Mortal Kombat X Review – Bloody Fantastic

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It’s been 23 years since Mortal Kombat made its debut. Since then we’ve seen dozens of releases, some much better than others, and even a few films. Its last release, dubbed MK9, was a reboot for the series that returned it to its roots while introducing a few new mechanics to ensure there was depth to the experience. The formula was successful, leading to the highest average critic rating in franchise history.

Mortal Kombat X looks to carry the torch of its predecessor, taking strong cues from its successful brother while introducing some unique qualities of its own. The question is, does it succeed in pushing Mortal Kombat to the new generation of consoles, or does it fall flat into a pit of spikes?

Old Meets New

Mortal Kombat X is a healthy mixture of old and new. The fundamentals of its gameplay are familiar, owing for a more casual approach to the fighting genre with slower gameplay and easier to execute special attacks than what you experience in games like Street Fighter. You can punch and kick, grab enemies, block, interrupt, and execute an array of special attacks, all with the benefits of a fluid game engine that you can rely on. 

A new Stamina bar is among the list of new gameplay features. It serves as a limiter for dashes and other gameplay elements that previously could be abused. Zoning has been impacted as a result, resulting in veterans having to adapt to a new style of play.

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Kitana shows Kung Lao that she isn’t to be messed with.

One of the best elements of Mortal Kombat X‘s gameplay are stage interactions. Each stage has its own unique set of interactables that can be anything from a massive vase you can chuck at your enemy, to a car that you jump off of to re-position. These add a great new strategic element to the game that rewards those who don’t only pay attention to character positioning and telegraphs, but the environment around them.

As with previous releases, Mortal Kombat X is a fighting game that has a taste for violence. Regular hits are emphasized with powerful sounds and great animations. The game’s more advanced attacks are absolutely brutal, sometimes cringe-worthy with eye gouges and skull breaks. This prioritization of brutality often gets in the way of the game experience. Attacks like X-Rays and grabs have lengthy animations, and aren’t skippable. You will grow tired of watching them and may just find yourself jumping around characters to mix up the patterns.

Fatalities in Mortal Kombat X are remarkably detailed. Sadly, the creativity of most of the previous releases is lacking. Many Fatalities feel similar to one another, leading to quick repetition. The more difficult to execute Brutalities are the star of the show as far as post-battle theatrics are concerned since there are no Stage Fatalities.

A Dynamic Cast

Mortal Kombat X has 24 fighters, nearly half of which are brand new to the Mortal Kombat universe. The cast strikes a nice balance. While franchise staples like Scorpion, Johnny Cage, Raiden, and Quan Chi are here for the ride, a band of new characters aspire to bring new blood to the admittedly aged series. You’re sure to find a favorite.

The new characters are hit or miss. Characters such as Ferra/Torr can be divisive, Takeda fails to substantiate his existence, while Cassie Cage and Kotal Kahn are an absolute joy to play and watch. Some of these new characters have already proven that they should be incorporated into future releases, and that’s just about the best thing you can say about any new character in an established franchise.

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This is the full fighter list. Notice the three Variations to the left.

Where Mortal Kombat X makes a huge leap forward for the franchise is with its Variations system. For every character there are three options to specialize how you play. For example, Scorpion has the choice between Ninjitsu, which tosses a pair of swords on his back, Hellfire, equipping him with fireballs and a fiery aura, as well as Inferno, allowing him to summon a demonic beast. Unlike previous Mortal Kombat games, and virtually any other fighting game in history, you aren’t forced to play any character in one defined way. If you desire to play Sub-Zero, you will find that at least one of the Variations suits your play style. Or, you can look at it as allowing you to play your favorite character in multiple ways.

This cast of characters meets in barbaric fashion for a ton of battles throughout Mortal Kombat X‘s roughly five hour Story Mode laden with dense cutscenes. As a whole it’s serviceable, much like in previous games. For all but the most hardcore of Mortal Kombat fans it does a poor job of capturing interest, mostly serving as another forgettable continuation of the battle between Earthrealm, Netherrealm, and all their martial arts capable inhabitants.

Story Mode falters most in its presentation. Cutscenes can look downright awful at times. Thankfully, this isn’t an issue that affects the rest of the game. Characters models and battle arenas are spectacular, backed by well-designed menus.

So Much to See and Do

It could be argued that Mortal Kombat X is the most feature-rich of the franchise, with so many options in how to enjoy the combat that the menus can be a bit overwhelming at first.

There’s the Story Mode as previously detailed, as well as Towers which are where you’ll likely spend the bulk of your time unless you prefer competing online. There are a plethora of Tower types that range from Klassic where you battle through ten fighters including Goro and Shinnok, to Test Your Luck where you engage in battles with an assortment of random modifiers. The variety is here in full-force.

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Goro is back, and he’s as big of a pain to face as ever.

Online play is similarly rich with options. You can play in one versus one battles that are Ranked or Unranked, engage in Team Battle, and more. To supplement this is a new system called Factions where you can join one of five teams and contribute your participation to their advancement. Each week there are Faction specific challenges that reward you with things like unique Fatalities and regalia to show off on your player card. If nothing else, it’s a reason to log in on a regular basis.

Lastly, the Krypt is back. It is relatively similar to what was in Mortal Kombat 9, but you’re asked to traverse in the first-person viewpoint while spending earned currency to unlock rewards. It has some RPG elements that can make it a place where you end up spending a lot more time than you anticipate.

The culmination of all these features and game modes is a fighting game that goes to great lengths to keep you entertained. If you enjoy fighting games, and more importantly favor Mortal Kombat‘s style, you might just stick around for the foreseeable future.

Conclusion

Mortal Kombat X is a great follow-up to 2011’s Mortal Kombat. It brings with it great additions, most notable of which are the three Variations per character. It also has a strong list of game modes only held back by an uninteresting Story Mode.

Mortal Kombat X‘s prioritization of violence does get in the way of gameplay, and its list of Fatalities could be a lot better, but it’s a solid fighting game that shows why Mortal Kombat is still around after 22 years.

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Jonathan Leack is the Gaming Editor for CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter @MrJonnyBigBoss.


Copy provided by publisher. Mortal Kombat X is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.