Mortal Kombat 2023 is a series that needs no introduction. It’s been around since the early 90s as a competitor to the incredibly popular Street Fighter games, except gorier and much more bizarre. Quirkily designed characters, over the top storytelling, and gruesome finishing moves known as fatalities – all of the franchise’s trademark pillars – make a return in Mortal Kombat X. It’s the tenth instalment of the series and it’s on PlayStation 4 (PS4), PC, and Xbox One.
The game is running on a modified version of the Unreal Engine 3 – the same technology that powered many last-generation console and PC games – but despite the old engine, Mortal Kombat X looks fantastic. Developer NetherRealm Studios appears to have eked out every last bit possible from Unreal Engine 3 to realise its vision of a strange world teeming with possibilities. From the many withering corpses to small details like spikes of ice, Mortal Kombat X is gorgeous game, especially in motion.
Speaking of motion, the pace of combat is a little more deliberate than earlier games in the series. It feels outright slow if you’ve been playing speedy fighting games like Marvel Vs. Capcom or BlazBlue. But it never ends up being so sedate that it feels like a PowerPoint presentation, instead of relying on the rapid reflexes needed from other games, Mortal Kombat X comes with a bit of a learning curve.
On the other hand, if you played 2011’s Mortal Kombat, or Injustice: Gods Among Us, you’ll feel right at home. No surprise since they’re both developed by NetherRealm Studios. Novices shouldn’t have much of a problem thanks to exhaustive practise modes that go a long way in turning you into a seasoned warrior. Soon you’ll get into the comfortable groove of launching ice balls as Sub-Zero or summoning lightening as Raiden. Making a comeback are X-Rays, bone-crushing supermoves that decimate your opponent.
As you play, the more damage you take or special moves you make increases what the game calls a super meter. When it’s full you can tap the triggers on your controller to unleash a devastating array of attacks that has game entering slow motion and showing which parts of your foe’s anatomy is getting maimed, pulled out, or crushed.
Of course, you need to meet certain pre-requisites before dishing these uber powerful attacks such as how far you are from your target. And the other player can cancel out your X-ray move, with the right timing, making it not as overpowering as it may seem.
Perhaps the biggest change this time around is that each character has three variants you choose from, each with subtle differences. Take Sub-Zero for example – choose his Cryomancer variant, and he can summon weapons in battle. Choosing the Grandmaster variant allows him to create a clone of ice while selecting the Unbreakable variant gives him more defensive moves such as creating a barrier of frost.
Old timers might find it slightly infuriating. Reason being certain moves you’d combine together from previous games are now tied to a different version of the character you’re using, forcing you to come up with new attack strategies. It’s an intriguing addition to the proceedings that levels the playing field between players regardless of skill. At its core, Mortal Kombat X is perhaps one of the more balanced entries in the series, there’s no particularly bad character to choose, and no single one is unfairly overpowered, as they were in previous games from NetherRealm Studios such as 2011’s Mortal Kombat and Injustice: Gods Among Us.
On the topic of skill, the game’s single-player mode lets you skip fights if you so desire. Much like its predecessor, Mortal Kombat X takes you through a slick story that has you in the role of different characters. This time around it spans across multiple generations, putting you in the shoes of series staples like Johnny Cage and, later, newer characters like, his daughter Cassie.
It’s a tale replete with quick time events and cut-scenes that do a great job of helping you make sense of the weird, unusual world of Mortal Kombat. Don’t expect it to last too long. We clocked in about five hours to complete it on normal difficulty.
Once you’re done with Mortal Kombat X’s story, there’s a host of modes to partake in, both online and offline. The Krypt lets you explore gloomy environs in first person, unlocking a ton of artwork and moves for the price of in-game currency earned from each match you play. Living Towers let you partake in combat with certain modifiers such as acid rain falling from the sky in each level.
Depending on your tower of choice (quick, daily or premier) these have different difficulty levels and rewards, allowing you to keep playing Mortal Kombat X in a sort of endless mode if you’re the sort who is not interested in competitive online play. Keep in mind, you’ll need to be online to access this mode.
While we’re on the topic of competitive play, versus mode is back with both online and offline options. While the latter is rather straightforward, letting you duke it out with a friend in the same room as long as you have a second controller, things get a little more complicated online.
Unlike Halo: The Master Chief Collection that had us waiting forever to find a match, connecting an opponent in Mortal Kombat X is quick. The match itself, is a bit of a concern. We noticed a slight delay between button presses and the resulting action on screen. Though matches did not have any perceptible, visible lag or frame rate issues, this pause between inputting a combo and seeing it on screen made for a jarring experience, especially when compared to how flawlessly it works offline.
This is something we faced only on the PS4 across a variety of speeds ranging from 1Mbps to 50Mbps and a host of regions including India, Europe, and the US. Firing up an online match on the Xbox One was a different experience. We were treated to matches that were as good as what they should be offline, making the choice between Xbox One and PS4 for online play, in our eyes, an easy decision.
What of the PC version of Mortal Kombat X? We would strongly suggest against it for a variety of reasons. Given the Internet constraints faced in this country, the physical edition on PC comes with a mere 300MB of data, forcing you to download the rest of the game that’s around 20GB. Furthermore, this exhaustive post on Reddit breaks down what is still missing from the PC version despite several patches.
In terms of graphics, you’d be hard-pressed to find the difference between the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game. In the end, your choice comes down to your controller preference and if you’re playing online or not.
Regardless of your platform of choice, you’ll be treated to a ridiculous purchase option of Goro, a character from the series within the character select menu. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, you can buy Krypt items and purchase a season pass too. Find it too hard to pull off fatalities – signature finishing moves in a match? You can buy your way to making those a cinch as well.
(Also see: Of Midi-Chlorians and Fatalities: What Star Wars and Mortal Kombat Have in Common)
Oh and if you’ve downloaded the mobile game on iOS or Android, you’re treated to Rs. 20,000 worth of in-app purchases, some of which let you obtain rewards within the console and PC versions as well. While its no secret that AAA game development is expensive, its tragic to see publisher Warner Bros to resort to such tactics that do shake off the feeling of being nickel-and-dimed.
All in all though, Mortal Kombat X is a solid entry in the series. Some decisions relating to microtransactions and network code for online play mar the experience, but there’s very little else that comes in the way of this being one of the better fighting games available for fans and newbies alike.
We played review copies of Mortal Kombat X on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It’s available on both platform at an identical Rs. 3,499 and Rs. 999 for PC.
- Looks good
- Balanced combat
- Gory presentation
- Fun story mode
- Microtransactions are a bit much
- Poor netcode on the PS4 version
Rating (out of 10): 8