Wednesday 29 April 2015

Mortal Kombat X Review (PS4)

Mortal Kombat 9 was nothing short of a revelation for the Mortal Kombat franchise. After years of dodgy games it managed to take everything that was good about the series and distil it into an excellent fighting game full of surprises, fan service and things for players to get their teeth into. It was the pinnacle of the framework laid down by Mortal Kombat II, 3 and Trilogy and packed with just about every character, iconic location and Easter egg going – but now it’s time to move on.

It was always going to be difficult to create a more definitive game than Mortal Kombat 9 and we can’t really see how it could have been done. Perhaps wisely, what Nethersoft have done is try and evolve their game once more and try and move it gently in a new direction. As such there have been a number of changes made to how the game works. 

The most obvious change is that you can now interact with parts of the environment during matches. There are rocks to spring off, vines to swing on and a number of barrels, tree branches and weapons that can be used to batter your opponent. You can even grab an unsuspecting bystander and hurl them at your opponent.  It’s something that was tried in Injustice: Gods Among Us and it works well here. Most objects are one time use and matches never descend into a bout of gimmick objects being chucked about. If it does get too much you have the option to turn them off.

Another change is the move towards ‘Brutalities’ as a way of finishing a fight (though Fatalities are still present). These have been present in the series before but now fighters have up to five of them to batter a poor opponent. They work in a slightly different way here with them being implemented via a single move being used to end the match rather than a start-up combo. For instance – one of Scorpions is carried out by using his super version of the spear move and then pressing R2. There are stage Brutalities as well which replace the stage Fatalities seen in other versions.

Perhaps the biggest change to the core gameplay is the move back to different stances that was first tried out in the Deception/Alliance games. There are now three versions of each character which give them a host of different moves to use during the fight. These can be quite different from each other and allow players to build their game around things like speed, attack, defence or weapon based combat. It works better here than it ever has in other Mortal Kombat games and certainly adds depth to matches.

Despite the changes, the flow of combos and matches remains much the same so players don’t have to relearn how to play from scratch. It means that when you are in flow it’s great but when you can’t quite get things going it can seem disjointed and slow much like in the last game.

With the new mechanics also come a host of new characters. Nethersoft have taken the opportunity to change up the roster after the last, exhaustive, selection from Mortal Kombat 9 could never really be repeated. As a result the game feels different and fresh and not simply a rehash of the last game. Joining the fight are a number of fighters children like the quick Cassie Cage and brawling Jacquelin Briggs. There are also a host of new Outworlders like warrior Kotal Kahn, insect D’vorah and the pair of Ferra and Torr. It’s a brave move and the new characters work well and fit the world perfectly.

With these new characters and mechanics comes some absolutely stunning graphics. The environments have never looked better and you can feel every crunch as each blow connects. The backgrounds are also mostly new and they provide some wonderfully twisted environments such as lava filled landscapes, pirate coves and temples to battle around in. This is certainly one of the first games to really begin to show off the power of the PS4 and it really looks like something that simply wouldn’t run on the last generation of hardware. It’s nice to see some of the characters redesigned as well. The female characters especially now look much better and the dodgy costumes of MK 9 seem to be long gone.

In terms of content you get a fair amount to play around with. A decent story mode (minus trolling boss fights this time), sets up the new characters and story well and there is the traditional arcade mode which has turned back into a tower. There are also hourly, daily and weekly ‘living towers’ which offer changing challenges by putting different stipulations on matches. You can still test your might (and luck), if you so wish as well. The challenge tower mode of MK9 has seemingly disappeared though which is a shame as it acted as a detailed tutorial for all the characters and modes.
Online is there of course but at the minute the net code can be a bit unstable. Hopefully this will be resolved soon. Fights can still be found and fairly easily but there are matches where taking a ‘Quitality’ may well seem like the only option in order to escape the torture.

Much like before, unlockables are handled via the Krypt. Here you can go around the level spending ‘Koins’ earned from the regular modes on new costumes, fatalities and brutalities. The mode has changed into a sort of ‘adventure lite’ game where occasionally you will have to find an object or solve a puzzle to progress. It actually works pretty well and certainly adds atmosphere. Occasionally something jumps out and scares you which is nice and in keeping with the mood. It’s worth saying as well that at no point did we feel we needed to jump onto the store to buy anything as ‘Koins’ were never that difficult to amass (and we played it after the patch). Indeed, aside from having new characters advertised on menu screen the micro transations remained thankfully invisible.

Overall, Mortal Kombat X is a solid and great fun fighting game. It’s a step in a different direction to Mortal Kombat 9 and that is both a brave and necessary move to keep the franchise fresh and relevant. We would have liked a few more surprises but there is a lot of content here and a healthy roster of characters and styles to get to grips with. Mortal Kombat 9 was the definitive ‘Klassic’ Mortal Kombat game and Mortal Kombat X is a big step in moving towards a definitive new one.

Overall 8/10

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