Mortal Kombat X review

Gorgeous and grotesque in all the right ways, Mortal Kombat X is a flawless victory

Mortal Kombat X is bloody well done
Mortal Kombat X is bloody well done
Mortal Kombat X is bloody well done

Highs

  • Awe-inspiring visuals, both in and out of combat
  • Well-told story takes the MK universe to new places while providing fan service
  • Tight, responsive controls with focus on accurate player input
  • Fighter variations mean more ways to experience a fight
  • Persistent player engagement via Living Towers and Faction War

Lows

  • Not casual-friendly unless played at low difficulty
  • You'll sound like a sociopath if you talk about this game in public spaces

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Mortal Kombat X is not over the top.

No, that would be too simple a description for this follow-up to the 2011 reboot. Mortal Kombat X smashes the top’s skull in with a staff, then shoots arrows into the top’s eyes, then grabs those arrows and uses them to throw the top down onto the ground, shattering the top’s ribcage. Incidentally, you too can perform all of the above, and it’s damn good fun to do so.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Mortal Kombat X is gorgeous, and flawlessly animated at a smooth 60 frames per second. Playing on the PlayStation 4, I often found myself forgetting that the game runs on what is technically previous-generation software, especially during the game’s globetrotting, dimension-shattering story. And yes, there is a story to be found here, among the undead ninjas, blind telepaths and Elder Gods.

There is a story to be found here, among the undead ninjas, blind telepaths and Elder Gods.

Set 25 years after the previous game’s events, a new generation of fighters have risen on both sides of the Outworld vs. Earthrealm conflict. At the same time, a rogue Elder God’s machinations have come to fruition, endangering all dimensions. Despite these end-of-the-world stakes, Mortal Kombat X keeps things feeling personal thanks to its focus on a Special Forces team comprised mostly of the main cast’s children (though familiar faces also return, and there’s even a fun cameo or three for fans).

The coming-of-age of these newcomers mirrors Mortal Kombat X‘s own existence. If the 2011 reboot was developer NetherRealm’s way of wiping away years of ill will and memories of mediocre games, then Mortal Kombat X is its first true step in a new direction. In the same way, it’s easy to see the sons and daughters of previous kombatants as legitimate heirs to the throne by the time credits roll, and there’s a sense of new beginnings ahead.

Even ignoring the story, there’s still plenty of new content to enjoy, as well as twists on what’s come before. For example, in what feels like a callback to Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, each fighter has three styles they can employ to change the way they fight. These styles, chosen at character select, can completely change the way that a knowledgeable player approaches a fight.

Mortal Kombat X

The character Takeda, for example, has whips attached to his arms that make for great reach. If you want to keep your distance and punish enemies from afar, his Shirai Ryu style is for you. If you’re more about longer-lasting combos and close-distance fighting, choosing his Ronin style will swap out whips for plasma blades.

The effect of this system is two-fold: Players can not only discover new ways to play their favorite characters – thus adding a sense of freshness even to characters that have been around since Mortal Kombat’s inception – but pros also have more tools at their disposal. This is particularly important considering how tight and technical Mortal Kombat X‘s controls are.

There’s plenty to keep players engaged. The disc feels stuffed with content.

To be blunt: this is not a button-masher-friendly game. If you want to reliably survive on anything higher than Easy difficulty, you’re going to need to memorize combos, pay attention to your enemies, and be very accurate with your button presses. This is to say nothing of capable, human opponents, who will grind you to a pulp if you step up unprepared. I personally spent a good half hour in practice mode nailing the flow of Cassie Cage, my current lead for personal favorite fighter.

Thankfully, even ignoring the practice mode, there are plenty of ways to get ready for a fight. At the outset of the game, you’ll choose an MK universe faction to ally yourself with. Completing challenges and even regular matches will net points for your faction, and at the end of each week, the highest ranking faction wins rewards such as new fatalities. In other words, the more you play, the better you become. The better you become, the better your team does. It’s a brilliant system that not only helps you learn the game’s intricacies, but simultaneously merges a sort of social network experience into Mortal Kombat. It provides a sense of camaraderie, and I felt happy knowing that, while I wasn’t the best at online fights, I was still helping my team.

Living Towers are another new supplement to the Mortal Kombat experience. These twists on the standard “fight X number of people” send players through a gauntlet of shifting objectives and obstacles, including matches where fighters move at double their speed, matches where fighters must avoid pools of fire, and matches where all of the above and more are at play. Combined with the faction war, standard tower challenges and modes like survival and king of the hill, there’s plenty to keep players engaged. The disc feels stuffed with content.

Despite the extreme and often cringe-worthy violence, Mortal Kombat X is quite beautiful in its own way; like visiting a museum exhibit on the human body and all the ways it can be destroyed. And like a museum, there’s plenty to see and do here, including a surprisingly intimate story, one-on-one battles, endless challenges, and a competitive, socially-connected metagame.

This game was reviewed on PlayStation 4, using a code provided by the developer.

Highs

  • Awe-inspiring visuals, both in and out of combat
  • Well-told story takes the MK universe to new places while providing fan service
  • Tight, responsive controls with focus on accurate player input
  • Fighter variations mean more ways to experience a fight
  • Persistent player engagement via Living Towers and Faction War

Lows

  • Not casual-friendly unless played at low difficulty
  • You’ll sound like a sociopath if you talk about this game in public spaces
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.
Gaming

Hey, Sony! If you make a PS2 Classic, it needs these games

158 million PS2 consoles were sold worldwide during its lifecycle, making it the most successful video game console of all time. It was hard, but we narrowed down the PS2's vast library of games. Here are the best PS2 games of all time.
Gaming

Spawn creator suggests the antihero could appear in ‘Mortal Kombat 11’

Spawn creator Todd McFarlane hinted that the comic book antihero could join the cast of Mortal Kombat 11 during a Reddit AMA. Spawn previously appeared in SoulCalibur II on the original Xbox.
Product Review

‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ is an ode to gaming that lives up to its name

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a loving tribute to Nintendo and video game history. It’s a terrific multiplayer fighter that also has plenty for single-player fans to love this time around.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ removes the Infinity Blade weapon after player backlash

Following player backlash over the Infinity Blade weapon's inclusion in Fortnite's battle royale mode, Epic Games decided to remove the weapon from the game completely. It was not limited to a special mode.
Gaming

Want every suit in 'Marvel's Spider-Man' for PS4? Here's how to get them all

Marvel's Spider-Man features a whopping 33 different suits for Peter Parker to wear as he swings across New York City knocking out baddies. Here are all the suits and how to unlock them.
Gaming

Everything about 'Red Dead Online', including its new microtransaction store

Red Dead Online will gradually rolled out to Red Dead Redemption 2 players via a beta. We've got all the details about the beta's suite of competitive and cooperative modes, as well as what to expect going forward.
Computing

HDR monitors are beginning to have an impact. Here are the best you can buy

HDR isn't the most common of PC monitor features and is often charged at a premium, but the list of available options is growing. These are the best HDR monitors you can buy right now.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.
Gaming

Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro: Which console is more powerful?

Far from cooling down, the console wars are only getting more intense. We compare Microsoft's Xbox One X to Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro to help you decide which premium console is right for you.
Gaming

Find the perfect weapon in 'Call of Duty: Black Ops 4' multiplayer with our guide

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has several different guns to choose from in its multiplayer mode, and they're split across multiple classes. Here's a guide to all of them and when you should use them.
Gaming

New ‘Stardew Valley’ content on the way, as game’s maker freezes next project

Stardew Valley creator Eric Barone said that he will continue working on new content for the indie farming simulator. The developer previously said that he will devote all his time to his next game, but that has been placed on hold for now.
Gaming

Underwater survival game ‘Subnautica’ free on Epic Games’ online store

The award-winning underwater survival game Subnautica is currently available as a free download on the Epic Games store. The Steam challenger looks to attract players with a new free game every two weeks.