A classic brawler returns with aplomb
Game review: Mortal Kombat X
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / Xbox 360 / Playstation 3 / PC
IF Mortal Kombat is a series that has long been unfairly characterised by its extreme violence and unrelenting Fatality cutscenes, its latest installment goes some way to cut through the crimson-splattered artifice to reveal something else. A title that was once derided in some quarters for being all style and no substance has been reborn once again, this time with an impressive degree of technical flair.
That is not to say the progress of this 23 year old fighting franchise has come at the expense of its capacity to unnerve. It remains as gory as its glory days, with limbs torn asunder and organs ripped out of bodies in an increasingly outlandish variety of ways. The death scenes are arguably Mortal Kombat’s primary selling point. Time and a different cultural climate may have diminished their notoriety - think schlock, not shock - but they showcase a twisted imagination.
The series has undergone a process of refinement
Developers Netherrealm were responsible for 2011’s version of the game, which offered a pleasing balance of nostalgia and robust mechanics. Four years on, the process of refinement has improved upon that well-received iteration, in large part thanks to the fighting itself. There is a great physicality and fluidity to the bouts now. They occur at a much brisker pace and benefit from smoother animations.
There is still a welter of combinations to master if your commitment to the title is total, but just as in years gone by, they are nowhere near as complex as those in the Street Fighter games. This is a good thing. It is a fighting game that is also accessible enough for quick bursts of play, with the time-honoured Fatalities and special moves allowing even the uninitiated to showboat now and then.
The new characters are welcome although playing with them in multiplayer can be frustrating
Netherrealm took a risk by reducing the character roster. Out of 24 fighters, it also decided to introduce eight newcomers. The reduced choice seldom feels inhibiting, however, with old favourites such as Scorpion and Sub Zero returning to the fray. The new options, meanwhile, mix things up a little, with Erron Black in particular fun to take control of.
Even a week on from its release, however, the ability to pit your charge against that of another player is not easy. Finding a multiplayer match can be subject to lengthy delays, meaning you will likely delve back into the single player story mode, a bizarre war-inspired narrative which seems absurd but is actually surprisingly good fun.
It may not be a true triple A title but this exceeds expectations
There are a good few other modes to keep things fresh and although a microtransaction system is questionable, it seems reasonable to assume the game will be supported over the coming months with additional content. It may no longer be seen as a true triple A title, but Mortal Kombat X exceeds expectations. It is the best in the series yet.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
If you are struggling to get to grips with the game, it is probably best to rely on one of the classic characters. Scorpion in particular feels slightly overpowered.
It is worth spending time in the Krypt, a dungeon style minigame which can throw up some welcome unlockables.
Completing Living Towers will unlock combat modifiers, which come in very useful.