The legendary Mortal Kombat series finally comes to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One with the cross-gen Mortal Kombat X.
Set, for the most part, 20 years after the last game, this first outing for the current-gen (but it is available for PS3 and Xbox 360 as well) introduces the offspring of several characters as well as bringing back some old favourites.
Whilst I’ve dabbled with MK over the years, I’ve not seriously played the games since the days of those photograph-like sprites. This was a great opportunity to get reacquainted with the series now that it has reinvented itself as the poster boy for 2.5 beat-em-ups.
Developers NetherRealm have pretty much perfected the art of creating an awesome beat ‘em up. Drawing on many of the attributes that made their DC Comics’ fighter Injustice: Gods Among Us so good, as well as their experience with 2011’s Mortal Kombat reboot, Mortal Kombat X is the most refined example of the genre that I’ve ever played.
The game has all the usual trimmings you’d expect: the single-player arcade like Tower mode, the on and off-line multiplayer mode and quick fights. There’s a well written story campaign that, surprisingly, actually makes sense (especially considering the convoluted histories between the characters).
The story mode is good fun, providing an entertaining, if a little camp, Sci-fi Kung-Fu story. It reminded me a bit of the kind of direct-to-video fayre that I enjoyed back in the nineties, although that’s a bit of an unfair comparison as the voice acting and animation in the game is actually very good.
If you don’t follow the Mortal Kombat chronicles, the plot may be a bit convoluted, but it does expertly serve to give some reasonable context as to why all these guys would want to beat each other up. With some lengthy cut scenes, a lot of work has been put into delivering what I’d say is one of the best stories that I’ve experienced in a fighting game.
It’s with story mode that most players will, no doubt start, serving as a wholesome reason to pick up the game in itself as well as a great introduction to all the characters in the game.
The story follows the offspring and relatives of some of the game’s classic characters as they journey from Earthrealm to Outworld, getting involved in lots of fights as they go. The group has been put together by the now fifty-year-old Jonny Cage and consists of his and Sonya Blade’s daughter Cassie Cage, Jax’s daughter Jacqui Briggs, Kung Jin – cousin of Kung Lao and Takeda- son of Kenshi.
Of course all the classic characters are there: Raiden, Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, Sub Zero and Jonny Cage, but it is nice to have some new blood and see the next generation of Mortal Kombat heroes.
Via flashbacks and interactions during the story, players get the chance to try their hand at each different character as the story plays out, which is full of exposition, betrayal and power-struggles.
Of course, as well as the single player story, Mortal Kombat X is packed with other modes, ensuring that you never get bored.
As well as the usual single fights and the online verses modes, the game also has a Tower mode that provides a more no-nonsense old-school arcade experience that has you fight opponent after opponent from a randomly selected group of opponents.
There are twenty three characters available in the game from the outset plus a few more that were available as pre-order incentives and as part of the game’s season pass “Kombat Pack”. Each character has three fighting styles, one of which is chosen at the selection. This makes for an extraordinary amount of variation, giving players three times the amount of fighting strategies to master.
As an interesting aside, the game also features a bizarre game mode called Crypt. Similar to the old retro dungeon games, Krypt is a first person maze-like affair that only allows you to move forward, left or right and turn 90 degrees. The movement is horrible, but the rewards are great.
Scattered about the areas, which start in a graveyard before going into the Krypt are objects that, for a Koin fee, will gift items. These could be things that are useful to advance in the Krypt, concept art or access to new moves in the main game.
It’s worth a go on Krypt every now and again as you can get some good stuff. It’s not much fun, though, and more of a means to an end than anything else.
The game has many other minor game types that I won’t go into here, else I end up writing a list for you; suffice to say they all add a bit of variety to game in a genre renown for quickly becoming repetitive.
Giving players lots of ways to fight is great, but only if the actually fighting is good.
And it is. Mortal Kombat X delivers.
If you are not familiar with fighting games, Mortal Kombat X looks a pretty simple affair, and whilst you can get away with a bit of button mashing to begin with, after a short time with the game it starts to reveal its hidden depths.
It’s not long before you find a character that best suits your particular play-style (or button-mashing style) and you start to refine your combat strategies. Learning the blocks, counters and special moves is a very satisfying experience, especially when you go online and start winning against real opponents.
Mortal Kombat X is incredibly violent. And whilst it is almost so over-the-top as to be comical at times it is quite gruesome. The finishing fatality moves (if you manage to pull them off) are so gratuitous that I couldn’t help but giggle at the carnage. Same with the x-ray super-moves which give you an inside view of the insane damage caused during the attack.
The game is made all the more gruesome by the amazing fidelity of the graphics and the superb way that the fighters and modeled and animated. Every hit connects.
The visuals are absolutely jaw-dropping. The detailed backgrounds are full of things going on and even with our fighters in the foreground moving silky-smooth at lightning speed the game never drops a frame. The game looks fantastic.
As well as the brutal combat animations, the sound design packs a punch letting you know that you’ve connected with your opponent or that they’ve beaten your guard and given you a hiding.
I certainly enjoyed playing Mortal Kombat X.
It’s a very good game. The beautiful graphics, the variety in the extra modes and, most importantly, the great fighting make Mortal Kombat X the best fighting game I’ve played in a very long time.