Those two immortal words are synonymous with one of the most brutal fighting video game series in the gaming world, Mortal Kombat. A series which I have drifted in and out of over the many years it’s been going, with my lack of commitment to the series mainly due to my inadequacies in the combat part. I loved the characters though, especially after seeing them in the live-action films. Every now and then I try to give the games one more go, in the hope I’ll be able to master at least one character to offer some sort of challenge to opponents. It’s time to try Mortal Kombat X, the first MK game to make the step into the latest generation of gaming… will it lure in a whole new generation of gamers too?
Well it’s funny I mention a new generation because in Mortal Kombat X there’s a sort of passing of the torch. All this becomes clear in the Story mode, which is arguably the best place to start (after a bit of training) in order to break yourself into the game gently. The story spans a number of years, where a great evil (Shinnock) is trying to claim the Earthrealm as its own. It’s up to not only the servants of this realm to protect it but potentially the warriors of the Outworld as they will be a target of the Netherrealm too. What is clear though is that not everyone can be trusted, even in a supposed state of peace between the realms.
Seeing as it covers a large period of time, we get to see some of the famous warriors in their prime, whilst also seeing the fight being placed into new hands. The twelve chapters each focus on a single character and this is handy for the new additions to the roster as you get to know the next generation of fighters. To be quite honest, without getting an insight into their backgrounds via cut scenes I’d probably overlook some of these newcomers because, from initial impression, a couple seem a bit generic.
The story itself goes through peaks and troughs when it comes down to being entertained, it’ll make me go from “whoa that was sick” to “hurry up and get back to the action scenes”. Considering the quality of acting talent for the voices of the new characters, I was surprised there wasn’t a chapter dedicated to Erron Black (voiced by Troy Baker) or Ferra/Torr (voiced by Tara Strong/Fred Tatasciore) whom seem like they have quite a tale to tell. Nevertheless it introduced the new hopes of Earthrealm, Cassie Cage being one of the best of the next generation as the daughter of Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage; she’s got attitude.
Anyway, it gave me enough fights with twelve different characters as a stepping stone to taking on real humans.
Me and real players don’t normally mix too well; I end up on the end of a combo that lasts a lifetime and get exposed with my limited move set of jump kicks and uppercuts. It was time to venture online, but first I had to decide what mode I actually wanted to play. The winner stays on King of the Hill, a one on one standard rules or maybe even a 5v5 team battle? Well it wasn’t the latter; as much as I wanted to weigh heavily on the shoulders of my team I could not find a full set of teams to actually start a match. They are based on teams being from different factions though so maybe some factions don’t house many members, but I’ll explain factions later.
There’s a small chance I have improved my combat skills, although I was still no match for the online masses who cornered me and beat me to a pulp. A silver lining though are the online rooms where you can scout the list of gamers in them and challenge the least ferocious fighter to a battle, or the undefeated beasts if you’re feeling extra brave. Without these rooms I think I’d give up as a newbie because I faced all manner of veterans in the random matchmaking which is rather off putting. The poorest of fighters can now battle each other, in a hopefully more even contest, for the imaginary wooden spoon.
Fortunately, for those who don’t fancy having a dabble online there is plenty to do offline due to the inclusion of Towers, Test Your Luck and Test Your Might. As well as the normal Towers where you take on a set amount of opponents, they also have Living Towers which change periodically, helping to keep them fresh. Test Your Luck is pretty daring because it can throw out some crazy game modifiers such as a magnetic floor or an earthquake that causes damage, to name but a few. I’m afraid Test Your Might was the most pointless mode though, merely a button bashing mini-game with no substance.
One of the new features is the Faction War where you’ve got the choice to join any of the five factions in the game. Each one is championed by an established Mortal Kombat character, for example Sonya Blade is Special Forces, Quan Chi is Brotherhood of Shadow and Sub-Zero is Lin Kuei. Pretty much everything you do in the game earns experience for you with some that adds towards your faction’s weekly war to be the best.
The faction servers have played up a lot whilst I’ve been on which has put a dampener on the idea. However when it does work there are specific challenges to complete during fights and if Invasion occurs then there’s a boss that your whole factions needs to help defeat. It’s pretty cool but you won’t last more than fifteen seconds.
As for the gameplay itself, well everything feels pretty slick and when it comes to us mere mortals attempting special moves, fatalities or brutalities even the most inept players will be able to pull them off. Linking the combat together is the difference between the good, the bad and the awesome combatants. And when you add in the interactive environments in each fighting area, like those seen in the Injustice game, it makes for a bout with lots of possibilities. The match could turn by hitting Scorpion with an old lady who was minding her own business, which is even more fun when it’s the final blow!
Last but not least is the decent sized roster of 24 characters with eight of those being brand new ones. I’m not going to tell you how awesome Sub-Zero is or that the mighty Raiden is electrifying, instead I want to focus on the newcomers. By far my favourite for all round use and personality is Cassie Cage due to her mixture of her parents styles, plus she has an X-ray move that’ll make your eyes water. Other notable mentions are Ferra/Torra, who are a large man and smaller woman working in tandem, and Kotal Kahn who looks and plays great as an Aztec warrior.
There is a way they’ve managed to add a bit of freshness to even the characters we’ve been using for years. Every single character has three variations to their move sets which can come in handy especially if you know what you’re up against. I found that even though there were only a couple of different moves in each variation, when I kept getting pummelled by Liu Kang at close range I needed to switch to a move set suited to distance. Using Scorpion’s Hellfire variation I could send fireballs at will. These variations brought a more tactical side to the mindless violence.
So, looking back at my time playing Mortal Kombat X and I think they’ve done a great job at making it accessible to the less gifted whilst also having that depth of combos to string together for the veterans. The story isn’t the greatest but it certainly aided the player in becoming familiar with a few characters you might otherwise have ignored. This is as brutal as an MK game gets, and although not all the finishing moves have the desired effect, when they do get a fatality right, it’s bloody brilliant to watch.
Put aside the server issues and I’d say Mortal Kombat X has had a successful debut on the new generation of consoles. Even if Mortal Kombat isn’t usually your fighting game of choice, you need to GET OVER HERE and give the series a whirl.