Mortal Kombat X review

Mortal Kombat X gamelayThe app may not have lived up to the hype, but that can’t be said for the full Mortal Kombat X game release, which is as brutal, frenzied and challenging as you could possibly want it to be. It’s not an instant hit though, as it takes a little time to draw you into its dark and blood thirsty heart, but when it does you’ll start to get lost in the heat of the epic battles that it provides.

It smashed its way onto the Xbox ONE, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC on the 13th April 2015 and having played the ever loving brain puss out of it over the last couple of weeks or so we can safely say that its one hell of a hard working beat-em-up. It’s got a good size character roster with three variants for each fighter, a load of moves, combo strings and specials to learn and the kind of storyline that my ten year old former self would have drooled over for hours. However, more than any of that it delivers great gameplay that makes MKX such a whole lot of fun to play.

Storyline

The Mortal Kombat X story is epic, there’s no two ways about it. We’ll get to the gameplay later on (probably in the gameplay section, but you never can tell), but the story mode feels like a fast-paced action movie where you get to take control of the characters every now and again to make it through alive. It spans back to the previous games in the series with Johnny Cage joining forces with Raiden and company to fight back the evil of Outworld, before jumping forward twenty years to introduce a whole new generation of fighters, which is pretty fitting as this is the first MK title for the new gen consoles.

The story features all of the fighters on the main roster and a few more along the way, and though there are a few corny scenes, which you’ve sort of got to expect from a Mortal Kombat game, it makes for a well delivered story. For us, the true test for a computer game’s plot is whether or not it would work well as a stand-alone move and in this case we’d have to say it probably would. It wouldn’t be the best action movie ever released, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near the worst either, and it makes for a lot of fun to butcher your way through in the game.

Gameplay

There’s a lot of fighting action to get in the thick of as you develop your skills, and it’s a long way away from being a simple button mashing megaphon. Instead you have an intelligent fight system that rewards ninja-like dedication with an armoury of combos, special moves, brutalities and the all important fatalities, which are better than ever. Our only significant negative is that it may be hot right now, but we’re just not that sure it’s got the staying power to be one of our go-to games in a couple of months time or so.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a blast to play right now, but it just feels like it’s power over us might start to wane after a few more weeks of gaming. There are lots of modes to give you plenty of options to get into, along with all of the various fighters and character combinations and the brilliance of the online fighting, so maybe it’ll surprise us, but right now we’re not 100% convinced of its staying power.

As there are a fair few new characters to get to grips with, as well as new move variants for existing fighters in the game, the training room is one of the most important modes to start off with. It’s pretty basic though, giving you an unflinching opponent character who’ll act as your personal punchbag, along with the move set in the pause menu, but it’s a place you’re going to spend a fair bit of time in to learn how to string moves together, especially in the case of long combo strings, which aren’t documented in the move list. For these, you’re going to need to do a lot of experimentation.

Mortal Kombat X review image 2

It’s easy just to throw in x-ray moves in the training mode, but they won’t be enough to smash things up online as you only get these every now and again in a real fight. They’re only infinite in training, so make sure you work on those standard combo move strings if you want to dish out some serious damage. This would have been a whole lot easier if Nether Realm had provided some in-game documentation on it, or if there was a tutorial mode that walks you through the moves, but they clearly don’t want to make things too easy for you. This is a game that rewards dedication and skill, so time in the dojo will be key to unleashing havoc when you’re up against a real opponent.

In addition to the standard training mode, there’s also a fatality trainer that you can set to infinite time to help you nail the controller action needed to perform each character’s fatality moves. This is a pretty useful addition as it gives you the time needed to get things right and saved in your muscle memory banks, so once again practice, practice, practice if you want to boss things online.

Now that you’re aware of the importance of waxing on and waxing off, it’s time to look at Mortal Kombat X‘s fight mechanics, which are cleverly complex, while still delivering an engaging entry point. However, there are some subtle nuances that might throw gamers initially as you get used to the accuracy of the gameplay system that sits behind the game’s ferocious action.

The first of these is that the distance you are from a character and your fighter’s position will have a massive impact on stringing together lengthier combos. This is added to by yet more “real life” features (or at least as real life as Mortal Kombat can be), in which each of your character’s moves will have a certain amount of recovery lag time, so you can’t always simply go from one combo or special to another.

The second biggie to take into account is that you have a lot of variation at your mercy in terms of the controller setup and changing these settings could help you improve how you land moves. Try flexing these a little, especially the controller button trigger points, which alters the timing of actions to be either on button press or at the point you release the button. While it’s a little fiddly and time consumer to get the setup right for you it does mean that when you’ve gone through the process you should find it a little easier to pull off all of the moves.

There are a lot of brilliant special moves and combos to get to grips with and this is multiplied significantly by the existence of three different variants of each character. It makes for a lot of game-time as you try to find your favourite characters and variants, explore all of the fight moves and work out who you fight best with and which characters are better suited to go up against any of the other opponents.

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The pace of individual fights is ferocious, so don’t expect to get too much of a break when you fire up the game for the first time. Obviously you can trade down to the easy setting, but that’s only for fluffy pink ponies and your angry gran. The only way to progress is to practice and up your game through the baptism of fire onslaught of attacking opponents. You’ll undoubtedly lose a fair few games to start with, but this will become a redeeming feature when you start to get better at the game, as it retains the challenging nature of the gameplay.

Contact points feel very real and there’s a solidity to the game that gives the impression of weight, momentum and impact. For us, this is a very important element of any fighting game and though its easier to achieve as a 2D beat-em-up it’s no less integral to the overall impression of it, so the fact that it pulls it off well is a big tick in the box for Mortal Kombat X.

This helps to make the storyline game mode such a blast as you feel as though you’re right in the thick of the coming storm. The interactive cut-scenes may not give you a great deal of control over your character over and above the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider-style button mashing, but it does draw you into the action quite well, teeing things up for the many fights you’ll need to complete. It also makes for a good opportunity to play as a number of different characters to get a feel for them and to find out more about the latest story arcs of the Mortal Kombat universe.

In addition to storyline and standard single player fights, there’s the tower mode, which pits you against a series of fighters that are stacked in a tower concept. You have to defeat each opponent, who get progressively more difficult over time, which adds a little frenetic twist to the gameplay as you struggle to make it through the tougher later rounds.

All of the genius of the game has made it through into the online modes for Mortal Kombat X, which is where we think the lion’s share of the longer term gameplay lies. It’s dog-eat-dog out there though, so make sure you’re ready for the challenge with some solid combo moves, and remember to work on your blocking skills. It’s pretty easy to jump straight into a 1-on-1 fight online, which is a lot of fun when you start to challenge for win streaks, but there are also more involving online options to test your skills against including fight match-up rooms and ranked matches.

The addition of the Krypt means that you’ve got the opportunity to develop your characters and unlock brutalities and fatalities along the way, which could also help to prolong the regular play lifespan of the game. It means that you get out of the game what you put into it, so if you’re happy to put in the hours of proactive fighting and crypt unlocking the game will develop over time, which is sort of what you want with the massive size of modern day computer games.

Lastly, Nether Realm are throwing a lot of DLC into the mix. You can question the financial motivation for doing this as much as you want, which we definitely do, but there is a fair amount of quality in what they’re delivering too. A lot of this revolves around being able to buy old school characters, like the brutal Goro (pictured below), but in a clever twist they’ll also be throwing in Jason Voorhees from the Friday The 13th films, as well as the Predator, which should make for some epic fatality moves.

Mortal Kombat X review image, Goro

Graphics

Visually, Mortal Kombat X is a hard punching effort that’s impressive to look at throughout. It may not be the most intricately rendered game we’ve seen on next gen consoles, but what it does it does well. Characters are immaculately animated with great detail and the animation is fast, slick and solid.

The arena backgrounds are pretty cool, especially the sections that you can interact with to dish out even more damage to your opponent, including grabbing an old lady in the crowd and hurling her at your opponent. There’s everything from a beautiful icy forest, to a wave (and dead body) battered brooding seafront, stunning Outworld square with massive horned beast in the background and Raiden’s sky temple.

The only significant flaw in the visual style of the game is that in the storyline movie scenes and trash talking intros there’s a bit too much gloss to the faces of some of the characters, which can leave them looking a bit too much like plastic dolls. There’s also a slight bug in the system when you press forward or block just after a combo that can jump the camera and seemingly move the fighters, but other than that it’s got pretty solid graphical foundations behind it, and we’d expect Nether Realm to fix most minor glitches within the first few weeks or so of the game’s release.

Overall review

There’s a big part in our dark hearts for a game like Mortal Kombat X. It’s fun, fast-paced and challenging. You can jump into the action pretty easily and the developers have done a great job of bringing its franchise to the wonder of next gen gaming with good graphics and a whole lot of variation and gameplay to swathe through. It may not be a regular go-to game in a few months time, but it’s one we’ll probably return to for a quick thrashing every now and again for a long while.

Mortal Kombat X review: 4.2/5

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Mortal Kombat X trailer:

You need to be 18 years old or older to watch the video below. It get pretty brutal.