GDC 2015: Mortal Kombat X Hands-On Preview – A New Level of Brutality (PS4)

March 13, 2015Written by Dan Oravasaari


Violence in gaming has always been a hot topic for debate, and of course, no other game has been at the center of it as the Mortal Kombat franchise. Not only was it pegged as the series that helped usher in the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), but also one that has been used to try and pass legislation to regulate violence in video games. Now, after over 20 years, the series is back and seeking to push the envelope further with Mortal Kombat X.

After having finally gotten to get some hands-on time with the versus mode and the first chapter of its story mode, I can honestly say that I haven’t been this excited for a Mortal Kombat game in years. Besides the improved visuals making this one of the best looking games in the franchise, it really is the attention to detail that is going to push it beyond its predecessors. Unlike many other fighters that leave their combatants looking like the pristine versions of themselves throughout the whole match, NetherRealms have added in a new layered damage mechanic that shows every scrape, bruise and burn they have sustained during the match.

On top of that, instead of running through each character in the roster to keep things looking and feeling fresh, players will be able to chose one of three variations that will modify a standard base mechanic of the character, but with significant differences that can drastically change their play style. The example given was Kitana who can either use her fans in a defensive capacity, one that is ‘jumpy’ and one that uses Jade’s staff. Changes like the one that add the staff also surround a bit of the game’s lore by including either character backgrounds, or even who they have associated with in the past. But most importantly, players who have favorite characters will not need to draft in someone simply to fill in the time, they can master the variations for their favorite fighter, or even find something they like about a less-than-favored character.


Fans of the tower, which lets players play through a playlist of opponents but with certain victory conditions or challenges, will be making a return in Mortal Kombat X, but in the form of the Living Towers. A dynamic set of towers that can be live updated directly from NetherRealm studios that will constantly be changing what players will be faced with. Some of the events mentioned were story-based fights, holiday events, or just about anything else they could think of that could last minutes, days or even years. These fights will give you reputation for your faction, which you choose at the beginning of the game and eventually grow and unlock more items for leveling it up as you either play on a console, or on the new mobile game.

One of the biggest changes, and one that I am the most excited about, is the new story mode. Instead of simply running through a fight, MKX‘s story mode plays out in an almost cinematic style. Using great voice acting and animation, the story elements play out very much like a TV series, going from episode to episode. Episode one surrounded Johnny Cage, who is attacked while on a chopper, but instead of jumping into the fight, or just watching, a number of QTEs will dictate the fight, but not derail the story. Eventually, as is expected, the story will fall into a one-on-one fight, and continue once you beat your opponent.

It does need to be said that a number of unannounced characters did make an appearance early on in the story mode, but only in a non-gameplay capacity.

Now, the part that I think most people will care about the most, the combat. Having not been a fan of the last few Mortal Kombat games, I found it quite surprising how much I enjoyed the fighting system in MKX. Moving much faster than in previous games, as well as not being nearly as awkward in controls as Injustice, I was able to figure out combinations, combos and moves within a few matches. Many things that fans of the series will remember are still there, but with enough new combat choices to get players to start thinking beyond what they used to know.

Describing the combat in depth would be difficult, as with just about any fighting game, especially off of just a short hands-on with it. But, it does offer a number of interesting features such as combo breakers, X-ray moves and everything that has been expected from the series. The most stand out thing that was for me has to have been the fatalities, while we have seen some brutal actions in the past, the improved visuals mixed and a raised bar does make this feel like the most brutal title we have seen to date. Gamers that usually feel uneasy around graphic violence may want to approach with caution as always for a Mortal Kombat game, but it would be safe to say that this sequel is going to get some reactions from even the most seasoned fan.

Mortal Kombat X will be releasing on April 14th on the PS4, PS3 Xbox One and Xbox 360, so make sure to stay tuned to PlayStation LifeStyle as we bring you more information on news, characters and modes. Don’t forget to check out our interview with Senior Producer at NetherRealm Studios Adam Urbano where we discuss the roster, DLC and lots more.