The Internet kind of exploded earlier this year when trailers emerged for Mortal Kombat X, the latest entry in the seminal fighting game franchise. The first game of the series to be released on next-generation platforms, it looked absolutely gorgeous, and fans have been itching to play it ever since. After a hands-on at London’s MCM Expo, we can safely confirm that it is every bit as fun as we’d all hoped.
The most instantly striking change is the graphics. 2012’s reboot –simply titled Mortal Kombat – was far from ugly, but Mortal Kombat X far surpasses it, becoming a work of high-definition beauty. The textures and character models are richly detailed, and the stages are vibrant and dynamic. The animations are also smoother than Barry White going down a slip-n-slide covered in butter, and look totally naturalistic – even when repeatedly spamming the same kick like a cheap asshole, Chad.
However, while much was made of the trailer’s implication of 3D stages, this seems limited to interactive elements, like those seen in NetherRealm’s previous fighting title, Injustice: Gods Among Us. While the stages are interesting, varied and gorgeous-looking, they still seem predominantly two-dimensional, which is disappointing if not unexpected.
The most importance facet of the experience, of course, is the combat (or kombat, depending on how much of an obnoxious asshat you are). Gameplay has been switched up a little with the addition of three separate ‘styles’ for each character, granting specific moves and abilities. While not exactly an earth-shattering innovation, it’s a nice touch that will help stave off the inevitable repetitiveness that accompanies every fighting game bar M.U.G.E.N., and allow players to tailor their playing styles.
The new characters are also good additions to the roster; we got to try out the Aztec-looking Kotal Kahn, whose powers involve various force choke–style life drains and a sacrifice move where he loses health in order to build his special meter, and the absolute badass (and future fan favourite) Ferra-Torr. Technically though, Ferra-Torr is two characters: the hulking behemoth Torr and his tiny companion Ferra, who he carries on his back.
This setup will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s seen Beyond Thunderdome (two men enter, one man leaves; two men enter, one man leaves!), and is a fantastically fresh experience to play, allowing you to mix up your tactics between pulverising your opponent with the powerful but slow brute, and cutting them to ribbons with the tiny but quick pixie. Hilariously, Torr can also use Ferra as a weapon, smacking the enemy about with her or lobbing her like a two-foot shuriken. Compared to a roster that’s at least 1/3 palette-swaps of each other, the new characters provide a welcome breath of fresh air.
Let’s not beat around the bush, though. You’re a Mortal Kombat fan; you want to see some blood. You’ll be pleased to learn that the X-ray moves are still satisfyingly brutal, and the graphical upgrade makes them all the more bone-crunchingly gnarly. The fatalities are also as gratuitously over-the top as ever, with the new characters’ contributions being pleasingly gruesome. One slightly troubling detail was that they only required two button presses to activate – rather than the usual insanely long combination – but since the character list was also suspiciously truncated, we’re putting this down to the developers simplifying it for the demo in order to show off the shiny new murder moments.
All in all, it looks like a fantastic and very worthy continuation to a venerable series that has earned itself a place among the best fighters of all time, and we can’t wait to get hold of it.