If you’ve seen any of the trailers for Mortal Kombat X, you already know the tenth installment in the long-running fighting game franchise is going to be just as brutal and ridiculous-in-a-good-way as we’ve all come to expect. What the hands-on play sessions on the E3 floor showed was just how much the new game is balancing meaningful links to its predecessors with advancements that move the series forward.
The build in the Warner Bros. Interactive booth has six playable fighters: returning favorites Scorpion and Sub-Zero, Aztec warrior Kotal Kahn, the two-person team Ferra / Torr, winged insect woman D’Vorah and Cassie Cage, the daughter of Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage who has some of the moves of both her parents. A developer on hand from NetherRealm Studios said the total number of playable characters at launch had not yet been decided, but did say it would be “at least as many as the last Mortal Kombat and Injustice.”
No matter what the final count is, a cool new feature will make it feel like it’s even higher. Every character can choose between three distinct fighting styles at the selection screen, giving them a pair of extra moves, and in some cases, really changing the way they play. It’s designed to help fine-tune fighters to match players specific play style preferences, and it does add an intriguing new level of strategy to each match-up. NetherRealm says there will be a visual representation of which style your opponent chose so that it’s not a secret (though this wasn’t present in the E3 build). For instance, a Sub-Zero who chooses his ice power specialty will have frozen arms like Iceman, while one who picks the Grnadmaster option will wear a special medallion.
Controls are the same as familar ones most people know by heart, and both the super meter and X-ray moves return. All three playable stages had interactive elements, but there were no level changes a la Injustice. The Fatalities were set to be especially easy to pull off during the show, so I got a look at the ones for Cassie Cage, Ferra / Torr and D’Vorah. The dev who walked me through gameplay joked that they really held back on the gore this time around, and I sarcastically said I admired their restraint. Suffice it to say, you won’t be saying Mortal Kombat X is lacking in the graphic violence department — or blood, because there’s tons of it.
As for the story, this game is set 25 years after the last one, so while non-human characters like Scorpion and Sub-Zero are still around, other familiar faces have grown older. Hence Cassie Cage, and there just might be some other characters revealed before launch who are sons or daughters of previous fighters. My early favorite was newbie Ferra / Torr, as it’s just awesome the way the big lumbering guy hurls the smaller female who rides on his back around as a weapon. I couldn’t get NetherRealm to comment on whether all of the action takes place in Outworld, though since one stage is called Outworld Marketplace, it’s clear at least some of it does.
The game already looks and sounds great, and with more time for tweaks before it releases in 2015, Mortal Kombat X should prove to be another popular addition to the series.