Mortal Kombat X

Production Year: 2015
Release Date: 04/14/2015
Publisher: NetherRealm Studios
Review by DaveB

Perennial 90’s video game franchise Mortal Kombat is back with a new installment that boasts, as is usual with each entry, more beatings, more blood, and more convoluted lore than you can shake a severed leg at. While not strictly horror, this series has always offered up gore as if it were a Bruce Lee film directed by Sam Raimi. Fans that have stuck with the series since the original game will notice new characters, environments, and story developments that bring the series into new realms while retaining the essential spirit of the franchise.

The Premise The previous game in the series, Mortal Kombat (2011), retold of the events of Mortal Kombat 1 through 3 via the use of an altered timeline. This game is a sequel to that altered timeline, diverging even further from the original established story. One might expect this game to retell the events of Mortal Kombat 4, and while it does share a boss with that game, nothing else is really recognizable or related. The bulk of the story deals with the early defeat of Shinnok, the boss from MK4, and his return twenty years later. This leads to our “klassic” characters showing their years, as well as a group of youngsters stepping in to take up the mantle in defense of Earthrealm.

The Characters The returning characters include Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Raiden, Liu Kang, Kano, Reptile, Goro, Jax, Kung Lao, Mileena, Kitana, Ermac, Kenshi, Quan Chi, and Shinnok. The new characters are Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs, Kung Jin, Takeda, Kotal Kahn, D’Vorah, Erron Black, and Ferra/Torr.

Most of the new characters mesh well with those that came before, my personal favorite being D’Vorah, a female bee-themed character. She is absolutely disgusting, penetrating her victims with flying, flesh-eating bees, and binding Johnny Cage with her vomit, Brundlefly style (though, with less destructive results.) Also, special points to Erron Black and Ferra/Torr for upholding an old Mortal Kombat tradition. One of the fun things about the original Mortal Kombat games was that each of the characters were homages to characters from films enjoyed by Ed Boon and John Tobias, the creators of Mortal Kombat. Johnny Cage was Jean Claude Van Damme, Kano is The Terminator, Liu Kang is Bruce Lee, and Raiden is one of The Three Storms from Big Trouble in Little China. Erron Black seems to clearly be inspired by Roland Deschain, the titular Gunslinger from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower saga, while Ferra/Torr, a hulking brute/small child force of nature, is certainly a reference to Master Blaster from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

The voice acting feels goofy, sometimes cringe-inducing, but overall it’s fun and fits the ludicrousness of the story. The story itself is laid out in twelve chapters, with each chapter being devoted to a single character, consisting of roughly four to six fights and the accompanying cut scenes. It is fast-paced and straight-forward. One disappointment is that we don’t get an opportunity to control many villains. Personally, I’d like to see more of the minor characters, like Reptile and Erron Black. I claim Reptile as my personal favorite character, and I feel he is due his day in the sun. Maybe next time…

What’s New? New features include an update to The Krypt, Living Tower challenges, and Faction wars. The Krypt is used to unlock various goodies, including everything from concept art to fatalities and new costumes. In Mortal Kombat 2011, The Krypt consisted of a vast graveyard laid out in rows. You would select a tombstone, torture victim, or corpse, etc. and, for a set amount of “koins,” you could reveal and unlock the contents of what you had selected. This game follows that, but updates it to feature a better variety of areas, such as a spider’s nest, a gateway to the Netherrealm, and Shao Kahn’s tomb.

There are three Living Towers at any given time; an hourly, daily, and weekly. Completing each involves defeating a series of opponents under specific circumstances and rewards you with points, unlocks, and coins. I find myself playing the living towers more than I play against online opponents. They’re quick, brutal, and offer a variety of challenges.

When you load the game for the first time, you will be prompted to choose a Faction. There are five total factions, the Lin Kuei, White Lotus, Special Forces, Black Dragon, and Brotherhood of Shadow. So far, this has been a way to pit characters against each other. You earn points for your faction based on what you and other members achieve during a set period of time. You are awarded koins and various other items if your faction has the most points at the end of the period. So far, this hasn’t really grabbed my attention or weighed on my gameplay much. If they were to offer up more substantial reward, for example, “klassic” skins for the older characters, I would feel more compelled to follow the faction ranking.

We’re still at the dawn of the eighth generation of console gaming and often it’s difficult to see a significant difference in graphics between seventh and eighth generation games. Although the seventh generation edition does not come out until this summer, I don’t feel that owning this on the Xbox One as opposed to the Xbox 360 will make a world of difference, unlike Grand Theft Auto V, which pushes more detail into the complexions of characters, etc. That said, this game does look fantastic, with all its head smashing, rib cracking, heart bursting detail. The costumes are intricate, the levels are alive, and the x-rays are gruesome.

Unfortunately, gone are the days of those eerie, fantastic, and humble level themes that tunneled into our heads after countless nights spent in front of the Sega Genesis. (Of course, the SNES and Arcade versions had great tunes as well, but nothing tops the Genesis sound chip.) Mortal Kombat X has, instead, what I would call background compositions. Composer Dan Forden has been with this series since the beginning, so the shift in music is not due to a change in the crew, but rather a general shift in video games. This is not really a new development, and there is nothing inherently bad about the music in this game, it gets your heart pumping, but you won’t remember any of it. Is there some legal problem using what many people consider the true theme of Mortal Kombat? I, of course, mean the techno theme from the 1995 Mortal Kombat film. It may be dated, it may be corny, but there isn’t a single Mortal Kombat fan that lived through the 90’s whose heart wouldn’t crank up at hearing that introductory, “MORTAL KOMBAAAAT!!!”

For horror fans, however, the greatness isn’t just in the gore or dark level and character design. No, NetherRealm Studios has crafted something special for us. Available for general purchase on May 12 is DLC character Jason Voorhees. He comes along with three skins for established characters; Kraken Reptile, who looks a bit like The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Vampiress Mileena, and Pharoah Ermac. An excellent offering and a worthy follow up to the Freddy Krueger DLC from the previous game. However, it doesn’t stop there. They are also going to offer the Predator at some point in the future. He also comes with a set of themed skins from established characters, including Infrared Scorpion, Commando Johnny, and Carl Weathers as Jax. That is going to be just phenomenal, look for it in the weeks following the Jason DLC.

Mortal Kombat X is another fantastic entry in the franchise. If you enjoyed Mortal Kombat 2011 and especially Injustice: Gods Among Us, you should give this game a try, it is a straightforward, solid follow up to a couple of fantastic games. While it doesn’t bring much new to the table gameplay-wise, it retains the high quality of those that came before it.

DaveB hails from Texas, home to the best bbq and chainsaw massacres in the country.