Whether or not gorehounds care about this little detail, serious fighting game enthusiasts ought to know; Mortal Kombat X is the best game in the series yet. It features the most refined fighting, the best production values, the biggest selection of modes and draws, and yes, for what it’s worth, it’s violent as all get out.
Mortal Kombat X continues to build on the foundation of Warner Bros.’ awesome Mortal Kombat reboot game from 2011, which finally returned the series to the triple-A gaming space with an outstanding final product. It largely keeps intact what already worked from the reboot, while adding some all-new characters, an original new story, and a few neat additions to next-gen hardware, namely a persistent online faction system that has players constantly engaging in a metagame for online supremacy.
Unfortunately though, as awesome as Mortal Kombat X is as a fundamental game, it’s occasionally a little misguided as a general product. Warner Bros. and Netherrealm Studios have, for whatever reason, littered the game with intrusive ads and shameless microtransactions, none of which are necessary, and while the story is well-conceived, its execution, particularly with the whole ‘next-generation’ character dynamic, can be kind of sloppy, and sometimes a bit insulting to the series’ longstanding fanbase that have supported Mortal Kombat since its arcade debut in 1992.
Still, even with a few bad ideas from out-of-touch investors having to make their way into the game at annoying intervals, Mortal Kombat X’s fantastic polish and pitch-perfect fighting mechanics nonetheless shine through. For even the slightest of fighting game fans, let alone series fans, this is a sequel that can’t be missed!
Mortal Kombat X looks beautiful on any platform at this point, even if the jury’s out as to how the upcoming Xbox 360 and PS3 versions may turn out. Still, on the current next-gen hardware, Mortal Kombat X is a gorgeous game, and one of the best-looking games available on PS4 and Xbox One in particular at this point!
The game’s environments boast incredible, lifelike animaton, making each fighting locale feel surprisingly immersive, even considering that this is a 2D fighter that should be keeping your focus on your opponent. Even that is a treat however, since just about every character model in Mortal Kombat X looks excellent, with smooth, snappy animations that make the already-polished fighting equally appealing to look at as it is to execute. Projectiles and blood/gore effects also boast incredible new particle physics as well, making fights more explosive and powerful than they’ve ever been, and making Fatalities feel more intense and gruesome than this series has ever offered before. Naturally, the Mortal Kombat franchise has never looked better!
The best part about Mortal Kombat X however is definitely the full 60fps framerate that remains almost entirely steady during the actual fighting matches, and is never disturbed at all during fights on PS4. This leads to a greater emphasis on timing Kombos and precisely executing moves, but it also makes fights more reliable and smooth than they’ve ever been. Everything else however is locked at 30fps, even on PC, from cutscenes to X-Ray Moves to Fatalities to the intro and outro scenes that bookend fights. This is well and good on consoles, though PC gamers may be frustrated that they can’t push the performance more, seemingly for no reason, suggesting that the game isn’t perfectly optimized to the PC platform in some noticeable respects.
In fact, at times, the PC optimization of Mortal Kombat X is downright poor, despite the somewhat demanding system requirements. This could be because Netherrealm Studios outsourced the PC version, alongside the still-in-development Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, to High Voltage Software, with Netherrealm only developing the PS4 and Xbox One versions of Mortal Kombat X in-house. The PC version has poor resolution settings, bugs with lighting and shading, a problem with crashing at random, and at launch, some people couldn’t even boot it up! Some issues have been cleaned up with patches, namely the startup issues, but some of them are still a big problem in the PC version of the game. That’s before trying to play online as well, where the PC version easily suffers the worst lag and server disconnect problems. PC gamers had best beware that, while you can glean a bit more animation integrity and texture detail on PC over PS4 and Xbox One, if you optimize the settings, it’s not really worth it, since the PC version of this game is clearly an afterthought. Unless you’re a religious PC gamer with a serious need for a new 2D fighter, you might just want to swallow playing Mortal Kombat X on a console, which it’s clearly designed for. Even without the technical issues, the fact that Mortal Kombat X is almost unplayable without a gamepad, and is almost guaranteed to break your keyboard if you go that route, should further tip you off to that.
Between the PS4 and Xbox One versions, both are very well-produced, with each appearing to run at native 1080p resolution, and with a nearly identical framerate. That said however, the PS4 version has a few slight advantages over its Xbox One counterpart, if you happen to own both consoles. Those only sporting an Xbox One won’t find any dealbreakers, though it should be noted that the Xbox One version of Mortal Kombat X occasionally stumbles with a few dropped frames in performance, unlike the PS4 version, which always runs at a silky-smooth 60fps in fights. Likewise, some scenes in the Xbox One version fall just shy of native 1080p resolution, whereas all of the PS4 version never dips below native 1080p rendering. Finally, a few animation effects, namely those that incorporate things like motion blur, are just a wee bit fuzzier on Xbox One, with a mite more detail in them holding up on PS4. Again, none of this is noticeable if you’re not running the two versions side-by-side, though seriously competitive fighting gamers will no doubt insist on the PS4 version, since the Xbox One version’s rare instances of dropped frames may end up compromising critical Kombo timing in an unfair way.
Still, the bottom line remains that Mortal Kombat X is a fast-paced, gorgeous fighter that is a real joy to watch unfold in all of its visceral, bloody motion. It’s too bad that the small visual advantages of the PC version on max settings are negated by its poor optimization, though even the PS4 and Xbox One versions are some of the best-looking fighters that the genre has ever seen hit the market!
Mortal Kombat X continues to deliver the same arcade-style rock background music throughout most of its fights and cutscenes. It’s about what you would expect from the series, right down to the music volume being pretty quiet compared to the sound effects and voices, as has continually been the case in recent Mortal Kombat games.
Still, the flat, recycled sound of the musical score doesn’t mean much, when the soundtrack is so readily dominated by the violence. The heavy, brutal impact behind every blow is rendered very sharply, making fights feel highly intense, even when over-the-top elements like projectiles come into play. The best place to appreciate the audio effects is definitely in the X-Ray Moves as well, which are carried by an agonizing hum as squeamish organ-crunching and the cracks of shattering bones are rendered in nauseating detail. This is also true of the series’ trademark Fatalities, which rend flesh and bone with disgusting glory. Were some of these Fatalities left to your imagination with a black screen, like Sub-Zero’s controversial spine-ripping Fatality from the vintage Mortal Kombat offerings, the audio alone might be enough to make some players lose their lunch. It’s delightfully sick stuff!
Beyond the sharp, powerful sounds of Kombat itself, character voices chime in throughout matches every so often, and particularly throughout the lengthy cutscenes of Story Mode. The coolest touch of all with the voiceovers however is the fact that fighters have a handful of unique lines that they will speak before a match, which are uniquely tailored to the two fighters battling. When you pit Johnny Cage against ex-wife, Sonya Blade for example, he’ll directly address the sad state of his failed marriage. Even when you pit Johnny against a fighter he virtually has nothing to do with, like, say, Ermac, he’ll make some other comment about Ermac’s look, which Ermac will respond with in kind. Even when you pit any fighter against themselves, they’ll make shocked comments about their resemblance, for example. It’s incredibly detailed, and very impressive on the part of Netherrealm Studios.
As for the quality of the voice acting itself, it’s mostly very good. The best voice work tends to come from the Outworlders, who are given more unique and diverse speaking styles that make them especially memorable. The human characters are mostly good as well, though there are some detached lines here and there, along with a few questionable lines in the Story Mode script that are impossible to deliver well. Overall though, characters sound great, which makes their unique quips before matches all the more fun to mix and match.
Again though, it’s the beautiful soundscape of squeamish brutality that carries so much of the audio in Mortal Kombat X. After a heated battle is won, there’s no better reward than a perfectly-captured dismemberment and humiliating indignity to the corpse to sound throughout your game room, so your foe never forgets the pain of being bested!
Mortal Kombat X is packed with play modes to keep you busy, but what ties everything together beautifully is its outstanding fundamental fighting mechanics.
As with 2011’s reboot, Mortal Kombat X is easy to pick up and play, but deceptively hard to master. The same user-friendly button combinations are intact from the reboot, and less skilled players will certainly have the option of button-mashing their way to victory, since it’s so easy to pull off a slew of diverse attacks. Still, the most satisfying way to play Mortal Kombat X is definitely in mastering each character’s unique special moves and Kombos. The timing of special moves and Fatalities is pretty forgiving, though getting good at Kombos requires pitch-perfect timing and dexterity, which makes them the most satisfying way to beat down opponents, and look good doing it!
As with the previous game, players can build up a Super Meter when they take damage and use special moves. Managing your meter is critical when playing against skilled opponents, since building up a full meter will allow you to press both shoulder buttons and execute a brutal and highly damaging X-Ray Move, which can really lay the hurt on a foe! That said however, it may be better to expend one meter to enhance a special attack and assist in a Kombo, or perhaps expend two to use a Breaker that allows you to escape throws or Kombos before they end up shredding through your Life Meter. This is all the more imperative when one recalls that the Mortal Kombat series still dedicates blocking to a shoulder button in Mortal Kombat X, rather than having players automatically defend when they retreat away, such as in Killer Instinct or Street Fighter for example. As usual, it’s far easier to play offensively than defensively in this game, but you’ll need to master both to truly stand a chance against the toughest A.I. opponents, and especially against the ruthless online players!
The bread and butter of Mortal Kombat however remains its ultra-violent finishing moves, which usually take the form of Fatalities. Sadly, Babalities have been removed, after playing a part in the 2011 reboot, though they have been replaced by a re-imagined version of Brutalities, one that works to great effect! Should players finish a match under certain conditions, and have the final blow to their enemy be a certain special move, sometimes requiring a certain button to be held down on execution, they’ll hit their opponent so hard that body parts will fly off, resulting in a Brutality. This is far easier, and more humiliating, than the huge combinations of buttons that players would have to input when performing Brutalities in their Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 debut, and makes for an extra great challenge to strive for in your battling.
If you need to do things the old-fashioned way though, Fatalities certainly don’t disappoint! Since players can choose to eliminate diagonal direction inputs, entering Fatality combinations has never been simpler, especially since you can pause the game to consult your character’s Moves List, assuming you’re playing offline anyway. Entering Fatalities may be less challenging than it was in older Mortal Kombat games, which had far smaller windows and far more demanding combinations of button inputs, but it’s still perfectly satisfying to tear your opponent apart in a bloody mess, often to hilarious effect.
In fact, this increased ease of performing Fatalities makes one of Mortal Kombat X’s most egregious microtransaction options, ‘Easy Fatalities’, all the more insulting. How these work is, you can spend anywhere from $0.99 to $4.99 on a certain amount of ‘Easy Fatality’ tokens, which simply have you holding a shoulder button, and pressing one of the face buttons to execute a Fatality. It’s lazy and gross on the part of Warner Bros. to insist on including this option, though it’s even lazier and grosser for people who actually agree to pay for it. Fatalities are easier than ever to input now, so this shouldn’t be necessary. These microtransactions trying to make them stupidly easy takes all of the fun out of them, and, again, is downright insulting to serious Mortal Kombat fans who have stuck by this series since its 16-bit beginnings.
Beyond that though, Mortal Kombat X nonetheless boasts excellently refined fighting, and stands as a legitimate offering for even the most competitive and professional of fighting gamers! Even if you suck at fighters, the ability to decrease the difficulty, and easily pick up and play with the fundamentals, helps to increase the game’s appeal beyond hardcore fighting game enthusiasts and tournament competitors. Anyone who likes an action-packed good time with their friends, or perhaps just hilariously overblown violence, is bound to have a lot of fun here.
Some smart additions from Netherrealm’s previous game, Injustice: Gods Among Us, also make a return in Mortal Kombat X to boot. Stage interactions can now be used for example, which allows players to either toss an object at their foe, or perhaps bounce or swing around them to surprise them. Likewise, players can now level up as they play both Story Mode, and take on both offline and online fighting challenges, both personally, and according to the loyalties of their chosen Faction.
Factions are an all-new metagame that’s been introduced in Mortal Kombat X. How these work is, players choose from one of five familiar Mortal Kombat series factions upon first starting the game: The Lin Kuei, the Black Dragon, the Brotherhood of Shadow, the Special Forces, or the White Lotus. As players play the game with their chosen Faction, they’ll boost their Faction Level, unlocking new bonuses and finishers. Players can also influence a worldwide online ranking, where each of the five Factions continually strive for the highest numbers, by taking on each other in Invasions, or by taking on Invasion Bosses, immortal foes that help boost Faction Scores as players do damage to their otherwise immortal and ultra-punishing forms. There’s no real reward for mastering a Faction beyond bragging rights, though this is still a neat idea that helps to further separate Mortal Kombat X from competing fighters.
As much as the game wants to expand its scope to this global, network-based reach however, the best matches of Mortal Kombat X still come from getting friends on a couch beside you, and playing together locally, to hear and react to each other in proximity. 2-vs.-2 Kombat has sadly been removed after it was featured in the reboot, once again limiting local play to just two players at once, but that’s not a huge deal, especially when groups of friends can just pass around controllers.
To compensate however, Mortal Kombat X introduces another clever idea in a trio of ‘variants’ for each fighter. Rather than just have one set of moves, fighters come in three varieties, which not only feature small costume changes between them, but also alter the use of Kombos, some special moves, and even limit some Brutalities to certain variants. Each variant boasts a different fighting style, and emphasis on different skills. Mastering a fighter one way is incomplete, as you must use three different methods of fighting with that character to truly master them, allowing you to strategize and tailor your fighting experience in even finer detail, to amazing effect! This helps to make online matches especially a lot more unpredictable as well, and encourages avid fighting gamers to put extra effort into truly mastering every element of the game’s roster.
As for how the online suite stacks up in Mortal Kombat X, it’s certainly ambitious, even just considering the Faction system alone. Outside of Factions however, players can play regular matches, compete for the best scores in a random Tower Battle of CPU-controlled fighters, play Survivor matches where they take on foes until they’re worn down and defeated, or play King of the Hill matches, which have players playing until they’re defeated, then queuing up to take on the next King of the Hill. You can also play a Test Your Luck match online, and offline for that matter, which gives players random Kombat modifiers like damaging environmental projectiles, or blocking disabled, among many other things, helping to make fights even more unpredictable and ridiculous.
The online Kombat is very feature-packed and consistently satisfying, though it’s dragged down a bit by some connection stability issues here and there, especially in the PC version. It doesn’t take too long to get matched up with another player, especially in Ranked Battles, but online matches can lag considerably on any platform, if you have anything less than a superb host connection. PS4 and Xbox One players thankfully only have to deal with intermittent bouts of lag though, unlike PC players, who may be kicked out of matches entirely at random. Even with just the lag however, the online hiccups can be an issue for real serious fighting gamers who want to improve their skills against the world’s best players.
Fortunately, the bulk of Mortal Kombat X’s content is perfectly accessible offline, if you’d rather not deal with the connection hiccups and often enormous skill level of online players. Players can engage in the game’s Story Mode, proceeding the main story by intermittently taking on fighters between cutscenes, take on Towers that involve Klassic Kombat, a la the classic Mortal Kombat progression during the series’ earlier days at Midway, take on a button-mashing minigame in the return of Test Your Might, or take on Living Towers that cycle out hourly, daily and weekly, presenting unpredictable new challenges for the constant refinement of Kombat skills, especially as a far superior substitute to the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot’s uneven Challenge Tower. You can also train with special moves, Kombos and Fatalities in Practice Mode, or take on endless waves of foes for as long as you can in both Endless Kombat and Survivor Kombat.
This bulk of appealing content is further complemented by the constant ability to earn Koins for playing well in any mode, which can be spent in the first-person, maze-like minigame-style menu of The Krypt. The Krypt is littered with secret chests, which have varied prices of Koins, and give you an unseen prize if you opt to spend the Koins to open said chest. This can either give you useful things, like hidden Fatality and Brutality combinations for certain fighters, or can give you less useful things, like tiny icons for your online profile’s Kombat Kard, or a costume that you may or may not have wanted. There’s an exciting element of chance to spending your Koins in The Krypt, even if keeping track of the sprawling layouts and secret inventory keys can sometimes be irksome.
Mortal Kombat X does however give you the option of just spending $19.99 in real-world cash to just immediately unlock everything from The Krypt, and not bother with any of it. This is another vaguely gross microtransaction that feels like it has no place in a Mortal Kombat game on dedicated gaming hardware, especially since the number never decreases as you unlock more from The Krypt. The fact that The Krypt seems intentionally set up to make you sink enormous amounts of time into playing to unlock everything, and seems expressly set up with its design to frustrate and confuse players, also feels underhanded on the part of Warner Bros. and Netherrealm Studios, as if they’re constantly trying to wear out your patience so that you just throw up your hands and spend the money for all of the precious unlockables. Again, it’s kind of gross, especially if you’re a longtime series fan.
In fact, if I’m being honest, Mortal Kombat X’s stylish presentation is sometimes ruined, particularly in the main menu, with the huge, overblown reminders that you can go to the PlayStation Store/Xbox Store/Steam Store to purchase new fighters, new costumes, or, hell, why not just put $29.99 toward the ‘Kombat Pack’, which basically serves as Mortal Kombat X’s Season Pass. DLC options are well and good, but Mortal Kombat X is a bit obnoxious about them. Even on the Fighter Select screen, the visages of DLC fighters like Jason Voorhees, Predator, Tanya and Tremor are greyed out, with the reminder that you can buy them for $4.99 a pop at the touch of a button, or $29.99 if you want the Kombat Pack. Mortal Kombat X even forces you to pay for series mainstay, Goro if you didn’t pre-order it, necessitating another $4.99 demand for regular customers who bought the game after launch, or just anyone who bought it used. Seriously?!
This shameless aftermarket begging is very frustrating, because Mortal Kombat X really doesn’t need to be so slimy with its obnoxious DLC and disgusting microtransactions. Sure, it’s all optional, but the game continually prodding you to spend even more money than the $69.99 CDN it demands up front is very annoying, not to mention inexplicable. Mortal Kombat X is a great game! People will want to spend money on DLC and the like, simply because it’s a great game, and they either want to support the developer, or just want to expand the already-great experience. When it gets this obnoxious with its DLC though, and puts in those ill-advised microtransactions at all, people who would have spent money on the DLC will get turned off, and not buy any, since it feels like the game is too aggressively ramming it down their throat. Perhaps a lot more restraint in future, Warner Bros.?
Still, underneath all of that, we still have an outstanding, highly polished fighter, one that is equally appealing to both avid genre fans and more casual brawlers. Just try and forget about the shameless DLC store that’s all over the place.
Mortal Kombat X’s storyline is, sadly, kind of uneven. Following on from the reboot that combined plot elements from Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 in an all-new timeline and canon, Mortal Kombat X follows on that, having elements taken from Mortal Kombat 4 and Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, with a pinch of Mortal Kombat: Deception thrown in.
Overall though, Mortal Kombat X is a ‘next-generation’ story, which largely involves veteran series fighters like Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade and Kenshi training their children and successors to be the new defenders of Earthrealm, also under the watchful eye of thunder god, Raiden, of course. After Mortal Kombat 4 villain, Shinnok invades Earthrealm two years after the conclusion of the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot however, Earthrealm’s lifeforce, the Jinsei, is compromised, particularly as the fallen ‘revenants’ of Earthrealm warriors from the previous reboot are still dead, and still under the control of Netherrealm sorcerer, Quan Chi.
The game’s Story Mode proper however begins a whole 25 years after the events of the 2011 reboot game. A civil war breaks out in Outworld, as Mileena is ousted from the realm’s throne, which is taken over by her former advisor, Kotal Khan. As Earthrealm checks in on their allegiances, with the new Special Forces continuing to keep an eye on Outworld, in preparation of another invasion, the new batch of fighters become roped in a new conflict, as Quan Chi’s dark forces stir again, and the invasion of Shinnok is yet again set in motion.
Again, the foundation of the story is good, but its execution can be problematic. Some elements of the story are vague, and the successor characters still aren’t as interesting as the veteran cast for the most part. The Outworlders are the exception, thankfully, with new characters like insectoid woman, D’Vorah and a symbiotic little girl/big brute pairing called Ferra/Torr being the best new additions to the game’s roster. Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs in particular however feel too much like lesser versions of their parents, even if Takeda and Kung Jin are slightly more appealing new additions for Earthrealm, with better personalities.
Given how excellent the reboot game’s storyline was, it’s disappointing to see Mortal Kombat X’s new next-generation tale feel like a diminishing return. It’s a serviceable Mortal Kombat storyline, and certainly better than the stories from some of the more infamous Mortal Kombat games from Midway’s former run on the series, but it’s not all it could have been, especially when it makes so many of our favourite Mortal Kombat personalities already seem so old and tired, right after the 2011 reboot was supposed to make them fresh and exciting again.
Mortal Kombat X takes some annoying mis-steps with its shameless aftermarket transactions and underwhelming new storyline, but it still stands as an overall improvement over the already-awesome 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot, as well as arguably the best game in the series to date. The fast-paced fighting and squeamish gore has never been better, with Mortal Kombat X being a superb leap to the next generation of gaming hardware for this newly-revitalized fighting franchise.
Best of all however is that Mortal Kombat X still remains very audience-friendly. It’s deep and rewarding enough to merit the attention of avid fighting game enthusiasts and competitors, but also accessible and fun enough to pick up and enjoy for even the most uninitiated of fighting gamers. You can push your skills to the limits online, but you can just as easily buy the game simply to screw around with your friends, or dive into some engrossing play modes yourself, and regardless, your investment will be a great one.
With that said however, bear in mind again that PC gamers will be in for a slightly rougher experience, given that version’s unique technical bugs and connectivity issues. This is a game clearly designed with consoles in mind, so even devout PC gamers might want to stick with playing the game on a console in this case. The extra smooth PS4 version of Mortal Kombat X definitely comes highest recommended for serious fighting gamers especially, though anyone having to go with the Xbox One version will still be perfectly satisfied with it, assuming they’re not precise enough to notice the handful of dropped frames in fights.
All in all though, Mortal Kombat X remains a bloody good time for all. It’s not a true revolution for 2D fighters, but it’s definitely another violent crowd-pleaser that continues to stand as the best way to humiliate your competition!
- Smooth, highly polished fighting mechanics
- Breathtaking environments and character models
- Tons of play modes and rewarding features, both offline and online
- Some new characters aren't that interesting
- Gross, shameless microtransactions and DLC is a big turn-off
- PC version has some unique bugs and online connectivity issues