Games Review: Mortal Kombat X (PS4, 2015)

With Mortal Kombat 9 receiving such universal acclaim, heralded as a major revitalisation for the long-running and controversial series, and deemed ‘the best MK so far’, it’s only right that Mortal Kombat X completely top it’s predecessor. With the NetherRealm team jogging in the right direction, they have managed to take make their first foray into next-gen gaming their best, most fun, and most violent outing yet. And isn’t that to be expected?

The MK series has a history of one-upping itself with the amount of outrageous gore in almost every step, and the gross-out factor is definitely ramped up here. It also helps that the presentation is gorgeous; the texture to each of these characters looks amazing against the highly detailed settings and the movement is as smooth and fluid as any fighter to date.

Mortal Kombat has always – in recent years anyway – been thick with back story for it’s interesting characters, and so the single player story mode here is given a slick reboot and a very cinematic feel. MK9’s story mode took a giant step forward for the series and spun together something relatively engaging, especially for a fighter; MK10 tops that by exploring the relationship between these characters and really focusing on the distinction between different groups and categories (that is, factions). The result is an overdue evolution for the character pool with new entries like Cassie Cage, the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, and Jacqui Briggs, Jaxx’s daughter. These new comers also serve to develop the older, more established characters, and it gives the Mortal Kombat universe a – sort of – human element that’s frequently missing in the genre.

There are flaws in the single player story mode though. The cinematic cuts between fights can be painfully long and almost exclusively consist of expository dialogue. The quick time events, although a nice touch, are strangely few and far between and only pop up at random times. This inconsistency does ruin the attempts at innovation somewhat significantly, even more so when you realise that some of these fights you get yourself in to are against characters that aren’t playable in any other mode. There are no MK9 favourites like Cyrax, Baraka, Noob, and Rain but there is a healthy roster of new blood to slightly make up for that.

Unfortunately, these new characters don’t quite hold up to the standard of the oldies, in terms of both move sets, looks, and movement. By far the best looking characters are still the classics like Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Kano, and Kenshi. But what the new characters, like Cassie Cage, lack in fighting they make up for in fatalities.

Fatalities play a huge part in the game, and the novelty of getting to execute (and unlock) every one keeps the game fresh for a much longer time than previous titles. Cassie Cage has one of the most entertaining (video below) and shows MK’s witty attempt at slotting into the current generation.

The game is at it’s strength when it’s just one-on-one combat, and NetherRealm have poured a lot into making the fighting as diverse as possible. Each playable character has three distinct fighting styles to choose from, and this time they are actually significantly different. The various nuances with each style stretches the roster of 24 on-disc characters and multiples the possibilities, adding greatly to the replay value of MK10. It’s something the series has never done before and it pays off in bloody bucket loads.

Fights are intense, aggressive affairs at breakneck speed thanks to the super slick engine and the delicate movements each fighter brings to the table. During fighting there’s even more ways to customise your battle with the power bar at the bottom of the screen. When the power bar is full you can execute those exciting X-Ray moves but that does become a bit repetitive, especially when players rely on being able to pull off that devastating, graphic move. Instead, you can ‘spend’ one of the three sections of the power bar to make any of your special moves a bit more special; for example, instead of the simple ‘get over here’ spear from Scorpion, you can press an extra button to spend energy and throw out a double spear, doing more damage, and also looking much, much cooler.

The Krypt mode is back, and it’s even more addictive than in MK9. It’s almost a game in itself, and the process of earning koins in every mode and then spending it to break krypts and unlock a smorgasbord of goodies (including fatalities, skins, levels, and brutalities) is strangely involving, and rewarding. It’s the fighter genres equivalent of grinding for loot; and we all know how popular that has become with games like Borderlands and Destiny.

With a whole range of improvements from impressive, realistic sound effects to environmental moves, MK10 is best described as MK9 on steroids; taking everything that made the 2011 game such a success and running in the same direction. It may not be a game which would convert anyone who doesn’t already love Mortal Kombat, but it’s straight fan service; giving us something that’s almost impossible to be disappointed with.

Review Score: 8.5 out of 10
Highlights: Three different styles for each character; smooth combat; even bloodier than before; great attempt at providing depth to these characters through story.
Lowlights: Quick Time Events very inconsistent; disappointing omissions on roster; new characters aren’t as interesting as classics
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: WB Games
Released: April 15, 2015
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Reviewed on Playstation 4

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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.

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