Mortal Kombat has come a long way since its first release in arcades in 1992, from 2D arcade coin-ops, to console originals, and the 2011 reboot that hit almost every platform under the sun. Now we’re up to the tenth game in the main series: Mortal Kombat X - and it delivers on almost every front.
MKX’s story spans twelve chapters, taking about two hours to complete. It takes you on a ride to help you familiarise yourself with everyone from Hanzo (Scorpion) to Kotal Khan. You will have to beat the story - or buy the Kombat Pack season - to unlock Shinnock, who you will have to fight with one of the new characters. It’s a good ride, filled with quick-time events, that lets you see where the new characters go after the tie-in comic.
Once you’ve finished the story mode, you can play through the Towers: Klassic, Living, and Tower Challenges.
Klassic features familiar Mortal Kombat challenges, such as the basic “fight ten characters ending with Goro and Shinnock”. This is my favourite kind of Tower, as you can unlock extra character skins and it’s the most balanced tower to fight in.
Test Your Luck pits you against fighters with a bunch of different modifiers, and Test Your Might has a nostalgic button mash to reach a certain point on a gauge before you push a button. Endless mode which continues until you’re defeated, with your health fully recharged at the start of each bout, just like regular fights. Finally there is Survivor, in which your remaining health from each previous fight carries over to the next. These are good for anyone wanting a challenge.
Unlike Klassic Towers, Living Towers change periodically. The Quick Tower rotates every hour and the Daily Tower once a day, while the Premier Tower only appearing for certain events and lasting a week. During launch week, the Premier Tower makes players use the DLC character, Goro – regardless of whether you’ve unlocked him - while the others offer the standard choice of characters.
Finally, Tower Challenges let you create randomised towers that you can play yourself or send to a friend, and you can also receive creations from other players to fight through.
[Fatalities] are like bloody icing on the cadaver cake.
In addition to the Towers, there are Faction Invasions. You can defend your faction either by completing the invasion tower, or taking on the invasion boss. The tower is quite fun, with random modifiers - it’s essentially just the Living Towers, but with a Test your Might challenge added. The invasion boss, on the other hand, isn’t recommended - it’s an ultra-difficult version of that faction’s leader; in Outworld’s case - Mileena.
MKX’s roster is a diverse mix of old and new characters. Returning characters include my personal favourites from past games in the series: Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and Raiden. New faces include Johnny and Sonya’s daughter, Cassie Cage. She has the best fatality of all, called “The Selfie”. If you can’t guess what the involves - she finishes off her opponent, then uses a selfie stick to take a photo, posts it on social media, and hilarious comments ensue. Other highlights of the new roster include D’Vorah, who spits bugs, and Ferra & Torr, a two-person team who share a character slot and work together in combat.
Gameplay wise, MKX similar to 2011’s reboot. Each combo can be chained together with ease; just pushing the same button several times will result in a short combination, but it stops short of being a straight up button masher. Once you add stage modifiers such as tilting stages and health regeneration to the mix, there’s even more depth. There’s now a way to pin the Fatality combinations to the corner of the screen, but unfortunately, these don’t tell you the distance you need to be from your opponent. The only things I miss, that were included in Mortal Kombat 9, are tag team fights.
The Krypt is much larger this time around, with a variety of different areas to explore. For example, take the Spider’s Den – where spiders will leap out at you, and if you push the correct button in time, you’ll be rewarded with coins to unlock more loot like Fatalities, Brutalities, music, and concept art. I must say, I preferred the simple layout in MK9’s Krypt, but this one has more exploration.
MKX introduces the much lauded “Easy Fatalities”, which make finishing moves more accessible to players who can’t get the combination right. It’s easy enough to screw up a Fatality - if you perform them too close or too far away from the target, they’ll fail. It can be argued that this doesn’t directly affect the outcome of fights, but Fatalities have been a hallmark of the series since its inception. They are like bloody icing on the cadaver cake.
The Easy Fatalities come at a cost of a consumable item that you can either collect by grinding through the Krypt, or buy in bulk using real money - and therein lies the problem. At first, Easy Fatalities seemed like a great innovation for the series: just push two buttons and you have your finisher. Now it just seems like a cash grab.
MKX has a wide range of environments that you can interact with during fights. For example, the Kuatan Jungle has vines that you can swing on, letting you attack your opponent from above. Several of the stages, like the Jinsei Chamber and the Sky Temple, have alternative views, and many have things you can throw at your opponent (and, conversely, that they can throw at you). The Destroyed City has traffic lights you can toss, and one place even lets you throw old ladies.
Overall, Mortal Kombat X is easily the deepest in the series, in terms of both story and combat mechanics. The microtransactions are a minor issue in the face of the great gameplay, but this is still the best title in the series. One thing’s for sure: the next Mortal Kombat has a lot to live up to.