TL;DR: Dash meters, stance switching, interactive environments, multiple character variations, a persistent online faction system: Just several of the new features brought to the table in Mortal Kombat X. As much as I’d like to proclaim that “NetherRealm Studios has done it again,” the truth of the matter is, they’re doing a lot of things for the first time, taking a ton of risk with the refined fighting system they established with their previous games. The pay off is huge, as Mortal Kombat X is mechanically superior to all of its predecessors and is a huge leap forward for the Mortal Kombat franchise. I highly suggest fighting game fans run to the store, and pick this game up on day one.
At what point does being at the top get old? This is a question I ponder when I think about Mortal Kombat, a series that is as engrained in video game culture as any other IP on the market. Ed Boon and company have been able to keep the franchise relevant and on the cutting edge of the fighting game genre for over twenty years, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Mortal Kombat X does it’s part continuing the legacy. But MKX is a bit of a deviation from previous entries. Many questioned if it was a good idea to include so many new characters, or if fusing elements from Injustice into the game would turn out to be a misstep. These things should be the least of your worries, however, because though Mortal Kombat X does a lot of things differently and a lot of things very much the same, it does nearly everything just right.
“Cage’s chapter serves as the game’s prologue
and does a fantastic job setting the tone for the story”
Mortal Kombat X’s story mode picks up not too long after the events of Mortal Kombat 9, and in the exact same fashion- by putting you in the shoes of Johnny Cage. He, Sonya, Kenshi, Raiden, and Fujin are defending Earth Realm against the invading forces of Shinnok, a defunct Elder God intent on mercilessly ruling the entire universe. Cage’s chapter serves as the game’s prologue and does a fantastic job setting the tone for the story. It’s also a stern reminder that most of Earth Realm’s warriors were dispatched in the previous MK installment.
Then we flash forward twenty years (twenty-five after the events of MK9), where everything in the Mortal Kombat universe has changed immensely. There’s a civil war in Outworld brewing between Mileena and series newcomer Kotal Kahn, Sonya Blade bumped uglies with Johnny Cage and had a super badass child named Cassie, and Raiden is doing as he always does– showing up when the fate of the world hangs in balance. In story mode, each of the 12 characters you play as will have their own chapter, and just like before, each chapter includes four fights that happen in sequence with the plots unraveling. Six of the twelve chapters in the story are dedicated to new characters in the series, so there’ll absolutely be some learning involved as you progress to the credits screen.
“the story peaks far
too close to its beginning”
too close to its beginning”
While the story does a swell job introducing the series’ newest characters, the actual narrative in Mortal Kombat X was lacking, and unable to deliver the same magic–from start to closing–as Mortal Kombat 9. Don’t get me wrong– the game’s opening chapters are magnificent, and the game doesn’t miss a stride in its high production value. But the story peaks far too close to its beginning, and the concluding chapters seem rushed and uninspired in comparison with the earlier sections. Call me spoiled for how much I enjoyed the story modes in Mortal Kombat 9 and Injustice, but I came into MKX expecting much more plot wise, and was left with the stinging sensation of unfulfillment after my four hour playthrough. I remember reminiscing about the Shao Kahn bout at the end of the previous game, and how well NetherRealm Studios built up to that moment. I’m not sure if it was the fact that the studio was trying to accomplish a lot within the game’s lore in a small amount of time, or if it was their adamance to prove the new characters as worthy contenders in the Mortal Kombat universe, but the situations that transpired in the story’s closing moments were underwhelming, and left me scratching my head in confusion and slight disappointment.
But bear in mind: Despite my small concerns with the stories conclusion, Mortal Kombat X is still at its core a fighting game. When it comes to that, NetherRealm Studios delivers a ground-breaking experience once again, giving us everything we loved about Mortal Kombat up to now, tossing in some of the things we loved about Injustice–like interactables and mobile game synchronization– and introducing some very cool new gameplay elements into the mix. The gruesome fatalities are back. Brutalities have been re-added into the mix. There are even a few familiar faces that make appearances throughout the game’s many different modes.
“NetherRealm Studios delivers a
ground-breaking experience once again”
The Mortal Kombat X‘s engine has been refined to provide one of the best fighting game experiences you’ll get your hands on. Most of the combo juggling and block button shenanigans from the previous title have been touched up and work very seamlessly. I have absolutely no problem executing difficult combo strings without any drops, and this is largely in part to the improvements NetherRealm made to their engine. If you’re extremely sensitive about command input, you’ll be happy to know that the option to turn off negative edge is available as well.
This is without of doubt the fastest Mortal Kombat game in quite some time– so much so, that NetherRealm implemented a much needed stamina meter. It rest right under your life bar and makes meticulous dash management very imperative. It evens out rush down situations for the player on the defensive, and forces led foots to be sparing about how rapidly they move about the stage. The ability to run depletes your meter the fastest, but it also allows you to close the distance, and even move your opponent closer to that dreaded corner that you want to stay out of in 2D fighters.
“Each fighter has three different variations
to choose from, complementing a wide variety of play styles”
A first for the series this time around is “variations,” which are different arc-types given to each character that slightly alter their abilities on the battlefield. Each fighter has three different variations to choose from, complementing a wide variety of play styles. For instance: Kano’s “Cybernetic” variation grants him grenade attacks and enables his eye lasers– two attacks that allow him to zone his opponents from a safe distance during matches. His “Commando” variation, however, is focused more on grapple attacks, and requires him to be up close and personal. Variations work wonders for the Mortal Kombat metagame. It’s unlikely that a character can be flat-out counter-picked, as there’s more than likely a variation for each character that will make them formidable against their opponent.
Faction Wars add an extra layer of persistence and competitiveness to encourage players to keep revisiting the game. After joining the Lin Kuei, Special Forces, White Lotus, Black Dragon, or the Brotherhood of Shadow, players are tasked with daily activities to earn their faction points. The faction with the most points at the end of week will receive various in-game incentives, along with the most important thing of them all: Bragging rights. While this idea may seem intimidating to casual players, it should be noted that folks are not required to win online matches against opponents to prove useful to their faction. You won’t have to worry about skill gaps affecting your ability to help push your conglomerate to the top. Ultimately, the faction with the most dedicated and active players will always emerge victorious.
“Test Your Might is also back allowing two
players to square off in the old-school mini-game”
Mortal Kombat X doubles down on the amount of extra content available to players outside of the primary fighting game. You damn near could purchase Mortal Kombat X, not play a single 1 on 1 match, and have enough content to keep you satisfied for a lengthy amount of time. You’ll find yourself very busy with “Living Towers” and “Tower Challenges,” which are the successors to MK9’s challenge towers. Test Your Might is also back, allowing two players to square off in the old-school mini-game, with the player scoring the most successful item chopping sequences being crowned victorious. Needless to say, when sifting through the Mortal Kombat X interface, you’re likely to find something for everyone.
Fighting games don’t usually take as many risk as NetherRealm Studios did with Mortal Kombat X– mainly because there never seems to be a purpose for them with the way the video game business works. There wasn’t much that was needed outside of new characters, stages, fatalities, and modes to make Mortal Kombat X appealing to long time fans and die hards like myself. But Ed Boon and company desire more than just a game that can sell a bunch of copies to its cult fan-base, and they’ve once again raised the bar for the type of fighting game fans should expect when they go out and spend their hard-earned $60. Mortal Kombat X is simply the working embodiment of why NetherRealm Studios will remain on the frontiers of innovation in the fighting game genre, and it shows from the minute your pick up the controller an press start.
– Mechanically brilliant. From a gameplay standpoint, this is the most refined and smooth functioning installment in there series to date.
– The variations open up MKX is a way that only fight game fans can dream of.
– So much content! NetherRealm Studios continues to set a high bar in the amount of content they provide in their titles.
– The story mode’s plot is a bit messy and the closing chapters fizzle out in anti-climatic fashion, which is more or less disappointing given the cohesiveness and excitement of the plot in the previous title.
4.5 out of 5 Burritos
This review was completed using a PlayStation 4 copy of Mortal Kombat X, provided by Warner Bros. Interactive. The game hits stores Tuesday, April 14 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.