8 June 2015

Mortal Kombat!

I came late to fighting games, long after their golden age in the mid-90s. Once I finally discovered them, I thought they were fascinating and cool. But I also soon discovered that I did not have a talent for them, and, not feeling like I was getting any better, my interest gradually waned. Skullgirls was cool enough to bring me back for a bit, but it didn't last.

Even at the height of my interest in the genre, I never really paid much attention to the Mortal Kombat series. Perhaps partly because at the time I was still heavily into Japanese video games, and rather sceptical of a western fighting game... But recently some of the good folks at LoadingReadyRun decided to stream the newest title in the series, Mortal Kombat X. And, only about 23 years late, I caught the bug...

I spent some time digging into the Mortal Kombat universe. I watched both the mid-90s movies. (The first was fun, in a cheesy way. The second... not quite so much.) I re-watched the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy. And I finally decided I needed to buy this game.

Let's be honest, Mortal Kombat X is pretty ridiculous. But it's ridiculous in a way I really like. The violence is so over-the-top you can't help but laugh sometimes. The story is like a cheesy action movie. The graphics look good. But, importantly, it is also fun to play.

The game has a roster of over 20 cool characters. And each character has three variants you can choose from, with slightly different moves. So there's a ton of variety in potential play styles. The special moves are fairly easy if you know any 2D fighting game basics. But of course, as always, there's a lot of depth with combos and stuff. Which I absolutely suck at... Like I said, I'm not good at fighting games. But the game's not very tough at easier settings, so even a scrub like me can have fun with it.

A cool thing about this game that I've never really seen other fighting games do quite like this (though other NetherRealm games have this too, I believe), is its 'story mode'. It's like watching through an action movie, several hours long, with interspersed fights. In each chapter you control a different character (going through about half of the roster), so you get a feel for different play styles. The story's hardly very deep or original, but I don't think it really needs to be... It carries on from the previous game—which itself was something of a reboot—so it could be a mite hard to follow for someone who knows nothing about the series. (I checked out the cutscenes from the previous game on YouTube before playing, which probably helped some...)

Once you're through with the story, there's naturally a bunch of different arcade and versus modes to play with, and a lot of stuff to unlock (including new finishing moves, concept art etc)... So I do feel I'm getting my money's worth here, as much or more as with any fighting game I've played in the past.

Any complaints I have about Mortal Kombat X are largely about the slight feel of monetization, in certain aspects of the game. There's a few DLC only characters. No big surprise there, obviously. But the thing that feels most bizarre is the way you can buy easy fatalities. Now, as anyone familiar with the Mortal Kombat series will know, a 'fatality' is a bloody kill move you can perform after winning a battle, by inputting a specific button sequence that varies with each character/move. The easy fatalities allow you to pull them off with a much simpler button press... but they are single use items you can buy for real money. It's not like they really affect the game or make it in any way 'pay-to-win', but still... it feels weird and unnecessary.

Overall, though, Mortal Kombat X managed to get me excited about fighting games again, at least for a little while. That is not nothing. I imagine it's not a game to everyone's taste, with its gory violence and cheesy action movie style, but that's certainly up my alley... For a newcomer to the series like me it seems like a good, solid point to jump in.

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