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Review: Mortal Kombat X

Mortal Kombat X Scorpion

Mortal Kombat X is the latest title in an iconic fighting game franchise, developed by NetherRealm Studios for PC and consoles. NetherRealm were also responsible for 2013’s Injustice: Gods Among Us, something that’s apparent when playing this game due to clear similarities in both storytelling and stage design. NetherRealm have created what I consider to be the most impressive edition of the Mortal Kombat series in terms of both graphical fidelity and fighting styles, but the game still fails to hit the mark on a number of levels.

The graphics are excellent; characters glisten with sweat and blood after each fight and their bodies react to every attack as if they were truly alive. The combat is initially clumsy, as you attempt to learn each character’s individual move set and understand the systems that the developers have set in place, but once you’ve played the game for a couple of hours you will move beyond this initial barrier and everything will make sense.

The game is designed in such a way as to be accessible to both casual players and more skilled individuals, as you can throw a fireball or perform a combo without having to put in hours of practice, but you can also learn how to link moves together more fluidly if you spend time in the training arena. Either way the strikes you perform feel powerful and significant, creating the sense of brutality that’s necessary in a game about fighting to the death.         

My biggest issue with Mortal Kombat X is that it feels unoriginal. The developers had the difficult task of bringing something new to the genre whilst also remaining faithful to the franchise and its tropes, and although they did attempt to do that by introducing a host of new characters and interactive environments, they haven’t quite achieved the heights that I’d hoped they would.

The interactive environments were one of the most interesting features of the game for me prior to purchase; I was looking forward to picking up a tree branch and using it as a weapon, or perhaps crashing through a wall to find a completely different area in which to fight. Sadly this feature is only superficial and it doesn’t change the way that you play the game. If you use an object as a weapon against your opponent it’s nothing more than a momentary blip, akin to a solitary punch or kick, which leads to the feeling that NetherRealm have simply taken a feature from Injustice and pasted it into Mortal Kombat X.

The game has several modes which are created to establish longevity, because this type of game can often be forgotten after just a few hours. The story mode, if you’re like me, will take up the majority of your short time with the game, and for the most part it’s enjoyable. I think it adds something significant to Mortal Kombat X, because there are twelve chapters and each one focuses on a different combatant, which necessitates that you learn at least twelve of the character’s move sets.

Additional features in this game include Living Towers and Faction Wars, which are clearly intended to keep the player invested once the story mode is over. The Living Towers are designed to test players against a selection of the roster, as you battle a number of characters, with those characters changing hourly, daily and weekly. Personally, I don’t see the appeal of this feature, because you can choose a character, an opponent, and a difficulty setting at any time via the one on one match mode.

Faction Wars aren’t a bad idea – you belong to a group that you bring success to through your victories, and this in turn creates the feeling that your efforts matter. The problem here is that there’s no cap on how many players can be a part of any one group, so right now the factions are unbalanced, with a large majority of players opting to fight for the Lin Kuei. This takes the fun out of the mode because that group will win regardless of your efforts.

Mortal Kombat X is a visually stunning game and it’s a lot of fun to play. The combat has depth if you’re willing to learn the game’s mechanics, but this isn’t required to get through the story mode or to enjoy the experience. However, Mortal Kombat X doesn’t bring anything new to the franchise or the genre, and ultimately I’m not convinced that it earns its hefty price tag.