We had the chance to mess around with Mortal Kombat once again, this time at an event in Portugal. What we got our hands on was a new build of the game, roughly three weeks old, but we already knew what we were in for. After all, this is the tenth (!) main Mortal Kombat game, and NetherRealm Studios is obviously not trying to re-invent the wheel. Nor is there any such need.
All players will already have a sense of what they will find in any Mortal Kombat title. A competent combat system, eccentric characters, Scorpion and Sub-Zero, brutal moves and of course, fatalities. As expected, we saw all this in the new build for Mortal Kombat X, but we found something we did not expect - an exotic touch.
This version didn't allow for anything truly elaborate in terms of exploring the game. It's by no means the full experience, but rather something of a 'super-demo', with various playable characters and four arenas. Still, it was enough to make it clear that Netherrealm wants to inject new life into the series, with new characters and some previously unexplored combat styles.
In contextual terms, Mortal Kombat introduces a degree of impressive variety. Imagine Sub-Zero and Scorpion, in a confrontation set in a dark and snowy forest. This is classic Mortal Kombat, the duel very much a symbol for the series itself. For years players have taken sides in this eternal struggle, but it manages to feel as exciting as ever. This was our first fight with the new demo, as we believe it will be for the majority of players when they pick up the game for the first time.
For the next match we tried one of the new characters, Cassie Cage (who is the daughter of Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage), fighting against the criminal legend, Kano. As for the arena, we chose the Outworld Marketplace, which is basically a desert surrounded by tents and weird-looking merchants. As for the fight, the two characters technology focused, and the result was a very different battle from the previous one, in terms of tone and blows.
Finally, we looked at two first timers - Ferra / Torr and D'vorah. The first is actually a combination of two characters, Torr is a Hulk-like beast, and Ferra, a little creature on Torr's back. Together they can combine for some fericous attacks, with surprising range, thanks to the rapid advances of Ferra. As for D'vorah, she's a strange mix between insect and woman, very nimble and able to control what appears to be bees (or some such insect). This time, we chose to fight in the Jungle, with huge and lush vegetation and some ruins, resembling something out of Uncharted.
What was curious about the three matches, was how vastly different the fights and the characters felt. There is a level of variety in Mortal Kombat X that was not present in earlier iterations, and that injects new life and flavour into the series. For the rest, it was pure Mortal Kombat, following in the footsteps of the 2011 release.
Mortal Kombat X will be playable on two generations of consoles, but it looks great on the new hardware. Yes, fighting games are possibly not the most demanding games on a technical level, but that shouldn't detract value from the visual fidelity on offer here. Overall the game was hugely detailed, and the animations looked better than ever, not only for the characters, but also for the stages they fight on. The Kove arena was particularly impressive, placing the fight on a small wooden bridge while a storm rages at sea.
Also worth mentioning is how interactive all the stages are. With a tap on R1/RB you can shoot barrels, pick up bodies brought in by the sea, pluck branches from nearby trees, or use a statuette to jump higher.
Mortal Kombat is by nature a brutal and violent game, but the impact of the blows in this new game are exceptional (and we're not even talking about the X-Ray moves or fatalities). Every punch and every kick really seems to hit the opponent with a level of brutality that is almost painful to watch, and everything flows with great elegance.
More casual players will be pleased to carry out a half-dozen moves and hit the occasional special move, but the most devout will love the new style system. Each character can choose between three styles that complements their repertoire of moves. A style is usually focused more on weapons, while the other two will enhance either attack or defence. Sub-zero, for example, in the defensive style, can cover himself with a layer of ice, reducing the damage he receives, as well as raise a shield of ice that will freeze anyone that touches him.
Mortal Kombat is not suddenly trying to completely reinvent itself (despite some strange attempts to do so in the past that we'd rather forget). At the start of the new generation, NetherRealm Studios are looking to remain true to the core of the series, but they also seem committed to putting into practice all the lessons that they've learned over the past few years. The combat looks better than ever, the fighting styles offer a tactical element to the series that we've not had before, and the apparent variety of characters and stages will probably make Mortal Kombat X the most exotic and varied chapter of the series thus far.
Quan Chi is the most recent character to be announced, and he was playable in this demo, although we didn't get the chance to try him out. To make up for it, take a look at the new trailer for Quan Chi below.