The latest addition to the Mortal Kombat series delights and disturbs all at the same time, and this a really, really good thing.
Mortal Kombat is pretty much an institution, I mean, the game series has been going since 1992, and we're now onto the tenth game of the main titles in that series. But is it getting a little too tired with it's format, story and characters? The short answer to that question is no, no it's definitely not.
This review contains images I've captured from my time playing Mortal Kombat X on PS4, and it really goes without saying that some of the images are of a gory, bloody, and mature nature. But this is Mortal Kombat, so what did you expect? Anyway, if you're adverse to such images, don't scroll any further, and then ask yourself why you are interested in Mortal Kombat.
Fighting games used to be one of my favourite genres when I was a kid, especially Mortal Kombat, well, because you know, blood and violence I shouldn't really be witnessing - it was 'cool'. But as I got older fighting games didn't seem to garner the same appeal, I grew out of it all, only jumping in for the odd new release here and there, which never kept my attention for more than a week at most. Until I took a chance when Mortal Kombat 9 (MK9) came along back in 2011, which really made me take note and see that the fighting game genre was still as relevant today as it had been back in the 90's.
Mortal Kombat X (MKX) builds upon the solid foundations that MK9 built for it back in 2011 - particularly with the game's Story Mode. While the story is cheesy, and it's the usual fight to save Earthrealm, the way you seamlessly jump into a fight during the cutscenes makes it far more fun than just hitting bout after bout without any context. The Story Mode also does well to introduce you to a bunch of new fighter additions to the series (eight in total), some of which you will play as, and others you will fight against.
The general gist of the story is that the fallen Elder God, Shinnok, is out to take over Earthrealm, but to do that he needs to be released from an amulet that imprisons him. Cue new characters, good and bad, and a lengthy story campaign that will introduce you to said new characters by way of cutscenes, plus actually controlling them in fights, and you've got yourself an enjoyable experience.
If you're in a pinch and your Super Meter is full, you can dish out an 'X-Ray' move - here's part of Scorpion's called 'From Hell'. It eventually shows x-ray views of bones being crunched and broken. Not for the squeamish.
MKX looks great. From the highly-detailed stages, which can be interacted with as you fight, to some of the character models like Scorpion, Takeda, and D'Vorra, this is the best-looking fighting game out there. It is, however, a little let down by some of the less detailed, and drab-looking characters, such as Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs.
The fighting itself is slick and easy to learn. A new feature for this addition to the Mortal Kombat series are character variations. There are three variations for each of the game's characters which allow you to slightly change your chosen fighter's moveset. For example, Scorpion has a choice of 'Inferno' which allows a demonic minion to be summoned; 'Ninjutsu' makes use of his dual swords; and 'Hellfire' lets you use fire attacks, such as a fireball. The variations offer up an immense amount of strategy to your fights, meaning you can think that little bit more deeply about how you want to handle your next opponent. It also means there could even be characters you never really liked that have a variation to suit your play style - experiment with all of them, and see who you end up with.
A quick jump to the pause menu during a fight will display a small list of your chosen character's moves (which can be customised for quick reference), and you can also see the full list of special attacks, 'Kombos', and finishing moves too if you want to learn some really impressive displays of prowess.
Fatalities are as brutal and gory as they've ever been, offering up some truly, and literally, gut-wrenching deaths. If this is your first look at a Mortal Kombat game don't think that the fatalities are the main attraction here, however, MKX is a great fighting game even without the series' signature hook. The fatalities are just something that sets it further apart from other titles. They're still fun to perform, though, especially when you want to gloat that little bit more after you wipe the floor with your opponent.
Here's one for the family album - I earned myself a trophy when I performed my first fatality. I'm new character Takeda Takahashi, and the unfortunate soul missing an arm is series veteran Liu Kang.
I remember when the fatalities were the most difficult move to perform in a Mortal Kombat game, often prompting scraps of paper to be on-hand with fatalities scribbled on them. Well, those times died out many years ago - now you're going to have to master the 'Brutalities' when you are fighting. Brutalities, whilst not as gruesome as fatalities, are a little trickier to pull off. You will need to meet specific fight requirements before you can begin to try most of them - for example the start of this move will need to be performed when your opponent's health is very low, meaning the move will be the killing blow. One of Kung Lao's can only be performed in his 'Buzz Saw' variation, and you must be a specific distance away from the target, with a specific move performing the final hit on your opponent. Pulling these moves off against a real player will be tricky, but when you do nail them, it's definitely worth it.
When you first fire up the game you'll be given a choice of which faction you'd like to join, which is part of the new Faction Wars meta game. There are five factions in total, and everything you do in MKX will contribute towards your chosen faction's score. At the end of the week the faction with the highest score will receive a reward, which will be dished out to members of the faction.
Each faction has their own 'Faction Kills', which are easy-to-perform, faction-specific fatalities that are the same regardless of which character you're currently playing as. They're much tamer compared to the character-specific fatalities, but if you want to rep your faction at the end of a fight, go ahead and dish one out.
MKX's online mode is where I spent most of my time post Story Mode. My previous experience with fighting games and their online components has been terrible, often hit with huge lag spikes, either because of my own connection or my oppenents', which just makes such modes unplayable. However, with MKX I've had little to no trouble at all. I've only waited around a minute, or two at most, to find an opponent, and I've noticed one bad instance of lag. Other than that, it's been problem-free. Plus, there's nothing like fighting real players as opposed to the game's AI.
Online you will find many sub-modes to play, like King of the Hill, Team Battle, Versus, and more. King of the Hill puts you in a room with other players as you wait to fight against the current 'King' of that room. Win a match and you stay the king until you're beaten. At the end of each match players can give out 'respect' points, basically rating eachother on their performance.
Team Battles let you and your friends team up to fight other teams, or you can simply join in a Faction Match to team up with other players from your chosen faction to fight opposing factions.
If you're looking for more content after you've finished the story, and messed about online, you could always take on the 'Towers'. Towers, in their basic sense, are like your old school fighting games' main mode - you take on the series of opponents (10 in the 'Klassic' Tower) one after another, and when you get to the end you're treated to a short animated cutscene centering upon your chosen fighter.
Other Towers include the classic 'Test Your Might' in which you must button-bash to break a series of different objects, and they get increasingly difficult each time.
'Living Towers' are a new addition. These towers change over time - hourly, daily, and weekly - and offer up challenges such as random fight modifiers, including flipping the screen upside down, periodically electrifying the floor, and health regeneration.
The first-person Krypt is back. The Krypt is where you will go to spend those hard-earned 'koins' you receive from simply playing the game. The flashier the moves you perform, be it fatalities, 'kombo-breakers', or brutalities, the more koins you'll receive.
The Krypt isn't simply an in-game gallery of unlockables, it's a game in and of itself. As you first walk around the graveyard, spending koins which smash tombstones to deliver rewards like new character skins, fatalities, or perhaps the odd bit of concept art, you will find yourself under attack by wild dogs, which a swift QTE button press will vanquish, rewarding you with yet more koins.
I found myself exploring the Krypt for around an hour, even after I had spent all my koins. It invites you to look around, avoid the rabid wildlife, and venture further into new places, like the Spider Tunnels, and even Netherrealm.
What is it with games and spiders... they're always putting spider sections in there these days. I'm sure it's a personal vendetta against me now.
Let's talk DLC and microtransactions - it's always such a fun subject these days. MKX has both of these little beauts, and on the whole I'm not too put off by them as the game stands up as a 'complete' experience without them. However, the mere presence of some of these add-ons do leave a slightly bitter taste in the mouth.
First up there's the 'Kombat Pack', which contains four extra fighters; Tanya, Tremor, Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th, and Predator. I believe this acts like a 'Season Pass', and the DLC will be released periodically. Add-on packs such as this one sit OK with me, as it adds in a bunch of new fighters, all with their three fighting variations and skins. So it's not too bad a deal if you want to extend your MKX experience.
There is another extra character you can buy right now - Goro. You know, the four-armed guy who has appeared throughout the Mortal Kombat series. This is where I'm disappointed. To hide such an iconic character from the series behind a paywall is a bit of a slap in the face to Mortal Kombat fans. There's a high chance many die-hard fans will fork over the extra cash for Goro, as he really is integral to the MK franchise. I just feel that he should have been part of the standard roster, perhaps as an unlockable in the Krypt, or a reward after completing a particularly difficult challenge in the game. What's more saddening is the fact you can actually play as him in one of the Tower challenges right now, and he's probably one of my favourite fighters in MKX too - he has some great, devastatingly brutal moves. It's like the game's creators are giving you a great big plate of something you love, letting you have a little taste, and then snatching it away from you until you hand over more money.
On a side-note, there are other past MK characters in MKX. You will see Sindel, Smoke, Baraka and more throughout the Story Mode. You even fight against some of them at certain points. But, you can't play as them, which is disappointing to say the least. I know Smoke is one of my favourite fighters from past games, and I can imagine a DLC pack being released in the future allowing players to use these characters. Let's hope it's free, because the characters, in their basic forms, are already in the base game.
MKX has 24 playable characters, once you unlock Shinnok. There are 25 if you hand over some cash to buy Goro.
OK, now onto microstransactions. And here's where I let out a sigh. MKX has them, and they're meaningless. There are tokens you can collect throughout the Krypt which enable you to perform 'easy fatalities'. You basically have the standard fatality inputs reduced to a couple of button presses, if you wish to perform them that way. One of the iconic features from MK games are the fatalities themselves, and learning them for your favourite characters always felt like a small accomplishment - one you could dish out to your friends when you beat them to a match. This 'easy fatality' system slightly cheapens such a mainstay of the series, and will lessen the impact of performing such a move on an opponent. Oh, and those easy fatality tokens are a one-use gig, meaning if you buy a bunch of tokens off the store, you'll have to buy more once you've used them up. I beg you, folks, please just learn the super-easy fatality inputs, and save yourself some cash. You can fork over some cash to unlock everything in the Krypt too, but where's the fun in that? This is a premium, full-priced, triple-A game, not a free app on the Apple Store.
So, let's summarise. Should you buy MKX right now? Yes, you definitely should, it's a brilliant fighting game, with an abundance of things to do in it, and I would say it's the best Mortal Kombat game I've played to date. The story mode is an enjoyable ride, and gives you a nice stepping stone introduction to some of the new characters. The Tower challenges will keep you busy, the Faction system gives you a collective goal with your friends and the rest of the MK community, and the online mode has been mostly trouble-free, offering some great, unique moments. Personally, I would steer clear of the DLC for now, as you could probably place a big bet a 'Komplete Edition' will be released at some point in the future with all the DLC included at a reduced price - if you can wait. Mortal Kombat X needs to be in an MK fan's collection, and those of you who enjoy fighting games don't want to miss this either.
Score - 9/10