McGinnis: X marks the spot: New ‘Mortal Kombat’ game best in seriesWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There have been many ups and downs in the history of the popular and controversial “Mortal Kombat” franchise. Since the first title hit arcades back in 1992, the gory video game has carved out a niche in players’ hearts with its fast-paced action and gratuitous violence. But the games themselves have often varied wildly in quality, and even die-hard fans would admit those early titles weren’t state of the art even at the time they were released.
The series surged back into relevance in 2011 with the release of a new title, simply called “Mortal Kombat,” which brought the series back to basics while adding tweaks to gameplay that made it seem new again. Netherrealm Studios, the company behind the series, kept momentum going with its 2013 title “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” which pitted DC superheroes against each other in a title that seemed very Kombat-esque, yet still was uniquely its own thing. (It made up in many ways for the odd “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.”)
Now, two years later, it is time for Raiden, Goro and the rest of the Kombatants to take center stage again, with the added pressure of being the first entry in the series to be released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Thankfully, the end result — called “Mortal Kombat X” (MKX), as it’s the 10th in the series — is a triumph, the best game to bear the “Kombat” name.
If you don’t know what the story of the “Kombat” series is all about, don’t worry, it really doesn’t matter. Actually, that’s not entirely fair in this case, as the story mode for “MKX” is a highlight, following the same formula as the past few games in the series (watch a cutscene, fight, repeat), but introducing some interesting twists and excellent new characters. (More on them later.)
No, the main draw of any “Kombat” game lies in both the fighting and the ludicrous gore, and “MKX” excels at both. The fighting hasn’t evolved a lot from the 2011 title, but that’s okay, as that game’s combat was so well designed as it was. “MKX” does have the welcome addition of interactive elements in the background of each fighting arena (introduced in “Injustice”), as well as each fighter having three separate fighting styles to choose from pre-match, giving players loads of customization options for personal taste.
As for the ridiculous gore — oh, that’s here, too. In buckets. “Mortal Kombat” designers have never shied away from the challenge of designing new and creative ways to kill their cast, and “MKX” rises to the occasion with the most gruesome finishing moves yet. Heads ripped off, bodies sliced in two, internal organs yanked out, you name it — all rendered in tremendous next gen-graphics. Players without the stomach to see someone, well, without their stomach, should certainly stay away.
Where this new “Kombat” really shines is in the sheer volume of options it gives players of things to do. In addition to traditional options like climbing a tournament ladder or facing friends, the game adds a ton of modifiers that can change a fight dramatically, so-called “Living Towers” that change on a daily (or even hourly) basis, online rankings and a nifty “Faction War” concept that separates players worldwide into groups and awards points based upon how they do in matches. The game is designed to have remarkable replay value in that regard.
“MKX” has its eye on the future, as well. While classic characters are well represented among the “kombatants,” for the first time in a while, many new fighters are added into the mix. While the new heroes are a bit bland (with the exception of the awesome new heroine Cassie Cage), the new villain designs are stellar and stand up well alongside their old-school counterparts.
That’s indicative of the game as a whole, really — old and new coming together to create something fresh, exciting and fun. “MKX” may not avoid some of the series’ nagging pitfalls (the end boss is still annoyingly unfair, even for experienced players), but as a whole the game feels like an evolution — taking the best of what came before and merging it all into a tremendous package.
If you’re a fan of the franchise and have the constitution to stand the slaughter, “MKX” is not to be missed.
Jeff McGinnis is Pop Culture Editor at the Toledo Free Press. He can be reached at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.