Mortal Kombat X

Mortal Kombat X

After the debut tease, we get to see the game in action, and find there's more than gore to Netherealm's new direction for the series.

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You were always in one of two camps back in the fighting frenzy of the 90s. Street Fighter II came first, and reigned supreme. Yet Mortal Kombat, the upstart challenger, also built a sizeable following, Capcom's franchise focused on new editions and super moves, while MK concentrated on tighter combat mechanics and expanding rosters with its sequels.

Somewhere along the way though, our interest wained in both series. As the sequels grew in number, they came under the sole ownership of the elite, the pro circuit. To play without practice was to be thrashed. And constant drubbing at arcades or on console was no fun at all. We unclenched fists and looked elsewhere for our competitive thrills.

But in the last few years, the fighting genre has emerged back into the mainstream, with Street Fighter again leading the charge. With Capcom wrapping up its IV iteration with yet another re-release with yet more small changes, Mortal Kombat's taken what it's learnt from the 2011 franchise reboot and last year's DC battler, Injustice: Gods Among Us to create Mortal Kombat X. Sequel to the reboot, fresh start according to Ed Boon, and a bloody exciting-looking fighter to us.

The roster's a mix of classics (Scorpion, Raiden), the next generation (Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade's love-child) and new faces. Crazily NetherRealm Studios have decided to give every combatant a trio of different fighting styles, selectable prior to a match's start. Take Kano, for instance. You could decide to play as his close-range grappler/brawler type, prefer to use weaponry for his mid-range style, or emphasis his cybernetics with longer-range attacks. It grows the potential match-ups exponentially, and as you can't switch out between rounds, matches may not be as clear-cut as they once were.

Mortal Kombat X

Every fighter's able to make use of the environment, with a dedicated controller button used to interact with specific areas in each stage. We watch as a Sub-Zero and Scorpion clash has the two old rivals take turns in ripping off tree branches to club or toss at each other, or leaping against and off other trees to create some distance between them Small touches, but it adds another dynamic and additional strategy to fights.

X-Ray attacks are still included, showing bone breaks and snaps as stronger impacts land, and showcasing a match's end with Fatalities is still part of the experience. Despite the excessiveness emphasising the black humour inherent in both (Ed Boon tells us post-presentation that it's an instinctive feeling at studio meetings at what constitutes crossing the line between brutal hilarity and sickening gore), it feels both are unnecessary headlines in a fighter that should be talking up its core combat. There's enough interest here beyond remembering the button combination to punch through someone's chest.

Mortal Kombat felt more like an interactive martial arts film. While Street Fighter nuanced every strike with potential follow ups from either side, its rival enjoyed the showy flourish of perfectly-timed combos, finding that gap in your opponent's defence to pull of a lighting-quick succession of attacks, be it three, five or even seven hit attack chains. Tense showmanship enabled by learning combo moves by rote.

Maybe it's because we'd been away so long, maybe something had changed over the years, but sampling last year's Injustice, we enjoyed dabbling in the gameplay mechanics, the feel of the fighters finally having that heft that we felt lacking in the MK series of the past. Mortal Kombat X looks set to build on that.

As it was in the 90s, there's little point comparing Street Fighter to Mortal Kombat. They share the same genre, but offer two wholly different disciplines. With Capcom's contender retiring for a brief time, it may be NetherRealm's moment to bring their challenger back into the fighting spotlight, and whether you're pro or poor at fighting games, there could be something here to attract you.

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Mortal Kombat XScore

Mortal Kombat X

REVIEW. Written by Ricardo C. Esteves

"This marks a confident step forward for the fighting genre, but one that doesn't forget its roots."

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