The power of the PS4’s graphics have confirmed one thing: the developers at NeatherRealm are TWISTED because some of these fatalities in Mortal Kombat X are just plain gross. From someone who doesn’t really have a weak stomach for these sort of things, I found myself on more than one occasion thinking to myself “Holy crap, that was DISGUSTING.” And then I would do it again just to get a better look. And again. And then the second fatality for each character, along with all the Brutalities and Faction Kills. Yup, it appears I am just as sick and twisted as the devs.
You see, that’s the beauty of Mortal Kombat X. I’ve said it plenty of times; I don’t particularly like the fighting game genre, but MK, Injustice, BlazBlue. Persona 4 Arena, etc. have recently reinvigorated my interest in fighting games with their inclusion of a story mode (as bad as the voice acting and story may be in some). Fighting games are finally giving me a reason to spend hours upon hours learning all the moves and combos and exercising my fast twitch muscles that I haven’t used since college. For me personally, it’s a second renaissance of the fighting game genre, and I’m loving every second of it.
Mortal Kombat X (MKX from here on out) takes the best of 2011’s Mortal Kombat and Injustice: Gods Among Us, mashes it all together, throws in a number of new features (mainly social), and slathers the whole package in a 1080p/60fps coat of gorgeousness (PS4). I didn’t get a chance to check out the XBox One version of the game, but some Googling has revealed that the One’s version runs at sub 1080p (if that sort of thing is important to you). Either way, this is the best that MK has ever looked, and dare I say, this is easily the best MK game in ages…perhaps ever. As far as the best fighting game ever…well, that’s your own call. I’m sure Street FIghter purists will laugh, and Tekken purists will cringe, and so on and so forth.
As with pretty much any game with a campaign/story mode, this is the area that I jumped into first (after a quick training round or two to acclimate myself to the controls). If you played 2011’s MK or Injustice, then you should feel right at home here; MKX’s control scheme hasn’t really changed from either of those two games. The biggest change from 2011’s MK is the inclusion of environmental attacks that were introduced in Injustice.
The story mode hasn’t changed much either, both in terms of tone and the story itself. Other than looking prettier, MKX’s story mode is as overly dramatic, hokey, and poorly acted as MK’s was a few years back. Honestly though, that’s part of the charm of this game. It’s not Birdman; it’s The Expendables. It’s not meant to be on the same level as Persona 4 Arena; I mean, this is the game where you can perform a fatality where a katana turns into a mid-air whirling fan, and you draw your opponent through it, chopping him/her into little chunks. Almost every aspect of the game, while excessive, is done with a tongue in cheek attitude. Are politicians complaining about violence in video games? Let’s see what MKX can do to take the violence not up to 11, but to 2438572633457.
As mentioned before, the story mode is is nice and hokey, almost to a pulpy degree. Mortal Kombat has been around since 1992, and pretty much every installment has involved some denizen of Outworld/the NeatherRealm trying to invade and take over EarthRealm. This time it’s Shinnock. Before it was Shao Kahn. Before that it was Shang Tsung. In MKX, Shinnock is trying to take over EarthRealm with not only an army of his minions, but also a number of “converted” heroes from Mortal Kombat’s history. Throughout twelve chapters of bloody fun, you get to play as a handful of klassic characters (Johnny Cage, Sonya, etc) and also a variety of of new ones, like the kids of Jax and Sonya/Johnny, Jacqui Briggs and Cassie Cage, respectively. The cool part about MKX’s story mode is that it not only jumps back and forth through time to tell the story of characters’ pasts and presents, but it also explores a bit of backstory with some old favorites, like Scorpion and Sub Zero. Overall, it’s probably the “meatiest” MK story ever, but no one is going to start mistaking it for The Last of Us or anything like that.
Other game modes include challenge towers, Test Your Luck (fights where a random modifier is applied), the humongous Krypt, and the newest star of MK, Faction Wars. Faction Wars is like the MK version of Forza’s Rivals and DriveClub’s club system, where everything you do both online and off will earn points that go towards your faction. You start off by joining one of five factions; Lin Kuei, White Lotus, Brotherhood of Shadow, Black Dragon, and Special Forces. Guess which of the factions is the favorite? Seriously, it’s not even close. The Lin Kuei is SO MUCH the overwhelming favorite that there doesn’t even seem to be any point to the Faction War at this point because due to what’s strictly a numbers game, the Lin Kuei will always always always come out on top.
In addition to simply adding points to your faction via online and offline play, you can also earn points via special Faction Kills and through the MKX mobile game. I was excited to get the mobile game since I liked what I saw at GDC, but in a super lame move, it only has released on iOS so far. Android is coming later at an unspecified date, and honestly I have no idea if there is going to be a Windows Phone version. Through the mobile game, you can not only play MK on the go, but anything you earn in the way of Koins and faction points gets transferred over to your console game, where you can also unlock new skins and characters. It works the other way around too, where playing on the console will yield rewards in the mobile version.
The other major feature of the Faction War are Invasions, where Outworld will “invade” via a series of Invasion challenge towers, and an Invasion boss. The Invasion towers spice up the traditional tower formula by adding modifiers, such as fighting through each matchup with random spinning blades on the ground. The Invasion boss is a super powered, unkillable opponent where you have thirty seconds to deal as much damage as you can before 1) time runs out, or 2) you are unceremoniously murdered. These Invasion bosses are HARD, but fighting game vets will probably have no trouble at all. I’m sure I just suck.
Graphically, MKX is an absolutely gorgeous game, though there are a few niggles that I can’t seem to wrap my mind around. First off, take a look at any character that is either a non-human or wears a mask. They all look spectacular with tons of detail and unique designs. You can see everything from the ridges in Reptile’s skin to the folds of tattered cloth on Ferra/Torr. Now look at any human character with an exposed face. It doesn’t matter which one; you can choose Johnny Cage, Sonya, Cassie, Jacqui…whatever. Their faces all look flat and lifeless, like something from early last-gen. It’s interesting that there can be such a huge gap between the levels of quality in the characters, but as it stands, there is a noticeable difference. Perhaps it’s simply because the human faces were made to look TOO perfect…who knows.
If you really want to be blown away by MKX’s visuals, just take a look at what’s going on behind the fighters. This game features some of the most impressive looking environments I have seen in quite some time. Backgrounds are full of life and sharp designs. Especially impressive was the shipwreck stage. Not only do you have massive waves crashing and rolling in the background along with the torrential downpour of a huge storm, but every now and then, you have a corpse get tossed into the air by the waves. All this is happening while the two fighters are going at it in a graceful ballet of blood and entrails. It’s glorious, so glorious.
There’s not much not to like about MKX, except for the fact that during my time reviewing the game (post launch, mind you), I was able to connect to the Faction servers maybe four times. The rest of the attempts were greeted with an error message stating that the servers were down. That really seems to be the name of the game with major releases in 2014/2015, isn’t it? Broken servers, connection issues, etc. “Next-gen” indeed. That aside, when I CAN connect, I like spending my time meeting the Faction challenges (three per day) to earn more points for my posse, and running through the towers. In fact, one of my personal favorite things to do if I’m in a particularly twisted mood is to head over to the practice mode where you can play through a Fatalities-only practice. If you ever wanted to do nothing more than Fatality after Fatality with a few Brutalities and Faction Kills sprinkled in there, then this practice mode is for you. I find it’s nice to blow off steam here after a long day.
As with Injustice before it, I was pleasantly surprised with how much much there was to do in Mortal Kombat X. No longer can I use the excuse “It’s so repetitive!” to explain why I dislike fighting games. I’m starting to like fighting games more and more, and something like MKX is definitely going to receive quite a bit of playing time in my PS4. I’m not a Street Fighter master, and I know virtually nothing about the competitive professional fighting scene, but that’s why the MK series and NeatherRealm’s game appeal to me. I can enjoy something like Injustice and MKX. I don’t need to spend hours upon hours crafting my perfect combo sequence. That sort of thing doesn’t appeal to me. But flipping on my PS4 and ripping someone throat out while gaining Faction points? Yeah, I can get on board with that, and enjoy every second of it.