It has been nearly four years, but the Mortal Kombat Retrospektive finally returns! As I write this, we are mere days away from the release of the latest Mortal Kombat game, Mortal Kombat 11 (not to be confused with Mortal Kombat 2011). The original series of articles was written slightly after the previous game’s April 2015 release, and I felt the impending release of the new sequel was an excellent excuse to finally return to this feature.
I’ll admit haven’t been following the hype for MK 11 a whole lot and wasn’t even planning to pick it up at launch, because at this point I’m just not as interested in fighting games in general as I was a few years ago. However, I did watch the launch trailer which featured a remix of The Immortals’ legendary Techno-Syndrome from Mortal Kombat: The Album — more commonly known as the Mortal Kombat movie theme — and I must say I’m now quite intrigued by the story and all the crazy time travel shenanigans Netherrealm Studios has come up with.
That being said, we’re not here to talk about Mortal Kombat 11. At least not yet. No, we’re going to travel back in time to the year 2015 and the release of Mortal Kombat X. That is pronounced “X”, by the way, not “ten”, although of course this is also the tenth mainline MK game. The version I’m playing at the moment is the Mortal Kombat XL re-release on PlayStation 4 (also available for Xbox One and PC), which is basically the Komplete Edition equivalent for MKX and contains all of the important downloadable content.
Actually, before we get to MKX or XL, we should also take a quick gander at what Netherrealm was up to in between the last two Mortal Kombat releases. Injustice: Gods Among Us was released on every vaguely relevant platform and the Wii U in 2013, and could essentially be described as Mortal Kombat with DC superheroes and less violence. No, not that one. I have not played a whole lot of Injustice, but it is a solid fighting game that builds upon the gameplay of Mortal Kombat 2011 and once again features an entertaining single player story mode.
With that out of the way, let’s get to Mortal Kombat X. Netherrealm isn’t reinventing the wheel here in terms of gameplay and mechanics, and MKX once again builds upon the base established by MK 2011 and Injustice. Obviously, there are plenty of new features added on top of the existing ones and we’ll get to those soon enough, but generally speaking this is very much a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and most of the gameplay information I described in the MK 2011 article still applies here.
Mortal Kombat X was first revealed in June 2014 with a CGI trailer featuring Scorpion and Sub-Zero duking it out in a snowy forest, and actual gameplay was first seen at E3 about a week later. Right from the off, it was very obvious the presentation and tone were going to skew much darker than the previous game, and at the time I wasn’t quite sure what to think of it. Of course, the final release in April 2015 wasn’t any different in that respect.
MK 2011 wasn’t exactly a cheerful funtime with flowers and sunshine all around, but it definitely had a rather comic book-esque presentation with lots of bold colors, flashy effects, and larger-than-life characters wearing wildly impractical outfits. MKX‘s presentation, on the other hand, is all about stark minimalism, with heavy use of black and white in the menus, UI and cover art. It’s very striking.
Meanwhile, the in-game visuals present a dirtier look with a darker color palette and more realistic character models (and, surprisingly, far less extreme battle damage) than MK 2011. Well, as far as characters such as an insect woman and a massive four-armed brute can be considered realistic, anyway. I know calling a video game sequel “darker, grittier, and more realistic” is a terrible cliché and has been for years, but all of those things are quite literally what Mortal Kombat X is.
While the jump to the PS4 and Xbox One has certainly brought significant visual improvements with it, MKX is starting to look rather dated in some areas. The character faces in particular could use work, and certain textures don’t hold up well at close range. The game also makes heavy use of motion blur, which looks fine in general but isn’t very helpful for capturing screenshots. MKX still runs on Unreal Engine 3 and was meant to be a cross-gen title, but the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions were eventually canceled after multiple delays.
Gore is now presented at a level of detail I’d describe as surgical. The cinematic camera during Fatalities is extremely happy to linger on the gory details and let you drink it all in, and the Fatalities themselves tend to be so drawn out that it all gets perilously close to crossing the line to full-on gore/torture porn. I’m not a fan of realistic or “realistic” gore in general, so I don’t much care for the MKX Fatalities. That’s not to say you shouldn’t like them or anything like that, not at all. I just generally prefer my Mortal Kombat as janky old digitized fighters punching each other’s heads off or exploding into multiple skulls and rib cages while bright red blood pixels fly across the screen.
This brings us rather neatly to one of the major additions (or returning features, I suppose) to Mortal Kombat X. Fatalities are no longer the only way to end a match in violent fashion, because Brutalities have been reintroduced. However, you should forget about the old dial-a-combo Brutalities from Mortal Kombat Trilogy, because MKX Brutalities bear no resemblance to those in the slightest.
Instead of canned combos you perform after the match to blow up your opponent, the Brutalities in MKX are extra gory variations of certain special moves. A Brutality is triggered by using one of these moves as the finishing blow in the final round when the opponent is at low health and certain conditions are met, and I generally prefer doing them instead of Fatalities because they are simply so much quicker. No lengthy animations and cinematic cameras, just one fatal blow to end the match.
Another alternative to the regular Fatalities comes in the form of the new Faction Kills. These are more similar to the normal Fatalities than the Brutalities, and are based on the Faction your profile is affiliated with (Lin Kuei, Brotherhood of Shadow, Black Dragon, Special Forces, White Lotus). The Factions system itself is a continuous online mode where players choose a faction and earn various rewards by completing challenges such as winning fights, performing combos, and so on, and new Faction Kills can be unlocked by ranking up.
Speaking of online, the last new finishing move introduced in Mortal Kombat X is the Quitality. Basically, if you rage-quit an online match before the “Finish Him” prompt comes up, your character’s head explodes. Rage-quitting has been a major problem in fighting games over the years and the Quitality is Netherrealm’s way of trying to do something about it, although from what I can tell it hasn’t helped all that much.
How about the other gameplay changes and additions, then? Well, first of all, the stages are more interactive than before, as you can now clobber your opponent with various objects scattered around (or, say, throw an old lady at the opponent). Stage interactions were introduced in Injustice and work in similar fashion here. They are also one of the things that deplete the stamina meter (returning from MK3/4), along with running (also returning from those games), backdashing, combo breakers, and certain special techniques. Just like in MK 2011, there is a super meter for enhanced EX moves and massively damaging X-Ray attacks.
More importantly, each of the 33 playable characters (24 at launch, 9 DLC) now comes in three Character Variations. On paper, these variations may sound like the half-assed fighting styles from the PS2-era games, but they are very different and the choice between them (selected before the fight, can’t be swapped during) genuinely changes the way the character functions. For example, Sub-Zero’s Cryomancer variation is capable of creating ice weapons and using them in the fight, the Unbreakable variation gains extra defense abilities, and the Grandmaster variation lets you create an ice clone that can be thrown at the enemy or used as a shield.
Each variation also alters the character’s appearance slightly, generally by changing certain colors of their attire or adding different visual effects such as Scorpion’s arms being covered by a flame aura in the Hellfire variation. Probably the most interesting use of the variation system is Triborg, a DLC character added in the second Kombat Pack. Each of his variations is completely different and gives him the moves and appearance of either Sektor, Cyrax, or Smoke. Cyber Sub-Zero from MK 2011 is also available as a hidden variation.
Mortal Kombat X offers a variety of modes for single and multiplayer, with the usual single match and versus (no more tag team mode) and training modes accounted for, as well as online matches. Test Your Might and Test Your Luck make a return, and the Towers mode features challenge towers with various gimmicks along with the regular arcade ladder. The Living Towers mode offers a variety of extra-special challenges which are updated regularly. At the moment, there is an Easter-themed premier tower available, with a giant bunny stomping around in the menu background and looking murderous.
The Krypt makes its return and is once again the main method for unlocking content such as alternate costumes and fatalities. This time, it is basically a roguelike where you collect various items to solve simple puzzles and progress deeper into the Krypt, and of course there are plenty of jump scares along the way because everyone liked the Flesh Pits Mutant from the last game’s Krypt so much. You can also pay 20 dollars or your local equivalent to unlock everything in the Krypt if you so desire, but why on earth would you do that?
Of course, when it comes to single player, the main draw here is the story mode. Like previous story modes in Netherrealm games starting with MK vs. DC Universe, the story mode in Mortal Kombat X is divided into chapters. There are 12 chapters in total, each of them containing four fights and featuring a different playable character (as before, this means you always switch characters just as you’re getting used to the one you’re playing as, so prepare to look at the move list a lot if you haven’t already spent plenty of time with each character beforehand).
Some jerk also decided to add quick time events to the mix, including a surprise Fatality input at one point (I swear to the Elder Gods I hit that input…). Failing the QTEs doesn’t kill you or anything like that, you just might start the next fight with less health or something to that effect. The difficulty of the actual fights can be adjusted, although just like in the previous game there is a certain level of adaptive difficulty here. The fights start to get harder if you keep winning, and easier if you’re having trouble.
The story is not exactly high art, but there are plenty of fun and even touching moments, and the overall themes and tone are surprisingly positive considering this is Mortal Kombat. More than anything else, this is a story about family and friendship. (“Friendship? Again?!”)
While most of the story of Mortal Kombat X takes place more than 20 years after the events of the previous game, the first chapter of the story mode is set two years after Mortal Kombat 2011. At the end of that game, things did not exactly go to plan for the good guys. Yes, Shao Kahn was eventually defeated by Raiden and Armageddon was prevented, but the victory came at a dreadful cost. All of the heroes except Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade were killed (mostly by Sindel) and later resurrected as undead revenants by Quan Chi, who was secretly working for the fallen Elder God Shinnok.
As it turns out, Shinnok was manipulating the events behind the scenes all along. With Shao Kahn out of the way and the Earthrealm forces severely weakened, Shinnok attacks Earthrealm but is eventually defeated by Raiden, Fujin, Cage, and Sonya and trapped inside his amulet.
25 years later (the first cutscene in the story mode after the time skip clearly says “Twenty years later”, but 25 years is mentioned in character bios and makes more sense in terms of the events), Shinnok is still imprisoned within the amulet. However, Quan Chi and other servants of the fallen Elder God are working to free their master and prepare to attack Earthrealm once again.
Earthrealm and Outworld have signed a peace treaty known as the Reiko Accords and aren’t bothering each other, although something is rotten in the realm of Outworld as Mileena (who at this point is the sole heir to Shao Kahn, as Princess Kitana and Queen Sindel are currently… indisposed) is attempting to usurp the throne of current emperor Kotal Kahn and leading a bloody rebellion against him.
The alarming part of all this is the fact Mileena seems to be in possession of Shinnok’s amulet, not only because Mileena is insane and evil but also because the Reiko Accords state Earthrealm is supposed to protect the amulet. In order to avoid an interdimensional incident or worse, the Special Forces send out a team of young kombatants led by one Sgt. Cassandra Cage to Outworld to investigate the situation and retrieve the amulet.
As the bulk of Mortal Kombat X‘s story takes place many years after the events of the previous game, the cast features several new faces (eight in total, not counting DLC characters) alongside old favorites. Now, if I decided to include detailed story and gameplay bios for 33 characters that each have three distinct variations (four in some cases), we’d be here until the release of Mortal Kombat XX. So, what I’m going to do instead is write something about the characters that are the most relevant to the plot.
Through the power of love, friendship, and the ancient Mediterranean warrior cult he descends from, the former Hollywood star turned Earthrealm hero defeats Shinnok and plays the role of his lifetime in helping Raiden seal away the fallen Elder God. Some time after this, Johnny and Sonya get married and have a daughter named Cassie, but the marital bliss doesn’t last as Sonya gets more and more absorbed in her work as a general in the Special Forces. The two eventually split, and Cassie grows up to become a Special Forces sergeant under her mother’s command.
25 years after Shinnok’s defeat, Johnny (who technically isn’t an SF officer and is called “Mister Cage” by SF personnel, but I’d assume punching Shinnok in the dick and saving the world might grant you certain authority) forms a Special Forces team consisting of Cassie and three other promising young kombatants, and the story proper begins with the team’s first mission. Johnny continues to assist the Special Forces and especially his daughter throughout the storyline, always there to offer moral support and dad jokes.
Gameplay-wise, it’s Johnny Cage. For the most part, you know what to expect. Shadow Kicks, green fireballs, punches to the junk, solid all-round skillset. One of his variations allows him to send out a “stunt double” mimic, so if you thought one Johnny Cage was bad you haven’t seen anything yet. And of course, Johnny isn’t the only Cage on the roster anymore…
Special Forces Sergeant Cassandra Carlton “Cassie” Cage is part of her father’s new Special Forces squad alongside Jacqui Briggs, Takeda Takahashi, and Kung Jin. The squad is not named in-game, but some fans have taken to calling these four the “Kombat Kids” due to their young age and relations to existing MK characters.
Cassie has inherited her mother’s determination and temper as well as her dad’s penchant for bad jokes, and while she’s a capable fighter she’s also very inexperienced. She gets easily flustered in tense diplomatic situations and simply hasn’t come into her own as a leader yet, as evidenced by the fact the squad spends too much time bickering to work as a cohesive unit.
I’ll be honest — prior to the release of Mortal Kombat X, I was extremely wary about the introduction of the Kombat Kids. I was afraid this would be another situation where we end up with a bunch of bland nobodies, but thankfully that wasn’t the case and the new characters turned out to be quite fun and likable. Cassie herself is the clear standout in that respect, and I’m glad she’s sticking around for MK 11 (albeit sadly without Ashly Burch voicing her).
Depending on the variation you choose, Cassie’s fighting style can be influenced by Johnny (Hollywood) or Sonya (Spec Ops), or she can just make use of her brawling skills. Regardless of variation, she can use her own aerial version of Johnny’s shadow kick or simply shoot the opponent in the face.
Jacqueline Sonya Briggs joined the Special Forces against the will of her father Jax, not because she was pressured into it but because she volunteered to join. When Johnny Cage showed up at the Briggs farm to inform Jax about this, he ended up coming home with a broken jaw that night.
Now, you might be wondering how Jax suddenly has a daughter in her early 20s, because when we last saw Major Briggs he was one of Quan Chi’s undead revenants. That’s not exactly the kind of life situation to facilitate settling down and having kids. However, as we see in Sonya’s story mode chapter, Jax was freed from Quan Chi’s control and returned to his old self some time after Shinnok’s defeat. He retired to a farm in Texas and started a family, becoming a loving husband and father despite still being haunted by his memories of serving Quan Chi.
Jacqui doesn’t do a lot in the story mode until the penultimate chapter, but she’s always there in a support role and remains focused on the mission at all times, only losing her cool for brief moments whenever someone (usually Kung Jin) mentions her dad used to be an undead revenant.
In terms of fighting style, Jacqui is a capable boxer and uses mechanical gauntlets to augment her strength and perform powerful ground pound attacks like her dad. Depending on the variation, she can also fire different projectiles out of her gauntlets.
The young cousin of the late Kung Lao used to be a common thief, until one night he tried to steal a family heirloom from the Sky Temple and was caught by Raiden. The thunder god knew of the potential in the angry, lost youth and was able to convince him to join the Shaolin temple to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors. Jin had in fact assumed the monks wouldn’t accept a gay man such as him into their ranks, but Raiden assured him this was not an issue. A few years later, Jin has completed his training and becomes a vital albeit somewhat arrogant part of the Kombat Kids squad.
Kung Jin is not only invaluable to the squad because of his hand-to-hand and bow and arrow skills. Those are definitely useful talents to have, but Kung Jin’s also a skilled diplomat and easily the most convincing talker among the squad members. His silver tongue and wealth of knowledge even manage to impress Kotal Kahn himself. On the flip side, Jin can sometimes be rude to Jacqui in particular as he keeps making comments about her father being a former revenant, but he is not a bad person and always wants to help others even when it’s not convenient for his mission.
Overall, Jin is not necessarily the most exciting member of the Kombat Kids crew, but I do like his character and background. He’s also one of the more nimble characters on the roster, which makes him enjoyable to play as. Jin’s variations allow him to throw chakram projectiles, infuse his arrows with the power of ancestral spirits, and use a bo staff in close combat, so he has plenty of versatility to offer as well.
Ta-KEE-da Takahashi is the fourth and final Kombat Kids squad member, formerly of the Shirai RYE-oo clan. Seriously, Netherrealm, if you’re going to keep using all these foreign names I would appreciate it if you would bother pronouncing them even remotely correctly. I’m not even going to go into the fact both of this guy’s names are surnames (and the script occasionally gets confused as to which order they go in), because at least they’re actual Japanese surnames unlike, say, Hasashi.
Speaking of which, Takeda’s mentor while he was growing up in the Shirai Ryu clan was a bearded fellow named Hanzo Hasashi. If that name sounds familiar, that might be because Hanzo Hasashi’s codename in the Shirai Ryu is “Scorpion”. Last we checked, Scorpion didn’t have a beard because those don’t grow very well on skulls, so what gives? We’ll get to that soon enough, but for now all you need to know is that Scorpion is human again and, many years ago, was given the task of raising young Takeda and training him as a Shirai Ryu ninja. Throughout his time in the clan, Takeda resented his father for abandoning him to the Shirai Ryu following his mother’s death.
Takeda is actually the son of Kenshi Takahashi, the blind swordsman and telekinecist… telekinect… tel… guy with telekinetic powers we all love despite the fact he was introduced in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. When the two meet for the first time in years, Kenshi reveals he did not abandon Takeda because he wanted to, far from it. Instead, Kenshi was being targeted by Red Dragon assassins who murdered his wife, and he realized he had to do something to protect his son so he sent Takeda to the Shirai Ryu.
In the present-day storyline, Takeda largely stays in the background, although he does use his inherited telepathic abilities to free himself and the squad from jail at one point. He is also seen flirting with Jacqui from time to time although she doesn’t seem particularly interested, at least not at first.
Takeda uses plasma swords and bladed whips to great effect, and of course his attack style depends largely on the selected variation. The Shirai Ryu variation allows him to throw kunai and teleport, and also gives him a skull mask similar to Scorpion’s.
Sonya’s duties as a general of the Special Forces prevent her from taking an active kombat role in the story mode, but she is still a very capable fighter as Kano promptly discovers when he tries to infiltrate the Special Forces compound and makes the mistake of threatening her daughter. Aside from this, Sonya spends most of the present-day storyline issuing orders to people and being annoyed by her ex-husband, and most of the fights in her chapter take place in a flashback sequence which ends with her absolutely destroying Quan Chi.
Sonya plays much the same as in the previous game, although the variations add some, uh, variation by allowing her to call a combat drone or spam grenades.
Last time we saw Kuai Liang aka Sub-Zero in MK 2011, he was a cyborg and also dead, and clearly neither of these is applicable any longer. The Mortal Kombat X tie-in comic explains that Quan Chi restored Sub-Zero’s human body so he could use him for creepy undead revenant purposes (although the cyborg body seemed to work just fine for that in the previous game), and Sub-Zero finally reverted to his old self when the spell was broken by Raiden. Sub-Zero has taken on the mantle of Lin Kuei Grandmaster after killing Sektor, and the clan under his wing is now a valuable ally to the Special Forces as well as Shirai Ryu.
The first assignment of Cassie Cage’s squad is to check up on Sub-Zero to see if he’s still willing to co-operate, but things go south as the squad fails to operate as a unit and Sub-Zero beats up and captures the entire squad. Fortunately for Cassie and the others, this is soon revealed as just a test as Johnny Cage shows up and informs the squad he and Sub-Zero arranged the whole thing to see how the team would perform.
Sub-Zero plays like Sub-Zero, surprisingly enough. I already described his variations earlier.
Two years after the events of the previous game, the hell spectre is still bound to Quan Chi’s will and does the sorcerer’s bidding until he is returned to human form when Raiden frees him and fellow revenants Sub-Zero and Jax from Quan Chi’s control (maybe you could’ve restored Jax’s arms while you were at it, Raiden). Reborn as a human ninja once again, Hanzo Hasashi rebuilds the Shirai Ryu clan as a force for good, to protect Earthrealm and help those affected by the Netherrealm War.
The hellfire still burns within Hanzo Hasashi as a result of the deaths of his wife and child (whose names are inconsistent between the MKX game and the MKX comic, the latter of which calls them Kana and Jubei rather than Harumi and Satoshi) at the hands of Quan Chi, and according to him it can never be extinguished. However, the fire no longer consumes him as long as he maintains some kind of control over what is now basically a demonic split personality, and he can tap into the power of Scorpion when he needs to.
In a flashback, we see Hasashi and Kuai Liang meet up at the Lin Kuei palace for peace negotiations, with Hasashi being wary because he still believes the Lin Kuei were responsible for the deaths of his family and clan. Eventually, Sub-Zero manages to convince Hasashi that Quan Chi was behind everything and Lin Kuei played no part in the Shirai Ryu massacre, with Hasashi’s memories of the event being false images planted by Quan Chi. The former adversaries bury the hatchet and part on good terms, as Hasashi swears to hunt down Quan Chi and kill him.
If you prefer classic Scorpion over Hasashi, that is his default costume outside the story mode. Regardless of which costume you pick, the Hellfire and Inferno variations allow Scorpion to use his hellfire powers to create various fire attacks or summon demonic minions respectively, whereas the Ninjutsu variation gives him dual swords.
The thunder god really screwed up last time, didn’t he? More like God of Blunder, right? Frankly, that’s kind of unfair to the current timeline’s Raiden, because his future self didn’t give him much to work with and there was no way he could reasonably have prevented some of the disasters that occurred in the MK 2011 story unless he was reading the script. Some of the decisions he made later in the story were questionable at best, but by that point he was less a wise old god and more of a desperate man trying to stop impending doom at all costs.
In any event, Raiden is still hanging around and offering his support to the Earthrealm warriors but rarely takes direct action unless absolutely required. Of course, if you’ve seen the story trailer for Mortal Kombat 11, you know Raiden’s bumbling with the timeline has gained some unfortunate attention…
Raiden’s variations focus on boosting electrical attacks, enabling teleports (which is sort of silly because he used to be able to just… do that, but whatever), and laying electric traps. The most important thing is that he’s still got his torpedo attack and still yells gibberish when he does it.
No relation to Shao Kahn, in case you were wondering. “Kahn” is just what Outworlders call their emperor. Kotal, or Ko’atal, was originally a warrior from the Osh-Tekk race, and if you think he looks like a Mayan war god that’s understandable because in the storyline the Mayans did in fact worship him as the war god Buluc. Hang on… Osh-Tekk? Aztec? Kotal? Ko’atal? Quetzalcoatl? Huh, how about that.
Kotal assumed power shortly after Shao Kahn’s demise. Initially, Mileena took the throne as the Konqueror’s only remaining heir, but her brief reign was disastrous for Outworld so Kotal overthrew her. Kotal took the throne, and rules as a relatively benevolent and peaceful emperor who is willing to negotiate with others and compromise when needed.
Sure, in Outworld you can still get executed in public for stealing a loaf of bread, and Kotal is still proud to a fault which can lead to difficulties when dealing with him, but at least he isn’t actively trying to conquer the other realms and enslave everybody so overall he’s a fairly noticeable improvement over what they’ve had in the past. Mileena doesn’t exactly agree with this assessment, so she’s trying to get the throne back by any means necessary and causing a civil war in the process.
Kotal is not one of my favorite characters to play as. His kombat style is heavily focused on parries or buffing himself with sun rays or blood magic totems depending on the variation you’re using, and as I prefer a straightforward and aggressive approach (often to my own detriment) I just can’t get to grips with Kotal at all.
D’Vorah is a Kytinn (pronounced “chitin”, naturally), a sentient insect colony living inside a humanoid body. That is the polite way of putting it. Personally, I prefer “nightmarish abomination that must be destroyed with copious amounts of fire” but that’s just my opinion.
Despite being obviously horrifying in every single way imaginable, D’Vorah is Kotal Kahn’s most trusted advisor. She helps protect the emperor alongside Ermac, Reptile, Ferra/Torr (a little girl riding on the back of a big hulking brute), and Erron “John Marston in a silly mask” Black, an anachronistic gunslinger who was rewarded with an incredibly long lifespan by Shao Kahn when he assassinated Earthrealm’s top Mortal Kombat contender back in the 1800s (and is cool because he’s a cowboy fighting ninjas and monsters and isn’t a goddamn horror show). Since D’Vorah is easily the most intelligent and cunning of this bunch of misfits, she gets to be Kotal’s right-hand woman and be part of all the important decisions.
As you might expect from a lady who is quite literally a walking and occasionally hovering nest of deadly and horrible bugs, D’Vorah has a variety of insect-based attacks and they’re all incredibly creepy and horrible and gross and I don’t like them, and just wait until you see her Fatalities. She is voiced by Kelly Hu, so at least there’s that. But still, though. Ewwww.
Compared to D’Vorah, good old Mileena is downright pleasant despite the fact she does terrible, awful things in her Fatalities and is generally a psychotic monster. Her visual design has changed a lot from the previous game, as she seems to have found some clothing and her face under the veil now looks very different as well:
I’ve already talked at length about the Outworld civil war so I’m not going to repeat myself too much. Mileena wants to be the empress (“Kahnum”) once more, and is assisted in her bid for the throne by Tanya, Rain, Baraka, and Kano. I have to say, Kotal’s side definitely has the more competent goons. Maybe that’s why he’s the emperor.
Mileena is still incredibly fast and agile regardless of which variation you select, and remains my favorite character to play as. Unfortunately, she’s not on the main roster of Mortal Kombat 11, so I guess I’m going to have find a new main. Not that it really matters whom I choose to play as because I’m crap at these games, but I just really liked playing as Mileena ever since Mortal Kombat II and I’m sad she’s not in the new game.
The Netherrealm demon turned necromancer still serves Shinnok and is a massive jerk as usual. While in a weakened state following the Netherrealm War, Quan Chi remains a force to be reckoned with and continues to work on freeing his master from his imprisonment within the amulet. Jax, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero were freed from the sorcerer’s control by Raiden, but Quan Chi has several more revenants doing his bidding, including Liu Kang, Kitana, and Kung Lao whose non-canon human forms also appear as playable characters.
Quan Chi still has his cheesy green skull fireballs and teleports, and one of his variations also allows him to summon a Netherrealm bat to pester the opponent.
The big boss. The fallen Elder God. Giant skeleton hand enthusiast. The would-be ruler of all the realms, until he suffered defeat at the hands of Johnny Cage and was sealed away inside his amulet. Still, Shinnok feels it is only a matter of time until he is free again…
In the original release, Shinnok had to be unlocked as a playable character by completing the story mode. Mortal Kombat XL has him available from the start, although you still get the “Shinnok unlocked!” screen after finishing the story. His variations allow him to steal the opponent’s special moves, do all kinds of fun and exciting things with giant skeleton hands, or conjure skeletal weapons. Of course, he can always toss magical fireballs at you either horizontally or vertically, just like Shang Tsung before him.
Beating Shinnok is not especially difficult. He is at least more of a challenge than he was in Mortal Kombat 4, but defeating regular old Shinnok is just the beginning and the fun starts after that. Enter Shinnok’s final form, Corrupted Shinnok.
Corrupted Shinnok is a Mortal Kombat final boss. He is extremely powerful and surprisingly agile, and has all kinds of nasty tricks at his perusal including a horizontal beam attack that takes up the entire screen. He’s also got a ludicrously strong X-Ray attack, and to cap things off he really enjoys finishing the player off with a Fatality that is so long and drawn out that it would be comical if it wasn’t so annoying to sit through the animation every time you lose to this jerk.
He’s not as difficult as Shao Kahn who was a complete pain in the ass even on the lowest difficulty, but Corrupted Shinnok still puts up a fight and is worthy of his final boss status.
Mortal Kombat X received character DLC in the form of Kombat Packs 1 and 2. The first Pack contained Tremor in his proper fighting game debut, Tanya (who appears in the story mode but wasn’t playable at launch), and two guest characters. As Warner Bros. owns Mortal Kombat nowadays, Netherrealm is able to use various film characters as guests, and that is exactly what happened here. The first two MKX guest characters were none other than Jason Voorhees and the Predator.
Both of these characters are incredibly well implemented, with different variations just like the regular cast, and there are numerous small touches that show Netherrealm did their homework. The same applies to the other two guest characters added in Kombat Pack 2 — Alien and Leatherface.
The other characters in Kombat Pack 2 are Goro (originally a pre-order bonus), the aforementioned Triborg and… *checks notes* …Bo’ Rai Cho? Seriously? They expected us to pay money to play as that useless bum? I know he appears in the story mode already, but so do several characters people might actually care about.
Really, the MK side of these Kombat Packs is kind of lackluster in general. Tanya? Tremor? Bo’ Rai goddamn Cho? At least Triborg is kind of cool, but how about giving us Smoke (who is now calling himself Enenra for some reason, possibly some sort of belated teenage goth phase) or Kabal or any of the revenant crew instead of a bunch of jobbers? Hell, even Stryker is cool now, put him in there!
I suppose the horror movie guest stars were the main draw here, which brings me to my main complaint about the MKX character DLC. Namely, why did we get a bunch of movie characters as DLC instead of actual MK characters? I appreciate the effort that went into these guest characters, but like I said when I talked about Freddy Krueger in MK 2011, Mortal Kombat already has a memorable and diverse cast and we don’t need all these guests to pad out the roster. I certainly never asked for them, although I get the appeal of Leatherface fighting the Alien or Predator fighting Jason.
Mortal Kombat X is an excellent game and the XL release is the obvious choice if you want to jump in, but which version is the best? On the console front, the PlayStation 4 offers the superior experience at least from a technical standpoint, as that version runs at a full 1080p and 60 frames per second, except during cutscenes, X-Rays, and Fatalities which are all capped at 30 fps on all systems. Controls-wise, I’m not a big fan of the DualShock directional pad for fighting games, but your mileage may vary and of course there are plenty of alternative controller options available on the PS4.
As indicated by Digital Foundry’s analysis back in 2015, the Xbox One version drops the horizontal resolution to about 1360 pixels (unless it has been changed in a patch somewhere down the line) so the visuals are somewhat blurrier, but unless you’re doing a side-by-side comparison you probably won’t care a whole lot. The Xbox One release was also more prone to small frame rate drops at launch, but I don’t know if that is still the case and even if it is, you can at least power through any performance issues on the Xbox One X.
Then there’s the PC port. Ah yes, the PC port. The initial PC release was outsourced by WB to High Voltage Software, who in true thunder god fashion bungled the whole thing spectacularly, with severe frame rate issues and other technical problems all over the place. The PC release of Kombat Pack 2 was canceled and WB dropped support for this version of the game in short order. Between this and the woeful port of Batman: Arkham Knight, 2015 was not a good year for WB games on PC.
Fortunately for PC users, Mortal Kombat XL was eventually ported by Polish developer QLoc who as far as I know did a better job than their predecessor — albeit still not perfect from what I’ve seen. I haven’t played the PC version of MKXL so I don’t know how well it actually runs, but I’ve seen gameplay videos where the frame rate tanks for seemingly no reason.
That brings us to the end of the Mortal Kombat Retrospektive for now. Of course, with Mortal Kombat 11 only days away, this is not going to be the actual end of the feature by any means. I may wait a year or two before I write this sort of mammoth article about MK 11, because I want to cover the game in its complete form or at least as close to that as possible, but I’m sure I will get to that at some point.
Next: Time shenanigans of some description