Review: Mortal Kombat X for Xbox One

What affixed Mortal Kombat in the gamer psyche was not unique fighting mechanics or impeccable story, but insane violence, which claws new heights in Mortal Kombat X.

Are the gimmicks enough to stand up against the might of Killer Instinct and the upcoming Street Fight V? Let's have a look.

On Presentation

Blood and Guts

It's hard to talk about Mortal Kombat without mentioning its signature hyper-violence. Mortal Kombat's approach to gore is comedic and completely beyond the realms of reality, enabling it to pass under the radar of even the most moralist media outlets.

MKX follows from MK9, offering us intrusive x-ray specials that show kombatant's gruesomely detailed giblets being splattered real-time. The victims of these attacks get right on up afterward, even if a blade has travelled through their skulls. NetherRealms saw fit to give every fragment of shattered rib a cross section of bone marrow, every torn tendon snaps with anatomical authenticity. As someone who no longer feels the need to rebel against his parents, it all feels a bit unnecessary, but if you like gorenography it really doesn't get better than this.

Putting innards aside, MKX is a pretty game. The characters are beautifully rendered, and their MKX designs compliment new gen hardware well. The game sports cinematic qualities that aren't present in Killer Instinct or Street Fighter, as challengers often address their opponents by name and offer contextual taunts, often during battle as well.

Combat stages are incredibly detailed; some stages sink far off into the distance, adding life and context to Mortal Kombat's setting. Khotal Khan's stage shows us life in Outworld under his rule, slaves shuffle to build monuments in his honour, great alien beasts toil, and bystanders react to the ensuing duel taking place in front of them.

Despite all the detail the NetherRealm Studios has poured into MKX's presentation, certain aspects fall short. Projectile attacks are flat and uninspiring - a far cry from Killer Instinct's detailed particle physics. Certain special effects are laughably cartoony and present themselves at total odds with the gritty realism enjoyed by MKX's character designs and stages. Scorpion's fireball looks like a garden firework when compared to Jago's from Killer Instinct for example. This lack of realism is certainly an area the team should focus on for improvement in the inevitable MK11.

Overall MKX is bloody gorgeous, with emphasis on bloody. The stages are vibrant, and the character designs are exemplary and there isn't a single instance of slowdown, jagged models or screen tearing. Mortal Kombat continues to be iconic, and the design team should be proud of themselves overall.

On Gameplay

Alien worlds, alien ideas

I'm certainly not a hardcore fighting game player. Before the advent of online play, button mashing with friends across Street Fighter, Killer Instinct, Tekken and Bloody Roar was about as far as I ever got. Killer Instinct holds a lot of nostalgia for me and like many others, I was hyped when Microsoft revived it for Xbox One. I haven't played a Mortal Kombat since the 3D sprites of Mortal Kombat Trilogy on the PS1, so if you're looking for commentary from a super technical point of view, I can't offer it. I'll be writing from a newcomer's perspective, whose recent fighting game experience comes purely from the fairly accessible Killer Instinct.

Story Mode

Perhaps the greatest aspect of MKX is its story mode, which is boldly ambitious and miles ahead of other fighting games. Each fight features lengthy cut-scenes in between, which tell the tale of Shinnok's attempt to take over both Earth and Outworld. Throughout, you take control of separate MKX fighters from all sides in an intersecting plot that also features frequent flashbacks. The story is genuinely entertaining and decent in length, albeit with b-movie leanings and a side of cheese.

The story also tries to pass the torch, so to speak, introducing the sons and daughters of various Mortal Kombat staples. Many of these characters lack individuality at first glance but come into their own when shown off in the context of the story. I can't see Jacqui Briggs ever being more popular than her augmented father, Jaxx, but at least Netherrealm are considering the franchise's long-term future.

Sadly, Mortal Kombat X's story mode falls afoul of my most hated design trope, the forever dull quick time event.

Sadly, Mortal Kombat X's story mode falls afoul of my most hated design trope, the forever dull quick time event. I'm not sure if devs introduce QTEs to ensure you're still paying attention or make you feel like you're doing something within the highly choreographed cut-scenes. They're bloody annoying either way. Please stop doing this, developers.

When the story mode isn't annoying you with intrusive quick time events, it's confounding you with numerous and sharp jumps in time. I understand that the developer wanted to introduce as many characters as possible, back stories included, but there's probably scope for NetherRealm to have handled this with a little more finesse.

Overall though, the story mode is great and hits home that Mortal Kombat has a rich and fairly organised lore since its reboot.

Kombat

The general sentiment from around the net is that Street Fighter is the fighter to beat, as it is widely regarded as the king of tournament play. I'm by no means the kind of person who will spend hours studying the amount of animation frames in every attack, but if you are, Mortal Kombat X has stepped up its game.

Like NetheRealms' Injustice before it, Mortal Kombat X's move lists offer more data than ever before, such as block damage, frame data, etc, and NetherRealms has improved the combat over earlier versions as well. Combos are still canned, (kanned?), as opposed to Killer Instinct's dynamic create-a-combo system, which means you have to pretty much trawl for hours through move sets, committing combos and specials to muscle memory. As someone who doesn't have a lot of free time, I find Killer Instinct's dynamic system much more appealing. It provides you with a baseline ability to play most characters (besides combo/character traits and some of the unique characters). I found MKX was far less accessible on this basis, but some will welcome the variety.

You block by holding the right trigger, meaning your character auto blocks attacks from any direction. As such, MKX features a lot of teleportation moves, which some may find spammy and annoying. While we're talking about spam, there's already some rumblings in the community about spammable attacks. The DLC character Jason Vorhees features a punishing combo that can lock you into losing 30% damage with fairly little effort. There are combo breakers, which use a third of your special meter. But considering both Jacqui Briggs and Kenshi also possess some controversial abilities, it makes me wonder how much attention NetherRealms has committed when it comes to balance.

The first time you see an x-ray attack it might seem pretty cool, but after the 20th some will find it gets tedious.

Speaking of abilities, MKX has a special meter that can be used in various ways. One of them is for combo breakers, as mentioned earlier. Another provides more advanced techniques, like adding additional properties to special attacks or the ability to cancel out of grabs so you can buffer up a potentially more damaging combo. Some of these advanced techniques may require a lot of effort to learn, but the 3-bar x-ray attacks ask only that you hit both the right and left trigger, and carry devastating effects. Each x-ray attack does around 30% damage, and each essentially amounts to being a really long unskippable grab sequence. The first time you see an x-ray attack it might seem pretty cool, but after the 20th some will find it gets tedious.

The net code isn't particularly great either. When connecting to people close by with fully open NAT, all ports open, dedicated IP etc., latency became an issue at times. Coming in from Killer Instinct made me appreciate the efforts Double Helix and Iron Galaxy and have gone to in this regard.

Stage interactions have made their way across from Injustice, adding another dimension to gameplay. You can lift objects from the arena to slam into your opponents face, or leapfrog over them by utilizing objects in a close vicinity. It's a nice addition that brings the stages themselves into the battle, rather than them being just a necessary backdrop.

MKX is a great fighting game, which seems to have a theme of abrupt interruptions. The x-ray specials are by far the most annoying aspect of fighting in NetherRealm's maturing franchise, but they hardly ruin the experience. The hundreds, maybe thousands of button combinations to memorise will keep staunch fighting fans on their toes for many moons but may leave some of us with time constraints out in the kold.

Final Konclusion

Finish Him?

From the hammy dialogue to the intentionally misspelled c-words and gallons of gore sequences, MKX is like a rebellious teenager demanding attention in an increasingly competitive space. With Street Fighter V and Killer Instinct's platform exclusivity, the multi-platform space is left wide open for Tekken, SoulCalibur and Mortal Kombat. Like it or not, MKX probably has the strongest identity of the three.

The combat is solid overall, and the presentation is among the best in any genre. MKX's abundance of features outstrips Killer Instinct by a landslide, but unless you have a lot of free time on your hands, be wary of MKX's accessibility. You will be spending a lot of time on those move-lists, which isn't necessarily a bad thing for those looking for something they can really get their teeth into. As a more casual fighting fan, I find the systems of Killer Instinct far more welcoming.

Pros:

  • Looks incredible
  • Vast array of modes and features
  • Entertaining story mode

Cons:

  • Not as accessible as other fighting games
  • Spammable attacks and tedious x-rays can frustrate

The crown jewels of Mortal Kombat X are its various modes and story, which squashes the competition into a bloody paste like one of its infamous fatalities. If you enjoy intentionally ridiculous horror and action movies, MKX combines the best of both and knows it well. Jason Vorhees and Predator are on the cards as DLC (in addition to the ability to pay to do easy fatalities, ahem), which says to me that Netherrealm knows who it caters for. Gore fans will delight at MKXs high-def hyper- violence, but I'm not sure if the gimmicks will keep anyone who no longer strives to rebel against their parents invested for too long.

Mortal Kombat X is available now on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4 and PC.

To see some elements of this review please visit m.windowscentral.com in the browser on your mobile device.

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

32 Comments
  • Funny, I just bought this game over the weekend. Haven't had too much time with it, but I really appreciate the story mode (akin to Injustice). It just makes a "fighting game" much more interesting. The gore is silly, but so far I like it.
  • Yup, the story mode is what sets it apart from standard fighting games and helps you get to know the characters better and try them out too
  • Interesting.  I had so much fun with Injustice. I've always enjoyed fighting games, but am terrible at them and having a story makes me appreciate the game more since the fighting aspect is just a game to me.
  • Johnny Cage's "Here's Johnny!" is easily the best fatality in the entire game.
  • Hands down!!
  • Was waiting for this review. Thanks Jez.
  • Will try to get this game via Online Shop since they (tried to) forbid it in Germany!!!
  • Can't you buy trough the Store (online)?
  • Nope, because of german restrictions they haven't even put it on the (xbox) store
  • But if you change region to US and language, you have access to the US Store. I saw someone doing that to get some exclusive Japanese game.
  • Tzz... stupid me... had never thought about this option... thx for helping me out mate... YOUR second name should be "windows central"... ;)
  • I am still upset about SFV
  • The really frustrating part is how vitriolic most gaming journalists and Playstation gamers were online after the Rise of the Tomb Raider exclusivity, blasting Microsft for taking away (only temporarily, mind you) a historically cross-platform game. Then months later Sony announces full exclusivity on Street Figther 5 and those same yahoos are hypocritically praising Sony for the move. The double standard to which Microsoft is held to is vexing. That said, back to the topic at hand--the loss of Street Fighter V--have you given Killer Instinct a chance? I find the gameplay system in KI to be, hands-down, the best of any 2D fighting game (this is something Jez intimated in the review above, as well). The dynamic interplay between combo linker vs. combo breaker vs. counter breaker is like a chess match on 17 shots of espresso. It's brilliant and, if I had to choose a console based on exclusive fighting games, I'd definitely choose Xbox One for Killer Instinct over PS4 for Street Figther 5 (more like 55, but who's counting).
  • I'm not, street fighter got very boring people bash cod because its the same thing every year. Capcom has been using the same mechanics and gameplay since the 90s and people say nothing about it. Street fighter died for me a long time ago (super street fighter 2).
  • Where video rewiev?
  • The return of Shinnok would have definitely made the story better than the previous games ( I prefer Shinnok as the boss over that stupid Shao Kahn)...will buy the game soon...desperately waiting to play it...
  • I just bought an XBOX One along with Mortal Kombat X over the weekend and I've been loving it. I'm really impressed with the graphics with this generation as well, as I'm normally a PC gamer. With that being said, Ermac is a great character and story mode is almost like watching a movie the way it transitions in and out of fights so seamlessly. And being some one who hasn't really played Mortal Kombat since the Sega Genesis days, it's cool to see familiar names and family members of those characters in this game.
  • Sucks 360/ps3 owners have to wait 2 months. What happened to Mortal Mondays when it came out to all consoles and handhelds?...
  • Upgrade dude
  • Been on the fence on this one because of something I sorta read and may have misinterpreted, can someone clarify?  It left the impression that there were different "versions" of characters, and that not every character would have all their moves?  Like, the Rayden you're playing may be able to teleport, but not shoot lightning for example, where previous versions had the character capable of all their usual signature moves. Can anyone explain?  Thanks!
  • All three versions of raiden have the status quo super moves. The variations however have EXTRA moves at their disposal. This isn't always the case with every character. For instance, only one variation of scorpion can summon a fire wall
  • So for the most part, the characters "classic moves" remain intact for these different versions?  Like, all Scorpions throw the hook and teleport, for example?
  • Yeah each character has 3 variations. While moat of these variations will have the some of the same kombos, certain moves like raidens teleport is in a different variation than him shooting lighting. I like it a lot better honestly as opposed to having less moves because there are only so many buttons. It really gives u a variety to try out with and see what you like. As with the kombos like I said before on some fighters if you don't have a weapon in your variation they wont use one, but if you switch variations and they do it may change the combo by having you attack with the weapon and in turn changing the attack, say from possibly knocking them up in the air to tripping them.
  • I have buy Mortal Kombat X Premium Edition. OK the Game is perfect BUT i have buy another fighting game Killer Instinct COMPETE Edition and i think IS BETTER. (my opinion).
  • I love this game!
  • Jez you should get Payday when I comes out yo and get Paul to set up a twitch broadcast with 4 people playing. On topic, this story mode is winning but I likes my KI combo system better.
  • We probably will!
  • Android and IOS got this game, WP left behind as always
  • Yeah, I downloaded it on my iPad.. I assuming this "iOS version" of the game is not quite like the full console / PC version... A little scaled down?
  • Wayyyyyyyy scaled down. Looks pretty though.
  • And of course it's available on Android device for free. About the games Microsoft get strange strategy like "quantity not quality" that's bad.
  • MKX is a great game and I love it so far :) The story was superb and I had a lot of fun playing it, the towers are cool too and I'm stuck with learning the movelist right now, but it's fine for me :)
    I wished they had given different X-Rays to the combatants to bring in some variation to it, but it's okay how it is right now.
    The only thing that really sucks is our German lawsystem, that'S why I needed to make an PEGI Account on my PS4 -.- but yeah wasn't that hard, but it sucked anyway. With my xBox it would have been a bit easier but I didn't thought about this lawbullshit when I purchased it earlier this year :D So if you like Beat em Up's you should grab MKX, it is an awesome game. BTW: I would LOOOOOOVER do get a new bloddy raw, Microsoft should get it's hands on it :D