Review

Mortal Kombat X

A Deadly Alliance Of Old And New
by Brian Shea on Apr 13, 2015 at 11:00 AM
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Release:
Rating: Mature
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also on: Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, iOS

Mortal Kombat X continues the tradition of excellent 2D fighting mechanics mixed with the series’ signature gore. Projectiles fly, uppercuts are thrown, and blood rains down as the two fighters engage in a fight to the death. The powerful X-ray attacks and hallmark fatalities are as graphic as ever, and the result is a level of violence that can have you wincing one minute and laughing the next. The formula of 2011’s Mortal Kombat reboot is perfectly preserved, but with expansions on that blueprint throughout, Mortal Kombat X is the successor I hoped NetherRealm could create.

All of the carnage is even more fun when you have someone to share it with; calling back to its arcade roots, Mortal Kombat X is best enjoyed with another player. Sitting side-by-side with your opponent works best, but the online suite gives players a lot of options, allowing players to battle in head-to-head matchups, team battles, and king of the hill lobbies. Players can also compete to see who can score the highest in various modes, giving the online multiplayer another mode that sets it apart from that of other fighting games.

Though the basic combat is familiar, the team at NetherRealm has made some improvements. New level interactions, which allow characters to vault off or throw background objects, help you to escape when you’re caught in a corner. These interactions also make each level feel unique, giving the stage select screen more weight than typical games in the genre. Alongside these environmental opportunities, the options at your disposal – X-ray attacks, special moves, fatalities, and more – provide the deepest combat in the series so far. Despite all of the complexity and possibilities, Mortal Kombat X is approachable for players of all levels. 

Taking place 25 years after the events of the last entry, the roster features a good selection of classic fighters and new additions. Whether you’re dead-set on playing as Scorpion, Sub-Zero, or Kung Lao, or you’re looking to find a new main, the 24-character roster that ships with the game features a diverse collection of characters. NetherRealm also did an outstanding job with the new characters, with Cassie Cage, Erron Black, and Kotal Kahn quickly becoming favorites of mine.

Each character possesses three fighting styles, adding further depth to the roster. Unlike previous installments, you’re required to select your style at the character select screen and stick with it throughout the mode. Though I stuck with the classic fighters and familiar styles early on, the story mode rotates you through the roster and introduced me to many of the fighters’ finer points.

The Living Towers mode is another meaningful addition to the series. Playing off of the Challenge Tower concept from the last game, Mortal Kombat X’s Living Towers provide challenges that rotate at different frequencies. Each of the three towers provides different modifiers to create diverse scenarios. One tower I played had the gravity getting lower with each successive fight, making juggling my opponents easier, while another placed me in the shoes of Liu Kang as he fought Earthrealm’s biggest adversaries.

With three separate Living Towers – one that changes hourly, one that changes daily, and a premier one that updates with special event-driven objectives – the replayability found in this mode is exceptionally high. Players can also venture outside of the Living Tower system to play more traditional towers that include Survivor, Test Your Luck, Test Your Might, and Klassic. Test Your Luck quickly became my favorite tower, as it adds random modifiers like super-speed, infinite super meter for X-ray attacks at any time, and player-freezing ice balls crashing down on the match. With these conditions determined by a slot-machine-like device, you’re always surprised by the conditions of each fight.

Also new in MK X is the community-driven Faction Wars system. Upon first starting the game, players are prompted to choose a faction to join. Every day delivers new challenges, and every match you fight and task you complete earns points for your faction. It’s an outstanding way to instill a sense of community even for those who prefer to stay in the local modes, and I was compelled to check the daily challenges every day in order to contribute to my team’s effort.

In addition to helping your faction, every mode also rewards you with koins, which can be used to purchase extra items such as fatalities, concept art, and more in the Krypt. Unlike previous games, the Krypt of MK X plays out more like a first-person adventure minigame, where you locate items through exploration to unlock new areas. Enemies like wolves and giant spiders attack you, and while you’re not able to die in the Krypt, reacting to the encounters fast enough rewards you with additional koins. This mode isn’t as deep or entertaining as the rest of the game, but it’s an enjoyable take on the classic Krypt concept – and more fun than unlocking stuff through a basic menu.

This release continues the strong storytelling of the previous entry, with action movie cutscenes often breaking up the onslaught of fights that it presents. Even outside of the story mode, the movie-like feel carries into other modes thanks to the gorgeous graphics and excellent sound design that ensures you hear every bone snap and blood splatter, and a dynamic interaction system that sees fighters make personal remarks before and during battles based on who they are fighting. Even so, those wanting the full cinematic experience will want to play through MK X’s story mode.

While the last game retold the classic narrative, Mortal Kombat X presents an entirely new story. Though the story doesn’t actually take place during a tournament, it strikes all the notes MK fans could want from an all-new arc. It falls slightly hackneyed at times – particularly during a sequence when several of the classic fighters are incapacitated and the group of young, unproven younger relatives must rescue them – but the story mode remains the model single-player mode for all other fighting games.

Mortal Kombat X is a fantastic successor in every sense. The mechanics may be similar to 2011’s strong release, but with so many new modes and features permeating every part of the experience, it’s a worthy upgrade. Mortal Kombat X is more than the continuation of NetherRealm’s successful vision for the franchise; it’s one of the best fighting games in years.

DLC Intrusion
Goro is prominently used in game modes as an A.I. character, but he isn’t included as a part of the base game. He’s on the character select screen, but this serves only as a tease for the premium DLC. Ed Boon has stated that players will be able to use downloadable characters without purchasing them through the Living Towers, but it’s still disappointing (and intrusive) to be constantly taunted by the four-armed leviathan every time you’re picking a character.
Mortal Kombat X

Mortal Kombat X continues the tradition of excellent 2D fighting mixed with its signature gore.

9.25
i
Game Informer's Review System
Concept Your favorite characters are joined by a new generation of fighters with added modes and a new story
Graphics Fighters and levels are more detailed, and the action runs smooth throughout
Sound Dynamic voice interactions before and during matches make them feel unique, and each gruesome moment sounds great
Playability The familiar combat feels as strong as ever, and the added level interactions add depth
Entertainment Brutally satisfying and enjoyable in its absurdity, Mortal Kombat X carries the franchise’s flag high
Replay High