Mortal Kombat X Review

By Robert Settle on 28th April 2015

There isn’t much to say apart from the fact that Mortal Kombat X is by far the greatest game in the franchise to date. I have had my fair share of experience with previous iterations, although I would never classify myself as a pro. There is no question in my mind that NetherRealm’s latest action title is not only the best MK game, but is also right up there with the other console beat-em-up titles as one of the best. It is a game that takes risks that pay off in the form of new features and characters that didn’t exist in the Mortal Kombat franchise before. We’re not talking a handful of characters either. In fact, there are eight brand new faces to fight as! NetherRealm clearly realized that the franchise had come to a standstill. It needed change and the developers decided to take the gamble, which definitely paid off.

MKX is a game that is designed to entice casual gamers into the world of action titles but it doesn’t alienate the hardcore beat-em-up gamers, including those who are loyal to the franchise. There are 24 characters to choose from, which is quite a varied amount considering there will be DLC in the future to give you access to even more fighters. Considering a third of them are brand new faces, veterans will not only get to play as their favourites, but also try out brand new characters with unique movesets and storylines. A lot of gamers have their favourite action titles. Mine personally is Tekken. However, the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter franchises are probably the two that come into my mind as having the most loyal fan bases. The developers reward their fans by bringing back characters like Goro but getting them to fight against some of the newbies like Kung Jim makes the world of Mortal Kombat feel fresh and rejuvenated.

The most enjoyable new character to play as is Takeda. He is a badass martial artist who has weapons at his disposal such as projectile knives and laser swords. I have been on Twitch to see some people who have mastered his moveset use him to perfection and it really is a beautiful sight. The new characters are created with such style that they exemplify everything that is right with developers wanting to take risks to shake up a franchise. Sure, not every new character has a huge arsenal of weapons at his/her disposal. However, not many of the characters feel overpowered.

The power and graphical capabilities of the Xbox One is what allows each character to shine through as an individual. The developers have been able to craft beautiful models of each fighter and the range of animations is beyond anything that a MK franchise has seen to date. Current-gen technology has given personality and uniqueness to each fighter and therefore you genuinely feel as if you have a roster of 24 characters rather than less, but with different faces. Any animation kinks from previous games have been wiped clean in MKX. I’m sure some fans may still find gripes with the game, but when compared to previous iterations, this is near perfection.

Current-gen technology also gives us one of the smoothest fighting games that a console has witnessed to date. I never once felt any clunkiness during a battle. Before each match, you can also choose three additional abilities to fight with. The fact that you can mix and match abilities is what makes replayability of a game that is seemingly repetitive really high. There are so many options to choose from per character, that you can spend a long time just figuring out what is best. Of course, as you play against other human opponents online, you will most likely get an idea of what abilities are slightly better. Sure, the abilities make even the mortals seem as if they have special powers, but the term ‘Mortal Kombat’ is very loosely based anyways. Even humans like Liu Kang can somehow switch himself from a self-healing stance to one that gives damage. It really doesn’t bother me that the characters are essentially everything but mortal, since that would massively limit the opportunities for creativity.

Visually, the game is generally excellent. It is still the best looking MK game to date, however it’s clear that the poster men and women of the game are the characters that have been given the major touch ups. Some of the characters in the game look less detailed and polished. I am picking at straws here, but it’s obvious that Scorpion is one of the best looking characters on the roster. A lot of the videos you will see marketed online will be between two of the better looking fighters in a backdrop that looks equally as stunning. Nonetheless, I forgive this slight issue since the gameplay is the superior aspect, which the developers get right.

It’s a relief that the gameplay is on point, because the story certainly isn’t. Mortal Kombat is ultimately a tournament. It is supposed to tell a story of a group of characters (or even just one individual) and their struggles to prepare physically and mentally for the challenges ahead. Each fighter is supposed to have a reason for being in this situation. Whether they are forced into the world or have done so by choice, I want to play a fighting game where there is some sort of emotional connection between myself and the character I am playing as. However, due to poor voiceovers and a lack of emotion depicted, they just seem like pretty models of characters that are under my control. There is a story in place, but it is weak and very vague.

It seems that the writers of the game were left a little confused about what the MK franchise is all about. Ultimately it is about a group of individuals who have reasons for needing to fight alone. Sure, there are alliances. There are families involved. However MKX depicts relationships, families, strange friendships and confusing feuds that don’t make much sense. Again, if you’re not too fussed about the stories behind the characters, this won’t be of any relevance to you.

The gameplay is easily the most powerful aspect of MKX. The fighting engine is superb and each character has a huge arsenal of moves and combos. Yes, you can even juggle opponents which some people may have a problem with, however it’s not as big of a deal as it is in other games. You can even convert throwing moves into full blown combos. Since there are multiple versions of each character, consider that each person has his/her own moveset too. If you can somehow get yourself through the three hour campaign mode, you’re going to have a huge blast fighting against real opponents online or against another human opponent offline. That is ultimately where fighting games come to life. Being able to beat the AI after learning how it behaves is nowhere near as rewarding as beating a human opponent whether they are better or worse than you. It’s the online multiplayer element that will keep you hooked for countless hours.

The King of the Hill online mode lets you socialize with other MKX players online. As you queue to fight, you can interact with others who are also waiting and even watch the current matches live. If you want, you can get into a training match too. The developers have done a great job in making you feel like you’re part of a community of MK fans.

As expected with other fighting games, MKX also suffers from some lag when playing against people with terrible ping levels, which will ruin your experience slightly. However, this happens very rarely and for most of the time, I was able to play online with a relatively smooth latency experience.

Krypt is MKX’s mode for letting you unlock as many new items and costumes as possible to help make your characters look even sillier. The in-game currency, Koins, lets you purchase treasure chests that can give you any sort of item. Unfortunately, the publishers have given us the option of just buying our way to the top by purchasing all of the items for an additional price. I suppose this is expected, but what I didn’t expect was that you can even spend real money to make fights easier and skipping certain aspects of the story mode. I don’t condone this at all and I think it’s the wrong way to try and squeeze more money out of gamers. If you don’t have Goro unlocked, he will be greyed out in the character selection screen and when you hover over him, it even gives you the option to buy him from the store. It’s a little saddening to think that we have to buy the games at the full price and the game is still full of adverts for buying content that should be already unlocked. MKX adopts a heavy micro-transaction strategy that puts me off slightly.

Mortal Kombat X on the Xbox One (and other current gen platforms) has its fair share of issues, however ultimately what matters is the fighting system, which is brilliant. The level of depth in the combat mechanics is unprecedented and the introduction of new blood into the franchise makes this feel like a true next-gen sequel. More options, features, characters and modes make this a game that has huge longevity considering it is still ultimately a beat-em-up title. If you can somehow refrain from buying your way into the unlockables, Mortal Kombat X may very easily remain at the top of your games pile for a couple of months, which in my eyes is money well spent.

Review code courtesy of Xbox