Mortal Kombat X Preview from GDC 2015
Anyone who has read anything I have written in the past four years knows that it’s no secret that fighting games is my least favorite genre in gaming. I liked playing with friends at the arcade every now and then, but the thought of plopping down $60 for something so repetitive just didn’t tickle my fancy.
That is, until NeatherRealm dropped Injustice: Gods Among Us into my lap. For the first time, a fighting game actually gave me more than just player versus player, over and over and over. I actually got a pretty lengthy (by fighting game standards) story mode, and a booty ton of challenges to keep me busy, Add in your requisite unlockable character models, art, concept designs, etc. and for the first time, a fighting game not only gave me my $60 worth, but it gave me more than I could actually handle. Toss in the two Persona 4 Arena games, and I was ready to fall in love with fighting games all over again,
At GDC, I was ready to sink my teeth into Mortal Kombat X. If the game was anything like Injustice, then I will be more than happy. I’m happy to say the MKX is pretty damn awesome so far. First off, it looks gorgeous. The power of current-gen systems really makes the MK franchise look better than it ever has before. Every little rip in the clothing, every drop of blood and sweat, comes through brilliantly on the TV. Interestingly enough in the demo I played, the facial models for probably the weakest link (specifically for Sonia and Johnny Cage, who looked a bit like Chris Jericho). Characters like Sub Zero and Raiden, however, looked fantastic. Even more brilliant was the look of the environment. The background all looked very sharp and were filled with movement. Fireballs burst up, animals scurried about, rocks were tumbling…everything about MKX just seemed so dynamic.
During my demo session, I got to play through the first chapter of the story mode in addition to some one-off matches with the developers (who apparently promised us a dance if they ran out of things to talk about). The story mode should look familiar to anyone who has played through Injustice. It’s broken up into chapters, with each segment starring a different character. The chapter I played had some classic mainstays like Sonia, Johnny Cage, Raiden, and Kenshi, but I was told that the story will actually take place 25 years after the events of MK (2011), so it will feature the children of classic characters. Mortal Kombat The Next Generation indeed.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the story was the sheer size and scope of the production value. Injustice had some great moments between classic heroes and villains and some awesome set pieces. MK (2011) had a cool “back to the future” concept and featured a ton of characters from MK’s history. MKX, however, has some jaw dropping scenes with full armies waging war against each other, with our heroes in the mix. It’s a sight to behold. One thing that was disappointing was the fact that story mode did not allow fatalities, which is understandable because actually “killing” characters would make for a very short story.
However, once I sat down to play head to head with the devs, things changed. No story meant no restrictions, so fatalities were a go, and so were a bunch of characters that weren’t in the one chapter I played. I of course went straight for my go-to guy, Scorpion. Yes, I’m that annoying guy that spams his hook like crazy. Sue me; I’ve been doing hook shot followed by an uppercut for over 20 years now. I’m not about to veer from what I’m familiar with. A few observations from single player:
X-ray attacks are back and they are just as brutal as before, if not more. Now the brutality is in PS4/Xbox One graphics, and it can get pretty “squishy,” for lack of a better term. When the full game releases, the first thing all of you need to do is perform Cassie Cage’s X-ray attack. Ouchie. We had a debug version of the game, so fatalities were mapped to one button press. I was told that they would still be difficult to perform in the final version, but perhaps not as hard as in Mk (2011) Environmental attacks like in Injustice are in the game. As before, when you see the (R1) flash by your health bar, you can press that button to perform an attack with/on the environment. This can include everything from throwing flaming oil from a bucket to smashing your opponent’s head into a nearby statue.
From what I understand, there won’t be any “superhero-esque”moves where you can break through sections of the level into a new section like in Injustice. I was told that Injustice featured superheroes, so that mechanics was to showcase their “superhero-ness.”
I want to also touch briefly on Factions, but before I do so, I want to mention that there will also be a mobile version of MKX, launching alongside its console brother. The mobile version is no quick cash in attempt; not only is it a full fledged game in its own right with touch optimized controls, but it also ties in with the console version in terms of rewards earned and points earned towards your Faction. In our demo session, one dev played a quick match on his iPad (the mobile game will launch for iOS and Android and “anything else we can get it on”). After the match, he was able to earn rewards for the console version as well, which popped up on the TV mere seconds later. Another dev then played a match on the console, where mere moments after the match ended, the mobile game got a notification, stating that a reward of Koins was now ready. The integration between the app and console game is really nice, and really feels seamless…like you’re taking the game on the go.
Which brings me to Factions. Factions are similar to Clubs in Driveclub, in which you can join a Faction with others and earn points towards your Faction via challenges and such. You can do whatever you need to do on the console, and when you step out of the house, you can continue earning rewards for your faction by playing the mobile version. Just like the with cross platform challenges, earning towards your Faction is seamless between the console and mobile version. The mobile game will be free, but the question of IAPs did not come up (I assume there will be some). Also, due to time constraints (i.e. I was having too much fun with the PS4 version laying the smackdown on the devs), I was not able to get my hands on the mobile version. I did however get to watch the devs play it, which involved lots of furious tapping and swiping, as expected. And it looks tremendous. I imagine it will only release for select devices that can handle the visuals, and even with those, I would not be surprised to see those devices being pushed to their max. It looks damn close to the console version, and that’s saying something coming from a mobile title being played on an iPad.
I came away from the demo session anticipating Mortal Kombat X more than any other game I tried out, and that’s including a week that had a wrestling game as well. For a guy that dislikes fighting games, that’s a big, BIG deal. MKX has gorgeous graphics, a ton of characters, bloody good violence, a bunch of features taken from Injustice that I loved, and a beefy story mode. What’s not to like?