Mortal Kombat X has seen a lot of attention and it’s not hard to see why. The reboot was favourably received, reviving a franchise that had long lost its way with “Kreate-A-Fatality”, Shujinko’s entire existence, and a convoluted plot that only the dedicated could make sense of. By altering its own timeline in dramatic fashion, the developers at NetherRealm studios now have creative freedom to embark down this new future. But how do the new mechanics fare and just how complex can a game about beating someone to death get?
I recently played the multiplayer-only preview at EGX alongside TheSixthAxis’ Kris Lipscombe and a couple of representatives from WB Games. Both showed me different things when it came to not just the mechanics, but also how it feels to play when you’re opting to make a small competition out of it. What was revealed during both sessions has me excited.
Old mainstays like Scorpion, Sub Zero, Raiden and Kano are still present, each with three different modes to vary fighting styles. All work well and have advantages in certain scenarios. Newcomers include D’vora – a venomous spider lady, Kotal Khan – the sun god, and the daughter of Sonja Blade and Johnny Cage (bet you didn’t see that one coming): Cassie Cage. Indeed Cassie Cage is an interesting blend of her mother’s special ops training with her father’s Hollywood brawler “shenanigans”. With plenty more characters and fighting styles to be revealed, the diversity thus far is impressive.
Fighting itself uses the best from Injustice: Gods Among Us, but further improving their utility. For example, in-stage items that deal damage can occasionally appear more than once in a fight, meaning their use becomes less risky. Brawling is also slightly faster, meaning battles happen at such a brisk pace, reacting to oncoming attacks is a tense affair. Supporting this are mobility based obstacles that can be used to leap across the area, and even areas that are used differently depending on where you and your opponent are. You can also run, but unlike in Mortal Kombat 3, it isn’t mapped to a single button, though the stamina bar limits how much you can spam this.
As if the fighting wasn’t good enough, during the time played I was able to pull off some rather disturbing finishers. Cassie Cage’s in particular made painful viewing, topped off with a rather comedic use of chewing gum. While it’s nothing on the recently revealed Quan Chi’s new finisher, the level of brutal extermination is perhaps more gory than previous titles. More importantly though, it keeps what made Mortal Kombat an excellent reboot with its combos, enhanced attacks, combo breakers, and the X-Ray attacks that brought the series up-to-date.
Where Mortal Kombat X has differentiated itself from its contemporaries thus far has been with the different fighting styles. These provide far more complexity than merely choosing characters as they provide different moves depending on the selection, each granting advantages and disadvantages in fighting styles that need adapting to. What’s more, it adds a level of depth unfound in most fighting games, making mastering a character a far more involved task.
Some have said that it is a darker looking game and in many ways it is. Stages have a desolate feel to them for the most part, with the “Kove” level showcasing a rather hellish landscape full of dead bodies that splash up against the bridge. An Outworld marketplace does a little more to build up the world of Mortal Kombat as all sorts of weird and wondrous things inhabit this stage. It helps that the physics and overall tone of the game are technically impressive, perhaps even rivalling Killer Instinct for artistic finesse.
It’s unknown at this time what else the game may have in terms of features, but given NetherRealm studios’ history with the Mortal Kombat franchise, they won’t skimp on the features. While I’ve always been a sucker for the series since its inception (I even liked Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero!), the improvements should have fighting game fans in general excited. Historically the Capcom fighters have had a more mechanical focus as opposed to just being about guts and gore, but Mortal Kombat X looks to bridge that gap, then uppercut its rivals into a pit full of spikes. Fatality indeed.