Upfront, I’m not the most enthusiastic fan of fighting games, to put it bluntly, I’m no good at them. I can’t get the combos down, my timing sucks; I can never seem to get things to chain in order to really knock out an opponent. Thus, Mortal Kombat for me has always been a nostalgia trip. My enjoyment primarily came from the lore and the special abilities and quirks of the characters. I dabbled back in the early console years between bouts of MK and Street Fighter, but never grew to be an expert. Later on, Dead or Alive ended up dominating and replacing much of my fighting game play. It was fast, an easy-going button masher – and I liked that. All this prefaces the dawn of the newest Mortal Kombat game, its 10th iteration known only as ‘X’. As expected, I wasn’t quite ready – but the draw of the characters brought me back in. Mortal Kombat 9 knocked it out of the park, so ‘X’ had a lot to work with, and ultimately, a lot to surpass.
MKX returns you back to the mystical backdrop that has surrounded the series since its inception. You’ve got your standard realm vs. realm warfare, character rivalries, and similar to MK 9 – interstitial cut scene story bits that are meant to (although not as adequately in this installment) flesh out the underlying story between fights. MKX throws in some new characters as well, namely 4 offspring of some of the series longest running heroes and anti-heroes. It’s all standard fair for MK at this point, it’s as convoluted as it is absurd, but you’re not really coming to Mortal Kombat for its deep and fulfilling plots. This is a fighting game first and foremost.
So how does it play? In a word, fine. The combat is tight; combos (when you can really get into them) play out nicely and are totally fulfilling when executed. It’s not as fast and easy as, say, DOA – but Mortal Kombat has always expected a bit more finesse and practice from its user. For me, it wasn’t something I could really and truly get a hang of, but plenty of players have and continue to hone their skills online. If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself a bit frustrated from time to time. Luckily, MKX does provide you with a few chances to skip frustrating fights and see the rest of the story play out. This reviewer as you might expect, took advantage.
Technically, MKX looks pretty good. The review copy I grabbed was the Xbox One version; playing at a slightly lower resolution than the PS4, though the differences appear to be minute. Animations are smooth, cut scenes render fine with only minor hitches between transitions. It’s entertaining to watch; particle effects pop and the series classic finishers are great to look at. It isn’t going to break through the ceiling for graphical achievement, but it does just fine for itself. Frankly, MKX can get a bit plodding in its combat if, like me, you’re not totally proficient, so I would hate to sacrifice an ounce of frame rate for even slightly higher technical returns.
Mortal Kombat has always been for the fans first, MKX is no different; though slightly less accessible or involving as its predecessor, it holds up. If you are even marginally interested in the lore of MK, or the characters that fill its universe, MKX is worth a play through. Questionable choices (DLC fumbles, unplayable characters and slapping a beard on Sub-Zero) aside, MKX continues the series as a pillar of the fighting genre. If you can still find a source, it’s worth a rental.