The controversial poster child for ultra-violent fighting games, Netherrealm’s Mortal Kombat, is back with yet another aggressive, jaw-dropping blood and guts brawler. In an attempt to push the genre forward, Mortal Kombat X (MKX) injects more grotesque and engrossing action into the series – enough to make Saw’s Jigsaw squeamish.
Fueled by next-gen technology and building on the 2011 game’s framework, MKX is a technically impressive and inventive title with a polished presentation that combines the best of past success (showers of blood, gory fatalities, a larger roster of characters, various sorcery abilities, grim backdrops and plenty of mini-games) while introducing all-new characters and multiple fighting style variations.
After the success of 2011’s Mortal Kombat “reboot”, which saw Netherrealm refocus on their most popular characters and reset the fighter “back-to-basics” (gone are the many distractions), MKX (the tenth in the series) takes the next step to refine the series (with lessons learnt from Injustice: God’s Among us too), continuing the story and building on a solid foundation. Mortal Kombat is changing, slowly. It’s evolving into something bigger and better.
The roster is made up of 25 characters (including a few downloadable characters which include Predator, Jason Voorhees, and Goro), each with three distinct set of abilities (for example, Scorpion can now choose between sword-based Ninjutsu or two other fighting styles which involve the use of sorcery), improved animation, and fighting styles. Fans will be happy to recognize a number of faces amongst the list, including favourites Scorpion, Raiden, Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage and even the return of Lui Kang (who died in previous installments). With time gone by since the last game, a few of the characters have aged and a few others have offspring who join the fight against evil. Johnny Cage and Sonya’s Cassie Cage and Jackson Briggs’ Jacqui Briggs play a pivotal part in the game’s story mode.
Over the course of twelve chapters, each one focused on a particular character who gets three fights each, players get to play through four hours of the good guys’ story that spans twenty-five years. We’re tossed forward and backward in time, revealing the history of some of the beef between characters. Most of the chaos is caused by Quan Chi, the powerful sorcerer and necromancer from the Netherrealm. Using powers of manipulation, he causes friends to become enemies and sons to turn on their fathers. It’s up to a team of earthlings, lead by Johnny Cage, and a team of supernatural fighters, lead by Raiden, to stop his evil plan of world domination.
The story is as straightforward as they come, but it is probably one of the game’s best selling points. Unlike previous years, a large amount of time has been spent to make the story mode more engaging. While there is a significant improvement, MKX still falls victim to the usual sorcery, inter-dimension, gods vs. humans yadda-yadda. You know the usual sci-fi kung fu stuff. You’ll sit through plenty of cut-scenes, some of them interactive, some of them not. It’s a mile away from the first game’s Enter the Dragon inspired storyline. But who are we kidding, Mortal Kombat is all about the button-smashing fighting, right?
Gameplay is exactly where MKX shines brightest. This is mostly due to the fatalities and special moves, which are more gruesome and more violent than ever. Expect to see bones breaking and heads dropping in amazing detail. It’s sadistic in every way. And then there is the introduction of “brutalities”, new finishing moves that are possibly more violent than “fatalities” and require a lot more skill to pull off. The fighting upholds the series’ reputation of fun, with moves easy to remember. Back/down/forward still allows you to throw out a fireball.