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Mortal Kombat X hands-on preview: Kombat refined

Hayden Dingman | Feb. 9, 2015
Mortal Kombat X refines Mortal Kombat's reboot of the storied, spine-ripping franchise.

raiden scorpion mk x

Mortal Kombat hands-on:

There's something about Mortal Kombat. I've stopped playing--or at least stopped really caring--about most other fighting games. Street Fighter V? I'm excited for you fans! Smash Bros? I'll play it when friends are around. Tekken? I don't even know.

But Mortal Kombat. Something about it immediately brings me back--to birthdays spent in arcades, to long days spent at my childhood hockey rink with the Mortal Kombat 3 cabinet tucked into the corner, to playing some of the... lesser Mortal Kombat entries on PS2.

I pick up the controller. I choose Scorpion. I rip a few spines out. I'm back.

Earlier this week I played Mortal Kombat X, the follow-up to 2011's (excellent) Mortal Kombat (hereafter referred to as Mortal Kombat IX for clarity), which was basically developer NetherRealm's "Let's throw out all this bloated garbage the series has accumulated over the last two decades and just make a good Mortal Kombat game again."

You can't reboot twice, though. The challenge with Mortal Kombat X is to sell people on an expanded Mortal Kombat canon, without falling into some of the same traps as Mortal Kombat 4 through Armageddon.

No pressure or anything, NetherRealm!

I played the game earlier this week. Here's what I took away from my hour of time.

On Mortal Kombat X
If you're anticipating huge changes from Mortal Kombat IX, I think you'd best temper those expectations. X feels like IX, but refined.

The biggest change is on the roster side. Each character now comes in three variants--for instance the Ninjitsu Scorpion iteration wields dual swords so you have a bit more reach, Inferno Scorpion can throw a demon at opponents, and the Hellfire Scorpion has extra fire-based attacks.

Some players won't notice the difference beyond "Oh, cool, three Scorpions." NetherRealm says the change came as a result of high-level play though. "What we found in our past games is that a lot of players, even the competitive ones, sort of gravitate towards a favorite [character] but that favorite might not always be a great match-up for you," said NetherRealm's Brian Goodman. Now we've given you a system where you stick with your favorite character, but we're giving you an option to choose a different style of play depending on the match-up."

With this new system, people who mostly play one character can still choose the best variant of said character to take on any challenge. Ninety percent of the moveset will be the same--"Scorpion will still play like Scorpion," as Goodman said to me--but you'll have some new advantages and disadvantages. Also, X-Ray moves and fatalities carry across all three variants.


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