Mortal Kombat returns in its 10th and goriest addition to the series yet. Featuring a roster of 25 fighters, a mix of returning kombants and several new ones, it sports a character to fits practically every play style. There's also plenty of incentive to jump back into the fight, with Challenge Towers that change on a daily and even hourly basis, and an ongoing Faction War that adds bonuses for simply playing. Although this latest iteration features a ton of new content, it still has the classic Mortal Kombat appeal. From the moment the fighters step into the arena and trash talk each other--which changes according their relationships--you know you're in for a stylish, gruesome, experience.
New Players Enter
The story picks up shortly after the events of the previous game, in which the heroes of humanity saved Earth from an invasion from Outworld, but at a serious cost. It turns out the fallen Elder God Shinnok was responsible for all the chaos, and MKX opens with his all-out invasion of Earth, where the likes of Sub Zero, Scorpion, and Jax serve as undead revenants. However, Earth's best defenders step up, including Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, and Raiden to thwart the invasion and trap Shinnok inside his own amulet.
Jump ahead 20 years, and Earth is in peril once again. Outworld is in the midst of a civil war, and its outcome could endanger the tenuous peace that exists between it and Earth. It's time for a new generation of heroes to make names for themselves, which is where a strike team comprised of Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs, Takeda Takahashi, and Kung Jin come in. All four are related to well-known Mortal Kombat characters. Cassie, for example, is Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade's daughter, and she inherited quite a few moves from them. Outworld, under the rule of Kotal Kahn, sees its own cast of new characters, most notably D'Vorah (a sentient insect colony in humanoid form), the mercenary Erron Black, and the killer duo Ferra/Torr.
All characters come in three different variations that change their look and special moves. In a sense, it's almost like getting 75 fighters out of the roster. There's incentive to check out fighters that you might otherwise overlook, because a variation might appeal to you. My favorites are still Raiden and Kitana, but playing through the campaign gave me a strong appreciation for Cassie and D'Vorah. Kotal Kahn is a heavy-hitter who is a bit too slow for my liking, made worse by how the campaign throws you into his role and you have to learn how to play him through trial by fire.
Some of the other new additions are similarly tricky to use. Takeda uses powerful whips, but you really need to be deliberate with his moves. Kung Jin is a little bland for my liking, even with his bow/staff moves. Perhaps it's because his entire role in the story is to get the team in trouble as the least subtle and stealthy ex-thief ever. Jacqui seems built for combo moves, and requires a player with far better skills that I to use her to full potential.
Kicking and Screaming
There we have the beauty of Mortal Kombat X. It's approachable by players of practically every skill level. Players just need to memorize a few commands from the move list and they'll be able to put up a decent fight. It's also really nice that the game is punctuated by extremely gruesome X-ray moves and signature Fatalities. Ermac's Fatality in particular might convince some people to skip lunch.
Single battles can be amped up using Test Your Luck, which throws random modifications like armor, health, and death rays. Players can also manually add them in Kustom games. Even four modifiers can make for an amazingly chaotic match, and the game supports up to 7 of them, which is a recipe for total insanity.
The campaign goes by fairly quickly, and will probably leave a lot of fans wondering what might be in store in the next sequel. Afterwards, it's all about single fights and the variety of Challenge Towers to unlock new content and contribute to the Faction War. Between the extra Fatalities, dozens of Brutalities, and match modifiers locked up alongside costumes and art in the interactive Krypt, players should be prepared for a long grind before they can unlock the "entire" game.
The new characters, stages, and gory Fatalities all maintain the same Mortal Kombat feel we've come to expect since the previous game. Variations give characters more flexibility and dimension, while the interactive stages play as much into fighting strategies as combos and special moves. There might not be any Friendships involved, but this is Mortal Kombat at its bloody best, and it's a blast to to tear opponents open.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 release provided by the publisher. Mortal Kombat X will be available in retail stores and digitally on April 14th for $59.99. The game is rated M.