Wednesday
Aug122015

QCF: Mortal Kombat X

hile the medium of video games has surely played host to a litany of aged franchises that have handily worn out their welcome through the years, there’s no denying that there a few franchises with a sense of appeal that truly stand the test of time.

And among these exceptionally iconic properties, there are those few choice that barely earned that love among the gaming community by the skin of their teeth, and this particular title is one of those prime examples.

As strange and brutal as this may sound, I think the best thing that could’ve happen to Ed Boon and the remainder of the Mortal Kombat team (now presently working at the newly formed Netherrealm Studios) was the dissolution of Midway Games. Because it was at that juncture that the veteran group of developers truly stepped up their game and Mortal Kombat X is the finest example of that statement yet.

Strangely enough, the fundamentals of MK X stem more off the foundation of Injustice than it does with the previous Mortal Kombat venture—which is a great thing.

Not to deny the versatility of MK (2011) but the improvements significantly change how the game operates for veterans, and thankfully, retains the approachability.

For starters, there’s a sense of fluidity that creates a new, and welcomed flow to what was admittedly a very stiff, dial-heavy paced fighting system in the last go-around.

To elaborate, the established structure to the modernized system of the iconic series is now layered with a new depth that extends to every aspect of the fighting; from the special moves, down to the very cadence of movement from certain combatants and their various martial arts styles within the arena. In addition to the cadence, the hitbox articulation, and it’s numerous points of contact are expanded to resonate on a parallax depth of perspective beyond the 2D plane of movement—in other words, Mortal Kombat X is a unique fusion of a 3D fighter’s complexity ruled by the speedy pace of a 2D fighter.

The improvements don’t stop there, Injustice’s influence also permeates the stage design itself with interactive stage elements that can be used not only as a means of contextual attack, but defensive purposes too.

From vines to swing off of, to suddenly improvising a geriatric bystander from the sidelines into a weaponized projectile; the landscape of every stage is a reactive mechanic that has the potential to be an advantage to you one second, and an obstacle the next.

The real kick is how the position and plentiful quantity of these contextual set pieces add to just the right amount of flavor to MK X’s dish of a fighting system without compromising the balance that allows it to be so fluid, making them the perfect palate cleanser to shake things up when the moment calls for it.

Arguably, the most significant change to the core dynamic of gaming’s most recognized contest of violence and gore is the ability to change the fighting style of a character between three available styles before the start of a match.

Citing Scorpion as a prime example, the vengeful phantom ninja can be deployed to either be an unrelenting, up-close melee competitor with his Ninjitsu discipline, a martial art that also adds power moves with the use of his dual-katana blades. The Hellfire technique goes in a completely different direction though, adding the special moves Hell Ball, Demon Fire and Flame Aura to the undead warrior’s arsenal—catering to players who value specialized attacks over concentrated combos.

This fundamental alone is what really drives the enjoyment that this entry to the legendary fighting brand has to offer; with a Roster of 29 characters, each character is essentially three different combatants in one—that’s 87 different variations of play styles. This not only keeps the gameplay automotive in ways that are not only refreshing, but significantly more approachable; the gate of accessibility is blown open by the potential of anyone being able to find their sweet spot with character and their specialized array of techniques and moves out of the three selectable styles.

Mortal Kombat X doesn’t just strive from the articulate new fighting system it uses though; the sequel also takes the genre expands upon a particular virtue for the franchise that’s been integral in helping the fighting game flourish into what it is today; community focused multiplayer.

The moment that Mortal Kombat X is booted up, players are introduced to the new Factions, contrived subtext of character alliances from various organizations within MK’s narrative. Joining one of these faction grants you access to higher experience rewards after each fight, unique finishing moves that are granted for merely being e member of the faction, and recognition on top of the leaderboards that regulate the status of conflict between the four.

While the connotation of such a feature seems a bit superficial at first impression, the follow-through and incentives the feature has engineered for active participation, is what makes the concept feel so rewarding when playing part in it.

Contributing to the growth of your Faction can be achieved through multiple means, some more fruitful than others. Evert match you complete will earn you war points that will expand your Faction’s foothold, and even more so if you’re victorious in the match, with an additional bonus on top of that if you choose to finish off your opponent with one of your Faction kills—a killing blow that’s uniquely tied to the clan you represent.

While this allows for players to proffer to their respective team at their own pace, Faction modes are also available, along with Invasion events where players of the community compete head-to-head in a number of fighting contests that offer a boosted reward to the winning group that comes out on top.

If there’s one new addition that fails to deliver on its execution (shit, this might be a pun), it’s the reintroduction of Brutalities, and their retooling.

In the age where Mortal Kombat fever was at its highest, MK Trilogy introduced a new finishing move where players can pummel the opponent with an combination of attacks that’re so intense that they eviscerate the victim into a bloody explosion of bones and guts—insanely hard to pull off, but satisfying to watch.

Fast forward nineteen years later, and well, they’re just as hard, if not hard to pull off—only nowhere near as satisfying when you do either. Requiring specific caveats to perform, the Brutality returns as a flashy end to a finishing combo on your opponent when their life is low with a lethal variation on of your character’s special moves—it sounds fun, but it’s reality is a bit more disappointing to say the least.

The input for the necessary maneuvers and prompts are pointlessly complicated, dragging a little too long for it to be an effective tactic, and the payoff of seeing a stock death scene that can’t even compare to the carnage of an X-Ray attack. Sure, they’re intent isn’t to be strategic; the purpose of a brutality is to boast your victory than simply obtaining it, but needing to do so with more than half of your health remaining, or winning one round without the use of kicks? Its asking for a whole lot in exchange for giving back so little.

In terms of the online fidelity and connection performance of MK X’s networked competition, it’s absolutely stellar, and tooled to output several different routes without any of the lag, or short-sighted matchmaking.

Anything from simple exhibition, to ranked matches, and especially King of The Hill, is all streamed seamlessly and smoothly, which undoubtedly is due to the unwavering maintenance and online support from Netherrealm Studios. The Next-Gen fighter has yet to reach a point where the game is operating at minimal performance, and it adds a breath of life to multiplayer that makes the investment of participating in its budding community so much more enjoyable.

In the same vein that Street Fighter IV invigorated the franchise for the modern age of video games, Mortal Kombat X accomplishes this and takes it a step further; it reinvigorates the entire fighting game landscape of video games for the new generation, and redefines what concept of community truly means to the genre.

If you don’t already have it, grab it, you won’t be disappointed.

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