|System: Xbox One, PS4*, PC|
|Dev: Netherrealm Studios|
|Pub: Warner Bros.|
|Release: April 14, 2015|
|Players: 1-2 (Online Multiplayer)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language|
The gameplay of Mortal Kombat X is not without its faults, however. There are still far too many buttons involved, with two punches, two kicks, block, grab, stage interaction, and more each having their own button on the controller. Some commands, like the run command, are needlessly complicated. It feels like there could have been shortcuts or specific button combos to prevent all these buttons from being used, especially when there is still a button devoted to the otherwise useless “change stance” aesthetic change. It’s one of the only fighting games that practically requires a pad instead of a fighting stick, because your fingers simply can’t reach all the buttons at once.
Stage interaction from Injustice: Gods Among Us returns, and while they're better balanced and less swingy here, they still feel cheap and more interrupt the flow of a match rather than adding interesting elements to a character’s arsenal. Stage interaction is also tied to the new stamina mechanic, which is a needed balance, but starts making the system complicated enough that you’ll either ignore it or find one stage hazard that is exploitable enough to cheese a match to victory.
The new stamina bar limits how much you can dash, run, interact with the stage, and how much you can use the two meter “breaker” maneuver which allows you to escape combos. However, the stamina bar is located up at the top of the screen in a hard to see and inconvenient area, which usually leads to ignoring it for most of the game until you realize you are out. As you can imagine, this is incredibly frustrating. The new stamina mechanics also make zoning less of an effective strategy and makes it harder for brawlers and grapplers to get in. As a result, it feels like the most effective gameplay of Mortal Kombat X seems to be pigeonholed toward an aggro rushdown style, which still has enough variation to keep the game fresh but makes matches feel shallow at times.
Fatalities return, as do brutalities, which are less gory but somehow more impressive finishing moves. Unlike fatalities, which halt the battle at the end and wait for a violent cutscene to play out, brutalities seamlessly play out from the last strike of the match, which is incredibly cool. Unfortunately, you need to fulfill certain match conditions to pull off a brutality, which usually means that someone who is going for it isn’t fighting you as hard as they can. I’m not sure if this makes the game better or worse. Being able to humiliate your opponent is always a good thing, but realizing that someone is trying to humiliate you in the middle of a match just makes you want to stop trying as well.
There are a lot of interesting little details about the system that set it apart from other fighting games. For example, your default throw is a back throw, and you have to force a forward throw by holding forward, which means if you throw defensively you’ll always switch position with your opponent. Every character can spend meter to cancel their throw animations, effectively giving everyone Yang’s command throw from Street Fighter IV.
Meter mechanics are wonky all around. You can press a button to meter burn a move, causing it to become an “ex” version which has enhanced damage or properties, but then you can meter burn some ex moves to make them into some sort of double ex move. It’s also not entirely clear which moves can be meter burned after their start and which need to be burned at their start. In practice this does increase the depth of the game but, once again it feels like it’s forcing you to play finger gymnastics when you could have just said, “quarter circle forward press two buttons.”
The most disappointing thing I have experienced in Mortal Kombat X so far is the tutorial. It barely teaches you anything about the game. It’s one of those tutorials that tells you “press forward to walk forward, press square to punch” but doesn’t teach you any actually important fighting game basics like frame traps, tick throws, mix-ups, and the like. It feels like an afterthought, and in a game with a roster this deep, a comprehensive tutorial was really needed.
It’s also hard to comment on the balance of the game so far. With over 7000 matchups, I’m not entirely sure we will ever figure out the true tier list of this game. However, I’m also not sure I actually care. With so many matchups, it’s certain that a few variations will rise to the top, but we will be figuring out the intricacies of each individual matchup for ages. With enough content, I suppose tiers don’t really matter.
I’ve had a lot of fun with Mortal Kombat X so far, but as I said, my experience with the game is limited. The longevity of the game will largely be based on its online modes and new content, which as I said before was locked out at time of writing. But I can say that Mortal Kombat X is built on a very good base. It’s easily better than Mortal Kombat 9 and Injustice: Gods Among Us. I expect that we will be seeing this game in many fighting game tournaments to come.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
Date: April 14, 2015