It’s hard to believe it’s been 23 years since the first Mortal Kombat ripped the heart out of the video game industry, and 9 games later it’s still going as strong as ever. 2011’s PS3/360 MK reboot (aka MK9) brought the series back to its early to mid 90’s glory after a PS2 era stretch that was serviceable but unremarkable. MKX builds on that game’s positive innovations and violently carves out it’s own identity as well.
First up, this is an X1/PS4 game so of course the graphics are amazing, detailing a new level of brutal violence never before seen in a fighter. Characters sweat and bleed and bruise and burn convincingly throughout matches. Backgrounds are absolutely stunning, bringing over the interactactable elements from Injustice. Monks, old ladies, cinder blocks and flaming trash cans can be plucked from the arena and hurled at opponents, with the framerate never skipping a beat.
When you boot up the game you’ll be asked to join a faction, and everything you do in the game earns points toward your faction’s total. At the end of each week the winning faction gets special bonuses and power ups. Faction affiliation reaches across both platforms and PC too, which is especially cool.
MKX changes things up in the gameplay department with character variations, akin to the isms in Street Fighter Alpha 3 or Samurai Shodown’s Slash/Bust system. Three different variations are available for each character, offering different defensive and offensive options based on the players’ own preferences. Maining Scorpion as we usually do, we gravitated towards his “hellfire” incarnation, rather than the others that focused on weapon abilities or using the fire as defense. Cryomancer Sub Zero is pretty great too.
The game is set 25 years after MK9 so new characters abound, though the majority of them are just younger versions of familiar faces, such as Jax’s daughter Jacqui and Cassie Cage, spawn of Sonya and Johnny. More interesting are Master Blaster homage Ferra/Torr, wasp woman D’vorrah and Kotal Khan, a hulking Mayan warrior similar to Tekken’s Ogre, wielding a giant cricket bat of a sword in one of his variations a’la Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head.
The future setting dictates the course of the story mode, naturally, with scenes alternating between the game’s present day and what happened during the “tournament”. It’s a little short and disjointed, not living up to the high standard Netherrealm set for themselves with MK9 and Injustice, but it’s still entertaining and worth a play through, if only for the koins earned in the process. Yes the Krypt returns and it’s absolutely ridiculous, almost a whole separate game unto itself with multiple areas, items, puzzle solving and an in game clock. I’ve taken a good chunk out of it already, unlocking lots of costumes, fatalities and more in the process, but it’ll be a loooooooong time before I manage to clear it out.
Speaking of fatalities, they’re as brutal as ever, in addition to returning X-Ray moves and new brutalities that have to be performed late in the winning round (shades of Killer Instinct’s ultra combos) and simpler, easy to imput finishing moves based on your faction affiliation. After story mode, most of your bloody brawls will take place in various towers, some that change daily, hourly and weekly, in addition to the usual “arcade mode” types that end with a classic (klassic?) animated cut scene depicting your fighter’s victory.
Bottom line, there’s a lot to do here, and it’s all super polished and well done, and that doesn’t even include all the online options, which will only expand and improve as the game continues to be updated. This game and June’s Batman: Arkham Knight were the two main reasons I decided to invest in a current gen system and so far I haven’t been disappointed.