Mortal Kombat X
If the third time’s the charm, then the tenth time must be the camp. On April 14th, 2015 NetherRealm studios unleashed Mortal Kombat X on all of EarthRealm’s inhabitants. After nine previous main-title installments, many were concerned that the new title would be more of the same with a new coat of digital paint and some new characters. Although it can be said that Mortal Kombat X contains all of the underpinnings from the previous titles (for better or worse), the inclusion of a rich and compelling story mode, a host of online features, unlockable surprises, campy new fatalities and the most frenetic kung fu action this side of a Yuen Wo Ping film once again raises the bar and elates the fan base.
Yes, Mortal Kombat X offers everything you’re expecting… and a lot you’re not.
The original Mortal Kombat arcade game showed up in 1992 and the characters within have aged (notice the absence of the word ‘matured’), formed relationships with each other and some have even died… a few times. Those who decided to procreate now find their progeny among the fighter roster, creating many interesting implications to the inevitable parent/child matches. What sets Mortal Kombat X apart from its predecessors is the fact that this is not just a simple game where you rise up the fighter ranks one match at a time (although that mode is available), but you also become involved in a chapter by chapter tale of good vs. evil vs. good vs. everyone, with the actual “Kombat” seamlessly integrated into the story. The voice acting is quite excellent (and very silly in places), and the new characters are every bit as fascinating (even more so in some cases) as your old favorites. It’s as if you play through a mini animated version of a Shaw Brothers film, with family, friends, lovers, revenge, redemption and morality all coming into play.
Yes, this is Mortal Kombat of (and for) a new generation. It successfully brings its main kombat mechanics further into maturity, and, as a result, a bit further toward being strategic. Button mashers will be able to survive for a short while, but a player’s skill set will have to be studied and honed if one desires to last long-term. Each character has three ‘variations’ to choose from, each sporting a different set of skills, or angling their tried-and-true skill set in a different way.
With this title, the less-is-more approach tends to bring the most success, as players should focus on one character they like and master that character before moving on. Those who attempt to utilize four or five different characters right off the bat will be the master of none. The story mode actually involves players assuming the role of various personalities in the game, so by simply playing that mode you’re likely to find the one that suits you best.
Graphically, this is the best-looking Mortal Kombat yet. The scenery is lush, vibrant and full of little secrets the right button press at the right time will reveal. The character animations are fluid and look natural to a certain degree, with each character’s fighting style becoming evident after only a few moments of playing. Some character models (Sonya) seem less detailed than others, however, which is a bit odd for a title where much effort was put into making these individuals shine.
The online code base on both the Xbox One and PS4 is strong, but occasionally suffer from lag and disconnection issues. The PS4 has more problems in this regard, with stuttering, pausing, delayed input and disconnections. The most recent patch seems to have addressed a great deal of these issues, and the developer seems to be on top of things. At the time of this writing the game is only nine days out from the release date, and there have already been several large patches.
The game does sport a very uncomfortable amount of micro-transactions and DLC pushing, however. For instance, the “Krypt” makes its return to Mortal Kombat X, and for the low, low price of an extra $20, players can simply pay to unlock every secret and bonus feature contained therein. There are also “easy fatality” packages available, character unlocks (Goro), etc. While any of the purchasable content can be “earned” in-game without monetary cost, the very idea that things have progressed to the point where it looks as if developers are deliberately locking out assets in order to nickel-and-dime the fan base to death is disturbing. Although this trend is much larger than just this MK title, developers should proceed with caution here.
In short, Mortal Kombat X brings the series to a whole new level. It is a robust, enjoyable fighter that has managed to reinvent itself once again in a manner that is likely to be viewed as a classic in years to come. If you’ve ever been a fan of any of the past titles, you’ll find the light of that long lost flame re-ignited almost immediately, and as it beckons you to come closer you will find yourself seduced by its forgotten yet strangely familiar warmth.
Reviewed By: Russell Garbutt
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
This review is based on a retail copy of Mortal Kombat X for the PlayStation 4 provided by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.