Mortal Kombat X Review
Mortal Kombat X Review
As a longtime fighting game fan, it pains me to say this but Mortal Kombat X is a mixed bag. It has nothing to do with the game, which is absolutely fantastic and I managed to love over 50 hours as of this post. It has everything to do with it being the most poorly coded fighting game since X-Men vs Street Fighter and the worst PC launch since Battlefield 4. Mind you, the coding has little to do with game balance like XMvSF but it’s broken in every other possible way.
The Sky Temple Stage is so horribly optimized that it forces me to lower my resolution to 720p just to get a decent 60 FPS. No matter how high or low my settings get, this stage has so many performance issues which are only remedied by tweaking the resolution slider. If the recommended system requirements for gaming at 1440p include a GTX 600 and I’m playing at 1080p on a 560 ti, I should be able to get reasonably high settings. This is after a 15GB patch to improve the optimization of shaders on certain stages and during cutscenes. I have no idea why the game didn’t get a delay, at least for PC, particularly when users with rigs well beyond the recommended requirements are complaining about the same issues I am.
Then there are the crashes. The game seems to crash after every hour of gameplay, particularly when it comes to loading screens or the Krypt. If I’m getting a stable 60 FPS, there is no excuse for the game to crash to desktop without an error message since clearly my system is capable of handling it.
These issues are thankfully an improvement over the game at launch. The title launched with a streaming download where the game would allegedly download as you played, the catch was that only 3GB were available to download for most of the first day. This was clearly the worst PC launch since Battlefield 4. As much as it pains me to say it, like Battlefield 4, I have to recommend the title since it’s simply that good despite the technical issues.
The roster is a great combination of returning faces from MK9, newcomers and old faces who haven’t been playable since Mortal Kombat: Armageddon back in 2006. New faces in Mortal Kombat have always been a mixed bag since Mortal Kombat 3 onward. For every Sektor, Li Mei or Kenshi, you’d wind up with bland a Kai, Stryker or Kobra. Thankfully each new fighter seems to fit into the game seamlessly and feels like they could have been a part of the Mortal Kombat 1 and 2 casts. Jaqui Briggs and Erron Black are great new distance players while Ferra/Torr is a grappler in a fighting franchise sorely lacking in them. There simply isn’t a weak link in the new lineup which is the first time I ever thought I’d say that since 1995.
In terms of gameplay, there are three variations for each character similar to Street Fighter Alpha 3’s isms but certainly more balanced and varied so you won’t have to worry about X-ism being underpowered or V-ism being completely broken for every single fighter. Some fighters like Raiden, Kung Lao and Reptile gain small tweaks while others like Kano, Kenshi and newcomer Takeda feel like three different characters in one. Oftentimes, there will be one variation which feels radically different to the other two. If you’ve always liked Sub-Zero as a character but dislike playing a turtle, Cryomancer is for you. If you think that Kotal Kahn looks cool but like grapplers, try playing Sun God. The downside is that certain variations feel useless in comparison to others. For instance, D’Vorah’s special attacks outside of her Venomous variation feel underpowered, Kung Lao’s Hat Trick seems impractical and Reptile’s Deceptive variation is of dubious utility. There are also a handful of moves in certain variations which lack an ability to EX the attack when having a bit of armor or less startup seem like they’d be needed.
There’s also the addition of Brutalities which allow you to combo into a mini-Fatality, provided that you meet the requirements for the final attack of the match. Some are easy to pull off, others are tricky but all are incredibly rewarding.
Story mode is excellent, although I have yet to view the cutscenes post-patch. The addition of quick time events which don’t result in a game over but simply change cutscenes is a nice touch. The story mode features plenty of cameos which longtime fans will appreciate seeing and given that one NPC is already confirmed as DLC, it’s a safe bet that future DLC fighters will be pulled from the story mode, provided that the first season pass sells. (I’m personally hoping for Baraka, Li Mei, Fujin, Sareena and Rain to be released as playable fighters.) If Killer Instinct can sell DLC over a year from release and Street Fighter IV released downloadable content through the previous console life cycle.
Speaking of downloadable content, it’s a bit of a buzzkill that Gamestop didn’t offer Kold War Scorpion for PC, leaving no way to unlock the skin but it’s still red linked in the Krypt. It’s the same with the inability to unlock mobile unlocks like Ninja Mime Johnny Cage on PC either despite meeting the requirements on the mobile game. It’s simply a given that PC was an afterthought to Netherrealm Studios considering that certain assets are in the game but locked away forever.
The faction system is also yet another example of locking away content to users. In order to unlock an exclusive fatality, you need to play on the winning team and given that nearly half of all players play as the Lin Kuei, it’s nearly impossible to unlock your last Faction Kill. That’s not getting into how the servers for faction rewards keep dying since faction stats are global across platforms.
The sad part is that Mortal Kombat X is one of the absolute best fighting games I’ve ever played and clearly the best in the series. The graphics are beautiful. Lighting reflects off fighters, snow, rain and mud effects line the arenas, desert sun causes beads of sweat to appear on faces and fighters’ clothes will get wet as they land in puddles and get splashed by waves. The character damage was toned down from MK9 to be less distracting so you won’t see brains sticking out but you’ll still get clothes torn and faces bruised as fights go on. Considering that the model damage in MK9 was often a bit too much, to the point where I gave up on playing Kabal since I liked having his mask for more than half a round, toning it down a bit while still keeping it present was definitely a good thing.
The gameplay is tight to the point where juggle combo timing is now as loose as it is in Tekken, wakeups are as easy as in Street Fighter and overall the controls feel much improved over MK9. Negative edge is still an issue with target combos but it’s not as problematic as it was in the last game. The controls are almost as responsive as the X-Box One’s Killer Instinct which – in my opinion – is currently the bar for how fluid fighting game controls should be.
The Fatalities are as bloody as ever. While Babalities were removed from the game, the variety of ways to kill your opponent are more varied than ever before. Fatalities (including Faction Kills) and Brutalities give each fighter up to 13 finishers, 10 of which are usable in any match.
Thankfully Netherrealm are fixing the issues. Players with 3GB and 4GB graphics cards can now maintain a stable framerate but users with 1 and 2GB cards are still waiting for better optimization. Some crashes with menus were fixed and the game will presumably be fully playable by the time of the Steam Summer Sale. Much like with Battlefield 4, I’d hold off on buying the PC version until the technical issues are fixed. Considering that Netherrealm Studios delayed Mortal Kombat 9 and Injustice for PC until they could put out an optimized game with minimal issues, perhaps a delay would have been welcome until all the technical problems were fixed. Free Koins were made available as an apology which was a welcome gesture and the constant patches are slowly fixing things. The game just needed a bit more time to gestate before it could hatch.
Tight, responsive controls
Tons of finishing moves
Variations add variety to matchups
QTEs add replay value to story mode
Promise of DLC to flesh out an already complete feeling roster
Constant patches to resolve issues
Some variations seem useless
Certain Costumes locked away forever which were never available for PC
Severe technical issues including