Game Review: Mortal Kombat X

I have a love-hate-love-hate relationship with Mortal Kombat.  I’m old as fuck so I remember when Mortal Kombat was a brand new game, and it blew my friends and I away with its (at the time) realistic graphics, and of course, the gore.  Mortal Kombat spawned a few great sequels… and then as we got older and the trend of it passed, unfortunately it spawned a few more (very lackluster) sequels, and two God-awful Playstation One games (MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero and MK: Special Forces), which should only be given to your worst enemies, and even that is debatable at best. 

More gore than ever.

More gore than ever.

MK managed to redeem itself several years ago with the 9th game in the series, giving the series the “reboot but not really” treatment of the newer Star Trek movie franchise.  Under the new banner name of Netherrealm Studios (Midway had gone bankrupt), and with the backing of Warner Bros., MK9 had a huge showing with the series managing to look the strongest it had in years.  Mortal Kombat X had a lot of hype behind it being the first title in this new PS4/XB1 generation, and truthfully, I was skeptic.  I mean I have seen Mortal Kombat blow its lead in the past (mainly due to some god-awful character designs).  Would MKX be all hype and no substance?

Fortunately I can say that MKX not only delivered but surpassed my expectations.  Now let’s see why

For starters the game features 24 characters from the get-go (25 if you pre-ordered to get Goro), 8 of which are brand-new first-time characters – and potentially for the first time ever ALL of the new characters look interesting. In previous Mortal Kombat games you always had several bad egg characters that were simply never even near as cool as the “trilogy” characters.  This is the first time I can look at the cast and say everybody looks pretty fucking cool.  Let’s meet them:

Cassie Cage – the events of MKX take place 25 years in the future and this is Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade’s daughter – she follows in Sonya’s Special Forces footsteps but has all of Johnny’s attitude and smart-assed one-liners.  Arguably my favorite character due to the sheer rudeness and insensitivity of her personality.  She’s me if I were a hot chick instead of a hairy Puerto Rican.

Jacqueline Briggs – Jax’s daughter also makes an appearance alongside Cassie Cage.  Consider her a faster and hotter Jax who doesn’t have the facial hair and uses gauntlets instead of metal arms.  She’s awesome as long as she’s never in a Mortal Kombat Special Forces videogame like her father.

D’Vorah – a “Swarm Queen” of a new race of insect people.  Aside from being a quick fighter and having a unique design she’s actually kind of creepy – I mean bugs are kind of gross.  She’s what MK’s developers tried to make out of Ashrah or Nitara in the past, only this time they succeeded in making something cool.

Erron Black – A gunslinger style character under the employ of Outworld.  He kind of fits the place well. 

Ferra / Torr – One of my favorites. An absolutely rotten kid riding a giant brute into battle.  They are two but work as one, somewhat like what we have seen in the past with Noob and Smoke being merged into a singular character in the past.  As a side-note their single player ending makes me laugh uncontrollably because I’m a bastard.

Kotal Kahn – The new emperor of Outworld, who was once revered by humans as a Blood God in South America.  H is totally unrelated to Shao Kahn (Kahn is more of a title for the emperor now).  Think Ogre from Tekken if Ogre was a serious character and didn’t look so stupid.

Kung Jin – Kung Lao’s cousin who used to be a criminal, but later reformed to try to restore honor to the family name.  Uses a bow & arrow/staff weapon.  Also, he is the first gay character in Mortal Kombat (although he never really makes that obvious except for a missable blurb in story mode).

Takeda – Kenshi’s not-blind-at-all son, who also happened to train under Scorpion and uses whip-type weaponry.  He fights kind of like a combination of both.

Keep in mind we’re also getting DLC characters such as Jason Vorhees and the Predator, and also actual Mortal Kombat characters such as Tanya and Tremor who are planned as well.  Additional characters such as Sindel, Baraka, and Rain appear in the story mode however it is yet to be seen if they will be turned into fully playable versions of themselves – naturally, PC version modders and hackers have found a way to “speed up the process” just a little.

Here we see Kano's three different fighting styles which effect his moves and techniques in various ways.

Here we see Kano's three different fighting styles which effect his moves and techniques in various ways.

I should point out the three-style system that was introduced in Deadly Alliance is back, only that you can no longer switch between three styles at will; you choose your style when you choose the character.  You can play as a Takeda that focuses on Kenshi’s style, for example… or a Takeda that focuses on his teachings from Scorpion.  Do you want a Cassie Cage that has more of Sonya’s style, or one that fights more like her father?  Would you rather Reptile focus on being fast, or being invisible and hard to touch?  These types of things make the game play very unique to the player – particular players will be suited to some variations more than others and so it offers a very different experience.  You could be great with one style of a character and downright awful at another of their stances.  This also adds some replayability for those who seek to master them all.

Cinematically, Mortal Kombat X stands out as awesome – while the original plot of Mortal Kombat became very convoluted and difficult to understand, Netherrealm had an excellent opportunity with MK9 and continued through MK10 to make what’s going on understandable and enjoyable.  I feel like I’m playing an interactive movie through story mode rather than a videogame, reminiscent of what we see from companies such as Telltale games (minus the choices that change our story, although wouldn’t that be nice for the next game?).   Our plot revolves around Shinnok’s attempts to invade Earthrealm now that war with Shao Kahn and Outland have weakened us, and now that Shinnok and his lieutenant, Quan Chi have managed to corrupt the souls of most of the slain Mortal Kombat warriors and turn them into undead revenant slaves.

We finally get to see what life is like in Outworld instead of just various wastelands.

We finally get to see what life is like in Outworld instead of just various wastelands.

Gameplay is pretty much what we’ve come to know from Mortal Kombat since MK9, and what continued somewhat in Injustice: Gods Among Us.  We have X-Ray moves that do massive damage, combos, breakers, and new to MKX (from Injustice), interactive environments where you can use portions of the stage as weapons, props to bounce off of (fuck your corner traps), and projectiles.  There is a stage where you can legitimately grab a frail, elderly, infirm woman out of the background and throw her at your opponent.  I laugh because I am sick.  I love it because THIS IS MORTAL KOMBAT.  If there’s one dislike I have with this system is that favoring it seems to have caused Netherrealm to get away from their once-iconic “Stage Fatality” system.  As a nostalgic MK fan I LOVE the concept of stages such as “The Pit” and I really hope that even if stage fatalities are gone that they are not forgotten.

Kano gives new meaning to "eyes in the back of your head."

Kano gives new meaning to "eyes in the back of your head."

Fatalities are back in a big way, and if you’re a lazy human being who has a lot of money to throw around, you can buy “One Button Fatalities” from the DLC menu.  While many have criticized microtransactions and “freemium” gaming, if you’re lazy and stupid enough to pay for it, that’s your problem – not mine.  Everything you do in the game gets you Koins to use in the Krypt to unlock costumes, concept art, fatalities, BRUTALITIES (yes, those insane “beat your opponent to death” combos are back), and more.  While gaining Koins starts off slow, the more you play the game, the more you get profile modifiers that allow you to earn more Koins, such as (use this icon to get +100 Koins per Fatality performed, etc).

What a rotten child.

What a rotten child.

It’s also of note that your profile won’t just gain experience for you but also for an Online Faction you choose at the start of the game which you share with other players around the world – extra perks, Koins and bonuses will come from this over time so it will be intriguing to see what maps out.  The thing I love about this game so far is that unlike many videogames where EVERYTHING is known on Day 1, there are still secrets, such as costumes nobody is sure how to unlock, or fatalities people have seen but do not know how to do.  It takes me back to my teenage years where people in high school would claim that they saw Sub-Zero turn into a polar bear in MK2 without any actual proof, or when people claim they had finally found Ermac on the home versions of Mortal Kombat 1.  These were the days I could print out a cheat sheet filled with fatality moves Xerox copied from the pages of EGM or GamePro and sell them to classmates to turn a profit.  Nobody knew how to do anything and everybody wanted to know.  And I wish the Internet hadn’t taken that aspect out of gaming to begin with.  Yet, here it is again.

Game modes galore.

Game modes galore.

You can gain a lot points in the tower mode where you will have various challenges (blocking disabled, special moves disabled, super speed, etc.), and there are a ton of towers all throughout.   Oh, and Test Your Might is here, too. 

I believe that's a TOS violation.

I believe that's a TOS violation.

It’s the little details that make this game great, as well.  Everything from the little nods here and there to previous titles, or references to MK characters who are nowhere to be found in the game.  Check out Cassie Cage’s “selfie” fatality where you briefly are shown her social media pages and a live feed filled with comments.  The characters have pre-match conversations with one another which vary depending on who is player 1 and who is player 2 as well as in some cases depending on which costumes of the characters are shown.    The krypt almost feels like an old school PC dungeon crawler game.  While you can’t be killed in it, creatures will jump out and scare the shit out of you.  If I have one gripe about the Krypt it’s the fact it’s very difficult to tell what graves and treasures you opened and what graves and treasures you have not. 

If you’re on the fence about Mortal Kombat but you’ve always enjoyed the series, just go ahead and take the plunge and I guarantee you will be glad you did.  This is a solid showing from Netherrealm that makes me confident that the days of “Mortal Kombat Special Forces” are never coming back.  Now if you’ll excuse me, writing this review is actually keeping me from my beloved Cassie Cage.  I wish that the women who want to sleep with me all looked like Cassie Cage instead of Luke Cage. But I guess that’s the price of being Riv!  Anyway, yeah, Mortal Kombat X is awesome.  Go buy it.

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