Four years has passed since the revival of the last Mortal Kombat game in 2011, which set a new benchmark with the one-on-one beat ‘em’ ups, not to mention that the gameplay was faster, fluid and smoother than ever before. So when Mortal Kombat X finally came along, the latest instalment has a lot to live up to and in the most part it surpasses that to arguably make this the best game in the series to date (not taking into account feelings of nostalgia from classics gone by).
With Shao Kahn defeated from the last outing, Shinnok a banished former elder God tried his luck at taking over the Earthrealm with an army of fallen undead warriors resurrected as revenants under the command of Quan Chi. But thanks to Raiden, Blade, Kenshi, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, Shinnok fails in his attempts to control Earthrealm. Now twenty years has passed since Shinnok’s defeat and the former empress Mileena is now trying to rule the roost with her rebel army and to gain total Kontrol (see what I did there?) of Outworld throne, but to do so, she must obtain Shinnok’s amulet.
However, with a civil war breaking out in the Outworld, a young upstart team assembled by Johnny Cage that consists of Cassie Cage (Johnny & Sonya’s daughter), Jacqui (daughter of Jax), Kung Jin (cousin of Kung Lao) and Takeda are sent with a peace treaty to restore balance and order to the Outworld. As you can imagine, with the civil war hitting tenuous heights, the Outworld’s emperor Kotal Kahn has some series trust issues and that includes the Earthrealm descendants. In an ideal world, folk will listen to reason, there will be no backstabbing and peace will be restored. But after all, this is Mortal Kombat and if there’s something that can be guaranteed, all hell will break loose and blood will be shed in all its gruesome, gory glory.
Now let’s talk of the most important element in a game of this genre; the gameplay. As you might expect from a NetherRealm title, the gameplay to Mortal Kombat X is sublime. When you’re actually in a fight, it’s very difficult to pick out any flaws, other than your own lack of ability. If you’re going to lose in this game, then it’s all going to be your fault. Though I have to say that during my last battle (I won’t mention names for spoiler reasons), the A.I spammed the same move practically during the whole round, it was just as annoying as a spammer that you might encounter when playing online, for which I expected better A.I programming from the talented development team at NetherRealm if I’m being honest. But that is just a mere nitpick for a game that plays as well as any fighter I’ve ever played.
Each of the 25 man/woman roster has three fight variations, each with their own special moves. So in a way, it’s kind of like 3-in-1 for each character, which will give you more than 70 variations to master. That’s of course if you chose to master them all, in which case I salute your dedication. For the rest of us, we’re likely to choose our few favourite characters of choice and then do our best to “master” our favourite variation. The one bad (ish) thing that I would say about some of the variations is that you might not find your favourite moves all in one variation, but instead they might be scattered across them all. For example Raiden’s iconic teleportation and torpedo moves will be found on different variations, which is a tad disappointing. However, that’s not the case with all characters, because Liu Kang’s fireball and bicycle kick attacks will be found in his Dragon’s Fire variation. If you do find your favourite moves spread across all three variations, just use that as an opportunity to learn some new attacks and combos, perhaps even with a new character?
One factor that we perhaps assume would make the transition from Injustice: Gods Among Us over to Mortal Kombat X will be the interactive levels. The levels in Mortal Kombat X are interactive, but not quite to the level of detail to Injustice, but don’t let this put you off. Don’t get me wrong; I loved smashing my opponent through the ceiling in Mortal Kombat III and of course with Injustice. The levels in MKX might not be multilayered, but each one has objects to brutalise, maim and destroy your opponent. Ok, it’s far more violent than its superhero themed cousin, but there’s something truly satisfying about flicking hot laver into the face of an opponent, or using an unsuspecting granny as a weapon. Yes you read that correctly, in MKX you can use unsuspecting grannies (and peaceful monks) as lethal weapons. A humorous and genius inclusion if I might add.
The levels themselves are also created to a high degree of detail and look stunning, from rain pouring to the ground and dripping off the combatants, interesting goings on in the background or even just looking for the next interactive object to smash in an opponent’s face. You can really tell that NetherRealm Studios have put in a lot of time and effort in making each stage unique and interesting. The same has to be said with some of the character design, especially with the newbie’s such as the beast/evil child wielding Ferra & Torr, and the disgusting insect woman known as D’Vorah. With some many new characters introduced into MKX, those two especially stood out for me. I also quite like Cassie Cage, who has a perfect blend of Johnny Cage and Sonja Blade assets. She’s fast, nibble and has an attitude to boot. The other three main characters failed to standout for me however. Takashi Takeda and Kung Jin just failed to appeal for whatever reason, but this could be a result of MKX’s short campaign (more on that later). The other new character, Jacqueline Briggs just bored the hell out of me. I imagine seeing more personality from Lance Storm entering an Aiden Pearce impersonation contest. Can you imagine that?
An improvement that I appreciate that has been made since MK9 and Injustice is the way in which characters fall after being defeated during a round. This may seem like something small, but when you would deal the final blow to your opponent, and they would sometimes fall to the floor, get back up and then fall back down, it took me out of the immersion somewhat. So thankfully in MKX, when your opponent is down and defeated, they stay down. Unless you have another round of course and in which case, they will get back up to fight on, but it looks far more natural than in previous instalments.
Also there are some QTE’s in MKX, which oddly have no real consequence if you fail them, instead your character will just get more of an ass-kicking in the process. Regardless of whether you like QTE’s or not, at least we’re saved from the annoying as hell ‘instakills’. So if you don’t wish to partake in the QTE cutscene, you can sit back and watch Johnny Cage getting a few more punches to the face. However, there is one evolution that I would love to see from QTE’s or match losses in future games and that would be branching storylines. I get that some matches need to be replayed to progress the story, but I believe it would be awesome that if you lost certain a match or failed a certain QTE, as a consequence it could affect the outcome of the storyline.
In terms of value, Mortal Kombat X is absolutely packed with content, from its campaign; various challenge tower variations and much more. The campaign itself did have me gripped from start to finish, though that isn’t a hard task considering that the campaign only took me around 4 hours to finish, and I’m not even that good at Mortal Kombat (as much as I love them). I can’t remember exact numbers, but I would say that MKX’s campaign is around half the size of MK9’s. In its credit, the acting is wonderfully cheesy with well crafted cinematics that give it that movie-like feel. I know some of you might not be too concerned about a campaign length or quality in a game of this genre, but NetherRealm had set a new benchmark with not only MK9, but so to with Injustice Gods Among Us. So in that respect, my standards were already set quite high.
I don’t measure a campaign on the quantity, as for me it’s all about the quality and as much as I did enjoy the short campaign, it hindered the character development somewhat, which is quite a big deal considering the new characters introduced. For example, we don’t know too much about Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs, Kung Jin or Takeda Takahashi, other than their family heritage. Also without giving too much away, Sonja Blade is really pissed at Johnny Cage, but we don’t really know why. Before MKX released, we also heard of Mileena’s rebel army in the Outworld as she goes up against Kotal Kahn during a civil war. Yet Mileena’s pursuit to rule the Outworld is barely touched upon and so to with Quan Chi’s resurrected warriors. I really do think that if MKX’s campaign was two or three hours longer, I’d feel a little more invested in its characters and story. And I won’t even go into its sudden and fairly anti-climatic ending, though its end of credits scene is pretty awesome and should make for an interesting sequel.
Among the many singleplayer modes and features, MKX features the new and improved Krypt. Here you will walk around graveyards, crypt’s, tombs and so forth as you spend your MK Koins on many, many unlockables. Unless you look at certain Wiki Guides, finding which random goodies you’ve just unlocked is an addictive joy and it should take you many hours of gaming to unlock everything. However, if you want to unlock everything without earning it and remove all the joy of discovery, then you can do so at the small price of £15 via one of the in-game microtransactions.
As I didn’t acquire my copy of MKX until release day, I’m told that those that had review copies before its release date; you could earn more MK Koins via your in-game actions. Then when release day came along, MKX was patched which resulted in you earning less MK Koins then before, drawing out the unlock process of the Krypt. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out, that this was done to entice gamers to purchase the microtransaction to unlock all Krypt items. I think that patch to reduce MK Koins sucks and the quantity should have remained in its original state. Another microtransaction that has caused quite a stir is that of the “Easy Fatalities”.
What I find really puzzling about this is that you can unlock Easy Fatalities tokens during the game (though I intend to never use them) and the fact that Fatalities are easier to perform than ever before, just puzzles me even further. So unless you have lubricated Purple Penetrators as fingers, you should have no need to make the Easy Fatality microtransaction in the first place. Though what I will say in WB Games and NetherRealm’s defence is that they are a business, they need money to survive and to continue on to bring us the games we love and the above microtransactions that I’ve mentioned, are cosmetic and you do not need to buy any of them if you don’t want too. So the choice is yours, depending on what you want to get out of the game.
When you’re done with all the singleplayer modes, there are also plenty of online modes to sink your teeth into. You have the usual Vs mode, King of the Hill (which will require you to win consecutive matches to remain on top), Tower Battle, Team Battle and much more. Just like most fighting games, practise makes (almost) perfect and you will need to practise, because as I found out, you will get your ass handed to you when playing online. One huge gripe that I have when playing online, is the unbearable spamming that you will encounter from many online gamers. You’ll know exactly what I mean if you’ve come up against someone that uses Scorpion or Sub-Zero (Jacqueline Briggs I’m looking at you too). This doesn’t mean that all players that use these characters will move spam, but in my experience, most do.
This makes me not want to play against anyone that uses Scorpion or Sub-Zero and as soon as I see a player select one of them, my eyes roll, because I know what is coming. I don’t agree with players quitting because they’re getting their ass kicked, and NetherRealm has enforced the awesome Quitalities to counter those that choose to quit. However, I think it would be great if a forthcoming update allowed you to back-out of the character selection, before the match has started for those that don’t want to potentially face Scorpion/Sub-Zero spam attacks. It kind of reminds me when playing FIFA online, against those that always use Barcelona or Real Madrid (despite not being their supported team) for Messi and Ronaldo, but at least you could back-out at the team selection with no consequence (quitting during a match is wrong by the way, for any game). Perhaps I’m not skilled enough to counter all spam attacks (and that’s probably true), but regardless of whether you can counter them with ease or not, at the very least it makes some matches very repetitive.
A new feature that has been introduced in Mortal Kombat X is the Faction Wars. On paper this sounds like a fantastic idea, choose from one of five factions to represent, battle against rival factions (Black Dragon, Brotherhood of Shadow, Lin Kuei, Special Forces and White Lotus) and earn in-game rewards. At the end of the week, the winning faction wins and as long as you represent the winning faction, you’ll reap the rewards. But the problem is with this, is that the most popular factions will pretty much always win (with the off exception) and it’s always between White Lotus, lead by Raiden and Lin Kuei who is led by Sub-Zero. So if you pick any other faction other than White Lotus or Lin Kuei, you’ve practically got no hope of winning the top weekly prizes, so unless everyone jumps ship (in my case from Kano’s Black Dragon), it renders all other factions almost pointless. If you do choose a less popular faction, you can jump ship (at the expense of losing your faction progress) to stand a better chance of winning on a weekly basis, but if like me, I like to pick my team and stick with them, through thick and thin as they say. It’s just a shame that my stubborn loyalty means missing out on rewards because I don’t follow the popular crowd. I just hope that NetherRealm manage to fix this balancing issue in the near future with a patch.
All in all, despite its short and sudden campaign, and controversial microtransaction inclusions, Mortal Kombat X is a superb fighting game, in-fact it’s one of the best I’ve ever played in the genre. The gameplay is faster and more fluid than ever before, each character has three fighting variations and it features robust offline and online features. It certainly has enough to keep you busy until the next instalment comes along, especially if you really enjoy its online features (and good old sofa multiplayer of course). It will be easy to label Mortal Kombat X as a game that thrives off cheap gory thrills and some might have their reasons to say that, but anyone that has played this game will know that it’s the deepest game in the series yet, and then some. And if you’re yet to add this game to your collection, then you’re really missing out on a great game. Capcom, it’s your move, so hurry up and bring on Street Fighter V.
+ Fast & Fluid Gameplay
+ Enjoyable story (Although Short)
+ Looks Great
+ Fulfilling Roster
+ 3 Fight Variations For Each Character
+ Packed With Online & Offline Modes
+ Loads Of Unlockable Rewards
- Meaningless Microtransaction
- Campaign Half The Length of MK9
- Online Spammers
- Flawed Rewards in Factions