Mortal Kombat. Yes, with a K. No, I’m not pulling your leg. Someone actually named their fighting game like that. Who would’ve thunk it? Crazy, huh?
Alright, time to drop the charade. There have been a ton of Mortal Kombat games over the years. The series has seen its share of success and a couple of flops, but after its re-imagining through Mortal Kombat 9, you’d expect Mortal Kombat X to be the next natural step, the one to further change everything up.
Well, it isn’t. In many ways, if you’ve played a lot of 9, you’ll find Mortal Kombat X extremely similar. The series’ trademark violence is as disgustingly gruesome and bloody as it has always been, and safe to say, you won’t be disappointed if you’re a fan of that aspect of these games. Under that coat of blood, though, lies a sound and well structured fighting game that should please longtime fans and newcomers alike.
Same as the previous release, Mortal Kombat 9, you’re once again treated to a fairly entertaining story mode that will help set the current stage of whatever little there is of character development in Mortal Kombat. While 9 did an excellent job rebooting the series’ canon by bringing back classic characters and burying the convoluted fiction up to that point, X takes a different approach by fast forwarding the story 25 years into the future. We’re now introduced to the children and younger relatives of established characters within the Mortal Kombat fiction. Gals like Cassie Cage, daughter of love-me-hate-me couple Sonya and Johnny, and Jacqui Briggs, fruit of Jaxx’s loins join forces with a few familiar faces in order to put an end to yet another evil god’s plans to take over the world.
But not to worry, you’ll still get to fight with and against a few of the fighters you might remember from before and strangely enough, morn the fact that many of them are nowhere to be found. Worse, some of them are right there during story mode, but to our baffled surprise, are mysteriously absent in the character select screen.
And that brings the entire downloadable character problem to light. Mortal Kombat X, like the current crop of games that have day one (or worse, day zero) season passes, locks away characters for a later date right out of the starting gate. And while most of these aren’t seen anywhere else in the game at this point, some totally are. You even fight against them in story mode, while others, that aren’t yet announced for any of the current packs, are fully rendered and are ready to go, but can’t be used outside of modding the PC version of the game.
It’s annoying to see these omissions, and frankly, having to see a ‘press X to buy Goro’ at the character select screen is a stark reminder of where games are heading when it comes to post-release content delivery. The cost of buying a game like Mortal Kombat X apparently isn’t enough to get everything it has to offer at launch. It once again points to a “complete” version that’s bound to be available later on, if previous releases like Injustice and Mortal Kombat 9 are any indication, a disappointing trend that seems to have made its permanent home in this franchise. But if you just stick with the core game you went to the store to buy, it’s still a very enjoyable fighter. It’ll be sure to please anyone who’s remotely interested in Mortal Kombat in this day and age.
Mortal Kombat X plays like Netherrealm’s previous fighters from the last few years. It’s somewhat friendly to new players, offering easy to pull off special moves that look flashy and do lots of damage, while keeping a fair bit of depth for those looking to dedicate more time and effort to the getting better at the game and learn each of its more than 20 characters. For instance, as Kano, you’re given access to variations that boost his close quarter attacks, range and even turn him into something closer to his iteration in the first Mortal Kombat. These styles aren’t enough to theoretically triple the number of characters, but they’re enough to add a few more wrinkles to the overall depth of Mortal Kombat X.
While the story mode might not take that much effort to finish, you’ll be pressed to find an easy time getting into the rest of what Mortal Kombat X has to offer. Challenge towers were a huge addition to MK9 and they sort of make a return in X as daily and weekly series that take the many unlockable combat modifiers and randomly apply them to a gauntlet. It’s a fun little distraction due to the random nature of the roulette of chaotic modifications to fights.
There’s also a new online interaction gimmick of faction wars, which boil down to a weekly tower of its own and a boss fight that can be repeatedly finished or attempted in order to win more points to your party. It’s a neat little distraction that works in experience points and ranks that you’d see in a shooter into Mortal Kombat. You’re free to change teams weekly, which gives you the chance to partake in the little there is to be garnered when joining a faction — a boiled down fatality unique to the team you joined.
Speaking of fatalities, Mortal Kombat X‘s are as ridiculously gruesome as ever. Just as the previous Mortal Kombat, X ups the ante in gore to comedic levels. Most of the new moves are absurd and bloody, showing off a few creative uses of the violence we’ve grown to expect from the series. And much like any game in the franchise, once you’ve seen all of these once or twice, there’s not a whole lot else to expect from these finishing moves. Brutalities, however, are implemented in a more creative fashion, as they fit into the fight itself and require a certain amount of precision in order to work, based on inputs during fights into picking off an opponent. Most of the times, though, I was the recipient of these, but it was still fun to see how far I could take my game if I wanted to.
Following in the footsteps of the newer polygonal Mortal Kombat games, just playing the game earns you special coins that can be used to unlock bonuses in the Krypt, a sort of bonus content gallery turned into maze. Mortal Kombat X‘s krypt is a little more ambitious this time around, throwing in a few jump scares for a change, as you sneak through and unlock bonus chests and the such. The catch is that a lot of the fatalities, brutalities and costumes are tucked away in the Krypt, so unless you spend a lot of time grinding out bonus coins, you won’t get to see most of the special content Mortal Kombat X has to offer.
On the other hand, basically every mode in the game earns you gold, including fighting online. In this front, Mortal Kombat X is rather disappointing. So far, the online multiplayer experience has been slow and glitchy. More often than not, I was greeted by connection errors during matchmaking or even before it, when trying to get into the online lobby. Once things did get rolling, the game’s performance varied a lot in my personal time with it. That’s fairly concerning because of the short-sighted decision to region lock matchmaking — the same should work better if opponents are closer to you geographically. Sadly, that wasn’t my case.
Whether you are crazy into fighting games or are just in it for the ease of fighting and look cool doing it, Mortal Kombat X is a safe bet. It isn’t nearly as groundbreaking as previous entries in the series, but it does what it does very well. The online portion is disappointingly flawed though, which might turn some people away from the game after finishing the entirety of single player. Still, even if you stay away from the online arena, there’s a lot of content to sink your teeth into and unlock, if you can bear the repetitive nature of the game.