written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Ten installments down and the Mortal Kombat series kicks down the door to next gen with a capital K! Mortal Kombat X marks the first time the series hits our current generation of consoles, and after building on everything they learned from the ninth installment, dubbed only Mortal Kombat in 2011, and Injustice: Gods Among Us; NetherRealm Studios seems to have found its sweet spot in creating a fun fighter that appeals to casual fans of the series and those looking for a tournament fighter.
Let’s get this review started with gameplay. A fighter needs balance between their characters, and much like their last game Injustice, every character on the roster has their own strengths and weaknesses. The big guys are slow but strong both offensively and defensively while the smaller characters land quick, crippling blows with the agility to jump back before a counter attack. Even with the earliest patches of the game, it felt incredibly balanced aside from a few slight issues with some of the bigger characters, Ferra Tor felt incredibly sluggish to control while Kotal Kahn plays a lot like a underpowered Shao Khan part deux. With ten games in the book, this series includes a strong roster of new characters with ties to classic kombatants. Characters like Cassie Cage (daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade), Takeda Takahashi (Kenshi’s son), and Jacqui Briggs (Jax’s daughter) take center stage acting as the Kombat Kids for a new kast of kombatants. Oh, and expect copies amounts of “Ks” in this review you’d think Randy Johnson was writing this review.
Basic attacks are much like previous installments, two buttons to punch/kick and a button to block. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the block button and wished they would take cue from their previous game Injustice and map block to the back button. Every fighter handles blocks with the back button but MK just HAS to be different and still use the archaic block button. I didn’t delve that far into the customization of my controller but from my experience it didn’t look like I could change that… I could be wrong though.
Each kombatant has three different styles you can pick from that greatly change how you play the game. For example, selecting Scorpion’s “Ninjutsu” variation arms him with swords to use in kombat while selecting “Inferno” turns Scorpion into a true hell-spawn with the ability to summon demons in a fight. This adds a surprisingly deep level of flexibility with your playstyle. Whether you want to be flexible with each of your favorite kombatant’s forms or master one in specific, you can do it. X-Ray moves are back from 2011’s Mortal Kombat and are performed much like the super moves from Injustice. Mapped to the simultaneous press of two shoulder buttons and eats up three levels of the kharacter’s super meter. Speaking of the super meter, you can use one bar to enhance a special maneuver or two bars to perform a “breaker,” a move that allows you to break an opponents kombo.
Returning from Injustice are interactive backgrounds that allow you to either attack your opponent or dodge/jump over and around to gain advantageous footing. Unlike Injustice though this seemed to lack variation from kombatant to kombatant. In Injustice a character like Superman can lift like a marble sculpture and smash it into an opponent while a fighter like Batman who lacks super-strength would use it to jump over him. There’s a branch on one level that always allows you to smack your opponent in the face with it. I wished some of these would be specific from character to character. Like Johnny Cage would snap the branch off and golf-swing it into an opponents crotch or Sub Zero would freeze in and treat his opponent to a face full of frozen branch.
The story mode is very similar to Injustice, allowing you to control a different member of the kast through the story’s narrative. Spanning generations, this is fitting what with the Kombat Kids taking center stage in the story. While a fun diversion, story mode felt more throw-away and unlike when I played through Injustice, I just didn’t care what happened each chapter. The story is already a convoluted mess across ten games, so personally I only played it for review. The strength lies in one on one kombat. Whether a living room full of friends, or over the network of your choice, fighting another live person is the crux of this game. Adding more depth to this are the all new factions, debuting in MKX; faction mode acts as an online commune for fighters across the world. When you first launch the title, you are asked to align yourself with one of the four factions. This is the most interesting addition to the series, turning every time you log online into a worldwide tournament with specific events and even crowning a winning faction and player at the end of each week.
A long list of game modes add flexibility to how you play MKX. Arcade mode, Versus mode, Living Towers, Test Your Might (back from the original MK) and Living Towers that change on a daily basis. The Krypt is a first person exploration mode that act as a way to unlock various kostumes or finishers, along with koncept art and medallions that allow you to do easy fatalities or the ability to skip battles in story mode. I feel I need to point out the easy fatality medallion, it’s all well and good to throw those in for the casual player who doesn’t want to use the full button prompt, but I can’t support their decision to sell these medallions online for real currency. What I feel they should have done was include like a shorter or less visceral version of the finishers for those who want to use that option… but award players who use the button prompts with the full finisher in all its merciless glory.
Visually, this hands down is the most brutally gorgeous game in the series. Every kombatant is rendered with absolute care and everything from basic attack animations to Fatalities and special moves hit hard looking as gorgeous as it is brutal. The level design’s fantastic, I wish they incorporated the multi-tired levels from Injustice, but aside from that very slight gripe, every battleground is rendered gorgeously with multiple interactive objects and crowds of NPC’s in the background of more populated locales.
Speaking of Fatalities, dealing death in MKX makes Kano’s heart rip or Sub Zero’s spine rip from the first game in the series look like child’s play in comparison. Every death is visceral, filled to the brim with brutally jaw dropping carnage… rendered in scarily detailed fashion. Returning from earlier entries are Brutalities, kombos that finish a fight in barbarous fashion. Throw in the game’s ruthless X-Ray moves and this game is wrought with all manner of death dealing ferocity… all rolled into one convenient package.
This is the Mortal Kombat I’ve been waiting for, the story mode leaves alot to be desired and while I appreciate the addition of new characters being the scions of kombatants of MK past, playing through the story as the klassic kharacters I grew up with is like watching Saved by the Bell while using characters like Cassie Cage or Kotal Khan is watching Saved by the Bell: The New Class. The ever familiar character archtypes are there… but there’s no substitution for Zack Morris.
+ Brutally gorgeous visuals
+ Snappy controls
+ All the FATALITIES
+ Scorpion and Sub-Zero still rock!
- Kombat Kids...
- Pay for easy fatalities
Story 2/5: The focus on the Kombat Kids left much to be desired
Graphics 5/5: Hands down the prettiest and brutally visceral looking fighter on current gen
Audio 4/5: Great music and klassic audio clips like "FINISH HIM," "Get Over Here!" and "FATALITY."
Level design 3.5/5: While lacking the multi-tiered levels on Injustice, MKX's levels were great battlegrounds kill your friends in
Polish 4.5/5: Nothing game breaking and incredibly polished, some balancing issues at launch.
Controls 5/5: Easy to pick up, difficult to master.
Gameplay 5/5: Everything is satisfying in the most brutal fashion!
Extras 5/5: Lots of stuff to discover with a plethora of game modes... can't complain!
TL;DR: This is the Mortal Kombat you were looking for