The last Mortal Kombat game was a revelation and plucked the series back from the depths of despair (MK VS DC) into a great alternative to the Japanese heavyweights. It also showed that story modes could be achieved in a 2D fighter. So much so that MKX has a lot of expectations on its shoulders.
Despite a good chunk of the cast getting brutally murdered in the last game, the majority of them return, albeit in dead, zombie form. The story mode now skipping between two time periods, some of which takes place in the past with original characters like Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage before jumping forward into the future where the kids take over and all your old favourites have a few grey hairs.
Overall the story mode doesn’t form a cohesive narrative the same way MK9 did, which is a shame. It’s still hugely enjoyable, has some QTE segments that I actually enjoyed for a change and doesn’t have a nightmare of a final boss (a rarity for the genre). It just doesn’t bring anything particularly new. It does however do a good job showcasing how good it all looks. Character models, rain effects, it all looks simply stunning, particularly in motion. Without doubt, MKX is a damn fine looking game.
Aside from the story mode there’s also the standard tower arcade structure, now with the addition of Living Towers, which change over time. These can have various gameplay modifiers or just force you to play as a specific character. It’s actually the best single player mode, because everywhere else appears to be lacking, or downright awful, like the Krypt.
Making a return, the Krypt is now some weird meta-game where instead of just selecting graves to explode and obtain the secret item (after spending coins) you now have to wander around graves and underground areas to actually find everything. There are items to collect and as you progress and little QTE events as spiders jump out you. It’s awful. I just want to unlock some new costumes, I don’t want to play through some terrible mini mode where it’s ridiculously easy to miss something. Why? Why does this exist? A baffling design decision.
Now that I’ve let the anger subside a little, let’s talk about the good, and it’s that MKX still plays a fantastic game. It does take a while to get used to having a block button again, but once you get familiar with the mechanics you’ll be blocking attacks, pulling off combos and ripping off people’s faces.
Indeed, MKX takes the fatalities and X-Ray moves to a whole new level of cringe. Once your meter is filled pressing the two triggers simultaneously activates the X-Ray attack, a devastating move where you see your opponent get all sorts of broken bones. Then there’s naturally the return of the fatalities, which are suitably gruesome. While some have questioned whether they’re starting to go a little too far, in my view the whole game is so ridiculously stupid it’s more laughable than anything.
In addition to old favourites like Lui Kang and Raiden come the new kids. There’s the likes of Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs who are your typical military types; being the daughters of their respective MK veterans they also bring their fathers’ fighting influence to their move set. Then there’s the more outlandish characters such as D’Vorah and Erron Black. A common trend with fighting games that introduce new characters is old players insistence on sticking with their tried and tested “mains”, that is definitely something not seen in the online as from my time playing there seem to be just as many Kung Jin players as Kung Lao.
Taking the fight online is where the longevity will be found and after a shaky first week on release, it seems to have settled down somewhat. After more patches than you’d expect (or want) this shortly after release, finding an online match has become a lot more bearable.
Aside from ranked matches, there are also rooms where you can challenge whomever you choose, a king of the hill mode and various team based modes. There’s also the faction stuff, which is not that great. Choosing a faction at the start, you then have to complete certain objectives in order to gain points for said faction, such as Lin Kuei or Special Forces. There are certain events that happen after a winner is crowned, such as chipping away at a boss’s health, but on the whole it’s a largely forgettable mode.
While the gameplay of MKX has been refined since the last iteration, a lot of what surrounds it can be considered inferior. Fighting online is still a treat (now that it mostly works) and the combat (sorry, kombat) is still fantastic, it’s just a shame that the single player content and side stuff like The Krypt aren’t as good as they were in the last game. So, not exactly a flawless victory then.