Mortal Kombat X… what can I say? You make me cringe. You make me scream. You make me want to throw up. You made me love you. The newest installment of Mortal Kombat deserved a lot more fanfare than it received. It is bloody, smooth and engaging combat that drags you in for hours before kicking your head off of your body in the most satisfying of ways. Alongside a complex and detailed combat system is more personality and story than you can soak with the brain juices of your enemies. Mortal Kombat X delivers on its promises and devours the face off your days, afternoons, and nights faster than you can scream “Mileena.”
MKX brings with it a roster of fighters both veteran and new. A literal next generation of characters including the children of Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, Jax, Kenshi: Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs, and Takeda respectively. Also new to the lineup is Kung Lao’s cousin Kung Jin, “bug-lady” D’vorah, Kotal Khan, cowboy outlaw Erron Black and “symbiotes” Ferra and Torr. Other staple favourites return and many characters make cameos in the main story. MKX combat has a twist: Variations. Every fighter comes in three unique flavours that can drastically affect the fighter’s style and tactics. For example, Cassie Cage comes in the Hollywood, Brawler, and Spec Ops varieties. Hollywood gives her a similar feel to her father Johnny Cage; Brawler makes her fast and hard-hitting; Spec Ops gives her Special Forces related abilities. The differences may seem minor in text, but a fighter’s variation can drastically change how they play. Brawler Cassie is very close quarters and uses lots of long, chaining combos to achieve victory. Spec Ops Cassie has access to more long ranged, ‘keepaway’ attacks. Both play very differently.
The variation system is a very welcome addition; it just plain takes longer for each character to feel “used.” It also allows you to find an enjoyable aspect to every character… it makes you want to play across the whole roster, rather than sticking to a few favourites. No matter what move set your fighter has, it would mean less if the combat weren’t so damn smooth. There is rarely a moment of model jarring or awkward stillness; combat flows and it always feels like when you press a button, something happens. However, something I did notice is that this game is HARD. Even on easy mode, I found myself gasping for breath at the end of a round, and at first even lost a few times. I’m no master of fighting games, but normally I can pull off enough flawless victories on easy mode. The computer AI can also get into the habit of spamming a particular move. However, this was only really prevalent when versing Jacqui and Corrupted Shinnok. Why this happened, is because every character is so much more in depth, and each has a ton of basic combos. The game is harder, because with a little practice, every character is a much more comfortable play. You never feel completely helpless when playing as certain characters, something past games have been painfully guilty of.
I said it before; this game is bloody. Fatalities are brutal, and brutalities are fatally awesome. The flawless transition between the final blow and a violent end to your opponent via a brutality is endlessly satisfying. Playing with a friend for the first time, a brutality left him quickly confused; yet equally impressed. They’re quick, violent ends to matches that vary in difficulty from simply executing a particular move, to connecting a certain number of other attacks in order to make it possible. Fatalities are… gross. They’re ridiculous, Final Destination level finishers that should have the development team put into psychiatric care; especially the sound guys. The gurgling and frothing that comes from my TV sounds like the witches from Hocus Pocus brewing up a potion in my bedroom. It is unpleasant, yet it’s a fatality.
MKX has character. Each fighter has more personality than I’ve felt any other fighting game has presented. Each fight starts with a completely personal exchange between the two opponents that speak volumes of their story and personality in a few short words. It’s skip-able, and most people will probably do just that, but every line brings more character to the fighters and the world they’re in. Alongside the short exchanges that carry so much weight, is, for once, a damn enjoyable story. MK9 was okay. It wasn’t a bad story; it was a fighting game story. It understood that people came for the fights and not the chatter. MKX, however, gives you reason to sit back and listen. The characters are wholesome; they have background, personality, and relationships that resonate with the story and each other. It’s a story of comrades among chaos, and follows the next generation Special Forces unit: Cassie Cage, Takeda, Jacqui Briggs, and Kung Jin, as they set out to defend Earthrealm, and the Universe, from scorned Elder God Shinnok. It’s a short story, yes, but it is an engaging, emotional venture worth the attention.
Rather than having minigame rounds of defeating grunt enemies or completely baseless test your might challenges, small sections of the story use quick-time events. The quick-time events sit on an odd precipice; I enjoyed them and they added to the story over taking away from it… yet they were used only a few times in the first half of the game, never to be seen again. It almost felt like they’d forgotten they were doing it halfway through. They feel tacked on; not in a “they don’t need to be here” way but rather a “they’re only kind of here” way. I wouldn’t ask for one in every cutscene, but there were a lot of moments where I expected one where there wasn’t.
Speaking of expectations, I’m not sure what ones I held for faction mode. It’s the one promise MKX falls a little behind on. They didn’t exactly give false hope, but it definitely doesn’t have the impact they seemed to expect it to. Beyond getting some ‘koinage’ should your faction win an invasion, and the faction kill fatalities… there’s not much else there. It also seems terribly balanced towards the Lin Kuei faction, who completely dominated the first invasion I experienced. Whether it was an oddity, or an issue they need to address with unbalanced faction numbers, it’s not quite the beast it was hyped up to be. Living towers, however, live up to their name. They are different towers that change periodically and have different goals, and in the future will supposedly allow one to try out a DLC fighter. They offer a consistently changing objective to work toward, something very few fighting games offer bar achievements.
One of the biggest surprises for me was the Krypt mode. I went in expecting to wander through a grid of graves, or corpses, or anything gruesome, and spent my accumulated Koins on alternate costumes, music, and concept art. What I got was a smaller game in itself. The area is huge, and broken up into a bunch of different themes, that are all somewhat of a puzzle. Certain areas are locked off via one of the fighter’s items such as Raiden’s staff or Kung Lao’s hat. Finding these items will allow you into the barred area where more unlockables await. There is also a passage of time in the Krypt, measured by a clock on the HUD. Different times coincide with different events, such as special golden chests appearing, which are significantly cheaper than normal grave unlocks. However, hidden items and golden chests aren’t the only surprises the krypt has hidden in it’s shadowy halls.
- Fighters are varied and as complex as they are welcoming.
- The story is engaging and well worth the experience.
- Variations offer a welcome twist to each fighter.
- Living towers offer consistently fresh goals to achieve.
- The Krypt is surprisingly in depth and exciting.
- Faction mode does not live up to its hype.
- The game can feel slightly difficult on first play.
- Some AI can get a little “spammy” at times.
Mortal Kombat X surprised me. Its characters are well thought out and its story is remarkably enjoyable. The combat is beautifully fluid, satisfyingly gory, and incredibly complex when mixing in the new variations and returning brutalities. Faction mode didn’t quite deliver on its hype, but the ever-evolving living towers bring new goals at least every hour. Mortal Kombat X was an unexpected gem in my personal 2015 games collection, but it’s sure to stick around for a while yet.