This game was played on a Playstation 4 with 19 hours of gameplay tracked
Mortal Kombat couldn’t have picked a better time to make its return. It came out at a time of year in early April where there isn’t much in the form of competition. It also comes at a time when all the other major fighting game franchises are between games. It essentially is given the opportunity to completely dominate and provided it doesn’t fall on its face, it should do that in spite of its baffling DLC practices.
At the time of this writing the only DLC I have for this game is the Goro DLC that came with my pre order, and the Jason DLC that came out not too long ago. Tanya is currently available but I haven’t downloaded her yet. Suffice it to say that the DLC for this game really bugs me. There are quite a few characters that show up in the story mode that are not available in the game, which is rather unfortunate. Considering that two of the characters made available through the Kombat pack are from horror movies, the fact that the actual MK fighters are hidden behind a future pay wall is rather upsetting. If it were me, characters from the MK series would be the ones covered by the season pass, while horror movie characters would be the future DLC that you get cheap as a joke more than anything. Its just annoying that the game is going on two months old and the first character to come out isn’t even someone from the series.
Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s talk about the game proper. Mortal Kombat X is a continuation of the reboot from 2011 called Mortal Kombat or Mortal Kombat 9 if you don’t want to drive yourself crazy with sequencing. Mortal Kombat is now going in a direction where everything from Mortal Kombat 1 to Mortal Kombat Armageddon didn’t happen. It’s a brand new timeline now, and this is a good idea. The previous timeline was convoluted and the new timeline having only had two games isn’t complete nonsense yet.
The story in this game starts soon after the events of MK9 with Shao Kahn’s defeat and a new villain popping up in the form of Shinnok, a fallen Elder God. The story mode plays similarly to Mortal Kombat 9, and the previous game from Netherrealm Studios, Injustice. In it you follow one character for a few fights before switching to a new one. It’s a pretty good way to learn each available character’s fighting style and move set. However, it is unfortunate when there are only 13 or so characters on a 20 plus roster. I know it would be more work to have all characters playable in the mode, and making the story make sense would be harder, but at the very least all of the new characters should be playable. Fans of the series probably haven’t forgotten how Sub Zero or Scorpion play. Their style has been the same since these games have been in three dimensions. Also it would make more sense from a story telling perspective. How can you expect anyone to pick Erron Black as their new favorite character if they know nothing other than he’s a cowboy type guy that has the voice of Troy Baker?
I like this particular style of storytelling from the MK games though. The four fight limit is good enough for you to get a good enough feel for a character and find out whether or not you like them, while not being too long for it to be annoying if you find one that you don’t care for. The campaign will run you a few hours so it can be beaten in a session or two. Some might say that it’s too short, but considering the rarity of quality campaigns in fighting games, for Mortal Kombat X to do as much as it does is a welcome feature.
The story in this game is actually quite decent. I’m a bit biased from having invested so much into the franchise in my life, but I still love all of this stuff. The game starts with the younger versions of characters fighting against Shinnok. He is defeated and imprisoned by Raiden into an amulet. The game then jumps ahead twenty years where Quan Chi and the revived characters that died in the last game are trying to free Shinnok by stealing the amulet. As a result an older Johnny Cage has set up a team of new characters consisting of the children of the older characters. This is what I really like about Mortal Kombat X’s story. It allows itself to dip into nostalgia a little bit, by having the story follow a similar trajectory to the original timeline with Quan Chi trying to revive an imprisoned Shinnok, yet also having new stuff to keep it fresh and interesting.
The team of characters consists of Johnny Cage and Sonya’s daughter, Cassie. She’s essentially in charge and has the quip-y nature of her father, with the fighting prowess of her mother. Jacqui, who is the daughter of Jax Briggs. Takeda, who is the son of Kenshi, and Kung Jin the younger cousin of Kung Lao. Of this group of characters I really like Kung Jin and Takeda. Mostly because they are the two who aren’t carbon copies of their relatives. If I had to pick a favorite of the group I would say my favorite is Takeda. He has the most interesting character moments going on. He is estranged from his father who gave him up after unknown people murdered his mother. He also just so happened to leave him in the loving care of Scorpion who taught Takeda to be a member of his ninja clan the Shirai Ryu.
The team was created for missions to Outworld in spite of the uneasy truce between it and Earthrealm. With Shao Kahn gone, Outworld is in the midst of a civil war. After Kahn’s defeat it turns out that his ‘daughter’ Mileena has taken over as Empress. However, most in her service don’t see her as a fit leader. So in secret characters like Ermac and Reptile along with two new characters D’vorrah and Koatal plan a coup d’état. After defeating her, Kotal Kahn takes over Outworld and hires a mercenary named Erron Black, and Ferra/Torr as additional forces.
I will say that the story does a good job using all of these characters at the very least in cutscenes. It leads the fighter you are currently playing as through a few different fights with some quick time events thrown in that feel out of place but only happen a couple of times. Overall I really liked the story. It didn’t feel like filler that was going to be ret conned in the next game. It set up some interesting things for the future after the fight with Shinnok.
After you beat the story you unlock Shinnok for use in the returning towers mode. For me I decided that my win condition for this game was beating the story mode, and also beating the Klassic Tower with all available characters. I can certainly say that doing so with certain characters was better than it was with others.
As has been the case in the past, the best way to success in Mortal Kombat X is finding a couple of combos that you can exploit and if you can cap it off with a special move that’s even better. Although I will say the game has done quite a bit to make it a little more strategic. There is a stamina feature now that dictates how frequently you can do environment interactions, or using the run to lessen or increase the distance between you and your opponents. The special meter has also returned. Once again its function allows you to unleash enhanced versions of special moves, break a combo, or land an x-ray move depending on which tier of the bar is filled up. Using all of this to your advantage will make it easier for you to win against someone who just button mashes than was the case in the past.
I still love the x-ray moves in spite of how ridiculous they are. They do thirty percent damage so hitting one can be the difference between winning and losing in a match. I would say that one of my favorites was Erron Black’s. He loads a special bullet into his revolver and it slows down to see that the opponent’s name has been carved onto the bullet as it tears its way through their hip shoulder and out their jaw. It might as well be a fatality.
Speaking of Fatalities, they have returned in all their gory glory. Each character has two fatalities that they can use, and for the most part they take advantage of the character’s special abilities. The ones that don’t are really unfortunate. For example, one of Liu Kang’s fatalities is him ripping out the opponents trachea and punching it through their mouth. Brutal, yes. Appropriate for Liu Kang, no. To keep Fatalities from getting stale, MKX has brought back Brutalities but they are different from when we last saw them. In the older games, Brutalities essentially where just crazy long combos that made the opponent explode. In this game certain conditions have to be met in order to pull one off. It adds a little bit of challenge that the player has to keep in mind to pull off a kill shot.
There is one thing that I’m not going to say is a problem, more as kind of an oddity. I said earlier that a lot of the characters in this game are the children of older characters from the series. From the story mode we learn that Johnny Cage loves his daughter Cassie and tries to stick up for her in the face of her mother’s brutal honesty and strict nature. That even comes across in the pre fight banter. So it’s weird when you’re playing as Johnny facing Cassie and they talk about having a friendly spar. Then after you break her bones, you punch her so hard in the balls her head pops off. The same is true when you play as Jacqui who wants to prove herself to Jax by breaking his neck and punching him through the brain. I guess it’s all okay though because the tower is non canon.
After fighting off 9 opponents in the tower you get into the final boss fight with Shinnok. In the story mode, he is a cheap bastard who constantly abuses his special moves. He’s kind of like a human player in that regard. In the towers mode he’s more manageable though. After you defeat him he absorbs Earthrealms essence and turns into a corrupted monster version of himself that you must defeat in the final round. After doing all of this you are given that character’s ending. Unfortunately endings in these games are never really canon, but they are still fun for the most part. Some of them are lame to be sure, but the ones I enjoyed the most were the ones that made reference to other characters from the MK universe that didn’t appear in the game. For example Takeda and Kenshi’s endings make mention to Taven and Daegon from MK: Armageddon.
The endings are cool to look at too, and that is a constant with the game. The game is quite pretty to look at. Netherrealm Studios has done a great job honing the look of the franchise over the years with their character designs and they do a really good job here. The character designs are great, and it’s cool to see some of the older versions of the MK characters. Even on a technical level the game is great, lip synch is great in all of the cutscenes and the martial arts showcased in those scenes is also phenomenal. The cinematics director for this game should do more of this stuff if he or she hasn’t already because it is awesome stuff.
Its clear that a good amount was spent on presentation, but none of it affected the overall quality of the gameplay. Voice acting has been significantly improved for this game with well-known voice actors taking on some of the roles. The omni present Steve Blum does a good job as Sub Zero, and Troy Baker does a great job as Erron Black and Shinnok. My favorite however is Johnny Yong Bosch as Kung Jin. It was cool to hear recognizable voice actors and actresses and with all the characters in the MK universe the potential for future installments is near limitless.
If you haven’t noticed, I didn’t have many negatives to say about this game as a whole. Most of my criticisms are either too minor to mention like the after brutality poses looking kind of lame and not being varied enough, or were my own fault, like the PS4 directional pad being a little too slippery to pull off moves I wanted at certain times. Essentially if you’re a fan of Mortal Kombat this game is a no brainer purchase. Even if you just like fighting games in general, there is a lot to like about this game. Mortal Kombat has evolved quite a bit since its inception, and its nearing perfection with each installment. What started out as a button masher with a bloody gimmick has transcended that gimmick to be a really deep fighter worthy of any aficionado’s collection.
As for me, being a massive MK fan, I loved every second of it, and cannot wait to see what comes next for the series.