In a recent column, I listed Mortal Kombat as a franchise that had lost my interest somewhere along the line. However, I did also mention that I’ve always loved the series and that they could definitely get me back.

So, did Mortal Kombat X manage to reel me back in?

Absolutely. I haven’t been this excited about a game in quite some time, and the four or five matches I managed to play had me drooling.

Let’s start from the top and work our way down. So, first impressions – the graphics are beautiful. The graphical fidelity isn’t really something I normally look for in a fighting game, but MKX blew me away.

The character detail was exquisite, the maps were gorgeously staged and animated and the gore was every bit as visceral as you’d expect from a Mortal Kombat title.

Of course, all that means naught if the gameplay isn’t smooth.

Happily, there were no problems there, either. The PS4 I played on comfortably churned the game out at 60 frames per second, with silky-smooth animations that gave the gameplay a fluid, seamless feel that made for a fantastic experience.

There were only about ten playable characters (with plenty of empty boxes implying a lot more will be available in a final release), including old favourites such as Raiden, Sub-Zero and Scorpion as well as new, interesting options like Cassie Cage, Kotal Kahn and Ferra.

The little I saw of these characters looked fresh and interesting, while seemingly fitting well into the MK universe.

I had D'vorah used against me, and she's pretty damned scary.

I had D’vorah used against me, and she’s pretty damned scary.

When selecting a character, players were given the option of choosing between three distinct styles. Playing as Sub-Zero, for example, I could take the more classic, iceball-throwing approach, or I could select a variation that allows me to create ice weapons to eviscerate opponents with.

I didn’t get to fool around with these variations a lot, but it seems to provide a lot of added depth to the game as they play very differently to each other, effectively tripling the amount of playable characters in the game.

They also add pretty unique designs to the game, like Kotal Khan’s variation that allows him to summon totems that provide a buff as long as they stay on screen, or a ray of light that heals him and damages enemies in a particular spot.

I played on the PS4 and the controls felt clean and smooth – once learning the basic moves and skills, I was able to piece together basic combos with ease and hit any of my skills on demand without a lot of frustrating missed attempts.

There was an energy bar on the bottom of the screen for each player which slowly filled up, enabling you to do a number of special abilities which, when timed correctly, could be devastating. The best and most powerful of these is the X-Ray move, unique to each character. When used correctly, it will trigger a cut-scene of beautifully gory combo, where you can see the devastation you’re causing in slow-motion, X-ray vision for maximum sadistic delight.

And, of course, fatalities are back too.

And, of course, fatalities are back too.

Players can now also interact with the environment, from swinging on vines to attain a better position to throwing barrels at an opponent’s face for a nice chunk of damage.

Running is a feature I was happy to see back in the game, and I got the impression that nimble-fingered combatants will be able to make short work of more novice opponents – the competitive potential has no doubt been left intact.

I took a quick break before every match to check out the moves list – a holdover from Injustice and a welcome one for those such as myself stepping back into the franchise after a lengthy hiatus.

Which is perhaps why I liked the game so damned much – playing MKX was like slipping into a well-worn pair of shoes, it felt comfortable and familiar in spite of its flashy graphics and new gameplay variations.

There’s something for everyone here – returning fans such as myself will be enthused by the classic feel, while franchise veterans will appreciate the new characters and the new variations on the old ones.

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