Before sitting down to play this game, the distinct possibility that it would suck haunted me. Why you may ask? Well I have been an avid lover of the Mortal Kombat universe since it first took over controllers in 1993 with Mortal Kombat II, and have continued to play most of the games since. I had the great misfortune of playing Mortal Kombat: Komplete in 2011 and it left me high and dry and completely (Kompletely?) over the series. It was a sad time indeed.
Enter NetherRealm’s Mortal Kombat X. All I can say is……..
Mortal Kombat X is truly the best Mortal Kombat I have ever played, hands down. It’s like the thought of spending eternity being squashed in some kind of Goro-like Death Grip woke the team at NetherRealm Games right up. The team have packaged together a complete and tidy game which has hours of gameplay, amazing graphics, awesome online alternatives and an ease of use that just begs for a one on one with mates over a beer or two.
Although I have stated that it is the best version of Mortal Kombat I have played to date, it isn’t without some flaws. I’ll mention those as they come up throughout the review.
Mortal Kombat X offers players a vast many options when it comes to gameplay modes. The single player campaign follows a basic story set 25 years after the last Mortal Kombat, which, although it offers some funny one–liners, is fairly poor and boring. It does introduce some new characters (or as I call them “youngins”) but I couldn’t really attach myself to them or their story. I honestly was more excited watching all my classic characters battle it out, than to watch the new characters debate about how good they are and how old everyone else is. If it was NetherRealm’s intention to make them as annoying to watch and play as most teenagers are these days, then give them a fat 10/10 and tell ‘em what they won Johnny!!
The story mode makes you move through the campaign as different characters telling the story through combat. I liked the idea, but the execution was a bit poor and I found that by the time I had figured out some of the characters combos and special moves, I was forced onto a new character to start again. I enjoyed the swapping of characters, but three fights and a switch of character was just a bit too short for my liking, especially considering the sheer number of characters you play as during the campaign. 5 to 6 hours later and the campaign is over, and it feels like all that time was a small waste as I try to remember who I enjoyed playing as and can I even remember the moves. Luckily, there is a fantastic menu of moves to pull up and explore and the use of the training room allows you to really hone your skills for any chosen character.
Single player also offers a bunch of non-campaign related modes including One V One and Test Your Luck, where you fight random battles with added elements such as rain, bombs and the occasional electrified floor. My personal favourite however is the Living Towers mode as it is a real breath of fresh air. In a nut shell, Living Towers is your standard work your way up the tower defeating each opponent as you go type scenario, but with one difference: It evolves as you play. There are 3 tower types: Hourly, Daily and Weekly. Each changes at the given duration and each has a unique set of challenges and rewards. This makes for endless amounts of gameplay variation and I have spent a fair spread of my gameplay time here. It’s a great way to battle different opponents and you always seem to get a great mix of characters to challenge. I love that it can also earn you Faction Points. But what are Faction Points? This is where we enter the online game modes.
Online gameplay has a series of game rooms and challenges that feature your straight-up, 1v1, Fatality-laden brutal gameplay. For all this bloodshed, you gain points for your ‘Faction’ or online team. There are five to choose from. Each week there is a Faction winner and trust me, there is no better feeling than being on that team. The Faction Wars as it is called play a cool part in helping to make gameplay continuous and enjoyable. I found that matchmaking was relatively fast and that lag wasn’t really a problem, though occasionally I found myself losing on a combo or unable to complete a fatality because the opponent wasn’t exactly where I was seeing them. The other small issue I have with the online matchmaking is the lack of ranked matches. Although the option for ranked matches does exist, more often than not I found myself up against a higher ranking opponent. The difference was never by a level or two, but by at best eight and up. It didn’t stop me winning a few matches, but it sure does put you down knowing your battling someone who has invested a lot more time than you. The thing I love about Mortal Kombat that really shines here though is that at any stage, any player can be beaten. I found that if I was playing against a higher rank that I really needed to focus on my combos and watch my opponent closely for the right times to block. There was no better feeling than blocking a super combo only to own the player and win the match……ahh heaven.
All in all, gameplay is immense, smooth and the starting roster of 24 playable characters makes for loads of starter choices.
The graphical element of Mortal Kombat X is a jump up from the last Mortal Kombat due to its next-gen only console release. The characters are amazingly detailed, though I couldn’t help notice that some were way more detailed than others. Characters like Sub-Zero, Kotal Khan and Goro look amazing whilst other characters like Sonya and Cassie Cage look bland and kind of two-dimensional. I mean the playability is still strong, but when you compare the two it’s really noticeable. Contrary to this, NetherRealm really took time to make sure that each stage is well designed and looks amazing. The detail in the backgrounds are a solid 9/10 and even the interactive elements of the stage look like they are in the right place, not just over the top of the background art. It’s a strong statement for NetherRealm as they have been guilty of leaving detail out before. There are the occasional lip-sync issues during cut-scenes but I didn’t care as they were well animated, and frankly the story kind of bored me anyway.
A quick side note on sound as well. The sound effects and music are incredibly well-produced. When you hit someone, the sound is incredibly realistic and it firmly makes you feel like when you smack that button, you smackin’ that button! Bonus points for that!
Then of course there are the Fatalities, Brutalities and X-ray moves. Oh hold onto your hats, this one’s going to get messy and messy it does get. Whether it’s a Gut Pulling Fatality, Body Bursting Brutality or a straight-up ‘I just exploded your balls inside your body’ X-ray move, they all look amazing, visceral and downright badass. Watching Johnny Cage split someone in two with the quote “Here’s Johnny” as he peaks through the hole or seeing D’Vorah impregnate an enemy and have the larvae explode out there chest like a scene from ‘Alien’ was immensely pleasurable and exciting. Although any normal person may feel slightly sick after seeing so much carnage, I couldn’t get enough. Due to the X-Ray moves being a “build up to use” move, there was a great satisfaction in performing them too. All these moves felt really rewarding without feeling like I have done them a million times with other characters. The bonus of the X-ray moves and the number of Brutalities and Fatalities unlockable for each character offers multiple options and countless ways to destroy, bleed, decapitate and impale your opponents.
So is Mortal Kombat X a Sub-Zero or a Flawless Victory? Hopefully I’ve convinced you for the most part it definitely tends towards the latter. It does what it set out to do: Be a kick-ass fighting game. Its throw back to old characters and destructive beauty really set it apart from previous games, whilst its poor story execution stops it from being a Kompletely Flawless Victory. Although there are some elements that could have been done better, the game is the strongest release to date and there are endless hours of gameplay available through the various online and offline modes. So sit back, hit “Down, Back, Forward, Up” and watch as Scorpion blows a hole through the enemy and then slices their face off. Enjoy!!