We are not fighting game experts. We recognise this is a genre where your experience can dramatically change the enjoyment you get out of a game and we are not by any means competitive players. We like to fight against our friends and play through the story, that’s what this review is based on.
Mortal Kombat is one of those klassic franchises that many other games are judged against. Along with Mario, Doom, Grand Theft Auto, and its 90s rival Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat has held it’s ground as the hyper-gory slightly kamp fighter of choice. Mechanically it’s gone through many iterations, starting off with some unbalanced early games that relied primarily on the wow factor of fatalities and the like, dabbling in 3d and weapons and even krossing over with DC. For us Mortal Kombat has always been about three simple moves. The uppercut, the roundhouse, and the sweep kick. These three attacks are the essence of Mortal Kombat, leaping over an enemy to uppercut them, sweeping their legs away as they stand up, then landing a roundhouse kick to the face just as they think it’s all over.
Mortal Kombat X gets those breathtakingly krunchy moves just right, like everything else. Sure there are plenty of flashy special moves, but really, landing that perfect uppercut is more satisfying than anything else. It feels like a refined version of a game that has been through plenty of ups and downs since Mortal Kombat 2, but this is, mechanically, everything we could have wished for.
In terms of gameplay it’s very much what you’d expect. You pick a single fighter and then select one of three sub kategories for each. These all have different abilities and therefore strengths and weaknesses. Do you want to be able to teleport as Raiden or focus on electric attacks. Do you want to create ice klones as Sub Zero or create ice weapons to attack with? In the game it’s a simple best of three with the only real twist being a bar that steadily fills as you fight. Once full a simple tap of both triggers produces an X-ray move, where you perform an automatic combo complete with grotesque x-ray visuals of your opponents’ bones and vital organs being ripped to shreds. It’s disgusting and over the top, but just as much fun as you’d expect from a Mortal Kombat game. It does seem a little incongruous when you pierce someone’s eyeballs to see them with eyes the next second, or to shatter someone’s skull and then have them headbutt you, but such is the world in this game. These X-ray moves allow even the most amateur button masher to do something flashy and take off a third of the enemy’s health, of kourse they can be blocked and dodged but for the most part they are a satisfying way to do a decent amount of damage. More professional players will use parts of this bar to either break kombos or power up their attacks, allowing for more juggling and beefier kombos of their own.
Kharacter wise there’s a decent amount with a mixture of old favourites like Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade and Liu Kang, alongside more recent additions like Kenshi and Shinook and even a healthy roster of brand new characters, many of whom are the children of the veterans. The new characters all feel like they have a much more individual style than the palette swaps (sometimes literally) of the past. Dvorah has an impressive range and speed as her insect appendages lash out in unexpected directions. With the giant/young girl combination of Ferra and Torr you have a lumbering beast with limited movement options alongside a secondary kharacter that can literally be hurled at your opponents. All of the newbies feel like worthwhile additions and have cemented themselves as new favourites when we have people over to play.
The kampaign mode is shockingly good, to the point where other fighting games suddenly look distinctly lacking. A fantasy, sci fi soap opera tale is told over a number of chapters where kut-scenes seamlessly merge into fights between prominent kharacters. There are a few annoying QTEs here and there but for the most part it does an excellent job of introducing many of the kharacters and even managing to karry on some genuinely entertaining humour alongside the sickening gore.
In other modes you have the krypt, an interactive first person dungeon krawler with very light puzzles and kombat where you can spend your koins to unlock new kostumes, fatalities and brutalities. There’s also living towers where a series of challenges updates every hour, day and week. Winning these gets you more koins and points for your faction in the faction war. At the end of each week a faction victor is announced and everyone in that group gets a few bonuses. Online modes are much as you’d expect and while the netcode holds up 90% of the time, that 10% is enough to irritate even kasual players like us.
Overall, for local play, Mortal Kombat X is an absolute triumph. The kampaign was a joy from beginning to end and learning all of the characters has been loads of fun as has kompeting against friends and family. Online it doesn’t hold up quite so well, but this could potentially be solved with patches. Just make sure you do a little research before you dip in if that’s your main intention.