The Reboot Gets Caged
Bloody uppercuts, slippery foot sweeps, and flashy fatalities have been synonymous with the Mortal Kombat name for 23 years. From Midway to NetherRealm Studios, Mortal Kombat X carries the prestige of its predecessors to current gen consoles and PC. MKX stands out over its predecessors by enhancing the MK blueprint with stronger mechanics and adding variety to the gameplay. It then spices up the flavor of the game with throwbacks from previous games like brutalities.
MK9, served as a reboot to the series. Raiden used his supernatural skills to inform his younger self how to avoid the fate that happened at the end of Armageddon. MK9 put the storyline center stage for gamers to enjoy, with an increased emphasis on the single player. Mortal Kombat X pushes the narrative just a little further along. The main plot point that leaves a bleep on your brain’s MK story radar is that Johnny Cage is still alive and that he’s produced a kick ass daughter with Sonya Blade named Cassie Cage.
Different realms in the MK multiverse are represented through intriguingly interactive backdrops. The level design and its integration into the story mode somewhat enriches the development of the new characters. Returning MK4 villain, Shinnok, feels like he was added in before they could really finish telling a larger story that was meant to be told. Ultimately, the storyline flows from the previous game, but doesn’t add much. The presentation in Mortal Kombat X is top notch. The visual style is amazing. Every department working on this game has very successfully unified their vision. This game will pull you in and make you live in its atmosphere. The sound fits the mood, and a lot of attention was made to the voices and effects. The music itself complements the gameplay by staying toned down. However, the music does not stand out as impressive on its own.
While you play Mortal Kombat X, there is one game mode you will encounter in the menus most frequently. There are numerous tower, or ladder, modes that make up Mortal Kombat X. Towers are the same as playing single-player, or arcade, mode from any other fighting game. There may be a little story thrown into the description of the tower, but not much else is provided to give your adventure traction. Towers inherit a lot of life in MKX from various events, goals, and modifiers that can take place during each invdividual match. You might find a secret assassin, fight a battle in which any move can become lethal, or see an onscreen objective that pays a reward when achieved. Even if you are a strictly multiplayer type of person, the rewards and things you can unlock in the towers might sway you to do some tower running.
If you have played any of the previous Mortal Kombats, it is expected that there will be certain conventions that stylize the deadly gameplay. Throwbacks to the original MK trilogy are welcomed additions to the Mortal Kombat X experience. Test Your Might from MK1 will wear out your fingers. The run button makes a pleasant visit to MKX. While not exactly a true run button, it is a useful tool against ranged spam attacks. It allows you to extend combos and stay close in a fight. Brutalities aren’t like what they used to be. They are much better! They are highly stylized finishers that require forethought and careful execution. They are usually enhanced versions of special moves that splatter your opponent.
The old-school style gameplay featured in MK9 that brought us back to our Mortal Kombat II roots is back. The precise timing that dominated the first four MK games keeps you on your toes in this game. If you played MK9, you will be happy to know that the visually arresting X-Rays make a return. They still use your whole super meter, provide a little armor, and are unavoidable once the first move connects. They are still great for leveling the playing field between new and experienced players. Combo breakers are back from MK9 as well. Pressing forward and block will allow you to stop your opponent’s combo attempt dead in its tracks by using two bars of your super meter. The use of burning your super meter to enhance special moves is even better in this game, allowing you to confirm a hit before using it in many situations, making extending combos more reliable.
New mechanics raise the skill ceiling in Mortal Kombat X and add more depth to the action. Counter attacks are now enabled. You can queue up your counter attack with a special move while blocking to burn some meter and do what feels like an enhanced combo breaker. It causes damage! Faction Kills are the new finishing moves this time around. In MKX, you decide from one of five factions you play for. Your in-game menus and fatality repertoire are impacted as a result. During your gaming in the Nether Realms, you will almost unwittingly obtain points for your faction. If your faction wins the war that week, you will obtain a special faction fatality until your team is dethroned. Three variations of each character exist in the game. Each one has augmented command combos, special moves, unique brutalities, and possibly a distinct strategy to separate it from the others. This choice becomes especially handy when you need a boost to defeat a particular play style but don’t want to give up your best character. A good example is that a lot of characters are offered in a close range, or brawler, variation as well as one that can either deal with ranged attacks or dish them out. DLC is excellently integrated into the game. You can often encounter, or have a chance to play as, a DLC character in a limited time tower. This is a great way to incorporate try-before-you-buy into a video game.
MKX shines exclusively in its one-on-one matches. This translates to its mutiplayer components as well. There are enough characters and variations of each character that each match will play out in a completely different way. Every multiplayer mode, offline and online, seems well constructed and thought out. The King of the Hill mode, returning from MK9, allows you to track stats on the current players, control how you watch the fighting, cheer or boo like you are in a noisy theater, and judge the winner’s performance of each match. Ranked matches and player matches flow well from one to the next with better netcode than previoues MK installments, ensuring less lag. While Test Your Might from MK1 was brought back, the tag team mode from MK9 was dropped. This shift exclusively towards one-on-one seems to have paid off with a more focused, yet still complete, game.
The gameplay in Mortal Kombat X is the best in the series. In the past, this MK had trouble establishing a balance between creating competitive gameplay and having battles feel deadly. It has found its niche with moves like the over the top x-rays. Clever additions, like the stamina meter and running, help make the use of meter burn and super meter management an art form worth taking the time to master. However, when you execute combos, there is still a bit of the “dial in” factor that harkens back to Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe. What this means is that you will want to practice your combos to the point where you can flawlessly execute them without a hitch. Miss a beat and you will drop a combo. If you were still “dialing in” your combo, you will get in trouble. This is especially true when canceling a command combo to a special move. While this is not a big deal for the casual player, it does create a huge chasm between those that don’t use practice mode versus those that do. What it comes down to is that gamers are probably wishing the combos in this game “felt” a little more like Street Fighter combos.
Mortal Kombat X was built with value in mind. The studio wanted to give you the most modes, densest gameplay options within each mode, and the options to help you play the character you like the way you like to play them. For this, NetherRealm Studios is to be commended for it truly has brought us a game that’s worth dropping into frequently to check out the towers, war for your faction, check out the latest free dlc, possibly preview an upcoming one, and just downright enjoy its awesomeness!