Mortal Kombat X review: Return of the overkill
WAIT, what? Did the goriest, most gruesome fighting game ever just include a touching story mode? Why, yes, it did and you’ll be surprised how compelling it makes six hours of kicking seven shades out of enemies before ripping their heads off.
Mortal Kombat X (PS4/XOne/PC/PS3/X360); rating: 8.5/10; age 18+
Obviously, we’re not in Citizen Kane territory – the time-hopping plot is more Steven Seagal or Jet Li than Oscar material. But still, props to the developers, who could have settled for the default fighting game cut-scenes involving just a pithy one-liner and an aggressive stance from your opponent.
That’s not all that’s new about MKX, the first in the censor-baiting series to feature on new-gen consoles and the sequel to the Mortal Kombat reboot of 2011. But at its heart it remains a close cousin to the 2D fighter that stoked such controversy on its debut all of 23 years ago.
Of course, MKX scrubs up well on new consoles, the bustling background scenery dotted with some interactive elements to thrown at your foe – including, rather hilariously, some poor old woman. The fighters themselves sport a wealth of detail and only the high lighting sheen on some faces distracts from the polished visuals.
It wouldn’t be MK without the notorious Fatality finishing moves and the NetherRealms studio (which helmed the 2011 reboot and, most recently, Injustice: Gods Among Us) has predictably found inventive new ways to maim and execute the cast. In high definition, the Fatalities are at once repulsive and grimly entertaining – such as the execution where your character poses for a selfie with the corpse.
The Fatalities don’t so much cross the line as repaint the line a mile away using entrails and blood. Yet they are strictly optional and are the logical extension of a game whose sole purpose is brutal violence. Cartoonish it may be, but MKX should not be let near minors.
Sixteen familiar characters return (albeit slightly aged – Liu Kang has grey hair!), rounded out by eight newcomers. But everyone on the roster has three different styles (the wildly popular Scorpion can bring swords, fireballs or clone minions to the fight, for instance). These variants will keep you busy for ages working out a favourite and learning their moves – which are handily spelled out in the pause menu, along with frame-data indicating how long each takes to perform.
Spoilt for choice with the cast, you’ll find an abundance of single-player content, including tower assaults (a straight fight against a succession of AI enemies) and test your luck (random modifiers such as control reversal).
Multiplayer feels really solid, though the increased pace may throw MK veterans. It definitely won’t suit someone weaned on the methodical, technical style of Street Fighter.
But then Mortal Kombat has never really been about the highly skilled moves – and more about butchering cocky opponents in as bloodthirsty a manner as possible. And MKX delivers that in spades.