- the tenth full-fledged entry in the legendary series;
- every character has three different fighting styles;
- even more gore than in the previous games;
- a connection of all the players – everyone takes part in the Faction Wars;
- a bit smaller, but fully interactive stages;
- game based on a modified version of Unreal Engine 3.
A while ago no one really believed that the king of fighting games can make a comeback. The Mortal Kombat series has clearly hit a standstill, and the fact that competition was constantly releasing games onto the market made it even worse for Scorpion and his crew. However, the series’ reboot which NetherRealm brought to life in 2011 turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. The franchise has been refreshed with a few new ideas, but all of the things that the fans have come to know and love, were still there. It was then when the series’ second heyday has begun, which continues to this day – and it seems as if Mortal Kombat won’t be giving up the title belt anytime soon, with the promising Mortal Kombat X on its’ way. The anticipation for the title has been raised considerably by a recent preview for the press, on which the developers shared their vision for the game, and where we got a few hours to try it out. What are our impressions? The game is more gory than ever – literally and figuratively.
We are all warriors
The most vital element of Mortal Kombat X is the games online nature. Although, singleplayer is still there to be sure, but even when alone, we will still be taking part in a conflict of a global scale. The developers have underlined that over and over again, but only now did we get a chance to see how this concept works in practice. How does the ‘online nature’ work? Mostly through Faction Wars, a conflict between groups on a world-wide server. The factions themselves will amount to five and include: Lin Kuei, the White Lotus, the Brotherhood of Shadow, Special Forces and members of the Black Dragon. Each of them is deeply rooted in the game’s universe, and all fans of the series will easily know their origin and goals. In this case, it is not the back story and the personal motivations of the character which are crucial, but why the factions fight themselves. Every week, players will choose which faction they want to belong too, and then will gather points to be summed with the results of their fellow comrades. The factions with the most amount of points wins.
The war between the factions won’t be waged for prestige alone. Victory in the current week’s war will award the members of the victorious faction with special prizes, such as new combos. Additional bonuses are planned for those who contribute the most to their faction’s end result – in other words, for those with the best scores within their factions. What is more, we will be able to change our allegiance with the beginning of the new cycle. Keep in mind however, that switching sides will result in losing our spot in the ranking and all of the awards we have unlocked up to this point in the ranks of our faction.
Trapped in the towers
First things first though – how do we get the aforementioned points? One of the ways is to simply fight another players, yet this method doesn’t seem that much interesting. The second method, which we had a chance to try out at the presentation, is based around the so-called Living Tower. Generally speaking, it’s a concept quite similar to the Challenge Tower in the previous installment, however in Mortal Kombat X it is much more elaborate and appealing. The towers amount to three – and the battles held not only require to defeat the opponent, but also to complete various tasks. The challenges are the same for all of the players, yet depending on the tower the activities change over time.
The first place, called simply ‘Quick Tower’, offers new missions every day and consists of five levels. While we will get points for our faction for defeating all of the opponents in the tower, we will get much more points for completing the simultaneous challenges. The latter aren’t too complex – usually requiring us to do a certain combo consisting of eight hits or landing three successful special attacks during a fight – that isn’t however as easy as it sounds. It gets even harder in the Daily Tower comprising of 10 levels, where missions are updated every 24 hours. The last one, a vast 15-level Premier Tower – offers the greatest challenges, which the creators will change on special occasions. Even the most seasoned players will have problems with this one, as along with the increasing difficulty, a chance of encountering various random modifiers complicating the fights increases.
Who, where, what?
Speaking of arenas, it’s worth to mention their design. During the preview we’ve only seen four of them (and they were the ones we’ve already seen before) – a snowy forest, marketplace, harbor and the jungle. Admittedly, they all looked great, but in terms of graphics the contrast between the arenas and the fighters shows how much more effort was put into the latter. Nevertheless, fighting on those arenas is fantastic. The designers took great care of the amount of interactive elements we can use either for escape or attack, and despite the fact that the arenas seem a bit smaller than in the previous game, it turned out to be a good idea. Fights are more dynamic, and one can’t avoid contact with the opponent for more than a few seconds. A significant advantage is that the arenas hosting our fights are simply ‘alive’. There’s constantly something going on in the background, the characters and the forestry don’t remain idle and sometimes even react to our actions. It’s a feature not entirely new to fighting games, but in the case of Mortal Kombat X, it looks even more favorably for the game than one would expect, even if an unpolished texture pops in here and there sometimes.
It’s quite different when it comes to the actual fighters. Their models have been done with great care and from the first moments we can see the amount of work that has been put into this element. Despite the splendid animations, what instantly catches our attention, is the visible damage our characters take during the fight. Split lips, bruises, faces covered in blood and blood-stained clothes look very realistic, and the fact that they change dynamically during the fights adds more overall flavor. What is also praise-worthy is the ‘feeling’ of the fighters shown – each and every one of the 11 fighters we’ve seen has a completely different style of fighting and even moves a different way. Playing as Kotal Kahn we know we’re controlling a massive brute, while with Cassie Cage we will seamlessly do as many jumps as we want to. It doesn’t sound that extraordinary on paper, but behind a controller, one simply feels the weight of the fighters – and that indeed, is quite an achievement.
Roster times three
Another well-done element is the modification of our combatants – on the selection screen we can choose one of three styles, with use of which we want to fight in the next battle. At first, the idea made the fans concerned that favorite characters might be ‘spoiled’, or in other words changed too much, but even in this aspect NetherRealm has show that they know what they’re doing. Choosing a different style not only changes how we look, but also offers a different set of moves – while the character stays the same at their core. The most typical moves are still at our disposal, not matter which option we chose – but at the same time we are given a different set of combos. What’s important, a new moveset forces upon us a different approach to combat – and that’s a really good thing. For example: when plying as Raiden we can still electrocute our opponents, but the optional electric traps reveal new possibilities, which are a pleasure to explore. In other words, the developers have made it so that even when we juggle between styles, we still feel like we’re controlling one of our favorites from the previous games - and that is simply brilliant.
And finally – the combat itself. In the end, that is the reason why hundreds of fans enjoy Mortal Kombat. There no great surprises in that department, and honestly, not much should have changed at all since 2011. The fights are still amazingly fluid and spectacular set pieces, through which we slowly load the bar in the lower part of the screen. Special attacks, or’ x-rays’, performed thanks to that bar are on an entirely different level for the series – they are even more brutal and graphic than ever! Every time a player has managed to carry out a certain combination that triggered an animation, all present at the preview gasped and looked at one another nodding agreeably. Despite being far from fatalities, the sight of broken bones, crushed skulls, and ripped out hearts simply hurts the viewer. When someone at the presentation has managed to pull off an aforementioned fatality eventually, most in the audience were covering their eyes. What happens on-screen during fatalities tops everything we’ve seen in the series so far, when it comes to brutality. The fans will certainly be delighted.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to try out the recently-announced Reptile or Ermac and take a closer look at the new arenas during the presentation. Despite all that however, the whole event shed more light on the most vital element of the upcoming release, and what vision of the future of the series do the developers have. A bigger focus on online play, even without the participation of an another player may not be to everyone’s liking, but it brings about a lot of interesting new ideas, which will make fights much more meaningful. Thanks to all of those, Mortal Kombat X looks like it will be a surprisingly complex title offering a lot of options to those that are willing to accept the challenge. Once You get sucked into the gruesome fights, putting the controller down will certainly be hard, as controlling your favorite fighter is hellishly satisfactory and greatly balanced. The icing on the cake obviously being the most brutal of combos and fatalities we have seen to date. Will the new Mortal Kombat be able to topple the competition with equal brutality after the release? We will find out in a matter of weeks.