Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and NetherRealm Studios have announced the newest installment in their legendary fighting game franchise – Mortal Kombat X. Ed Boon, Co-Creator of Mortal Kombat and Creative Director at NetherRealm Studios, has been teasing the game through various cryptic tweets for the past month. Yesterday’s reveal presented us with an almost two-minute-long stylish trailer, giving us a first glimpse of what to expect, and while some questions have finally been answered, the remaining and most crucial ones haven’t. Yet…
What has been apparent from the start though, as the updated logo and new tag line “Who’s Next?” initially emerged, was that this latest entry will be far different from the previous ones on numerous levels. Just by looking at the old and updated logo side by side, one can tell that change is imminent and that this Mortal Kombat title will mark the beginning of a new direction for the franchise. A new era.
Where will this new direction take us? Into the next generation. Literally. Mortal Kombat X will be the first title in the series to come out for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles and at the same time one of the first, if not first, major fighting games to be released on both. It was probably bound to happen and with every minute expectations are growing. The fact that Mortal Kombat X was trending on Twitter, in just a few hours discussed in over 9000 tweets, along with the trailer getting over two million views, speaks for itself.
This brings us to the obvious question – can the new installment meet these expectations? And most importantly – can it surpass them? Ed Boon and his team at NetherRealm Studios (previously Midway Games) have a pretty good track record and are after all the ones who came up with the series in the first place. Not to mention how critically acclaimed and successful was the last Mortal Kombat game from 2011, which brought the series back to life. That alone should be enough of an assurance that development is in the right hands and that players and fans alike can look forward to something truly special. Something out of this world. But can the team, after more than twenty years of deadly combat, still surprise us? And if so, how?
The very first thing the aforementioned trailer showcases very well is the technical aspect of the game. Mortal Kombat X simply looks and sounds stunning. The character models are more detailed than ever and the environment is as gorgeous as it can get. Just take a look at the screenshots below. Beautiful, right? There’s one catch though. This likely isn’t in-game footage. Rather, in-engine footage showcasing various gameplay features. Either way, it’s impressive. Speaking of engines, according to the press release, Mortal Kombat X is said to be using a brand new one. Considering the game from 2011 was powered by Epic’s Unreal Engine 3, it is somewhat safe to assume this one is running on their latest Unreal Engine 4 – which as of right now not many titles are and that’s another reason why the upcoming Mortal Kombat should be so special.
If this assumption will be proven true, it will be interesting to see how the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (on which the game is going to be released as well) will handle it. Fighting games, just like racing games, tend to be fast. Therefore a low frame rate or any kind of stuttering is unacceptable. A smooth 60fps experience should be the goal. Given that the stages in Mortal Kombat aren’t so large, compared to open worlds in first person shooters, achieving this goal shouldn’t be impossible. A bigger challenge might be rendering all of the additional details the new engine will allow not only in 60fps, but also in 1080 resolution. Many of the titles that have been released on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 so far have struggled with this, either offering resolutions slightly lower or dealing with drops in frame rate. It is thus possible, and that is a big ‘if’ at this point, that the version for last-gen consoles will be running separately on the older Unreal Engine 3, like the previous game, to avoid any of these problems – being essentially the same game, only with less beautiful graphics or with less features. Or maybe this concern is totally out of the question and Ed’s team somehow managed to utilize every inch of Xbox 360’s and PS3’s hardware and bring it to its knees. Time will tell. PC players on the other hand, which too are promised to get their hands on the game, can most likely forget about any of these issues altogether as they will be limited only by the power of their own setup.
Gameplay-wise, the new engine will allow players to interact more with the surroundings and use certain objects in the world to their advantage. Players will also be able to use different weapons. On top of that, the new engine will provide players with the option to choose from multiple variations of each character, impacting both strategy and fighting style. In other words – there will be several versions of each fighter to choose from, each probably with a different set of moves and an alternate costume. And while both of these features aren’t exactly new and have made an appearance in Mortal Kombat before, X is promised to take them to a whole new level. Sidestepping, which debuted in MK4 in 1997, might be making a comeback as well, although that has yet to be denied or confirmed.
What we do know, however, is that X-Ray Moves (introduced in 2011) will be present. While back then one had to charge up the Super Meter to perform them, due to the amount of damage they caused often deciding the outcome of a match, it seems that the team took this time a slightly different approach. Perhaps a more subtle one. At least that’s what I personally am hoping for. Whatever the route, though, X-Ray Moves are now more gruesome and detailed than ever (depicting bleeding internal organs, fractured bones and whatnot) and are sure to make some people unbelievingly shake their head. We can’t begin to imagine how the new Fatalities will look like. Ed Boon tells us that when we’ll see them we will “flip our shit”. Indeed. When it comes to Fatalities, Ed is the man to trust. But can we look forward to other finishing moves as well? In 2011 Babalities made an unexpected return. Brutalities were supposed to be included too, but were left out at the last moment. Could the team find place for them now? And how about Animalities?
One of the things Mortal Kombat X promises to deliver are also new game modes. While we don’t know more than that, the information itself is more than interesting and allows for some speculation. Last time we were given three hundred challenges in The Challenge Tower. This time, who knows? We can, though, take a guess which iconic modes will be returning and which won’t. “Kreate a Fighter” in this installment wouldn’t make much sense, as players will be given multiple presets of each character, giving everyone the option to choose a style that suits them best. At the same “Kreate a Fatality” wouldn’t make much sense either. And since the team is aiming to create a darker, more serious and brutal experience, ruling out the inclusion of “Motor Kombat”, “Chess Kombat” and “Puzzle Kombat” makes sense as well. Looking at it from every angle, they simply do not fit. Needles to say, though, that a classic tournament ladder, along with a training mode are almost a given. Some type of mini-games, like the famous “Test Your Might”, are a safe bet too. As for the adventure mode “Konquest”, while I’d love to see its return, I think a “Story Mode” reminiscent of the one in MK9 is more likely. If anything, it allows for a much more cinematic presentation and that seems to be the studio’s objective. It wouldn’t feel like a Mortal Kombat game without secrets, though, and that is why we can be certain that the mysterious “Krypt” will be back in some form to reward us once again with dozens of unlockable items.
Multiplayer will likewise play a key role in the gameplay experience and should be persistent and fully-connected, with players fighting in a global battle for supremacy. If it will be fully separate from single-player is unknown, but some kind of parallel between the two wouldn’t be surprising.
The one thing that remains a true mystery, and is maybe the biggest mystery of them all, is Mortal Kombat X’s story. Mortal Kombat 9 was a retelling of the first three original games in the series. Without mentioning any spoilers, I will go out on a limb and say that X will continue where MK9 left off, while at the same time putting a little twist to it and adding elements from MK4 and even MK: Mythologies.
Characters are a big part of the series and there’s no denying fans are waiting to find out wheter their favorite will make the cut. Some of the characters are too iconic or too important to the story to ignore, some are beloved by fans for various reasons and some are simply forgettable. The trailer depicts the two main ones everybody recognizes and almost everyone loves – Scorpion and Sub-Zero. There’s no doubt these two will be playable and at the same time play an important role in the game’s story. But what about the rest of the roster? I will go out on a limb, again, and mention Shinnok and Quan-Chi. I don’t see them being playable, but I can imagine them being powerful opponents. Boss and sub-boss? Hm. I hope I haven’t said too much. Don’t want to end up decapitated or anything. Oh well. Where were we? Right, characters. Who else might return? It is reasonable to believe that regulars Raiden, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade will too be included. Liu Kang, zombie or not, should be there somewhere as well. Fujin and Kai are debatable, and so is Tanya, but to a certain degree would make sense – at least as cameos. Anyone else beyond these roughly ten characters will, in my opinion, be a real surprise. As for brand new characters, their introduction is confirmed. What isn’t, however, is their amount.
Last but not least, there is the game’s title itself – Mortal Kombat X. What does the “X” stand for? And how to properly read it? Is it X as in 10? Is it X as in unknown? Or is it both? My humble guess is both, with emphasis on the latter. This installment will take us where no Mortal Kombat fan has been before and frankly not even the creators themselves. The impression I have, from everything we have seen so far, is that they are setting it up to an open ending. A back door. Not just in terms of story, but overall. They’re likely not entirely sure where to take the franchise next, after MK X comes out, thus leaving room for a sequel or various spin-offs – depending on what the players and fans want. And that would be a smart move.
Mortal Kombat X is set to come out in 2015, likely as its predecessor in spring, for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC. It is worth noting that the use of Xbox’s Kinect sensor, for even greater interactivity and immersive gameplay, is under consideration and could make for a very unique feature if implemented correctly. MKX’s first public appearance will be next week at E3, where the studio will be showing off some gameplay, with more information soon to follow. Stay tuned and don’t forget to tell us what you’d like to see in the upcoming game in the comments!