Thursday, 23 April 2015

Mortal Kombat X

I remember the release of the original Mortal Kombat back in 1992. Though I didn’t actually play it until Midway released it on the Sega MegaDrive the following year, I remember the controversy and outrage. My parents didn’t really see what all the fuss was about, but they still refused to buy it for us. I can’t blame them, as back then you’d maybe pick up a brand new game in Ireland for around 70-ish Irish pounds. But I got the game by other... more underground means. Today that means you logged onto one of the thousands of Torrent websites out there, but back then that meant meeting a friend at the shops, and covertly placing a few pounds in his hand while he slips me the game, wrapped shoddily in a brown paper bag. I made my way home on the lookout for the Gardai (cause you know, they’d stitch me up for this), locked myself in my room, turned on the MegaDrive and booted up Mortal Kombat. The anticipation was incredible; the game, not so much. Personally I thought Mortal Kombat 3 the best, but kind of found the rest a little lacking back then. Yeah, they’ve got Fatalities and there’s blood, but in terms of good fighting games, I never saw Mortal Kombat as up there with the greats. That said, I was dying to get my hands on the latest Mortal Kombat title, but does it live up to the celebrated franchise?

Developed by NetherRealm Studios and out now on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC (the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions will land in June) comes Mortal Kombat X, the tenth entry in the Mortal Kombat franchise, and one that pretty much perfects the essence of the series. I know it’s a big no-no to talk shit about certain gaming franchises out there, but I’m not going to lie. Mortal Kombat never really did it for me. It was a series founded upon shock tactics, and while I’m all for that in certain games, most of the games in the series were nothing without its blood overlay. But you know what? I loved 2011’s reboot of the series, and really thought that after almost 20 years worth of Mortal Kombat games out there, series co-creator Ed Boon nailed it. Mortal Kombat X is better than that reboot, but not by much.

The story is a sequel to the 2011 reboot, which itself was a kind of alternative take on the story of Mortal Kombat 1, 2 and 3. Don’t worry if you haven’t played that game though, as I went into Mortal Kombat X largely forgetting the story of the previous game, and didn’t find myself confused or scratching my head. The majority of Mortal Kombat X doesn’t place its focus on the characters we all know and love, but instead shifts our attention to their kids, namely the kids of Johnny Cage, Jax, Kung Lao and Kenshi. Compared to previous Mortal Kombat games the story is actually pretty in-depth, and kind of plays out like a great action-adventure film. There are plenty of twists, turns and double-crosses here, but the plot mainly focuses on our heroes and their efforts to prevent the Amulet of Shinnok from falling into the wrong hands. It of course does fall into many wrong hands in Mortal Kombat X, but that’s where the ass kicking comes into play.

But enough talking about the plot, as Mortal Kombat is all about kicking ass, pulling out spines, burning people alive and snapping their bones- and not always in that order! I’m happy to say that the fighting mechanic in Mortal Kombat X is superb, and though it hasn’t really bettered its predecessor by much, it has done just enough to deserve praise. At its core it’s the same game you played back in 2011, but one addition literally changes the landscape of the game. In Mortal Kombat X every single character, upon being selected on the main screen, is given the choice of utilising three different play styles. You have to commit to a play style there and then, and each one is wildly different from each other. For instance, Sub-Zero’s three variations are Grandmaster, Cryomaster and Unbreakable. Grandmaster focuses on his ability to create an ice clone, Cryomaster opens up some incredible ice-based attacks, while Unbreakable raises his defences quite a bit. Each variation both looks and plays differently, and as this leads to every character essentially playing like three separate characters, with 25 characters on the roster (that is, without any DLC), that makes for quite a beefed out selection of fighters to choose from.

Beyond that Mortal Kombat X also brings back the whole x-ray gameplay mechanic. For those of you who haven’t played 2011’s Mortal Kombat, certain special moves will slow down gameplay and perform an x-ray on your opponent. With the special move in full swing, bones breaking and tendons snapping are presented in all their visual slow-mo glory. It’s really something to behold, as there’s nothing quite like shattering an opponent’s jaw before dishing out a bloody Fatality. Naturally, Fatalities also return too, and this time they’ve upped the ante as you’ve never seen them this bloody before. From pulling out an opponent’s guts through their mouth, tearing someone in two, electrocuting the eyeballs out of someone’s head, and ripping the arms and legs directly off a person, this game isn’t for the squeamish. The violence is shocking, sure, but it’s still awesome, and successfully dishing out a Fatality is incredible satisfying.

Overall Mortal Kombat X is a superb entry into the series. It has matured in all the right places, and has over the years nuzzled excellent gameplay between all the nooks and crannies of bloodletting, bone breaking and extreme violence. From its pretty fun main campaign that now plays out like an action film, the various game modes that are on offer here outside of the main campaign, to the tight, responsive and bloody in-depth fighting mechanic at its heart, this is the Mortal Kombat game I’ve been wanting to play since 1993.

Mortal Kombat X beats the competition to a bloody pulp, and gets a 5/5.


Denis Murphy

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