It’s been four years since the last Mortal Kombat game and it’s been 25 years in the game’s story. How much has Mortal Kombat changed, and does it live up to the hype?
Mortal Kombat X is the second Mortal Kombat game produced by NetherRealm Studios. A little while ago I had the pleasure to get a preview of the game to share with you all, and now I’ve gotten my hands on a copy to give you the juicy details on what to expect in Mortal Kombat X.
The last NetherRealm Studios game I played was Injustice: Gods Among Us, the DC fighting game modelled similarly on the Mortal Kombat system and I got to play a little of Mortal Kombat 9, though more in the two player versus mode than anything else. Needless to say NetherRealm’s developed a lot over the past few years, showing their stuff in Injustice and now in Mortal Kombat X.
Mortal Kombat X’s story takes place 25 years after the events of Mortal Kombat 9 and introduces a new type of story not seen in the game before. It is a non-linear game, the main story taking place in the present, but with events given context through flashbacks to fill the gaps of what happened to each of the characters during those 25 years.
The new roster features eight brand spanking new characters, with a ‘main four’ who are all related to major players in the MK universe. You have Cassie Cage, daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, Jacqui Briggs, Jax’s daughter, Takeda’s the son of Kenshi but was raised and trained by Scorpion and finally, Kung Jin, who is the cousin of Kung Lao. Easily the most diverse group of protagonists in any game of the moment! There are other new faces too, such as the badass insect queen D’Vorah and old western style sharpshooter Erron Black.
Interestingly, a whole bunch of characters haven’t made the cut on the roster – but are available to see in the game, but aren’t playable. These include old timers such as Smoke, Baraka and Nightwolf amongst others who only appear in story to fight against. Though classics such as Sub Zero, Scorpion and Reptile are still available on the roster.
Responsiveness and fluidity is vital in any fighting game, and I’m pleased to say that Mortal Kombat X is smooth as silk. When you start familiarising yourself with characters both old and new, hitting kombos and move sets starts becoming easier and easier. Practice makes perfect of course, and with the Training Room still ready and available to be used with variable AI like before, it really doesn’t take long to get to grips with your favourite character, or get back into your favourite character.
The new Variation fighting styles that come with each character is definitely an interesting little feature. I can see these styles being better utilised by more competitive players rather than more casual players such as myself, but I can already see the benefit in the styles and how it can really tailor your experience as a player. Do you like fighting at close range? Then you’ll want to look at Cassie Cage’s Brawler or Jacqui’s High Tech variation. More of a ranged player? Try out Takeda’s Lasher or Raiden’s Thunder God variation. What’s neat about each of these is that a small part of the costume changes to signify the variation you’re fighting with or against. For example, Quan Chi’s Summoner has glowing red eyes and shoulder pauldrons and Kotal Khan’s eyes and tattoos glow orange in his Sun God variation. It’s a fun thing to try out, and each variation still keeps the base move set of the character, just with new special moves to buff them up. There are also more defensive variations out there, not all just about punching, shooting or stabbing such as Ermac’s Master of Souls variation which allows him to temporarily avoid damage.
Story wise, the plot is pretty solid. It’s not mind blowing, but it’s not unsatisfying either. It clearly stands on its own two feet and with the flashbacks involved there is certainly more depth added in terms of character fluff to establish changing relationships between characters. There are some wonderful moments in the story, including old rivals coming together under a common cause and also darker moments that see old friends turn on one another. What’s great about the plot of this game, and I think this applies across NetherRealm’s last game as well, that you have a rich, lore heavy story that at the same time doesn’t actually leave you feeling lost at all. They lay it out for you in a way that makes it easy, but not just spouting out facts about the EarthRealm, NetherRealm and the Outworld and their intertwining politics. For the tenth game in the series, that’s quite the challenge, but they’ve nailed it down pretty well. You won’t get any sharp plot twists or unexpected events, it’s all pretty linear but that’s absolutely fine in my opinion. It’s a game about beating the shit out of people at the end of the day, not everyone is going to be picking this game up for the plot, but it’s there if you want it.
The voice acting really varies in this game, really varies. You have some superb voice talent amongst the newcomers, D’Vorah particularly stands out for me with her unique accent and resonance to her voice. Whereas characters like Raiden and Kung Lao fall a little short. I’m not sure if it’s the voice actors fault, or the writer’s fault on that one however. You can only do so much with what you’re given to make it sound good, but some of the dialogue just feels to me like it’s come straight out of a bad martial arts movie dub at times and when you have some excellent voice acting alongside, it makes the experience a tiny bit jarring. Of course, you do have that element of cheese there as well in the classic archetypes that the old timers have, like what I like to refer to as Johnny Cage’s ‘Duff Man oooooh yeah’ (10 points if you read it in the voice) type attitude and for a game like Mortal Kombat it absolutely works, has worked in the past and will no doubt continue to keep working in the future as well.
One of the surprising things about the game, is that it is both one of the best looking current gen games out there, but has some features that let it completely down. I noticed that some character models lack a certain amount of detail than others, for example the younger Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage, who have quite untextured skin especially compared to other characters alongside them. Even Cassie, their daughter, has more going on in that area. It’s as though the characters had a face lift for the flashbacks and ought to look into getting a refund. Despite that though, it’s not going to be stealing your attention that Sonya hasn’t got as many pores as her daughter does. The motion and action itself, where it really matters, is of course as smooth and appealing to watch as can be.
To those who relish the challenge, the Living, Traditional and Online Towers are a brilliant way to burn a few hours and hone your skills. The innovative new Living Towers provide brand new and constantly cycling challenges that will constantly keep you on your toes. Not to mention the opportunity to find Secret Fights for secret achievements. You’ve also still got the Test Your Luck mode, which puts random modifiers on fights which always makes things interesting and of course the online fights as well. Online fights are something I personally steer clear of, simply because my skill level is so low compared to what I know will be waiting for me out in the big wide internet world that I’ll be torn to shreds in only a matter of seconds. I’d rather avoid that, really.
The integration with the mobile game is absolutely seamless. All you need to do is link your Warner Bros. ID on both the app and in the game itself and you’ll steadily unlock rewards for both sides of mobile and console platforms as you play along. You can check out our review for the iOS version of Mortal Kombat X right here. Of course, one of the fantastic things about the app is that it is not a companion app, it stands completely on its own and you don’t need to worry about having to use it to unlock necessary features of the console game. It’s entirely a complimentary experience, and entirely optional to your gaming. Extra bonus is that the app is free, so you have nothing to lose either way!
Old features return to the game that you would expect to be there, including the Krypt where you explore the dark, haunted graveyard in search of secrets and bonus features such as skins and concept artwork in exchange for Koins that you collect through playing the game and winning fights in all modes of the story. Obviously the more expensive the secret, the better it will generally be.
The introduction of the Faction Wars I think has sadly been something of a flop, and this isn’t the fault of NetherRealm at all. The problem is simple, pretty much everyone has joined the goddamn Lin Kuei! Whilst that’s awesome, it’s also frustrating as heck if you actually want to contribute. I decided to join the Special Forces, which as it turns out is currently the smallest group in the Faction War. Great. Whilst there’s no penalty to being bottom, it’s a bit frustrating when you’re leveling up in your faction and knowing you won’t be seeing some sweet benefits from being faction winners of the week. I could just jump ship, but honestly why should I? It’s disappointing that this hasn’t worked, because there was a great chance in making a bit of a fun and competitive experience between the factions, but now that the majority only play in one faction and just dominate the others, it’s rendered the entire thing pretty useless. Ah well.
Over all however, the Mortal Kombat X experience is exactly what you would expect of a Mortal Kombat game. It’s face paced, fun and there’s no end to replayability as there will always be the chance to replay story mode and hit up the Towers. You’ve got plenty to play with and countless variations of characters to master. It’s a wholesome experience and definitely worth every penny.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of Mortal Kombat X, provided by Warner Bros. Interactive.