NetherRealm bring the gore as Mortal Kombat lands on the latest generation.
Party like it's 1994Mortal Kombat is one of those franchises. A name intrinsically linked to memories of techno music, broken bones and blood. It may not have ever been the most technical fighting game in the genre but it was almost certainly the most notorious. 2011 bought the series back in all the right ways, iconic characters, excessive violence and a surprisingly fun single player romp. For the follow up you would be forgiven for expecting little more than a version with a higher resolution and a smother frame rate that continued to follow the blueprint they laid out so well last time. Fighting games aren't exactly known for their revolutionary sequels; with Street Fighter repackaging itself every few months and Dead or Alive obsessed with squeezing their cast into into as many borderline socially acceptable DLC costume packs that they can get away with.
Mortal Kombat X certainly continues down the path NetherRealm uncovered with MK9, but they have certainly thrown in some interesting changes to keep us on our toes.
They have certainly thrown in some interesting changes to keep us on our toes
We are familyOne of the most obvious is in the character line-up, all the series staples return, Scorpion, Sub Zero, Raiden etc. but setting the game a few decades in the future allows for the inclusion of some new characters who are descendants of some of our old favourites. Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade got married and had Cassie Cage, Jax adds his daughter Jacqui, and Kenshi brings his son Takeda while Kung Lao's cousin Kung Jin follows in his footsteps. It might be fans of the franchise who benefit from this kind of lore building but it adds some extra flavour to the story mode and the 4 descendants act as the main protagonists in what continues to be a fantasy re-imagining of an over the top 70s kung fu movie. There are some other entirely new additions to the universe, with Sun god Kotal Khan, Insect Hive Queen D'vorah and the symbiotic combination of hulking monster and homicidal child which is Ferra/ Torr.
The brilliance of incorporating an actual single player campaign into a fighting game is that it offers a good introduction to the mechanics of the game outside of the cut and dried tutorial and the fiery hazing of online matches. The story is cheesy, the dialogue is largely ridiculous and unless you have been following the series for several games you will get lost in the twists and turns that incorporate Outworld, Netherrealm, various ninja clans and revenant (read as zombie) characters. It's good fun which takes you on a tour of all the characters, helping you decide which you might want to develop as your main character in the online arena.
A fantasy re-imagining of an over the top 70s kung fu movie
Variety is the spice of deathBefore you disregard any of the new addictions and head over to old favourites Scorpion or Sub Zero there are still more options to consider. Each character now has three variations which have subtle differences in the move sets. The cornerstone of a character's identity tends to stay in place: Scorpion always throws spears and Sub Zero never loses his ability to throw ice balls, but Scorpion's Ninjutsu variation endows him with dual swords, adding different moves to his attacks, while his Inferno variation allows him to summon minions for more damage at range. It adds quite a layer of complexity and opens a lot of new options for characters you may be very familiar with.
In fighting games it is important to not only know what your character can do but also what the other characters can throw at you, the variation system adds a layer of uncertainty which allows for a degree of counter picking and strategy picks; fighting a particularly irritating range based character, you now more than likely have options to switch it up with a variation and put up more of a challenge.
The mechanics of the fighting remain largely unchanged, with most of the moves responding to the same inputs as ever, characters build a meter which you can burn to perform enhanced versions of moves or save up for the X-Ray moves which are still simple to execute with a yank of both triggers delivering fantastically gory slow motion moves, showing you exactly the damage you are doing to your opponent's skeleton and organs.
The gore is both pervasive and gratuitous and is more extreme than it has ever been, with the signature Fatalities and the returning Brutalities routinely decapitating, amputating and eviscerating the unlucky loser. It goes without saying that the PEGI rating should be strictly observed, but It's all wonderfully over the top and the fidelity of the the shiny graphics really brings the combat to life better than ever before.
A yank of both triggers delivers fantastically gory slow motion moves
The fight goes on and on and...Once you have gone through the campaign there is yet another stepping stone before entering the fires of online play, the Tower system has been evolved to provide a huge amount of challenges to keep you coming back and improving. Traditional towers give you 10 opponents to tackle with the character of your choice, Test Your Might is still the quirky button-mashing karate chop challenge which seems to exist to destroy as many controllers as possible. Test Your Luck throws in random modifiers from a huge collection which change the fight in any number of ways, from one hits kills, random projectiles raining down on the stage and double damage. Endless and Survivor towers pit you against a never ending stream of opponents, with a fresh bar of health each time and a single bar of health for all matches respectively.
As if that wasn't enough MKX delivers the concept of living towers which are updated hourly, daily and weekly. These are managed by NetherRealm and might feature themes which revolve around the latest DLC character to be released, or focus on a particular modifier. Every time you complete a fight - whether it be in the campaign, any tower or online - you will receive coins which you can spend in the sprawling Krypt, a mini adventure environment where you explore and open tombstones to unlock extra content such as Fatalities, Brutalities and concept art. There is a lot to unlock here but then there is a lot to do in Mortal Kombat X with out ever venturing online; even if you are a novice there is far more to explore than an arcade ladder or two before you lose interest.
If you ever do run out of single player content, or simply fancy more of a challenge, then the online modes is where it's at, with Versus, Team Battle (five one-on-one matches) and King of the Hill (winner stays on) modes for you to battle the masses and your friends in. During my time I found connectivity robust, with few instances of game breaking lag or disconnects, and matches are usually quick to come across and connect.
All of your multiplayer activity and tower matches fold into the the larger meta game of the Faction system, where you align yourself with one of the game's factions and work towards rewards and bonuses by beating the competing factions. Rewards include faction specific Fatalities and extra credits to spend in the Krypt; so far it's little more than a popularity contest, which doesn't really provide any incentive to choose any clan other that the overly popular ninjas the Lin Kuei, but it remains to be seen what other tweaks NetherRealm have in store to provide further incentive to actually care about the Faction Wars.
There is far more to explore than an arcade ladder or two before you lose interest
There will certainly be further additions to the game with the "Kombat Pass" promising 4 extra characters, Tremor and Tanya return from past iterations and Jason Vorhees and The Predator make appearances to continue the tradition of guest characters. While the pack also promises several skins for additional characters, it's priced aggressively at half the RRP of the the game itself for comparatively little content.
Other DLC for the game is even more ludicrous, with the ability to purchase a set amount of expendable "easy Fatality" tokens (which can be earned freely throughout the game) to reduce Fatality inputs down to to a trigger and face button rather than the traditional 4-5 direction/button input. For those too lazy to enter the pause menu that will set you back £3.99 for 30 tokens. If you still feel your hard earned cash weighing you down you can unlock all items in the Krypt (again achievable for free by simply playing the game) for £15.99.
While none of this DLC affects how the game plays or unbalances any of its mechanics, it's an unsettling move from NetherRealm who are clearly intent on monetising as many aspects as possible.
NetherRealm are clearly intent on monetising as many aspects as possible
- Lots of varied single player content
- Crisp visuals
- New options add depth to gameplay
back, forwards, down...crap!
- Tough online skill level
- Campaign requires lore knowledge
- Cheeky DLC Monetisations
Mortal Kombat X Xbox One ReviewThe beauty of Mortal Kombat X is that it acknowledges all the barriers of entry inherent to the genre, and fills the learning curve with fun activities for the novice player to occupy themselves with rather than getting demoralised by online play instantly.
The campaign may focus on providing fan service - requiring knowledge of series lore to make any sense - but at the very least it functions as a gentle introduction to the gameplay while giving you a tour of the character line up. Challenge Towers provide a vast array of challenges with massive variety to keep you busy enough that you might not even venture online; which itself plays well and has all the options you might want, if you are good enough to hold your own among the masses.
This smartly allows people of all skills levels to enjoy everything Mortal Kombat has to offer, from the gleefully gory Fatalities to the addictive "one more match" gameplay. Mortal Kombat X is exactly the game my 11 year old self imagined he was playing all those years ago, and it's still just as much fun.
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