Showing posts with label Mortal Kombat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mortal Kombat. Show all posts

Friday, 4 September 2015

Review - Mortal Kombat X

Mortal Kombat X
Available on: PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

As a keen fan of the Mortal Kombat series, I was somewhat anxious about the release of Mortal Kombat X, the tenth game in the franchise’s history. The previous installment, simply named Mortal Kombat, had breathed new life into the series after the somewhat disappointing Mortal Kombat: Armageddon and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Not only did Mortal Kombat reboot the mythology of the series through its retelling of the events of the original game trilogy, but it also introduced a number of key features, such as X-Rays, that revitalised the fighting system. So, when I heard that Mortal Kombat X was going to jump twenty years forward and introduce a whole new generation of Kombatants, I was a little apprehensive – the main appeal of the Mortal Kombat series for me was its recognisable cast of characters.

I needn’t have worried as NetherRealm Studios have crafted a simply fantastic game that builds upon the greatness that was Mortal Kombat 9 and develops it further without retelling the same old stories. The new generation of fighters, who are descendants of Mortal Kombat legends such as Jackson Briggs, Kenshi, Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage, are all really well-written and given distinctive personalities that set them apart from their parents. There are also some brand-new Outworld inhabitants to fight against, with familiar villains Shao Kahn and Shang Tsung taken off the playing field in favour of Shinnok, Kotal Kahn and Quan Chi. I particularly liked the design of new characters such as Erron Black, D’Vorah and Ferra/Torr. However, fans of the old guard needn’t be disappointed as many of the old favourites return, including Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Liu Kang and Kung Lao. There are also some interesting DLC additions on the horizon with cinematic “monsters”, Jason Voorhees and the Predator joining the fray.

Fans of Mortal Kombat 4 will recognise some of the story beats here, with a prologue sequence that retells the events from that game, establishing Shinnok and Quan Chi as the new “big bads”. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of that particular game, I really enjoyed this retelling and the influx of new characters from that era of the series’ history. I also liked how the series explored the repercussions of Mortal Kombat 9’s revised history with characters like Liu Kang, Kung Lao and Kitana now working for the dark side under Quan Chi’s influence. While fighting games are traditionally known for a paper-thin plot and are more concerned with the fighting mechanics, NetherRealm Studios really place an emphasis on story here, developing a really engaging narrative that fleshes out these characters and gives the franchise a solid core. However, the traditional Arcade mode remains for fans wanting to forgo the story chapters and delve into some pure violence instead, complete with the series’ trademark post-credits endings.

Playing Mortal Kombat X, it’s clear to see how NetherRealm Studios have learned from their previous games, borrowing key elements from titles such as Injustice: Gods Among Us to deliver the ultimate beat ‘em up experience. Things like interactive environments, multiple character variants and the ever-shifting “living towers” really elevate this installment ahead of its predecessors, although it does sometimes feel like it’s missing the same manic sense of humour that elements such as Chess Kombat. Friendships and Puzzle Kombat provided in earlier titles.

The other defining element of Mortal Kombat, aside from its characters, is its Fatality death scenes. Of course, these return for this tenth iteration, with each character possessing two fatalities and five brutalities. The fatalities are as brutal as ever, taking the skin-crawling gore from Mortal Kombat 9 and pouring next generation graphics all over them – while there are a few silly ones that raise a smile (Raiden’s “Bug Eyes” move is one), the majority of these moves are frighteningly realistic and rather uncomfortable to watch. Looking at these sequences compared to the 16-bit graphics of the original Mortal Kombat, it seems ridiculous that anyone ever complained about the level of violence in Sub-Zero’s spine removal fatality back then! The other finishing move, the brutalities, are merely exaggerated versions of a character’s special moves, which if entered correctly result in an untimely death. They don’t quite have the same cinematic feel as the fatalities, but are much harder to pull off mid-combat.

There is a massive amount of online competitive modes for players to explore, ranging from the Faction Wars which allow players to pledge allegiance to one of the organisations seen in the game, earning War Points with every win and completed challenge. Faction Wars conclude every week, rewarding players with Koins, Kombat Kard info and a bonus death move. Players can also fight in King of the Hill matches, which is effectively “winner stays on” and can prove very satisfying when you knock a cocky champion off his perch!

Graphics - Graphically, the game is a “flawless victory” – each of the characters looks absolutely gorgeous rendered in next-generation graphics. It’s great to see the level of detail in the costumes, even the “Klassic” outfits which add nostalgia to a game that pushes the series into the future. The location backgrounds are also wonderfully detailed, often with animations occurring as the characters fight in the foreground. In fact, with such a high level of detail – the series’ trademark fatalities have never looked so realistically gory and may unsettle even the most hardcore of fans.

Gameplay - Following in the footsteps of previous NetherRealm Studios releases, Mortal Kombat 9 and Injustice: Gods Among Us, Mortal Kombat X offers players an in-depth story mode of battles and QTEs interspersed with cinematic cut-scenes. The actual fights follow the traditional Mortal Kombat formula, honed over the years to include the popular X-Ray moves and the iconic Fatality death scenes to punish your opponents for daring to challenge you. The addition of different play styles provides a fresh challenge to the series, ensuring greater variation within the character roster and allowing two players to fight as the same character but with different moves/combos. The game remains easy to pick up, but filled with depth for hard-core gamers to master.

Achievements / Trophies - There is a fairly balanced mix of offline and online achievements, mostly designed to encourage players to make the use of all the features in the game. There’s a few grinding achievements such as “reach level 50 in all factions” and “complete 50 living towers”, but most players will be able to achieve the majority of these achievements through normal playthroughs, with some of the trophies reserved for the more dedicated of players.

Longevity - This game is bursting at the seams with content with plenty of characters (including DLC ones) for players to experiment with. There’s even more variation for players, thanks to each character featuring three distinct “play styles” that allows for different move combinations and subtle costume changes. There’s also an expansive story-mode that offers several hours of cinematic gameplay, alongside the standard arcade “tower battles” and an absolutely enormous Krypt, packed full of unlockables.  As with any beat ‘em up, the game’s longevity is purely dependent on its multiplayer game-play, but with frequent DLC updates and regularly updated “Living Towers”, there is plenty of reasons to come back to this title for another round.

While Mortal Kombat X is the best installment of the video game franchise yet, it doesn’t quite manage a “flawless victory” with a number of minor faults, such as unnecessary DLC content (easy fatalities, really?!) and an earnest attitude that removes some of the mischievous fun from its earlier releases. Regardless, this is a fantastic addition to the Mortal Kombat canon, chocked full of characters, fatalities, game-types and unlockables to keep even the most rabid beat-em-up fan engaged. With four more DLC characters on the horizon for 2016, it seems NetherRealm Studios aren't finished with the title just yet, so a “Game of the Year” edition might be a while off still. I wholeheartedly recommend fans of both Mortal Kombat and the beat ‘em up genre to give this game a whirl - it’s easily become the new benchmark for the franchise to be measured against.

Score - 9.8 out of 10

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