Arcades were still very relevant in the early 1990s, which thrived on the rise of the competitive fighting game genre, headlined by game series like Mortal Kombat. Over 22 years after its initial debut, the Mortal Kombat franchise is stronger than ever, coming off arguably the best game in the series with Mortal Kombat 9. Following up directly on the events of that reboot, Mortal Kombat X takes the best elements of NetherRealm’s recent outings and combines them with a revamped roster to create the kind of pure mayhem that only Mortal Kombat can provide.
Fighting games are always defined by how unique and innovative their fighting system is in relation to others and the Mortal Kombat series has always managed to do that in spades. For anyone that has played the franchise before, the overall gameplay will feel rather familiar, though it feels as refined as ever in Mortal Kombat X. Each move transfers into the next very naturally, including the ability to adjust whether you want the game to react to button presses instantly or upon releasing the button. Wake-up attacks have even been enhanced, allowing for better usage of combos and special moves to take down the opponent.
Behind the incredibly violent style that helped to spawn the ESRB, the series has continued to ramp up the goriness of its fatalities, and Mortal Kombat X is no different. The creativity of the development team can really be seen here, with standout fatalities like Johnny Cage’s “Here’s Johnny.” The big addition here though is that of Brutalities, which have not been in the mainline series since Mortal Kombat Trilogy, though they are unrecognizable from their counterparts. While they can be very hard to pull off, due to a number of restrictions, each character has a number of these at their disposal to make finishers all the more varied. The only disappointing part is that Friendships were dropped as a result of the revival of Brutalities.
The basics of the fighting system are just as players will remember, but what shakes it up completely is the introduction of variations. Each fighter in the game offers three different styles to choose from, some more ranged than others. The base moveset for each character remains the absolute same, including their fatalities, but a new subset of moves are added depending on the different variations. Whether the variations add a new physical weapon like Kung Jin’s staff or spiritual moves, they almost make the already very diverse roster feel even larger.
Past Mortal Kombat games have featured a roster full of different fighters, though with many being similar in design. Mortal Kombat X is far from the biggest overall roster, but appears to have the most thought put into it. There are, of course, Scorpion and Sub-Zero, but there are 24 total characters in the base game, with a third of those being completely new fighters.
The best part about the roster is that these new additions feel very organic and fleshed out for the most part. Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs, and Takeda are all children of other fighters in the series, but manage to feel completely different, while still being able to decipher their family relations rather easily. NetherRealm very impressively introduced the series’ first gay character in a subtle manner with Kung Jin, to where gamers may not even catch it, due it being far from his defining characteristic.
Beyond the personality and backstory of the characters, Mortal Kombat X offers the best character designs that the series has seen in years. Mortal Kombat 9 relied on showy costumes, including an extensive amount of cleavage from the female combatants, while Mortal Kombat X tends to have not only more detailed costumes, but also much more natural body types for both male and female fighters.
In addition to the characters, NetherRealm also put a lot of time and care into the playable stages. While there could be a few more to choose from, each one features gorgeous backgrounds that mesh very well with the foreground in battle. Sadly, stage fatalities are gone, but they have instead brought over a standout feature from their last game, Injustice: Gods Among Us. Within each stage, players have the ability to interact with various objects and even people in the background as either a weapon or getaway tactic.
The Mortal Kombat series has always stood out in its genre for a number of reasons, one of which is the fact that it has a story. The early titles in the franchise were not able to flesh this out as much as the later 3D versions, but none did it better than Mortal Kombat 9. Mortal Kombat X retains that same style of story, with you taking control of 12 different characters across 12 chapters. This is actually quite a reduction from its predecessor by reducing the number of fights in story mode from 67 to only 46.
While the story mode has seen a pretty solid reduction in the number of overall fights, it still remains a shining example of how a story mode in a fighter should be. This time around, NetherRealm even added non-intrusive quick time events that help make the already exciting cutscenes more interactive.
Following up on the story mode from Mortal Kombat 9 was a tall task, but outside of the length, Mortal Kombat X’s story lives up to its predecessor. The very well-crafted story manages to showcase not only the classics, but also the newcomers, almost as a passing of the torch for the future. The use of flashbacks also helps to fill in the gaps of what happened between games, but there are some moments that probably should have been touched on. They completely gloss over how Sub-Zero is back after being turned into a cyborg in the last game, so you almost have to come up with a reason on your own.
The only real disappointment in story mode is that you fight against a few characters that are not playable in the game, but retain their Mortal Kombat 9 movesets instead. Even without an updated variation set of moves, it would have been nice to have them able to be used.
Story is far from the only game option at the player’s disposal when playing Mortal Kombat X, as the typical Arcade Ladder mode has been replaced with a few different options known as Towers. The most basic Klassic one allows players to use any character and play through to get an ending for each. Test Your Luck towers take completely random status effects, such as an electrified ground or less gravity, and puts them throughout the typical ladder. The different variety across the towers, which also include the return of Test Your Might, provides gamers with a solid mix of gameplay options that prevent the game from ever feeling stale.
Mortal Kombat X is a bloody good time
As good as Mortal Kombat 9 was, it had absolutely pathetic online netcode that made it almost impossible to even bother playing. After being able to use Injustice as a further tuneup, Mortal Kombat X provides not only a number of different online modes, but seemingly solid online play. Personally trying out each of the online modes many times, I experienced little to no issues at all with lag or slowdown within battle.
Mortal Kombat X itself has very acceptable load times, but that is definitely the one fault of its online play. When trying to navigate between any of the online modes, one can expect to be waiting between screens quite awhile. It also can take awhile to find a match at times, even when there is no doubt that the game has a lot of people playing. However, it is much better to have the issues come from between matches, rather than the online fights themselves.
Somewhat tying into the game’s online system is the new Faction system. Players have the ability to choose one of five different factions, such as the Lin Kuei, and can then earn points worldwide for that faction. At times, there will be Invasion bosses and Invasion Towers available as well that are bound to extend the longevity of this game exponentially.
Throughout each of the different game modes, players will earn in-game coins that can then be spent in the much improved Krypt. Offering many different areas and creatures to come across, you will find yourself grinding for Koins just to collect everything. The issue is that they have made it difficult to earn Koins at times, almost pushing you to buy their $19.99 pass that unlocks everything in the Krypt. Combined with the ability to buy Easy Fatality tokens for a price, the appearance of microtransactions is not a major hindrance, but still taints such a fantastic game.
While most franchises that have been around as long as Mortal Kombat may start to feel stale after this many years, NetherRealm has done a brilliant job at keeping it not only relevant but better than ever. While a little shorter than the previous outing, Mortal Kombat X once again boasts a brilliant story mode that truly is a blueprint that more fighters should follow, complete with one of the most diverse and creative character rosters in the series’ history. With vastly improved online play and the most refined gameplay in the series, Mortal Kombat X is a bloody good time that should not be missed.
Mortal Kombat X
- Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
- Published By: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Developed By: NetherRealm Studios
- Genre: Fighting
- US Release Date: April 14th, 2015
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
- Quote: "Building upon everything right with its predecessors, Mortal Kombat X takes the series another step forward with an insanely fun story that is surrounded by well fleshed out characters and gameplay that takes the best of the past while infusing it with brand new mechanics."
- Well written story that is the definition of Mortal Kombat
- Incredibly diverse cast of characters
- Variety of character variations
- Online actually works this time
- Story could be longer