|System: Xbox One, PS4*, PC|
|Dev: Netherrealm Studios|
|Pub: Warner Bros.|
|Release: April 14, 2015|
|Players: 1-2 (Online Multiplayer)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
Mortal Kombat X is the latest installment in the Mortal Kombat franchise, and arguably only the second to ever try to be taken seriously as a fighting game. It is a direct sequel and evolution of 2011’s Mortal Kombat (called Mortal Kombat 9 in fighting game circles). It melds elements of this prior Mortal Kombat release with elements of the in-between DC Comics fighting game, Injustice: Gods Among Us. It’s also not afraid to try out new systems that we simply haven’t seen in fighting games before. Of course, this willingness to innovate also results in a couple ideas that were probably best left on the cutting room floor, but it also makes Mortal Kombat X a truly unique experience that is very different from the same arcade-style fighting games that we have seen in the past.
As things stand, I have only had a limited amount of time with Mortal Kombat X. We did not receive a review copy of the game before its launch, and the PC version of the game has been fraught with bugs, some even preventing the game from launching. The game’s online servers have not yet been fully activated, and a good portion of the game’s content, such as the Challenge Towers which Netherrealm will change on a regular basis, simply isn’t implemented yet. Not only that, but a massive day one patch is set to change practically everything about the game, making a lot of these impressions obsolete, and that is kind of annoying both for us game journalists and for players who got the game early and already started learning their favorite characters.
But even with the limited amount of experience I have had, I can already tell that Mortal Kombat X is a solid game.
Mortal Kombat X earns its highest marks in presentation. It’s just dripping with personality, almost as much as it’s dripping with blood. Every single pair of characters has distinct pre-match conversations that they can have, fleshing out their character and backstory even before versus matches. The stages feel alive and complex, rather than simply being a painted background for battles to occur on. Character costumes are no longer generic ninja suits and skimpy sex princess outfits, and instead focus on bringing out each character’s individual style, from Erron Black's cowboy outfit, to Cassie Cage’s spec ops uniform. Even the loading screen has personality, as characters scoff at each other and head to their corners before a match begins.
But nowhere does this personality come through stronger than in the game's fantastic campaign mode. Usually, fighting games simply ignore single-player modes like this, opting for a simple gauntlet of matches with an interspersed cutscene here or there. At best, we have seen story modes with long interludes of text over still images. But Mortal Kombat X’s storyline features fully animated, fully voice acted scenes that seamlessly transition into fights. They look even better than Mortal Kombat 9’s, and that game won the award for best single-player experience in a fighting game ever.
Not to mention the story of how the world we know it has become overrun with demons and extradimensional baddies after Raiden killed Liu Kang in the last Mortal Kombat game is actually really compelling. The characters are honestly likeable. Series staples like Scorpion and Sub-Zero are no longer simply “blue ninja” and “yellow ninja”, nor are they shallow stereotypes following a quest for vengeance that hasn't ended since the first Mortal Kombat. They are fully realized characters with motivations, fears, and desires, and this makes them way cooler than they ever were before.
The only problem I find with the game’s single-player mode is how quickly it shuffles you from character to character. You don’t get a choice in who you play, you simply take control of who the story calls for at any given point in time. On one hand, this gives you a nice little taste of most of the characters in the game, which makes choosing your favorite easier. On the other hand, you never really get to know any character well enough in the limited amount of fights you have to really understand how they play. The difficulty also ramps up as the story mode goes on, which means that you may be forced to control a character that you really hate for some of the game’s hardest battles. It also doesn’t really do much to explain the game’s variation system, which is a core component of versus mode battles, and which may make some of your favorite campaign characters control completely different in practical matches.
That being said, the variation system is probably the best thing going for it outside of its presentation. Each character has three different styles to choose from prior to battle. Basic normal and special moves remain the same between each style, but you then get an additional set of special moves and combo strings based on the style you chose. Styles can differ wildly, even going as far as to change a character’s archetype. One style may focus on projectiles, while another focuses on quick strikes, and a third focuses on teleports.
I simply cannot stress what a genius move this is. Subtle variations in normal and special moves have differentiated fighting game characters (like Ryu and Ken) for ages. It doesn’t take much to completely change how the character is played, which means it also doesn’t take much to design these variations in the first place. With three variations per character and a character roster of 29 characters including DLC, that totals to 7569 different matchups. That’s insane! No other fighting game has even come close to this level of depth.