Mortal Kombat X PS4 Review
Before this review begins, you should click here to get yourself in the right spirit to read the following paragraphs about Mortal Kombat X.
Ever since its first release back in late 1992 with its controversial violent gameplay and head pulling, spinal showing fatalities, the Mortal Kombat series has led a healthy, if somewhat mixed quality, release of titles. A reboot of the franchise happened with 2011’s Mortal Kombat, the 9th entry in the series, but used the original name to signal a restart of the story, bringing back favourite characters into HD, along with a well-produced story mode, new mechanics and all the disturbingly wonderful gore that the series is known for. Mortal Kombat X signals NetherRealm Studios first fresh step into current generation systems, which for us means a fantastic looking and the most violently detailed Mortal Kombat to date, but above all, the best gameplay Mortal Kombat has ever featured.
It’s not often stories in fighting games are the reason to play them, but the previous Mortal Kombat did a great job showcasing that stories in fighting games can be interesting and compelling enough for people to play through and understand where these characters sit in the huge scope of the Mortal Kombat universe. Mortal Kombat X continues the story a few years after the events of Mortal Kombat, in which Shao Kahn was defeated, leaving space for another villain to step in, this is where Shinnok sees an opening and begins his invasion of Earthrealm, but ultimately fails. The plot continues 25 years later, where Quan Chi tries to resurrect his master, while the job for the combatants of Earthrealm is to put a stop to this dangerous event.
The story is another highly polished section of the game, and while it manages to bring an engaging plot that expands the locations of the series, building on top of the last game’s fight scenes with cool action mixed occasionally with some rather simple, but still awesome looking, quick time events, it doesn’t feel as spectacular as the previous game. There’s only 12 chapters here, lasting around five hours, and even with the smaller roster of characters available (24 + Goro as preorder bonus), not all of the characters get a chance to shine in the story mode. It would have been nice if all 24 main characters were playable in the story, as that mode is the perfect area to let a player sample each of the characters and their different moves. Sadly, we just get to play with the 12 characters that have a chapter dedicated to them while they give a beat down on everyone else.
Participating in the story also throws in some disappointing moments, mainly in regards to existing characters that return in the story mode, but aren’t actually playable characters. What makes it worse is that these characters are ones you fight against, as they seem to battle with their move sets from the last Mortal Kombat game. These unplayable characters do lack one of the game’s new features, character variations, which makes them incomplete incarnations, but these aren’t small characters that people would not care about missing from the roster, but classics like Baraka, Smoke, Striker, Nightwolf and Kabal, all unplayable, and my major worry is that these characters are going to be paid downloadable content for the game and not given away for free, since they are already modelled for Mortal Kombat X and have one variation implemented, but do require work put in for two more variations, which will no doubt be used as the excuse to make people pay for them in the future.
I should give credit where due though, while I might be complaining about the lack of missing playable characters, the characters that are included feel unique, especially the rather large inclusion of fresh new faces, eight in total, making their grand and bloody entrance. Four of the new cast are relatives for fan favourites, such as the cocky, but tough Cassie Cage, a blend of her mother Sonya Blade and her movie star of a father Johnny Cage, who both return for this game. Others include Takeda, the son of blind ronin Kenshi, who uses an armoured body suit equipped with bladed whips, Kung Jin, an archer who is the cousin of Kung Lao, and Jacqui Briggs, the daughter of Jax, who uses electronic gauntlets that increase strength and shoot out blasts of energy that keep the toughness running in the family.
Apart from Erron Black, a cool looking gunslinger who brings badass cowboy with revolvers to the combat, the other new characters are on the more unusual side, with D’vorah standing out the most with her insectoid design and bug based attacks, and Ferra/Torr being unique due to the concept of a big dude being controlled by a little rider who sits on his back and joins in the fun with some of the special moves. These are no doubt some of the best inclusions to the series, beating other new characters introduced in the past, mainly because those felt like half-assed attempts to increase the amount of characters or were hidden jokes that didn’t have the time or care taken in their design compared to the new inclusions in Mortal Kombat X.
Fans that played the previous title will notice the combat mechanics have remained extremely similar. Everyone has special moves, can grab, jump, and block returns to being a button (unlike Injustice). The metre bar on the bottom of the screen builds up to allow a fighter to either perform an EX version of their special attack in exchange for one bar, can break out of combos by cashing in two bars or can build the metre all the way to maximum to perform a devastating X-ray move (think of it as Street Fighter IV’s super metre) that will turn the fight into a bone cracking cinematic, as the player on the receiving end is given one hell of a beating. A new feature, which has come across from the NetherRealm’s DC fighter, Injustice, are environmental interactions, such as throwing pans of hot water, running up and jumping off the wall to get out of the corner or even using an old lady to launch at the opponent in a rather hilarious way. Of course, no one should ever do that to the elderly, but it’s highly amusing seeing someone like Scorpion pick up an old age pensioner and toss them.
X-rays are aimed to be more shockingly disturbing, making people squirm at the thought of that happening in real life, while fatalities are the most disturbing the series has ever included. The hardware is used to demonstrate the innards of one’s brain and other internal organs as they squish, explode, pop and even get pulled out of someone’s mouth in the most gruesome of ways. There’s still the occasional boring one, but fatalities have mostly been given thought to try keep them unique or shocking across each character.
Mortal Kombat X all sounds familiar at the moment, and its core combat is, but the inclusion of character variations for each fighter means there is now strategy involved in picking your favourite character. Each fighter has three variations to pick from. Variations alter a character’s move set by removing or switching different special moves, attacks or add the use of weapons. Using Sub-Zero as an example, the ice cold warrior can either go with Cryomancer, offering him the chance to create ice daggers, swords and hammers to gain extra range with his attacks. Unbreakable is more for people who like to turtle, as this unlocks the ice shield or the ice armour to decrease damage, and lastly, Grandmaster allows Sub-Zero to create clones of himself to act as dummy traps, like he had in previous games, but now these can also be used as a projectile by launching the ice dummy in front of him. The inclusion of character variations add that tactical layer, as you have to decide which set of moves will be worthwhile to your play style. Mixing this with the smoother and faster gameplay translates into a proficient fighter that controls better, animates better and just comes across feeling really good to play.
Single player content has changed, as now the challenge tower is no longer a stack of 300 challenges, but instead split across categories. Traditional towers contains five types, the arcade “Klassic” tower with 10 opponents to beat for character endings, “Test Your Luck” is 7 matches, each one gaining an extra modifier to alter the gameplay. These modifiers can alter gravity making it easier to do air combos, regenerate health, add hilarious portal holes that cause characters to fall through the ground and come out of the sky, falling hazards, x-ray instant kills and plenty of other modifications to have fun with. The last couple of towers are “Endless”, “Survival,” which is Endless where health is carried across to the next match, and “Test Your Might”, a button mashing mini game that gets harder with each upward journey of the tower. All these add extra content to the single player portion of the game to keep players coming back for fun. Local play has standard play or can be changed to include the modifiers from “Test Your Luck” for anyone wanting some crazy versus play.
Online has a big presence here, as it’s more than just fighting people over the internet. Living towers are constantly updating towers that change hourly and daily with different tasks. One of the earlier living towers was to use Goro to defeat the opponents, while a more recent one was making my way up an eight floor tower while avoiding pillars of flames that pop up from the ground in each stage. You can also attempt a random generated tower and then send the results to a friend to challenge them and see who comes out on top. NetherRealm has spent time in coming up with ways to keep the fighting exciting and unique, which makes a big difference when factoring how much content you can access when you’re playing by yourself.
Fighting games help build a community for the game by its online presence, so it needs to have good netcode to thrive. Just look at King of Fighters XIII for an example of how a great fighting game isn’t as active due to bad netcode, yet has a lot of hype when it comes to tournament views. In regards to Mortal Kombat X, the netcode can be a mixed bag – sometimes it’s fine, sometimes it’s laggy, and there’s no clear way to see who is going to cause issues for you in ranked matches, as all you see is a “looking for opponent” screen and then the game begins and players pick their fighters. Online on PS4 is also region locked, so you cannot play people in USA from the UK. Hopefully the lag issue will straighten itself out over time, as when it works it’s a blast to play.
A metagame is built into Mortal Kombat X in the form of factions – teams that people join when first booting up the game. These are like clans, where people will accomplish challenges and use faction kills (quick fatalities) to build their team’s score with an aim to be the winning faction in that week and earn a reward. Koins are the unlock currency and are earned by simply playing the game in various modes. These koins can then be spent in the Krypt, a rather detailed looking first-person exploration mode where the koins are put into tombstones to unlock artwork, fatalities, brutalities and other smaller goodies. One of the things that urks me is the fact than you can pay £15.99 to unlock everything in the game, which is a rather disturbing feature to include. I’m not a fan of in app purchases in full retail games, which Mortal Kombat X has no shame in presenting to you. You can even pay money to have 30 easy fatalities, meaning that you just need to tap a button to activate it. There’s just this blatant and disgusting money grabbing spread throughout the game’s menus that soils the otherwise great title.
Mortal Kombat arrives on current generation, bringing a refined and gory battle system with additional depth with the implementation of character variations, refreshing and cool new characters, another solid story and plenty of content, but the best improvement is the smoother fighting engine with better animations that no longer look awkwardly wooden. The game has questionable in app purchase options, but with what looks like a strong support for the game through constant updated towers and new DLC characters (Woo Predator) across multiple character packs, Mortal Kombat X is a polished fighter and the best playing Mortal Kombat in its long running history.