E3 2014: Mortal Kombat X First Impressions

NetherRealm Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive gave gamers the first in-depth look at Mortal Kombat X at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, which I was able to witness first hand. It’s likely that fans of the revival of the franchise with 2011’s Mortal Kombat will be quite happy with how the next highly-anticipated installment is shaping up. Having grown up with Mortal Kombat, and Mortal Kombat 2 was a personal favorite, I really enjoy how NetherRealm Studios brought the franchise back to basics. Like the last Mortal Kombat, the new game is a 2D fighter, but it also adds some fun new wrinkles to the overall gameplay experience. For fans of the classic blood and gore of the franchise, it has definitely been dialed up for this installment, almost to an insane level. The violence is so over-the-top in this game, it is reminiscent of shows like Spartacus or the films of Paul Verhoeven.

The gameplay demo at E3 this year was a first look-only, behind-closed-doors presentation. So, there was no playable demo for the game available yet. The new feature to the game is the player variations. Each character in Mortal Kombat X will have three play style variations and attributes. Basically, whichever attribute you choose for your character will give the fighter a completely unique set of moves. For example, for Scorpion you can select “Hellfire.” This gives Scorpion various fireball and flaming Hellfire attacks. You can also give him “swords,” and Scorpion will be able to wield and use two swords in the one-on-one battles. Sub-Zero can use different variations as well. One variation allows him to make ice clones and use various ice objects and weapons. The variations provide some nice changes in the player skins. I would like to see more fighting games go in this direction, with alternate skins providing unique moves, play styles, and strategies.

Much like Injustice: Gods Among Us, the backgrounds and environments in the battles are highly interactive. You can leap or perform attacks off of trees. You can break a large branch off of your opponent’s head. However, the levels are all single-tiered and will not be multi-tiered stages like Injustice.

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Another feature that has returned from the 2011 Mortal Kombat game is the X-ray animation. The X-ray animations are even more elaborate, extreme, bloodier, gorier and over-the-top than in the previous game. The bone-crunching X-ray animation sequences show some brutal, bloody wounds being performed on the “Kombatants.” In fact, some of these X-ray sequences appear as if they could be fatalities, considering one animation literally depicts a blade going through characters’ eyes and coming out from the back end of their heads.

The demo showed another battle between two [technically three] of the game’s new characters: Dvorah, a human and insect lady hybrid; and Ferra and Torr, a tandem combination. Ferra and Torr are two separate characters who fight as one. Torr is a large, beastly brute. Ferra is his small, feral companion. Dvorah’s variations can give her different attacks. One allows her to use insect and maggot-like helpers. Another allows her to use acid-based attacks. Torr can literally wield Ferra as a weapon for one variation, or set her down and rely on his own brawn. Another new character for the game who was seen, but not played, during the demo was Kotal Khan. A descendant or relative of Shao Kahn, perhaps? He was depicted in a fatality montage played during the presentation, and he resembles an Aztec warrior. When I asked the developers about a possible relation, they did suggest a connection between Shao Kahn and Kotal Khan, but they would not reveal additional information.

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To close out the demo, the developers ran through a montage of new fatalities for the game. The footage can best be described as an orgy of blood, violence and gore. NetherRealm Studios appears to be taking full advantage of the M rating, and the developer is not sanitizing the franchise for Warner Bros. Interactive one bit. In one fatality, Scorpion launches a fireball through Sub-Zero’s abdomen, so his heart falls out. Scorpion slices half of his enemy’s face off so his brain and twitching tongue hang out. Parents beware, because your kids will want to play this game.

Additionally, It appears that NetherRealm is taking full advantage of the new-gen technology in making some very fun and elaborate new fatality sequences. Mortal Kombat X will be available in 2015 for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Windows PC.

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