After months of teasing and classic Ed Boon trolling, Mortal Kombat X is at last sitting on my PS4’s hard drive. While my inner Mortal Kombat fanboy feels quite satisfied with the game as a whole, I can’t help but feel somewhat cheated in some aspects. While boasting a breadth of content, I’m left pining for some of the features that the Mortal Kombat entries of yesteryears contained.
One of the “new” features this game offers is the ability to utilize different variants for each Kombatant. For those whose only prior experience with Mortal Kombat was the stellar 2011 reboot, this seems like an awesome new feature. However, allow me to — maybe unpleasantly for some of you more hardcore fans — take you back to an entry called Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. This was the franchise’s debut on the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube, and it perfected the 3D fightscape that we saw introduced in Mortal Kombat 4. Another feature many may recall from Deadly Alliance was the ability to swap between three variations for each fighter on the fly. For all but two on the roster, this included two hand-to-hand styles and a weapon-based style, which allowed some, such as Kung Lao and Sub-Zero, to stab their opponent and slowly cause damage until the end of the round. Fast forward to today, and we have a system that limits you to only one variant for the entirety of a contest or tower challenge. You can swap variants upon defeat, of course, but fondly remembering this system’s prior iteration leaves a little to be desired.
Speaking of things Deadly Alliance introduced to the franchise, the popular Krypt is back and it is massive! While we’re first exposed to a new graveyard setting, Mortal Kombat X gives us a variety of different areas, all loaded with tombs to spend those hard earned koins on — but with a unique twist. Hidden throughout the Krypt are items, such as Sub-Zero’s iceball and Raiden’s staff, that players will need to find in order to progress to the different areas located within the graveyard. Some areas also feature creatures that lunge at you at random, bringing about a quick time event to disperse them. While there is no real punishment for hitting the wrong button, hitting the correct one will yield an extra few hundred koins. Hundreds of items are locked away here, including concept art, stage music, alternate costumes, alternate Fatalities and Brutalities. In addition to the tombs, there are also chests that appear in certain areas based on a timer at the bottom of the screen. I have no doubt that players will spend a lot of time here seeking out a chest or tomb they may be missing and hunting down all of the hidden items required to open the different gateways within the graveyard. Of course, for those who don’t want to be bothered with any of this, there is a $20 “Unlock the Krypt” option available in the digital store of your choice.
Deadly Alliance is not the only NetherRealm title that Mortal Kombat X draws inspiration from. Sadly, gone are the free-fall kombat transitions from the last game, and in its place are interactive set pieces within the environment, similar to what we saw in Injustice: Gods Among Us. Some of these interactive objects are rather entertaining, such as the old lady you can hurl at your opponent or the vine you can swing on Tarzan-style, while stationary objects like logs and stones can help you out in a pinch by allowing you to jump off and propel yourself away from your enemy. They’re a nice addition, but I definitely miss level transitions, and even level-specific Fatalities.
Speaking of Fatalities, NetherRealm has definitely upped the ante in terms of disgusting with this latest installment. Some of Mortal Kombat X’s Fatalities are just downright cringe-worthy. Watching Kenshi’s sword slowly dissect a foe’s face, Goro push his opponent’s head down into their torso, or even the disturbingly funny Cassie Cage “selfie” Fatality, is enough to make even the most hardened of Mortal Kombat veterans consider turning away.
Alongside the game’s shockingly grotesque Fatalities, Brutalities — first introduced in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 — make their long-awaited return to the franchise. Thankfully, these aren’t the “do this insane combo until your opponent explodes” Brutalities that you may remember. Instead, players are given a small list of conditions to meet during a match. These can range from something as simple as winning a match with a throw while holding left, to more advanced tasks like landing five charged attacks with a certain character variant, or ending the match with a 4-hit combo that must end with a mid-air throw. Many of the Brutalities are lethal versions of typical moves players perform during kombat. Liu Kang’s fireball Brutality, for instance, melts the flesh off of his opponent’s skull. Unlike Fatalities, these are done rather swiftly with no additional attention given to the end result, which given how gross some of them appear to be, is a-ok with me. For those who have a difficult time pulling off these grotesque executions, there are tokens available to pull off “Easy Fatalities,” which allow players to simply hold down R2 and hit a button to perform a finishing move. These require the use of an “Easy Fatality Token” which can be obtained by completing various challenges, such as performing a certain number of X-Ray moves, or by finding them in a tomb in the Krypt. There was a time when these were a purchasable microtransaction, but due to the negative reaction from the community, WB and NetherRealm have since removed that option.
Brutalities are not the only other “–ality” present here. While there are no Friendships or Babalities, kills based on another new addition to the game, Factions, are an end-match option now as well. While I’m unsure exactly how many there are, it appears that each group has at least 2 faction-specific finishers. These are very simple to pull off, only requiring players to hold R2 and hit either left, left or right, right. Lastly, for those of you who have a bad habit of rage-quitting online, Mortal Kombat X will further humiliate you by making your head explode and awarding the guy who was already kicking your ass a “Flawless Victory,” in what is known as a Quitality.
As I mentioned above, Factions are another new feature introduced here. Players are given the chance, upon booting up the game, to choose one of five factions to align with. These factions include several popular entities from the world of Mortal Kombat, including the Lin Kuei, the Black Dragon and the Special Forces. Players earn XP for their factions for everything they do, from simply playing the game mode of their choice, to completing daily challenges that range from using a certain character X amount of times, to performing special actions like running or X-Ray moves. There appear to be Invasions that happen as a part of these faction wars as well, but I’ve yet to have the opportunity to see what these entail. They seem to be random, or on a timer that I’m unaware of. I constantly have problems connecting to the faction servers when I first try to log in, but after a few attempts, the game will eventually sign me on and allow me to see my faction standing for the week, along with the daily challenges I can complete to earn additional faction XP. I believe my faction won the war this past week, but I have yet to pop on and see what we get for coming out on top.
The final area I’ve spent some time playing around with is the Challenge Towers. There are tons of options here, including your klassic 10 battle towers that give an ending for each character, an endless tower, and a tower dedicated to a fan-favorite mode known as “Test Your Might.” While these are all enjoyable as always, the “Test Your Luck” tower is quickly becoming my favorite. This tower pits you against a series of enemies, and adds random modifiers that are decided at the beginning of each bout. Sometimes, you’ll have a match with the odds stacked in your favor as your fighter gains armor, doles out double damage, or finds his opponent crippled with a modifier that sees them do less damage. Other times, you’ll find yourself in an impossible to win situation, as you lose health over time while your enemy does double damage with an infinite super meter. On top of these, there are also special towers, dubbed “Living Towers,” which change hourly, daily and weekly. These range from towers with a preset modifier, to premium towers that allow players to test out DLC characters prior to purchase (Goro being playable for now).
I still feel like I have a lot to experience. I started the story and was incredibly annoyed to square off against Tanya early on, a DLC character who I was under the impression wasn’t ready to be shown. There are also many adversaries you’ll face that aren’t playable fighters in the game, such as Rain and Smoke. It’s currently unclear if we’ll see these characters playable at some point, as either DLC or free updates that’ll give them to us, but I’m sure I’m not in the minority when I say I’d love to see these fighters available to use at some point. Despite the few shortcomings I feel the game has, overall, I’m enjoying my time checking out all of the characters and what they can bring to the table. The roster is meaty and features one of the coolest menus I’ve ever seen in a fighting game, as potential kombatants walk forward as you hover over them. They do a pose upon being chosen, and even do a parting face-off with their opponent as the match begins to load. Little touches like this help flesh out the game and give it its own identity amongst the many other superb entries in this acclaimed franchise. I’m looking forward to sinking many more hours into this, seeing how the faction wars pan out in the long run, and maybe even (accidentally) earning some online victories.
Mortal Kombat X is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC now! The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game are scheduled to arrive this summer.