You know, it takes a special breed of gamer to truly master a fighting game. Much like the music games of yesteryear that are suddenly making a comeback, these types of games require actual training. Just like you study for a test or train your muscles, so too do you sit in the training mode and hash out combos and memorize sequences. To some it sounds absurd, I mean, why you practice a video game?
Fighting games aren't for everyone, but for those who do enjoy them (myself for example) Mortal Kombat is one of the most iconic series in the genre. I’ve always felt like this series is welcoming to newcomers and casual players, while also offering depth for those who want to start a new fighting game training regimen. It doesn't have the quarter-turns and ridiculous combos of something like Street Fighter, but it does have depth in many other places.
Mortal Kombat X, the tenth game in this ongoing series, represents the strongest entry I’ve seen from a fighting game in a long time. That’s not to say its perfect, but for fans of the series, you’ll want to keep reading.
An Actual Story Mode!
I know, I know, fighting games don’t need story modes. Usually we’re lucky if they have a intro/outro cutscene for the arcade mode. In the past couple entries though, Netherrealm Studios has seen fit to include an actual story mode. It’s little more than cutscenes and fights, but there’s a level of polish and writing here that took me off guard in Mortal Kombat X.
It’s not going to win any awards, mind you, but the cutscenes showcase some excellent fight scenes and keep you on your toes with some button presses so they know you’re paying attention. The story jumps between characters each chapter and gives you a deeper understanding of the arenas you fight in and the characters you’re playing as.
The story itself takes place just after the 2011 reboot of the series. Shao Kahn, along with plenty of Earthrealm’s defenders are dead and now Quan Chi has been revealed as Shinnok’s agent. Shinnock himself is freed from his prison and carries with him a powerful amulet. The story starts strong and keeps a great pace throughout. You may be a little confused at first if you’re not a long time fan, but even someone who has come and gone like myself was able to get into it fairly quickly.
This is due in part to the amazing cutscenes. The massive fights and choreographed combat is a joy to watch, even if the scenes do stutter occasionally. The
It’s a classic setup, but the way it twists and turns will keep you interested at the very least. Maybe not on the edge of your seat, but certainly intrigued. I like this trend for two reasons: one being that I’m always game for a story mode in any game, and two because it forces you to become comfy with several characters which broadens the scope of your skill.
A Lot of Other Modes Too
Fighting games live and die by the depth of their modes and multiplayer. Obviously you need a strong combat system in place, but we’ll get to that momentarily. Beyond the story mode, Mortal Kombat X also features a wide variety of other options as well. The training mode is more extensive than ever and introduces a range of beginner and advanced topics, in addition to a fatality training mode.
The online has a number of different options and of course the tower arcade mode is present and accounted for, and with a new twist! You have the classic tower which has you fighting ten opponents that get harder as you progress. Each character has their own cutscene at the end of this climb, making the prize worthwhile.
The “Test Your Luck” tower has you going through fights with randomized positive and negative effects applied to you. The package is rounded out with “Test Your Might,” “Endless” and “Survivor” towers. But wait, there’s more!
A new type known as “Living Towers” are three different types that just change each hour. They are constantly changing out and offer new rewards with each switch.
There’s also an interesting faction war element. When you start the game, you’ll align yourself with one of the factions in the Mortal Kombat universe. Everything you do both online and off will add points to your faction. The shifting rankings are modified with “invasions” that introduce temporary modes like the ability to fight an immortal character to see how long you can last and earn points for your faction.
I joined Sub-Zero’s faction since he’s one of my favorite characters and apparently I made the right call, because we are sweeping the floor with the other factions. In that sense, it can be a little unbalanced depending on the join numbers. It may have been better to make this a randomized choice, but then I imagine people would have been up in arms about their faction assignments.
The Krypt makes a comeback in a big way this time around. Unlike older games where you simply unlocked tombs in a static or linear fashion, this new mode allows you to freely explore an open-world cemetery, spider-cave, and more as you spend coins earned from all the modes in the game. As you unlock the various items you’ll receive concept art, fatalities, brutalities, costumes, and more!
Puzzles and hidden areas make this mode a real treat and one of my personal favorite additions to the new game!
Alright, Let’s FIGHT!
So clearly there’s plenty to do and see, but how does it all stack up in the arena? Well, I’m pleased to say that the animations are vastly improved from MK 9. Also, each of the 24 characters available at launch have three “variations” to their fighting style. These alternate choices add additional moves and combos that add immense value to each character.
The environments feature interactive objects and walls for you to get out of a tight spot, similar to Injustice: Gods Among Us. Your stamina bar will allow you to use these aspects, while the energy bar returns to allow you to power up moves, break combos, or pull off the visceral x-ray attacks which are better than ever.
Strategy and tactics are the name of the game, and while button mashing will get you places at first, it’s clear that the game was designed to be played with a methodical approach. When the matches come to an end, the fatalities make their appearance. Somehow Netherrealm Studios has managed to come up with even more shocking ways to utterly eviscerate characters.
The fatalities have their usual requirements, but a new system of “easy fatality” tokens allows you to pull them off with a very simple button press. These tokens are few and far between, but there are ways to acquire more which brings me to my largest complaint with this game.
No, Not Micro-transactions, Anything But That!
Mortal Kombat X is positively drowning in micro-transactions. I’ve always been someone who sees the need for these in a free-to-play game, but not one that you paid good money for. While people can pay to unlock all of the Krypt (Why would you?) and can also pay for easy fatality tokens.
As expected, characters cost extra, and in a questionable move, Goro is $4.99 if you didn't pre-order the game. I've always hated it when games will let you have anything and everything if you just fork over some extra money. It’s not like the game is forcing me to do it, I get that, but I just think the whole tactic is a bit sleazy.
Even so, if you ignore the painful amount of micro-transactions on offer and are willing to spend a little for new characters that come out, you’ll find that this is one of the best fighting games around.
Mortal Kombat X looks and plays like a dream. The graphics are positively stunning and the cutscenes in the story mode are a blast to watch. In the end, although the publisher is trying to rake in as much money as possible by targeting lazy people, the core game we have here is a fantastic fighter with a lot of content to keep you coming back.
Will it change your opinions if you’re not a fighting game fan? No, probably not, but if you’re like me and you have a vested interest in the MK series, you’ll have a lot of fun with this latest entry, even if you have to pause constantly to check the special move inputs.
Final Score: 8.5/10
Article by: Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 4/21/15