In a world of Street Fighters, Tekkens and Killer Instincts, Mortal Kombat has always seemed like the one on one underdog, it’s gratuitous yet shallow violence seemed fun for a few novelty plays and water cooler talk of the increasingly gruesome fatalities, but often overlooked in favour of the more technically advanced fighters featured on the tournament circuit. However, that was then and this is now with NetherRealm Studios stripping away its novelty roots and rebuilding the Mortal Kombat franchise with its brilliant 9th entry, making it a force to be reckoned with and a real contender in the fighting genre. Mortal Kombat X takes everything that was great about MK9 and raises its game to the next level, however some questionable choices hold it back from ultimate gory glory.
First things first, MK9 ushered in a highly entertaining single player story mode which is pretty much unheard of in a fighting game and it was great to see NetherRealm fully committing to the world they’ve created and using it to weave a compelling narrative. To cut a long story short, in MKX, the evil (always evil) sorcerer Shinnock attacks Earthrealm in the wake of Shao Khan’s defeat and it’s up to a motley crew of mis-matched (always mis-matched) champion warriors selected by the God of Thunder, Raiden (sadly not Christopher Lambert) to defend against his invasion.
MKX focuses on a more generational story, that being the legacy passed between parents and children and the importance of family bonds, with much of the story played out between Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Kung Lao, Jax and their offspring who are new fighters to the series. It’s a strangely heartfelt tone for the story to take and in the MK universe, it’s little more than B-movie fare but it remains compelling, engaging and great fun.
Mortal Kombat X is a healthy mixture of old and new. The fundamentals of its gameplay are familiar, owing for a more casual approach to the fighting genre with slower gameplay and easier to execute special attacks than what you experience in games like Street Fighter. You can punch and kick, grab enemies, block, interrupt, and execute an array of special attacks, all with the benefits of a fluid game engine that you can rely on.
A new Stamina bar is among the list of new gameplay features. It serves as a limiter for dashes and other gameplay elements that previously could be abused. Zoning has been impacted as a result, resulting in veterans having to adapt to a new style of play.
One of the best elements of Mortal Kombat X‘s gameplay are stage interactions. Each stage has its own unique set of interactables that can be anything from a massive vase you can chuck at your enemy, to a car that you jump off of to re-position. These add a great new strategic element to the game that rewards those who don’t only pay attention to character positioning and telegraphs, but the environment around them.
As with previous releases, Mortal Kombat X is a fighting game that has a taste for violence. Regular hits are emphasized with powerful sounds and great animations. The game’s more advanced attacks are absolutely brutal, sometimes cringe-worthy with eye gouges and skull breaks. This prioritization of brutality often gets in the way of the game experience. Attacks like X-Rays and grabs have lengthy animations, and aren’t skippable. You will grow tired of watching them and may just find yourself jumping around characters to mix up the patterns.
Fatalities in Mortal Kombat X are remarkably detailed. Sadly, the creativity of most of the previous releases is lacking. Many Fatalities feel similar to one another, leading to quick repetition. The more difficult to execute Brutalities are the star of the show as far as post-battle theatrics are concerned since there are no Stage Fatalities.