Mortal Kombat X ReviewGreg Knoll
Dismal sequels, strange crossovers and somewhat useless spin-offs almost destroyed the Mortal Kombat franchise. 9 brought it back from the grave. A complete overhaul, one that worked in every sense from mechanics to story, that I've gone on record to claim as one of the best fighting games ever, and without doubt the best in the series. 9 revitalized the dwindling, fading series and gave new hope to gamers that this once great legacy may be so again. And in order to do that, they couldn't make the same mistakes. They couldn't revive characters on a whim despite how missed they were, or drone too long on the tired "earth realm invasion" storyline that we've all seen. <9> was a completely different way of doing the Mortal Kombat series. X had to keep it going.
And in many ways, they succeeded.
For one, the Fatalities. They feel more thought out this time, and they are downright brutal. Without question, the most graphic in the series to date. Remember Kung Lao's Razor's Edge where he hurled his spinning hat into the ground, then pulled his victim through, splitting them apart? Now imagine him doing that same hat trick but only this time, shoving their face into it with his boot, leaving their body in one piece but their head slashed in half. Or Kenshi, raising his mystical sword into the air, whirling it like a chopper blade and dragging his victim through face first, having them dicedâ€”in slow motionâ€”into bloody bits.
Yet, at least for me, the more memorable were the ones where Netherrealm plays on the charm of a character, not the weapon. Johnny Cage flipping his opponent around, tearing through their abdomen and peering through the chest cavity, spouting "Here's Johnny" is one of the most entertainingâ€”albeit disturbingâ€”Fatalities ever. Yet even that runs a distant second to Cassie Cage's "Selfie". The Cage/Blade daughter yanks out her wand, smacks the victim across the face so hard their jaw detaches, dangling there. That would have been amusing enough, but it's followed by Cassie taking out her phone, snapping a selfie and posting it on social site "Friendships". Stick around without blazing on to your next fight, you'll see hilarious responses on her wall, along with random advertisements for things like "Ninja Mime" and "Outworld Market".
I mentioned that, first, for one reason. Because it plays on what Netherrealm is trying to do this time. Put into simple terms: passing the torch.
X's storyline takes place minutes after 9 ended, then jumps some twenty odd years into the future. Shao Kahn is dead, and stays that way. Earthrealm develops a rather uneasy alliance with its sworn enemy Outworldâ€”a sort of "you leave us alone, we leave you alone" mentality that remains throughout most of the game, so the tired, repetitive invasion is never even hinted at. Instead, we see our beloved favorites like Jax, Kenshi, Cage and Sonya somewhat aged but still active, though taking back stage. This paves the way for an entirely new crew to take overâ€”most being the offspring of those mentioned: Johnny/Sonya's daughter Cassie, Jax's daughter Jacqui, Kenshi's son Takeda and Lao descendent Kung Jin.
The story centers primarily around them, their new found group as they battle the threat of Quan Chi/Shinnok, all the while trying to stop living in the shadow of their famous parents. This was a gamble in the greatest sense. Introducing one new character and giving them the spotlight is hard enough. Netherrealm did it with four. And yet, amazingly, it works. Partly because it feels like the franchise is looking to move forward instead of glossing up old themes and played out ideas packaging them as "new". This time around, the story has depth. Emotion. It's shorter than previous entries, but it's done so with likeable characters. Having more than one with a famous lineage was an absolutely brilliant stroke, as we receive something fresh, but already have an investment in them. Are right there along with them as they fight to live up to their parents' legacy like Jacqui, or try their best to escape itâ€”as is the case with Kung.
Then, there's Cassie.
She is, without question, the new face of Mortal Kombat. And with good reason. She has her mother's incredible fighting ability (not to mention looks) and her father's egotistical, snarky charm. Her fatalities are the most entertaining, her voiceover work is phenomenal and is able to capture both her unique sides and there's just something really captivating about her. How she can be utterly lethal, a born leader with a steel confidence, yet still manage to seem human andâ€”even at timesâ€”vulnerable. She has a good heart, but one that is entirely driven. She's fun to watch, and even more fun to play. Like Sonya, her style is easy to use but it provides enough variety that she can be extraordinarily dangerous if you put the practice in and learn her better combos. The most well rounded character in the game and undoubtedly the best character to come out in the series in a very, very long time.
Because of the effort and depth put into Cassie and the others, I truly believe that Netherrealm is being incredibly smart this time around. Trying to create a deeper, more enriching experience for the gamer. One that will have them continually playing and have reason to. They've kept all the things that worked in previous installments but expanded on them. The Krypt this time around plays like a dungeon in Skyrim, full of different locations, some that can only be opened by finding hidden items, random encounters with enemies and chests that can only be discovered at certain times.
The core mechanics remain the same, in that it's the linear, 2-D plane but they've removed the option to switch styles in the middle of the fight. Instead, you choose one of three at the beginning of the match and there's no turning back. Each has its own special moves, and some of them were done in a way that eliminates familiar combos. While it was frustrating (at first) for me, it allowed me to learn new things, play the same character several times and have a completely different experience with each style. As with the storyline, it was an incredible way of introducing something new and exciting, while still keeping things familiar.
As an avid fan of the series, I loved it. Had I been new to picking it up (which is unlikely, it could happen) I'd feel exactly the same way. 9 restarted it. X obviously kept it going. I felt the same way after playing it that I did the one before it: blown away. And yet, only more questions came up. They did it, they can do it again but where do they go from here? I have faith in them, but that doesn't mean the game is without flaws. Namely, the villain. They introduced brand new heroes, why not someone new there? I'm sorry, but they need to ditch Shinmok altogether. And do not bring Kahn back. I want to see something new. And I want more things to unlock in the Krypt aside from artwork, music and Fatality codes. Make my time earning all those Koins worth it.
Minor though. The major things were flawless.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
May I have the strength to lead with compassion. May I have a resolve strong enough to inspire it in others. May my heart be true, my motives virtuous, my spirit valiant. And whether I fail or succeed, may I at least be brave in the attempt.
About the Author: Greg Knoll
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