Summary

Review Price to be confirmed

Mortal Kombat X Story Mode Preview – 12 March 2015

Coming to Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3 and PC
Mortal Kombat X release date 14 April 2015

Ahead of Mortal Kombat X’s release next month, I had a chance to experience the game’s Story Mode for the first time. Although previous Mortal Kombat games have had a loose story, NetherRealm is definitely pushing this angle for the latest series’ entry.
 
Mortal Kombat X’s story spans the 25 years following the climax of the last game and has seen our favourite heroes and the NetherRealm survive a civil war. The short version is that the elders lost power to Kotal Khan, and now it’s our heroes’ job to take back control.
 
The Story Mode is split into chapters, as with previous Mortal Kombat games, with each one focusing on a single character and how the events unfolded from their perspective.
 
But not only that, the Story Mode attempts to introduce you to the broad range of Mortal Kombat X characters piece by piece. In that way, you actually get to mess around with the attack combos and skills of each one, hopefully making you a better player.

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Neither Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment nor NetherRealm are letting on how many chapters the Story Mode will have at this stage, probably because it might be a hint as to how many characters the final game will have.
 
During my hands-on session I played through only the first chapter, which focuses on fan-favourite Johnny Cage and his antics after the close of Mortal Kombat 11. In the first chapter, Shinnok was locked up in the NetherRealms and a series of events forced the elders to reinstate the Mortal Kombat arena.
 
Shao Khan wasn’t quite ready to lose his power, though, and so attacked the Earth Realm. Him doing so caused a lot of the Mortal Kombat crew to be killed, but eventually Shao Khan was defeated.
 
However, it was secretly Shinnok’s plan for all this to happen and he’s now ready to take on the elder gods once more. But this time, he’s got an army of Johnny’s undead buddies to help him – meaning you’re fighting spooky zombie versions of guys like Scorpion.

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Something new in Mortal Kombat X is NetherRealm’s approach to cut scenes. A la The Order: 1886, Mortal Kombat X’s cutscenes now include Quick Time Events (QTE) that allow you to interact with action.
 
However you may feel about QTE in games – I for one don’t mind, if they’re used correctly – I just feel they don’t work in a Mortal Kombat game. When it’s a fighting game based on the skills you have with a gamepad and the knowledge of your combos, pressing square here and triangle there to block punches feels cheap.
 
Thankfully the QTEs aren’t make or break like they are in The Order: 1886. If you miss one it doesn’t affect the overall outcome of the cutscene or send you back to the beginning for another run through. Instead it just means Johnny took a few hits.
 
There’s also a fair amount of video juddering in the cutscenes, which we assume will be fixed by the game’s release date on April 14.

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Mortal Kombat X
 
As I said in my earlier preview (see below), the environment and level design in Mortal Kombat X is seriously impressive. There’s so much going on behind the action that at first I was getting distracted by the bodies being pulled from burning helicopters, hellish beasties landing on debris, and the general carnage in the Story Mode.
 
The same happens in the battle arenas, but sometimes the attention to detail is pretty impressive during the Story battles. Plus, being able to interact with certain elements of the scenery allows for moments of pure fighting genius. All you need to do is tap R1 when you spot a bit of glowing scenery to use it in battle, and that may include a severed head or corpse for an extra bit of Mortal Kombat gore value.
 
Although I won’t give away all the spoilers, even in this first chapter, you might find the romance between Johnny and Sonya a little bit cheesy. But in the grand scheme of the Mortal Kombat world, NetherRealm almost gets away with all that Gorgonzola.
 
This might just be down to the fact that this is the first chapter, but Mortal Kombat X’s Story Mode chapters are a little on the short side. With only three battles and some lengthy (if interactive) cutscenes, I was left desperately wanting more.

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Mortal Kombat X
 
Otherwise, the Story Mode is mainly focused on the task force comprising the new generation of Mortal Kombat. That is Cassie Cage, daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, Jacqui Briggs, daughter of Jax Briggs, Takeda, son of Kensei but actually trained up by Scorpion, and Kung Jin.
 
Some of the other new features I saw included the Living Towers. These are similar to the previous Challenge Towers but now offer daily, weekly and premier challenges for players to compete in and nudge their way into the leaderboards.

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Mortal Kombat X
 
There’s also the new Faction Wars, which is an online, persistent metagame that anyone with an internet connection can take part in. You can choose one out of five factions – White Lotus, Brotherhood of Shadow, Black Dragon, Special Forces or Lin Kuei. It works in a similar way to DriveClub for example, as everything you do in single- or multiplayer modes contribute to your faction’s points and their leaderboard positions.
 
Thankfully you can also contribute to your faction through the new mobile game, which offers gameplay very similar to the Injustice: Gods Among Us mobile spin-off – tapping and swiping with your card-based characters to defeat the opposition.
 

Early Verdict

From what I’ve seen so far there seems to be plenty of depth to the Story Mode of Mortal Kombat X. I came away looking forward to playing more and exploring 25 new years of Mortal Kombat lore.

There’s a niggle in the back of my mind about the QTE choices, but when it comes to graphics, the strength of the characters and the immense level builds, Mortal Kombat X is shaping up to be one of the defining in the series.



Mortal Kombat X Preview – June 2014

Mortal Kombat games have always been about the gore - blood, guts, brain matter and breaking bones. Mortal Kombat X takes all this to the next level with some of the most violent video game scenes we've ever seen.

Developer NetherRealm Studios has tweaked Mortal Kombat X so that it offers brand new gameplay elements to the series, without losing its horrific core.



For a start, the X-ray cutscenes when you perform a special move have returned, showing how your hits impact various parts of your enemies in cinematic quality. Whether that's their skull cracking, backbone shattering, eyeballs being pierced or major organs hemorraghing, there's no lack of gruesome detail in these new X-ray shots.
 
One of the more grimacing moves is when Sub-Zero punches a hole through Scorpion's stomach, pulls out his intestines, freezes them and then uses them as a spear to slam through Scorpion's eye and out the back of his head.

Scorpion can get his own back through, by catapulting a fireball through Sub-Zero's stomach before slicing the front half of his head of with a Katana, after which you'll see Sub-Zero slip to the floor and his brain slide slowly out of his head.

And all that is happening in X-ray mode's semi slow-motion. I wasn't joking when I said Mortal Kombat X takes the MK violence to a never before seen level.



All the characters have their own signature finishing move as with previous Mortal Kombat games, with the Fatalities providing a great opportunity for the new, excessive gore. But, there's not just new finishing moves, there's a whole new character set to choose from in Mortal Kombat X.

During our E3 2014 demo, I saw four new characters appear alongside old favourites, Sub-Zero and Scorpion. These are Ferra/Torr, D'vorah, Cassie Cage and Kotal Khan.

The daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonia Blane, Cassie Cage is a fierce woman armed with a pistol and occasionally a dapper pair of aviator sunglasses. She's definitely the most Hollywood of the new characters I've seen so far, and there are definite Tomb Raider influences to her character.

Our particular favourite was D'vorah, a half-human, half-inset hybrid that uses her often hidden insect stinger legs to spear opponents, while her bug army can swarm and infect them. Kotal Khan is a huge aztec brawler, who is a formidable force in battles.

Finally, the fourth announced new character is Ferra/Torr. This is a rather unique tag team. Ferra is a small, child-like lady who sits on the back of the huge hulking Torr who wears a tattered sack on his head. The pair then work together to take down enemies. Hodor?



A brand new feature of Mortal Kombat X is the character specialisation. You can now choose from three variations that offer unique skills. Your basic character is still kitted out with a full range of moves, special moves and combos that they'd normally have, but then on top of that you can layer in some special variations.

These allow each character to have a slightly different fighting styles according to the options you choose. For example Scorpion, he has variations called Ninjutsu, Hellfire and Inferno. The Jujitsu variation focuses on using swords, Hellfire uses fire based attacks to reign down pain on the enemy and Inferno uses the power of fire demons to attack enemies from all different angles.

Each variation makes the character look a little different in battles, letting you and your opponent know which version you've picked. Scorpion's variations featuring flaming hands for Hellfire, back-mounted swords for Ninjutsu and a skull hanging from his belt for Inferno.

By being able to choose a character variation, it lets you add a little strategy to Mortal Kombat X, and no doubt it'll take a while to figure out which one works for your playing style, but it's a welcome addition to this arcade fighter.



Another brand new feature is the ability to use the environment to your advantage. When you see items in the battle arenas flashing you can hit RB (Xbox One) to launch yourself from platforms, swing from branches or grab in-world items to throw at your enemy. In one of the new maps, on which you'll fight on a pier with the ocean undulating in the background, corpses occasionally pop up from the water. If you're quick enough, you can grab these bodies and use them to slam into your opponent to great comic, if bloodthirsty, effect.

The actual arenas themselves are much more detailed than in previous games in the series, due to the Xbox One and PS4 processing power. In one particular new map you'll find yourself battling in the woods, with the eerie night mist cutting through the moonlight that seeps through the trees.

All three maps I got to play are a lot more atmospheric and immersive, partly helped by the fact you can interact with a good deal of the items you can see littered around the arena.

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Early Verdict

There's a lot to like about Mortal Kombat X. The same addictive, button-mashing gameplay is there, but there are a ton more possibilities for proper fans to truly explore than previous titles. I particularly liked the addition of character specialisms, allowing for more unique matches and outcomes.

The gruesome finishing and return of X-ray moves may be a little too brutal for some, but no doubt this could be one of the strongest Mortal Kombat games yet.

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