Mortal Kombat X (XB1) Review

Ken McKown

Test your might.

Mortal Kombat is one of those series that make me feel my age. I remember being obsessed with the original in the arcade, which is now a cool 23 years ago. The series has a storied past including being one of the driving titles behind the creation of the ESRB. Most importantly,, the quality has always been there. When the team at NetherRealm rebooted the franchise with 2011’s Mortal Kombat, it reinvigorated my love for the series. Mortal Kombat X is the first step in a new era, as well as being the first game built for the new consoles. The results are nothing short of extraordinary.

MKX follows the same formula set by NetherRealm’s previous titles. There is a hefty amount of single player content including a story mode, offline challenges, and the return of the Krypt, a place for unlocking items in the game. This in addition to a robust online offering bringing back King of the Hill and finally adding in Test Your Luck, the sheer amount to see and do in MKX is staggering.

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MSRP: $59.99
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC, 360, PS3
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
Multiplayer: Online and local

Story mode returns, and much like previous efforts shows that no one does it better. This time around the team spent plenty of time introducing the new characters, and the story spans 25 years since the last game. While I enjoyed going through it, it did feel a bit shorter than their previous efforts, and ending kind of fizzled out after such a strong start. I was also not a fan of the quicktime events scattered throughout, not unlike Injustice’s mini-games.

The rest of the modes come across pretty standard with classic arcade towers to complete, along with rotating towers for hourly, daily, and featured challenges. These include modifiers that change up the game by changing its mechanics. For example Cyrax may be tossing random bombs, hitting the other player may drain their health, and as far as turning the world upside down. It keeps things fresh, and the themed towers are the most fun. The classic towers also include the return of Test Your Might as well as survivor modes. There is plenty of standard kombat to be found.

They have also added Factions to the game. There are five total, each representing different factions from the lore. I liked the invasion-themed towers and the boss battles, but it is already apparent that playing as anything other than Lin Kuei is pointless. The balance is not there, and unless tweaks are made, picking a faction will continue to feel worthless. I could level my faction much like my profile to unlock new pieces for my kombat kard (which gives bonuses such as XP and koins for completing various tasks), but outside of that it feels like an afterthought.

Finishing moves are an integral part of Mortal Kombat, and X has several types to satiate fans. Fatalities return, each character having two, and they are some of the most gruesome in the series. The new systems allow for a level of detail that is, in a word, disturbing. Brutalities also make a return, but not in the form fans might remember. These are now end-of-match kills that are quick and satisfying. Every character has five total, some exclusive to character forms, and all require specific conditions to execute. It reminds me of the classic MK days where players had to plan out these finishing moves, such as only performing kicks in the second round to do Friendships in MK2.

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Faction Kills are also an option, and feel like ways to let players who struggle with the complex button inputs to perform finishing moves. Each faction has two kills, and they are done by simply standing far away from an opponent, holding block and tapping forward or backwards twice. In addition to that players can also earn easy fatality tokens in the Krypt, which allow for two-button press finishers. The downside these are consumable, and even available for purchase with real money as DLC. Paying $5 for 30 essentially cheat codes feels more than a little dirty.

The Krypt also returns, but not just as a repository for unlocking new items. Sure that is still there, but it is also now a very stripped-down first-person RPG akin to something like Legend of Grimrock. There are puzzles, items, and timed events, and even some quicktime button combat. It is a cool way to expand on the monotony of unlocking new items, plus it pays to explore as I found new items, shortcuts, and of course koins. My only complaint is a lack of a checklist to show what I have already unlocked; I am terrified I am going to miss something at some point.

Needless to say there is a lot of content packed into this disc. I am still working on unlocking the Krypt, and have yet to see all the endings from arcade mode (there are 25 of them currently). The game does a great job of catering to those that like to play fighting games single player, and I appreciate that. It also helps that it is extremely fun to play.

MKX feels like MK9 with some appreciated tweaks. For example the combat feels much faster than its predecessor. The three bar system returns allowing players to spend a bar on enhancing special moves, or saving them up for combo breakers, and of course the brutal X-Ray moves which consume the entire bar. There is a new stamina meter that is depleted during back dashes, running, and interacting with the environment. Much like Injustice players can now use items in the levels to fight or escape with, but they burn half the stamina meter, to keep players from spamming them.

Online returns with the stable of familiar modes. There are also Tower Challenges online, which are just score runs with modifiers. Matches with friends have been pretty solid, but diving into ranked posed several issues on both consoles. I was constantly being matched with opponents way above my rank. It also took forever to find matches at times, and some were laggy. The netcode is not the best, even after the latest patch, but for those playing with friends-only, it actually works really well.

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Growing pains come with the territory, and MKX is no exception. Outside of the online problems, the faction servers are also hit and miss. PS4 being the biggest culprit. I had tons of issues connecting and doing faction challenges on Sony’s machine. Even as of this writing it is still having issues a week later. There is also a ton of DLC in the pipeline, some coming very soon, which feels like stripped content in some ways. The selling of easy fatality tokens and krypt unlocks is also questionable, and not a practice I will be partaking in.

Visually the game looks fantastic. NetherRealm has really done wonders on the new consoles with the older Unreal Engine. Characters look and animate extremely well, and both consoles run at a blistering 60 frames per second with nary a hint of slowing down, outside of course of the X-Rays which are purposely done in 30 FPS. I wish the stages had a little more variety, but they look stunning, all around the game looks as good as it plays.

Mortal Kombat X is the next step in the series. While not quite as impressive as 2011’s reboot, this is easily my favorite game of 2015 so far, and I have a hard time believing it will be topped. The sheer amount of content packed in, the promise of more coming in the future, and just how much fun it is to play both alone and with friends means it will be locked in my disc tray for months to come. It is great to see series as long-running as this one still impressing over two decades later. Fans of fighting games should definitely take the plunge.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Good

  • Tons of content
  • Fighting feels superb
  • Krypt mini-game
  • Looks and runs great

Bad

  • Selling consumables
  • Online woes and faction issues
9.5

Excellent

Ken McKown
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.
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