“Ugh, that’s gross. Show me more.”
So said my eight-year-old son, upon watching a recent trailer for Mortal Kombat X. It’s a sentiment we can all share, and which has underpinned this fighting franchise for the past two decades.
Bone, skull, sinew and spine are all flayed and arrayed in this celebration of human anatomy under the crunch. It’s a series of terrific visual jokes, all of which nudge you in the ribs, chortling and enquiring evilly, “too much?”
Nah. It’s never too much. We can’t get enough.
“Finish Him” (or her) is the rallying cry of a generation or two who have been raised to believe that, when done just right, blood, gore, violence and brutality can be really, really funny.
Mortal Kombat X delivers a never ending buffet of visual treats, whether it be face-melting fire attacks or buzz-saws through the gut or oof-inducing groinal assaults. From there, it just goes downhill.
I played for an hour, with a representative of developer NetherRealm and he kindly allowed me to sample plenty of special moves, X-rays and Fatalities. It goes like this: Character A launches an attack on Character B which results in some variant on the theme of amusing dismemberment.
If you’ve been following this game you probably already know that the new-gen Mortal Kombat is sticking pretty closely to the formula that has served it well for so many years, and that delivered on the outstanding reboot, Mortal Kombat, in 2011.
NetherRealm has since bolstered its reputation with superhero brawler Injustice: Gods Among Us. There’s a theme that ties all these games, which is solid fighting mechanics, a deep respect for lore and a desire to offer supplementary combat goodies, such as use of environments.
We can be reasonably confident that this fighting game won’t do too much that is surprisingly disappointing. The question is more, what will the game do that is new and different?
The big play, as revealed at E3 last year, is that each character will come with three playing styles, which are basically pre-game pre-cut loadouts. This adds an element of personalization and variety to proceedings.
NetherRealm’s other thing is all about getting people to continue playing the game once the novelty of all those grisly animations has worn through. For single players, the game, which arrives on April 14, provides “The Living Towers,” an updated version of 2011’s “Challenge Towers.”
Instead of a fairly static set of challenges, it will offer new towers as a rolling schedule of events. Some will be simple and short, others will be more complex, and tied into special events, like a holiday. Each one is basically a series of fights, often with extra obstacles thrown in (deadly lightning bolts, falling bombs, instantly appearing lava puddles) sometimes introduced en masse.
There’s also a massive meta game called Faction War. You don’t have to participate in this, and if you decline, the game doesn’t punish you in any way. Basically, you join one of five Mortal Kombat factions (White Lotus, Special Forces, etc.) and everything you do contributes to a global, pan-platform weekly contest between the factions.
Members of the winning faction receive bonuses and treats such as cosmetics, finishing moves and such, just for so long as they are champs. There are also more permanent bonuses to be picked up for individual players.
Rival clans can indulge in five-on-five team battles (five separate one-on-one games within a contest structure) which may or may not be faction-based. Or you can simply join one randomly.
All this is designed to encourage social activity and to get people playing the game either together, or alone or against one another. This is pretty standard fare for the socially connected age of Xbox One and PlayStation 4. At this point, NetherRealm are keeping mum on plans for straight-up competitive play.
So far, this is looking like a quick and smooth fighting game that’s simple to play, while offering depth for more dedicated fans. There are tons of visual treats and sideshows to keep everyone amused. As my playing partner at NetherRealm said, “this tech means there’s really no restriction on what we can do.”
This was just before he ripped my head off, reached inside my rib cage, plucked out my heart and juiced it all over his face. Nice.