Mortal Kombat X Review
Ever since the mid 1990's I've been a huge fan of the Mortal Kombat series and have followed the series through its golden years and even through the rough times. MK 1-3 are my personal favorite MK games to return to. MK 4-8 really tried too hard to make the MK franchise into a 3D fighting series and really lost the feeling of what the original games established. MK9 was the first MK in a long time that I actually felt caught the magic that the older MK games had. MK9 went back to a 2D style of fighting, which is really what most MK fans are comfortable with. Mortal Kombat X (MKX) continues what MK9 reestablished for the MK franchise and it does so with flying colors.
Storywise, Mortal Kombat X picks up where MK9 left off with Shinnok stepping into the picture after Shao Kahn's demise in the last game. MKX's story mode tells the story of the special force's battle with Shinnok and others that seek to reclaim the power of his amulet in order to use it for to further their own goals or release the fallen elder god once again. The story takes place in both the past and present and introduces several new characters such as Johnny Cage's daughter, Cassie Cage and Cassie's whole team of special forces rookies. The overall story mode is just as fun as MK9 or Injustice and I feel they really have ramped up the character development this time. I actually cared for MK characters during the story this time. The motion capture and overall facial movements in MKX add much more depth to the overall feel of the action and drama in the story mode. As usual, the story mode takes you through several chapters where you'll need to beat opponents in MK gameplay in order to further the plot. There are also a few Quick Time Event (QTE) sequences during some cutscenes that can slightly change the cutscene.
The overall gameplay of MKX feels like a mixture of MK9 and Injustice. It still has that MK feel to it, but everything is faster and the overall action is much more lively. The game has a total of 25 characters (counting Goro that comes with preorders or can be bought separately). Shinnok must be unlocked by completing the story mode but all other characters are free to use from the start. Each character has three different variations. Variations can give the character different basic attacks, combos or special moves. The variation sets per fighter are all very different.
For instance, Johnny Cage has a A-list, Fisticuffs and Stunt Double variations. His A-list variations allows him to charge some of his moves for extra damage, his fisticuffs version allows him to use brass rings on his fingers to take extra chip damage once activated and his stunt double variation allows him to create yellow energy around himself to launch at his opponent in the form of his shadow kick or shadow uppercut. His A-list variation has an exclusive charge combo and his fisticuffs version has an extra punch combo. Both A-list and fisticuffs have a shadow flip kick. Stunt double drops the flip kick for a shadow uppercut that isn't available with the other versions. The different variations per fighter make each character much more interesting rather than just having one variation each.
All fighters still have an X-ray meter that allows them to perform enhanced special moves, combo breakers and X-ray super moves. The X-ray moves are once again just as brutal as ever. MKX brings back the stamina meter that started in MK3. Each fighter can perform a forward run (by tapping forward, forward + Block) that can be used to rush in and attack or try to keep a juggle combo going. The stamina meter has two blocks and each run, back dash or interactable use takes energy from it. The stamina meter will slowly recharge when not in use. Just like Injustice, MKX has interactable objects from the stage backgrounds that can be used to vault off of for extra distance or corner escapes and some objects can be used to attack your opponent with. As already mentioned, unlike Injustice, interactables now take a bar of stamina in order to use. The interactables that can be thrown are not near as powerful as those in Injustice and they can now be blocked. The interactables are now just minor distractions that can help out somewhat rather than objects that you have to keep your opponent away from out of fear of them taking tons of damage from you by using them.
Out of the cast of 25 characters there are several new characters as well. Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs, Kung Jin, Takeda, Kotal Kahn, D'vorah, Ferra/Torr and Erron Black join the existing cast of classic MK characters - Kung Lao, Liu Kang, Shinnok, Jax, Kano, Sonya, Johnny Cage, Kenshi, Kitana, Mileena, Scorpion, Ermac, Reptile, Quan Chi, Raiden and Goro. I must say, the new characters in MKX are the best new characters since the original MK 1-3 games because they each have their own unique move set, overall feel and personality. All of the returning characters feel quite different as well. Johnny Cage has a similar personality like his MK9 persona, but his overall appearance and feel has changed quite a bit from MK9. Ermac is now a thin wraith-like warrior that floats while fighting and Sonya can now call in drones to help her attack. I found all the classic character to have a welcome makeover. Just about every returning character has been redesigned in some way. This all makes the overall cast feel so much better than MK9.
Mortal Kombat has been known for having some fun single player modes and MKX is no exception in that. Besides the story mode, there are towers that a player can complete where you must fight through several CPU opponents. There are now traditional towers and living towers. Traditional towers offer a classic tower that you can beat to see your character's outcome - all characters have their own unique ending. There are also test your luck, test your might, endless fight and survivor towers in this mode as well. For living towers, the game offers hourly, daily and premiere towers that all change in time. Premiere seem to last for a week and the other two are changed every hour and every day respectively. All the living towers offer a unique challenge per change. There are also tower challenges where players can generate a new tower with randomly generated effects and challenge other players to beat their score. You get a score that is ranked per tower in all modes.
There is a single fight mode where you can choose to fight against a CPU opponent of your choosing along with whichever difficulty you choose. As usual, there is a training mode and fatality trainer. Players can train with friends or random players online as well. Test Your Luck now has it's own dedicated mode where players can fight against the CPU or another player with randomly generated modifiers. You can also choose what modifiers are active, once the modifiers have been unlocked in the krypt. Honestly, I wish they would drop the emphasis on Test Your Luck since the mode feels way too casual and unfair most of the time.
Mortal Kombat wouldn't be complete without a way to finish your opponent and this game has quite a bit to offer in that regard. The game has two fatalities per character and each character has around five or six brutalities. Brutalities can be done by performing certain conditions and hitting your opponent with a certain move for the final hit at the end of the final round. Brutalities are a lot of fun to try for. There are also faction kills that can be performed and vary depending on what faction your have chosen. Just like MK9 and other MK games, some of the fatalities are not near as good as others, but with MKX I really feel that many of the fatalities are lacking severely in creativity. I'm not going to spoil them for anyone, but there are so many fatalities in this game that don't really match the character or they look totally dumb with how overboard and needlessly excessive some of them get. The Brutalities are often simple, but I really do favor watching them as opposed to many of the fatalities in MKX. On the flip side however, a few of the fatalities are absolutely beautiful in creativity, such as Kenshi's "My Puppet" fatality. The variety in MKX's finishers does make up for the bad fatalities however since you can choose between fatalities, faction kills and several brutalities.
From the moment you turn on MKX for the first time, you'll be asked to choose a faction to fight for. The factions are split into five groups - Lin Kuei, White Lotus, Brotherhood of Shadow, Black Dragon and Special Forces. Factions are ranked on a leaderboard based on the amount of war points (WP) that all members have contributed. You can contribute 1000 WP per day by playing MKX offline or online. You are also given challenges that reward Faction Points (FXP) that can be used to level up your faction level. The highest level is 50. You gain faction kills that can be performed against your opponent as you level up along with borders, backgrounds and icons that can be used to dress up your profile. The winning faction gets an extra faction kill and more for their profile along with koin bonuses. The problem with the faction system is that it seems to be a total popularity contest until people change their faction to level up another to get the achievement/trophy for doing so. With the way it appears, other factions have no chance against the most popular faction since all players can only contribute 1000 WP per day, so the most popular faction will always be the winner, which seems to be Lin Kuei.
As usual, there is a Krypt area for unlocking extra fatalities, brutalities, character skins, concept art and other little extras. The krypt still requires koins, that can be gained from playing the game, in order to unlock the extras contained inside. Unlike other MK krypts, MKX's krypt comes in the form of a mini-campaign. You actually have to gain special items in order to make your way to different areas, such as Raiden's thunder staff in order to teleport across a gap. There are a few enemies in the krypt that can be defeated for extra koins. The enemies appear in the form of sudden jump scares. If you are squeamish, be forewarned that the jump scares may be cheap, but damn, they are sudden and unsettling. I can guarantee that they WILL catch you off guard. I play horror games a lot and eventually get used to scares, but I still can't get adjusted to some of the scares in MKX's krypt.
MK9 had a nearly broken online mode back when it first released, but it was eventually made a bit more stable later on with new patches. MKX's online netcode seems much better than MK9's online play. With MKX, I didn't have problems fighting other players that had good internet. There is the usual half second delay that all online fighters seem to have when fighting online, but that was all that I noticed. If you've played Marvel vs Capcom 3 then the online play is very similar to that game on both the Xbox One and Playstation 4 versions of MKX. One thing that is noteworthy is that the PS4 version of MKX is region-locked while playing it online, so people from the US can't fight against people from Germany or vice versa. The Xbox One version is not region-locked however.
Online modes are about the same as they were in MK9 and Injustice. Players can join or create rooms where they are free to chat and challenge other players to a variety of different modes of play. Versus, King of the Hill, Survivor, Test Your Luck, Team Battle (3v3 or 5v5), Practice and Tower Battle can all be chosen when challenging other players. While in King of Hill rooms, players can now sit back and watch while waiting in line without having to fight thanks to a new AFK (Away from Keyboard) option that can be chosen while in the room. The game also has the standard player matches and ranked matches. It's too bad that Netherrealm wouldn't add in an option to pick from multiple players after searching for other players like Street Fighter 4 does. It's so much better to have a selection of players (with possible better connections) rather than be matched with only one player. You can save match replays, but only you can view them. Netherrealm should really add an option to upload replays and view other users replays like other fighters.
The game might have fewer characters, but the variations totally make up for the smaller cast. Once you get through learning one variation with a fighter, you can switch over to another variation and the fighter will most likely feel a bit different with the extra moves offered to you. The variations make the fighters much more interesting. The overall combat is better, the story mode is even better than the one in Injustice and the online play seems much more stable this time. I didn't notice much difference at all between the PS4 version and Xbox One versions while playing each of them. It seems like the PS4 version had some very slightly faster loading in between matches and while switching between fighters on the character select screen, but it is very hard to tell and not something to dwell on at all. If you're an MK fan then Mortal Kombat X has my highest recommendation. It's honestly the best MK since the first three original games and it blows MK9 out of the water.
Player(s): 1-2 (local), 2-10 (online) Extra Features: Online Multiplayer, Download Content, Leaderboards
+ The combat system has improved quite a bit since MK9
+ Each character has three variations that feel different in some way
+ Many new characters that feel unique
+ Brutalities are back and are actually more fun to try for than Fatalities
+ Fun story mode
+ The Krypt is like a mini adventure mode now
- Many of the fatalities seem weak in creativity
- The Faction system feels too one-sided on the most popular group
- Match replays need the option to share them with others
Final Rating: 92% - If you were satisfied with Mortal Kombat 9, then Mortal Kombat X will blow you away.
Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.