It’s been a while since I’ve pulled someone’s spine out through their nostril.
Tomorrow, Mortal Kombat X hits Australian stores in all its R18+ glory. If you’re familiar with the franchise, this new iteration is basically Mortal Kombat 9 with refinements thanks to lessons learned from the superhero-focused Injustice: Gods Among Us.
If you’re new to the series (really? Wow.), Mortal Kombat X is a gory-as-hell fighter that pits humans versus otherworldly opponents. Kombatants have several punches and kicks each, a plethora of ko—ahem, combos, and special moves. On top of that, winning a match provides the opportunity to deliver an ultra-gory fatality or brutality.
As developer NetherRealm has been doing this for years – and years – the game is balanced in many different ways, from different fighters stacked up against one another to gameplay that lets a n00b feel empowered or an experienced fighter confident thanks to the variety of combat offered.
There are many modes to play through, with one versus one play offered via player versus AI and player versus player. A story mode continues on from similar modes seen in Mortal Kombat 9 and Injustice, with battle after battle chained together via an over-arching narrative.
This time around, we spend a bit of time after the events of Mortal Kombat 9 and then flash-forward twenty years into the future. Story-wise, MKX is okay, but largely forgettable; basically, people want to hit each other in the face. The only real problem I have with Story mode is the battles seen in cutscenes and quick time-laden affairs seem to be more brutal and technical than anything I could ever pull off with a controller.
I’m whinging here only because I wish I could be that bad-ass.
I’m the kind of guy who jumps, punches and then tries to follow up with an uppercut. Occasionally, I’ll throw in a special move. I understand that I’m not very advanced. Thankfully, the game’s multiple difficulty settings mean I can travel from match to match and feel like I’m at least holding my own. From ‘very easy’ up to ‘medium’, I did alright, ploughing through short combos, triggering deadly X-ray attacks with both triggers and pulling off most of the game’s fatalities.
Meanwhile, experts will enjoy linking combos and flying across the screen, seemingly untouchable, juggling lesser opponents while Shao Kahn’s laugh rings in their heads. Well, that’s what the AI looked like when I tried to play at ‘very hard’ difficulty. It was pretty much impossible for me, but I have a feeling that those from the likes of EVO, ESL or BAM7 will savour the challenge.
Characters are much different from past games, but not. Most newcomers are sons, daughters or relatives of past heroes and villains… and skins, essentially, of those they’re related to. Of the newcomers, I found myself drawn to Takeda Takahashi, the son of blind hero Kenshi.
As every character has three variations, each with their own attacks, combos and specials, Takeda seemed to have it all; one variation turns his whips into Scorpion-like spears, another electrifies the dual cat-o’-nine-tails and the last allows for more technical play. Of note is all-American Cassie Cage, the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade; Kotal Kahn, Sun God and new ruler of Outrealm; D’Vorah, insectoid bad-ass and Kung Jin, a Shaolin following in the footsteps of Kung Lao and Liu Kang.
Variations really change the way characters play and feel, making some close-quarters experts in one iteration, and long-range dominators in another. Characters feel fast or slow, depending on your choice, and ultimately, players will need to sample offerings before settling on those that suit a specific play style.
On the subject of characters, ‘Press ‘X’ to buy Goro’ was my least favourite screen of the entire game. Hopefully you’ve already pre-ordered the game and don’t have to shell out extra cash for the player. If nothing else, Goro will appear as a fighter or opponent in various Ladders, so you can see how he plays before you decide to purchase him if need be. Thankfully, the character doesn’t factor in to any of the Achievements or Trophies that require you to do something with every member of the game’s roster.
The incorporation of factions into proceedings is new to Mortal Kombat X. Starting up for the first time, you’re asked to pledge allegiance to one of five power bases, from the Sonya Blade-led Special Forces to Sub-Zero’s Lin Kuei. Each week, the factions battle it out to see which comes out on top, with every gamer contributing to the war effort. Daily challenges help gain faction XP, while War Points are awarded upon completion of Ladders.
In addition to the game’s fatalities and brutalities, faction kills are easy ways to have a great finish at the end of a match. Similarly, easy fatalities, earned through Krypt discoveries, mean anyone can do said spine-pulling. Even then, fatalities seem easier to do than ever before… not that I’m complaining. Let’s face it: half of us play Mortal Kombat just to see what new and inventive ways people can be killed.
The game is, as its R18+ rating would have you expect, gory as hell, with fatalities and x-ray moves providing myriad reasons for you to shield your eyes and scream out in disbelief as someone is disemboweled or decapitated. The thing is, after seeing the same act about three times, you’re completely desensitised to it. It’s crazy how quick you stop shouting out, “oooooohhhhh!”
Ladders once again make an appearance in Mortal Kombat, in a variety of different forms. Living ladders change every hour, day or week and offer traditional combat or matches with unique modifiers, like one that starts players off at a crawl and eventually speeds up into hyper speed, complete with Chipmunk-sounding talk. Another increases the time a player stays in the air for easier juggles.
That modifier-based play is the crux of the Test Your Luck mode. In it, between one to seven modifiers can be toggled each match for crazy results. I honestly didn’t enjoy it that much, as with every possible modifier allowed, the game is basically just a flurry of unexpected activity.
Test Your Might is also fun for the limited time you’ll play it, harkening back to the same mode in early Mortal Kombat games. Going up a ladder, you’ll be tasked to break through an assortment of items, from a simple wood plank to a titanium idol. Failure to break through an object means you’ll be treated to a comical and gory death – in fact, there’s an achievement or trophy offered if you watch them all.
Krypt is an awesomely fun, mini adventure game where I spent a bunch of time. In the mode, you’re able to unlock tombstones, which equate to character art, fatalities, brutalities and more. To get to every area of the Krypt, however, you’ll need to find and interact with items in the environment, ranging from items like Scorpion’s spear to Kenshi’s sword.
Scorpion’s spear, as an example, allows you to tether to a point and hurtle yourself over a gap to reach a new area – rather than “get over here”, you go there. Best yet, there are random encounters littered throughout the Krypt, which can help boost your koins, the currency of the Krypt. Discoveries also offer up koins, which mean you can enter the Krypt rather poor but still walk away with plenty of unlockables. Is it lame to admit that the Krypt was my favourite mode in Mortal Kombat X?
Accompanying the game is a mobile offering that appears to be less of a cash-grab than Injustice, though admittedly, I’ve only played through four challenge towers on it. The mobile app’s a neat little way to unlock extra items in the console version if nothing else.
There are several faction-specific online game modes that will help you push your faction to victory, but the modes were unavailable ahead of launch. We’ll report back on how they work; Invasion — from its name alone — sounds awesome, but who knows what that will actually equate to. Similarly, we had difficulty finding any online matches ahead of release, so we’ll report on those later as well.
Overall, Mortal Kombat X offers just what fans of the franchise expect. It provides a fun new way to obliterate opponents, nestled in a balanced engine that suits tournament play well. New characters — semi-skinned or not — make the seasoned fighter fresh and feeling new, though the game’s reboot a couple years ago in MK9 probably helped too. Decent in single-player, this is definitely a game best played with friends in the traditional ‘winner stays on’ model.
With that in mind: who’s next?
Mortal Kombat X was reviewed using a promotional code on PS4 as provided by the publisher.
Review: Mortal Kombat X