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Mortal Kombat X / 18th of April 2015


NetherRealm Studios’ efforts have always had a certain tongue in cheek quality that separates them from the more straight laced brawler, and in some ways, arguably giving them an edge over the competition. Despite the fact that among the main brawlers in the videogame world, Mortal Kombat is effectively shunned, behind its brutal one on one combat and gruesome, over the top fatalities, Mortal Kombat X actually manages to offer something that the most technical of fighting games still fails to afford their players; a competent story mode. And it is for this reason, among several others, of course, that marks this latest entry into the series arguably the finest one to date.
 
As one might expect for a Mortal Kombat game, the core experience hasn’t changed all that much over the years, two players battle it out with a sizeable roster of characters – each of which has three variations that lends the game a slightly increased tactical angle to the proceedings. Each variant is vastly different from one another, and aside from realistically raising the number of combatants from twenty-four to seventy-two, it also encourages players to weigh up the pros and cons of each, balancing out their various moves and finishers to find the perfect fighter for any given situation. The game itself, however, provides precious little detail on each of these, so determining their individual strengths and weaknesses is really left entirely at the player’s discretion, which does feel like a bit of an oversight, particularly in the face of Mortal Kombat X’s excellent presentation. 


 
Borrowing from Injustice: Gods Among Us, Mortal Kombat X features interactive environments, and each fighter can take advantage of their surroundings to swing the match in their favour, yet not overly so. Putting this, and the bone crunching X-RAY attacks to one side though, Mortal Kombat simply wouldn’t be Mortal Kombat without a vast array of entertaining finishing moves, and in this respect, this latest iteration delivers in spades. There’s always been a hefty amount of black humour to be found within the series, particularly within the fatalities, which are now not only gruesome but rather stunning thanks to Mortal Kombat X’s Unreal Engine powered visuals, which allows for combatants to be graced with such minute details as glistening beads of sweat on top of the outstanding animations.
 
Unlike the more complex brawlers, moves within Mortal Kombat are fairly simple to pull off, with only basic direction and button combinations needed to pull off even the most devastating special attacks and combos. The best part of this, apart from the avoidance of any RSI injuries, is that it allows anyone to enter the fray and enjoy the experience, and when it comes to the story, there really is plenty to savour.


 
Unlike the majority of fighting games, Mortal Kombat forces players to mix their game up a bit by playing out the story mode as a series of lore expanding chapters, each of which has a different character as its protagonist, and that is whom the player controls. By comparison to its contemporaries, this makes Mortal Kombat X a really refreshing experience, and to further aid newcomers in their bid to play out the intriguing storylines of each act, fights can be skipped if needed, ensuring that a well-balanced, and immensely enjoyable game can be found by all concerned. A slight downside to the overall experience, however, is NetherRealms’ insistence on using far too many QTEs during their cut scenes, but really this is only a minor gripe against what is an excellent and thoroughly entertaining game mode.
 
This is further brought to life with an entertaining script, excellent voice acting and the contextualisation of each and every battle. Whilst most fighting games serve up only an opening and an outro to convey a character’s individual journey or motivations, Mortal Kombat X goes much, much further to bring each member of its roster to life. To a certain extent, this makes each fight feel like the last as you go all out to ensure victory for a character that you will likely have some connection to, and plaudits must go to NetherRealm yet again for proving that an engaging story mode within a fighting game is actually possible.


 
Towers, you’ll be glad to know, makes a return, but this time it has been rebranded as Living Towers, which revamps the sterile old arcade style game mode by bringing into the here and now, allowing players to record scores that they can challenge their friends to beat. This is set to be updated regularly, with a series of challenges available to players, including the Test Your Might section, which sadly hasn’t had the same amount of care applied to it as the Test Your Luck tower, which sees random modifiers generated throughout each match, making them interesting affairs altogether, though this can be a tad frustrating when it doesn’t quite go your way. Still, it’s certainly more than worth a look.
 
I highly doubt that there are many out there who foresaw that a series such as this would have been able to enjoy such longevity following the original games’ release back in 1993, and yet here it is, alive and kicking. Not only that though, but with a sublime story mode, excellent – though not perfect visuals, wickedly dark humour and fantastic fatalities, NetherRealm Studios have crafted the finest entry in the series. And as if this wasn’t enough, but with its finely balanced combat, an unexpected tactical edge and an enhanced tower mode, Mortal Kombat X is most assuredly the best fighting game available on our current gen systems today, and that can only bode well for the future of the series.

 
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