I was very surprised today when I booted up Mortal Kombat X today. Some time after the game’s release, a version of the game came out that included all the DLC and was called Mortal Kombat XL. I thought this was a pretty cute name for an extra large version of it. Apparently, when that version was released, there was also a patch put out that changed the title of the game to Mortal Kombat XL. So, even though I haven’t bought any of the DLC, and what I have is the same as what was on X, it now says that I’m playing XL. Huh.
I bought Mortal Kombat X the day it came out. I played through the story mode and did some online matches and generally had a good time with it. It left far less of an impression on me than the previous Mortal Kombat did, as this was largely more of the same. That’s probably why I moved on so quickly, whereas MK9 took over my life for months.
Strangely, I didn’t bother with the classic arcade-style ladder mode back then. So, for the purpose of this blog post, I thought that was what I would focus on. Since it had been such a long time since I’d played, I decided to use the character I was best at, Kung Lao.
The classic ladder mode is exactly what you think it is. You start at the bottom and work your way to the top, beating different opponents at each step. It starts off pretty easy, but gets more challenging the further up you go. I played the game on the default “medium” setting, and was surprised by how not difficult it was. Even the last boss, which is usually an unfair nightmare in most fighting games, was taken out pretty easily.
The last few games from Netherrealm Studios have all controlled very nicely, and Mortal Kombat X is no exception. I’m sure there’s plenty of people who will disagree with me about this, but I never felt like the old games played very well. They were fun in how ridiculous they were, but they always felt chunky, especially when compared to Capcom’s fighting games. As a result, I didn’t really get into Mortal Kombat until Deadly Alliance, I game that I feel doesn’t get enough credit these days.
But the more modern Mortal Kombat games and Injustice: Gods Among us all feel great. The controls are tight and responsive, and performing special moves feels just right. A lot of times in fighting games, I’ll try to to pull off a move and it just won’t work and I can’t figure out why. And then it’ll work and I don’t know what I did different. This probably speaks a lot to the quality of player I am. But, that’s just not something that I ever encountered while playing this game.
A surprising amount of care was put into the presentation, even outside of story mode. Before each match, the two fighters will exchange words, and they’ll be specific dialogue for that particular match-up. It’s a really cool touch, but it does make some elements of the game feel a little strange. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be fatalities in Mortal Kombat, but it does feel weird to watch two friends talk about having a sparring match, and then watching it end with one of them cutting the other’s head in half.
That attention to detail carries over to the stages as well. In most fighting games, the stages are just for show. They might look really cool, but ultimately, there’s no difference between playing on each one. In Mortal Kombat X, you have a button that’s only purpose is to interact with the environment. There’s one stage that has a massive hammer in the background. Using the environment button, your character will pick up the hammer and use it as a one-time attack. There’s also sections that you can jump off of, allowing for quick escapes. Having the stage matter is something that kind of hurts the game from an e-sports perspective, but I think it gives it a nice bit of personality and unexpectedness.
I had a lot of fun going back to Mortal Kombat X (or XL?) today. I barely even remember what happened in the story, so that might be worth revisiting later. If you like fighting games and don’t mind really over the top violence, you should definitely check it out, or go back to it if you already have.