Mortal Kombat X Review:Price:
PC, Xbox One, PS4
Mortal Kombat X is not going to set the world on fire. Although I've only been a casual observer of beat 'em ups in recent years, even I can see that Netherrealm's latest offering is safer than a vault in Fort Knox being guarded by Superman. Emerging victorious in a fight still relies largely on speedy fingers and a good memory. The trademark fatalities are still extraordinarily gruesome cut scenes triggered by inputting a fiddly code. Scorpion still yells "Get over Here!" and Goro is still a right royal pain in the glutes to fight.
These facts were true twenty years ago, and they are true today. But this isn't to say the latest iteration has entirely stagnated. Changes have been made, and the actual fisticuffs have improved considerably since the underwhelming 2009 reboot. But these alterations hint at greater potential for the series which, disappointingly, it eschews in favour of gruesome tradition.
MKX is set twenty years after the events of the last Mortal Kombat, which despite being called "Mortal Kombat" was actually the ninth game in the series. This time-leap is the root of MKX's biggest change; the combat roster. Both Shao Khan and Shang Tsung are dead, and although that doesn't usually stop Mortal Kombat's cast, this time they've apparently decided to stay that way. Taking Shao Khan's place at the top of Mortal Kombat's combat ladder is a more weaselly baddie called Shinnok, who doesn't inspire the same kind of trepidation, but he does have One Weird Trick that certainly spices things up.
While a few big names are missing, Mortal Kombat X giveth more than it taketh away. Interestingly, many of the new fighters are children of the old combatants. Cassie Cage is the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, Takeda is the son of the blind warrior Kenshi, and Jackie Briggs is the daughter of Jax. You might think this is an excuse for NetherRealm to copy and paste old moves onto new characters. But this isn't the case. Cassie Cage blends the glowing-green kicks of her dad with her mum's love of guns, knives and grenades, while Jackie Briggs is equipped with a pair of projectile launchers attached to her forearms, used to bounce her opponent around the arena like a fleshy pinball.
My favourite addition to the roster isn't related to anyone. D'Vorah is a creepy insect-woman whose fighting style comes from the little known martial arts school of "Oh God it's crawling up my leg." Concealed behind her cloak are a pair of long stinging appendages which lash out with frightening speed, and she hosts a swarm of insects inside her stomach, which she can use in various unpleasant ways. The old guard have also been given a tune-up. All characters have three selectable variations, which allows you to bring different moves into a fight. Scorpion, for example, can be refined to focus on his ninjitsu skills or his fire abilities.
Whoever you choose to fight as, MKX's combination of martial arts, magic and technology means that any fight is an enjoyable spectacle, all vivid colours and lithe acrobatics. Each character has a broad move-set based around familiar beat 'em up controls, which makes it easy to learn combos and special moves. Even so, you'll likely take a pummelling the first time you play, because MKX's fights are fast
. Indeed, I'd recommend starting with the "Towers" mode rather than the Story, because difficulty-wise the story's fights lean toward a harder difficulty.