynamic stage environments bring the universe of Mortal Kombat to life. Each character is well-crafted with a unique appearance that shows a clear evolution in design from the previous games, as well as several new faces which shake things up. Furthermore, with a story mode plays that plays out like a gory movie, it’s very easy to get caught up in the visual spectacle of it all. It’s not only the best looking Mortal Kombat game, but arguably the best looking fighter to date. Whether you’re simply here to enjoy the ride or plan to spend months with the game; it’s going to hold up strongly.
The high replay value for Mortal Kombat X is actually what astounds me the most, whether it’s for the single player or local/online multiplayer; the content is seemingly endless. With story mode, living towers, fraction wars, test your might and so much more, I almost didn’t know where to start. The Krypt is a great feature too, where players can spend coins earned from playing the game to purchase extras such as fatality codes, alternative costumes, concept art, brutalities, and many, many more awesome unlockables. Naturally, fatalities make a strong return while somehow upping the gore to a more twisted level than before – if you can even believe that’s possible. Brutalities also make a triumphant return; having not been seen in the series since Ultimate MK3. Both look incredibly gruesome and are extremely satisfying to execute. If this is why you come to Mortal Kombat, you’re going to walk away feeling satisfied.
Talking about online, the modes include standard fights which can be played in ranked or friendly matches, king of the hill, team battles, and lastly, an interesting new mode called Faction War that I really enjoyed. When you first start the game, you are prompted to choose one of the five factions (Black Dragon, the Brotherhood of Shadow, the Lin Kuei, Special Forces, and White Lotus). As you play MKX, whether online or offline, the matches you win, and whether you perform Fatalities, Brutalities or Faction Kills, all earn points for your Faction. With every point earned, it totals the Faction’s overall ranking, and, at the end of each week, the Faction with the highest total earns special rewards. Much like a school sports carnival, I thought this was an exciting way to band players together with a common goal and the opportunity for mutual reward. It’s also a fantastic way to keep committed players invested in MKX for the long run.
NetherRealm Studio’s relentless efforts toward creating a robust fighter with tonnes of content is bound to succeed in keeping players hooked. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that MKX has far surpassed Mortal Kombat 9 in almost every aspect. It’s everything a Mortal Kombat fan could ever want, and is further supported by a story mode which is without a doubt the best the series has ever seen. Perpetuated by all the gruesome staples of the series, such as fatalities and x-ray moves, it also remains just as much of a visual spectacle as ever. Mortal Kombat X is a game that’s rich with content, and it’s clear that a lot of attention went into providing as many ways as possible to keep players invested for the long run – even if some DLC practices arguably undermine the value of some unlockables. For fans, MKX is an instant-buy. However, because of the amount of content, excellent multiplayer, and smooth controls, I also highly recommend it to anyone whether they’re a fan of the genre or not. It’s easily one of the best fighting games I’ve played in years; MK9 was great step forward in the series, but MKX is a giant and fruitful leap for the fighting genre.
DISCLAIMER: this game was supplied to us by the publisher, and reviewed on XB1 across 10+ hours of gameplay.