Mortal Kombat X gives the franchise new energy

The 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot gave renewed life to the franchise so to follow it up with something even better would definitely be a challenge. Developer NetherRealm Studios seems to have come up with a bunch of new features and ideas for Mortal Kombat X that will keep fans coming back for more gruesome, violent, and bloody battles.

For Mortal Kombat X’s E3 presentation we were shown six characters — favorites Scorpion and Sub-Zero, and newbies Cassie Cage, the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade,  D’Vorah, an insect/human hybrid woman, Kotal Khan, an Aztec god, and Ferra/Torr, which is two characters in one, a giant beast named Torr and a psychotic little lady on his back named Ferra. If you’re wondering, apparently the storyline of Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, and their daughter Cassie Cage is a big part of the game’s story, which is set 25 years after the events of the 2011 game, but not much about that aspect was revealed at E3.

One of the big additions to Mortal Kombat X is character variations, which allow players to select from different “flavors” of each character with different move-sets and capabilities and slight visual variations.

“Gameplay-wise, characters are often defined by their moves, their special abilities, and their overall fighting style. In MKX we’re offering three variations of every character,” said Brian Goodman, marketing game manager at NetherRealm Studios. “They all come with the same signature moves that you’re used to, like the spear and teleport for Scorpion, but layered on top of that are additional moves and abilities that are unique and exclusive to each variation.”

When you select a character in the game, below the character are the three variations of the character. For example, when you select Scorpion, there’s Ninjitsu Scorpion, who has swords on his back he can use, Hellfire Scorpion, who has a number of fire-based moves, and Inferno Scorpion, who has the ability to summon a demon to assist him in battle.

MortalKombatX_ScorpionSubZero Fire and ice

Characters keep their signature moves no matter the variation you select, so any time you play as Sub-Zero you’ll have his ice ball and slide at your disposal. But the Sub-Zero variations allow him to do things like summon ice weapons out of thin air, conjure up an ice shield, or make an ice clone of himself that will freeze an opponent if hit — or he can simply take his ice clone and smash it over his opponent’s head.

In addition to the character variations, Mortal Kombat X adds what Goodman calls “leveraging.” Similar to Injustice: Gods Among Us, each arena environment has interactive scenery within it that players can use during the fight. For example, in a fight in a forest players are able to bounce off of trees and swing from branches. There are some objects you can use as weapons too. At one point in the demo we saw Sub-Zero froze a tree branch and smashed it against Scorpion’s face. Scorpion returned the favor by throwing a log at Sub-Zero’s head. Another environment shown was what appeared to be a pier during a giant storm, complete with huge waves. The waves were tossing dead bodies into the air, and in a match between Ferra/Torr and D’Vorah, Torr grabbed one of those bodies that popped up and threw it at D’Vorah.

D'Vorah vs. Kotal Khan D’Vorah vs. Kotal Khan

MKX also brings back the popular X-Ray moves where you can see and hear bones being smashed and broken along with body parts being torn out of bodies. In the E3 demo we saw Sub-Zero reach into Scorpion’s body, pull out his intestines, freeze them, and then stab Scorpion through the face with the frozen entrails. In another X-Ray move, Torr took his gigantic hands and crushed an opponent’s head against the ground. Unfortunately these grisly injuries still don’t have any real gameplay impact outside of pure damage — it would have been cool if the X-Ray move incorporated some sort of injury that would affect how an opponent fought for the rest of the match, like what was done in the 2003 fighting game Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus, but alas.

Mortal-Kombat Splitting headache.

Overall the game looks like great, bloody, satisfying fun, and could very well continue to build on the positive momentum delivered by the franchise’s 2011 installment. The only bad news is you’ll have to wait until Mortal Kombat X releases some time in 2015 to see exactly how many ways the crew at NetherRealm can dream up to tear apart a body.

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