Mortal Kombat X is so violent it makes any Quentin Tarantino movie look like an episode of My Little Pony. Mortal Kombat X has so much gore it makes Ichi the Killer look like Garfield the movie. Mortal Kombat X is so crazy to play it makes even the most psychotic GTA player look as if they are playing the Apples to Apples Bible edition. Do you understand what I am telling you? Good, because I’m going to keep beating it like so many other things in my life, violently and ruthlessly. I was apprehensive about buying this game; I generally don’t get a lot of mileage out of fighting games. I don’t feel a need to sacrifice a large chunk of my life to memorize the complete move set of a single character. I enjoy being able to move around and change partners, like the worlds nerdiest swinger. What I do not like however is getting the crap kicked out of me by someone who only ever uses the same two or three characters, also much like the worlds nerdiest swinger. I still have nightmares of the last Mortal Kombat as well, a game that left me so confused and frustrated for the little it offered I’m lucky to still have the disc in one piece.

Of course Fatalities are back, they are the corner stone of the entire franchise. What would a mortal kombat game be without some insane level of over the top slaughter? Not only that but fatalities have been revamped and really show off that big game graphics budget. You can really make out the brain matter and gore as you tear a person in half. I’d love to see a parent group try to fight this game. ‘This game made your kid summon hell spawn and drag his friend to hell you say? Well of course it must be the games fault.’ While some fatalities are fairly generic there are some that really stand out and make you want to watch them again and again. For me it was Johnny Cage’s ‘Here’s Johnny’ Fatality. Watching him tear someone open to quote the Shining almost perfectly, had me laughing for ages.

Fatalities are back and bigger than ever, so how is the rest of gameplay? Well I feel like characters are a lot more balanced this time around. Just because I chose a certain character I didn’t feel like it was impossible to beat a certain other character anymore. Except of course for Kano, whether I was playing the AI or online it turned into a game of ‘stop Kano from flying around like Samus on LSD.’ I would have said ‘Sonic on crack’ but after his recent design change I refuse to acknowledge his existence in any form later than the Sega CD era. Even the bosses are actually manageable this time. Unlike the last mortal kombat where Shao Kahn took hours of frustrated tears to beat because he was so overpowered and had no buffers. Like the Big Show fighting Wee Man.

Not only that but each character has three different forms to choose from, each modifying the characters attacks in some way. Take Scorpion for instance, the poster boy of the entire franchise now. His three forms have him using dual katanas, fire attacks or hellish hands from the Netherrealm. Regardless of which you choose it doesn’t leave a huge impact but it can force the player and opponent to rethink strategy in a fundamental way. The base attacks stay virtually the same but depending on the form chosen it can change the more powerful moves. It can also change the character design in a minimal way, such as Erron Black who can carry a sword, rifle or nothing depending on the form chosen. Remembering all of the different move sets is still sort of a pain for someone who doesn’t spend all of their waking moments playing as the same character. I like to be able to play as whatever character I want without having to look at his move list every minute and get my ass kicked by a kid just slapping all the buttons.

I also like how there is actually some variety to the characters in this game. My main problem with most non-anime style fighting games is that all the playable characters look like the same dude in different clothes. The last Mortal Kombat also had this problem, where most of the characters were just buff dudes, robots or chicks with giant jugs… not that I’m complaining. There are still plenty of buff dudes and jugs to go around but there is some variety. Like D’Vorah, a bug woman, thankfully without big jugs, who fights with pincers and smaller bugs. Then there is Ferra/Torr which is definitely original but I’m at a lost as to what it is. A character made up of two things, a small armor covered female and a giant hulk of a male and neither seem very happy or sane. At first I honestly thought they were a couple but when I considered how they would mate I found that idea infeasible, even if everything isn’t anatomically correct. Then I considered the parent child approach but after seeing how Torr throws Ferra around like a weapon it seemed less feasible. After seeing the character ending though it was revealed that the species just works like that, with the little person replacing the bigger after a while. If they are the last pair though, then where did Ferra’s little person come from? Can they just put any kid up there and they will absorb gigantism?

Besides fatalities which are pretty awesome there are the brutalities, most of which are just more fatal types of regular moves that have multiple requirements. Each character has a number of brutalities to choose from but most have multiple requirements and become more inconvenient to use than anything. Usually when I do perform a brutality it is by accident because I just happened to meet those certain requirements. The other annoying part is that you have to unlock most brutalities and extra fatalities in the Krypt, a semi-interactive time sink where you can spend koins you in earn in fights on unlockable content. There are plenty of other things to unlock as well with small quick time events popping up here and there to either maul you or provide more koins. There was something similar to the krypt in the last Mortal Kombat, except it was mostly just a large flat map with various torture devices on it.

There are a variety of other single player modes as well. The Towers are back of course and in a much wider variety beyond klassic. One I did for the trophy and will probably never touch again is the ‘test your strength’ where you have to shatter increasingly difficult items. By the last two rounds I was honestly afraid I was going to break my control pounding on the buttons if my arm didn’t give out first. There is also the new ‘living towers’ mode, a semi-online tower challenge where you have three towers with various modifiers that changes every hour. While modifiers can mix up gameplay after plenty of regular fights and keep it fresh they can become cumbersome in tower. While the living towers are generally shorter the modifier gets more severe as you get higher. For instance when I first started the modifier ‘slippery when wet’ water would fall on you and cause a short stagger. It became frustrating because by the time I reached the top of the tower water was falling like a downpour; I could barely start a combo without getting staggered. This only becomes a problem though when it makes the game more difficult to play than should be. A perfect example is a match where I was Ferra/Torr and the AI was Kano. It was damn hard to beat, even on easy, because I lost health for jumping, running and crouching. All Kano had to do was his spin move constantly and I could barely get near him.

The other new mode is ‘Faction Play’, another semi-online mode that has you choose one of five groups to join when you first start. A cross platform mode that never really ends until the internet stops working; it does little more than collect player data. An interesting idea with no real purpose that falls just short. Each of these groups represents the different factions in the game, like the ninjas, mercenaries, Special Forces and so on. There is really no point to adding this mode though beyond including a kind of token RPG element to the game in the form of a levelling system. Not only do you have a personal level but you can gain levels for whatever faction you are part of.

Since the faction level maxes out at 50 and resets whenever you switch factions though it makes it seem even more meaningless. The only real point to the faction system is that every player with an internet connection is also tied to that faction and everyone can earn points by doing whatever for that faction. So the more you play the more likely your faction will win and you will be rewarded koins. In the first three days I earned some thousands of koins just because I was in the winning faction. However, after I maxed out in the Lin Kuei I switched to the Black Dragon which is in last place. Which raises the question, what the hell is stopping people from just jumping ship and joining the largest faction? It’s a good metaphor for life I suppose, how people will bail and join the better group as soon as possible but it kind of skews the game in this case. If koins are the only prize though then what does it really matter? With the right upgrades to your name plate you could get the same amount of koins in only a few fights. I noticed in every characters move list there is a faction fatality as well but I could never seem to use it. I’m still not sure if it is locked or if only certain characters can use certain faction fatalities but I never really cared enough to find out, I was doing fine mutilating people without it thanks.

There is also a multiplayer mode, something any fighting game should have without question. It has the same basic set up as single player; you have versus, the King of the Hill, tower and so on. I spent some time in multiplayer and found a definite pattern though. In the few King of the Hill sessions I joined it was usually about half a dozen moderate players and then some guy with like a hundred wins at the top, I tried tower and ran into a similar problem. When I played versus though it was kind of up in the air if I was challenged by someone way above or below me, as an all-around gamer I am aware a real mortal kombat player will destroy me. That does not mean I want the game to throw me slow pitches all night though, even if it does give me a sense of smug superiority to put the crying children in their rightful places.

For all the time I spent in multiplayer though I never really played that many matches. It didn’t take long for me to realize it was because the match making time was so insanely long. I spent over 12 minutes at one point just waiting to join a King of the Hill session, let alone my turn to actually get my ass kicked. Even when searching for a one on one fight it took forever to find another person. What I could never figure out was whether this was because no one was playing online or if it was just that slow. Either way it seemed like a huge problem. While working for the platinum on this game I noticed that one of the trophies said to play 200 online matches. I was glad it wasn’t something crazy like 200 wins but when wait times to even join a session are about 10 minutes and most opponents get frustrated and leave after three matches that could take a very long time. Personally, I generally dislike playing with random people because it usually turns out to be some kid, who shouldn’t have the game, belting out racial slurs like it’s going out of style. When I have to wait that much longer just to get into a match though, it really reminds me why I generally ignore multiplayer.

Story in a fighting game is also generally trivial and there isn’t much exception for Mortal Kombat X. Blank gets in a fight with blank because blank ‘mortally’ wounded blank with a blank. Then blank was able to sum up the strength needed to defeat blank and retrieve the blank. Miraculously blank survived and blank and blank lived happily ever after, again put the Tarantino spin on this and you have the plot to mortal kombat X. Credit where it’s due though, while the entire plot is predictable from the word go it is still rather interesting to watch. Although the way it jumps back and forth through time is a little disorienting. The only part of the plot that wasn’t entirely predictable was the ending. I don’t want to spoil it but the ending was the only point where I thought ‘Shit just got real!’. It makes far more sense in this game than the last mortal kombat. Last time characters would start fighting over the most trivial things and then the game would just have you switch back and forth between them. This time however you start a chapter with a new character and stay that character, nice and simple.

The graphics are also exceptional, when I smash someone in the face with a metal pipe or something you can really see the inertia as their face takes the blow. Characters also show the damage they accumulate as the fight goes on, while not realistic in regards to the attacks they take, it is still an intriguing feature. Stage backgrounds are also varied to a degree but they all look very nice and really grab the player’s attention. I particularly like the boat stage, mainly because I can just wait around for a rotting corpse to wash up and smack my opponent with it. The problem is that there are not that many of them. When I played the latest smash I felt like there were as many stages as characters. The game makes up for this with interactive stage pieces though. Unlike in Injustice where some matches just turned into ‘wait for the interactive weapon to re-spawn’ these items can only be used once during the entire fight. Besides the usual items there are a few interesting interactive items, like the first time I tossed an old lady at my opponent and was even rewarded with a trophy for it.

Mortal Kombat X is another fighting game, albeit an exceptional and extremely well balanced fighting game, the likes of which I haven’t seen in years. I avoided this game because I didn’t want to like it; I still feel the sting of the last Mortal Kombat game where it implanted itself firmly in my ass. The draw of mad slaughter house style violence and ninja fighting was just too strong a draw though. I have to assume many people still by games like this mainly for nostalgia, something I never understood but then again I was a sheltered child…in a cave… in the middle of nowhere. Only adults would be old enough to remember the good old days, a time when Mortal Kombat gleamed red with blood in a pale landscape. Mortal Kombat X has added new life to the series though, fixing what was broken and improving on what they had. As far as fighting games go this is as good as it is going to get it seems. I suggest everyone should try it at least once, go ahead and slap away at the controller. Unless of course you dislike blood in which case you probably shouldn’t.