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

DT Editors' Rating

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
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Gaming

These are the best Xbox One games out right now

More than four years into its lifespan, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Home Theater

How to buy speakers: A beginner’s guide to home audio

From the difference between bookshelf speakers and monitors to the proper way to audition, our ultimate speaker buying guide has all the information you need to create your own home audio nirvana.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.
Computing

Gaming on a laptop has never been better. These are your best options

Gaming desktops are powerful, but they tie you down to your desk. For those of us who prefer a more mobile experience, here are the best gaming laptops on the market, ranging from budget machines to maxed-out, wallet-emptying PCs.
Computing

Choose your weapon wisely -- these are the best keyboards for gaming on your PC

Your PC isn't complete without one of the best gaming keyboards on the planet. We have a list spanning full-sized models to compact versions from Razer, Cooler Master, Corsair, Logitech G, and more.
Gaming

Why are game studios run like sweat shops? The human toll of ‘crunch time’

After the revelation of 100-hour work weeks in Red Dead Redemption 2’s development, we spoke with a number of developers about what it’s like to work in crunch culture in the game industry.
Gaming

How you can give your PS4 a fresh start with a factory reset

Learn the many ways you can factory reset your PS4. From reverting your settings to factory to doing a full wipe and reinstalling the latest PlayStation firmware, we cover it all here, step by step.
Gaming

The Xbox app lets you access your console while away from home. Here's how

Microsoft's Xbox app can't do it all, but it does allow you to access your profile information and launch media content directly from your mobile device. Check out our quick guide on how to connect your smartphone to an Xbox One.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift, HTC Vive head-to-head: 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.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I.-powered cat toys, wallets, food containers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

It's got game. But the Razer Phone 2 is still crippled by its camera

The Razer Phone 2 will impress with its gaming prowess and 120Hz screen. But if you care at all about taking pictures on your phone, skip it. While Razer has improved the camera, it’s still short of the competition.
Gaming

The 'Fallout 76' beta starts tomorrow! Here's when it starts and how to join

Want to get into Bethesda's Fallout 76 beta? We don't know when the program will launch, but we provide instructions on how to get ready. The game officially launches on November 14.
Gaming

This $8,000 ‘Devil May Cry 5’ edition will make the perfect plutocrat gift

We've had to wait 10 years for Devil May Cry 5, and Capcom is pulling out all the stops for the long awaited sequel. One of the limited editions, exclusive to Japan, costs $8,000 and includes a leather replica of Dante's jacket.