While NetherRealm Studios may be a relatively new developer name founded in 2010, their roots certainly dig far deeper. Originally comprised of the former WB Games Chicago, and Midway Games, NetherRealm seeks to continue on with their 23 year old classic fighting franchise "“ Mortal Kombat. Shocking and attracting crowds from arcades to home consoles with its novel over-the-top blood and gore and gruesome fatalities, Mortal Kombat quickly became that game that friends would fight over, and was probably one of the shining examples for the need for an ESRB rating back at a time when such a thing didn't really exist. Since 1992, the series has seen some pretty wild redesigns and innovations to remain up to date and relevant with the times, while still keeping that classic brutal combat. Some deviations managed to hit some right notes, like the action-adventure beat-em-up Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks.
Other attempts like Mortal Kombat Special Forces still serve as a painfully low point for the franchise. What is arguably one of the franchise's biggest changes was its shift from a 2 dimensional plane to a 3 dimensional one. When it worked, it worked exceptionally well, as was shown with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. But loyal fans of the series still wanted a return to form with their beloved series and in 2011 that is exactly what NetherRealm delivered. Simply titling it Mortal Kombat despite technically being the ninth instalment, fans were treated with a 2.5D fighting game with a good fighting system, brutal fatalities and an all new X-ray mode to make you really feel and see the brutality. On top of that, the team put thought into a single player campaign that tied the characters in together for a genre that largely isn't known for having anything other than a tradition arcade mode. The game was so popular that it sold nearly enough to cover the cost of the entire Midway acquisition.
Naturally, fans were pumped and eager to see what was next for the series. Mortal Kombat debuted on the PS4 and Xbox One and PC last year with Mortal Kombat X. And for the last year since its release fans have been hooked on the fantastic combat system, and new characters that have released. But NetherRealm Studios wasn't finished with just that. After the first four characters had been released, they were quick to announce a brand new set of characters to further expand on a game that already has a considerable amount of in-game content. To coincide with these new characters, there is also a rerelease of the core game plus all 8 characters and any additional DLC. Similar to the Komplete Edition for MK9, Mortal Kombat XL is out now, and has loads to offer as a complete edition of the game.
Taking place several years after the events of Mortal Kombat, Shao Khan is defeated, and disgraced Elder God Shinnok decides to attack Earthrealm with an army of Neatherrealm forces. Included are a number of Earthrealm fighters such as Scorpion, Jax and Sub Zero were now resurrected under Quan Chi's control. Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade and Kenshi eventually open a portal to Raiden's Sky Temple, where the Thunder God and Fujin are battling Shinnok. The Earthrealm fighters eventually distract Shinnok long enough to steal his amulet and seal him away inside of it, and Johnny and Sonya track down Quan Chi and defeat him, restoring the aforementioned three that were previously under his control. Flashing forward twenty years later, we see that Johnny and Sonya had a child, Scorpion reinstates the Shirai Ryu clan while mentoring Kenshi's son, Takeda, and Sub-Zero becomes the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei. The kombatants now face a civil war that broke out between Mileena who has managed to obtain Shinnok's amulet, and the new Outworld Emperor Kotal Khan.
MKX's story was fairly enjoyable and engaging, albeit scattered and fragmented thanks to the time jumping. Nevertheless it was a short, but sweet method of tying all the characters together and giving purpose for their inclusion in the game. Much like how Injustice played out, the chapters in the story each let you take possession of a different character. One of my biggest complaints with the story mode was that served as a giant tease for characters fully realized, and clearly playable, but aren't currently in the roster. During the campaign you face off against Rain, Baraka and Sindel and yet they unfortunately did not make the cut. Smoke also makes a random appearance under the name Enenra. It's just a shame to play against some of these characters, or see them even considered in the game's story, but not have them as playable characters. They highlight the fact that the game has 33 characters, but when you look at past games like Mortal Kombat Armageddon with its 62 player roster, you're kind of left wondering why so many omissions were needed.
In my last review covering MKX, I went into detail about some of the newer characters out of the box. Now it's time to take a look at all the characters released since then that are all included in Mortal Kombat XL. Jason Voorhees was one of the first to come out, and has some impressive styles. One has him disappear into mist to give some great teleport combos, while another grants him a sort of second life after he's been downed, to give the player one shot at correcting themselves and getting the win. Tanya and Tremor are both from past Mortal Kombat entries, and have some great versatility. Fans will recognize Tremor as being "the Brown ninja" from the Scorpion/Sub-Zero palette changes, and as his colour would indicate, has various earth/ground attacks. Tanya is a very swift and agile character that can have some deadly combo potential with her Kobo-Jutsu, and Nagatana for close and ranged combat. Finally, Predator entered the scene with some impressive range with its plasma caster, and timed devices, and some brutal close attacks with its wrist blades. To top it all off it had some excellent X-Ray moves and Fatalities taken straight from its source material for fan-service.
Now with Mortal Kombat XL we have been given four new characters, all with a great variety of gameplay to offer. Leatherface from the classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre series enters kombat with your expected mixup of his chainsaw for various styles. Personally, I'm more of a fan of Jason's gameplay, but I can see fans getting a kick of having the two combat each other. Rather than having a separate slot for Cyrax and Sektor, NetherRealm decided to create the TriBorg; he is an interesting amalgamation of Sektor, Cyrax, Smoke and Sub-Zero. That combination alone makes him one of the most versatile characters, and it shows. He's quick, has loads in his arsenal, and can quickly make an opponent sweat. For nostalgia purposes, fans can alter his costume to look like Sektor and Cyrax. Bo' Rai Cho is another niche fan favourite, debuting in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. He is essentially a drunken boxer, so his drunken state tends to keep players guessing about his rather unorthodox fighting. Finally, to coincide with the release of Predator we now have the Xenomorph itself to produce years of Alien vs Predator match-ups. It's very quick, has some deadly close up attacks, and some good keep-away with its acid spew. On top of that it has a great low-dash attack, making Alien a very tough opponent. One of its fatalities summons the Queen from the movie Aliens. Overall, the new addition to the already impressive roster are very welcomed, however they still haven't quite addressed my original issue of presenting classics like Rain, and Sindel throughout the story mode as playable opponents, but are currently not playable.
Mortal Kombat is certainly no stranger to kontent, and MKXL is stuffed to the brim. For single player modes we have the story mode that can be replayed entirely, or from specific chapters, there are the timeless classic arcade tower modes, but NetherRealm have also added "˜'Living Towers.'' These are time-sensitive towers that run either hourly or daily depending on the difficulty you are looking for, and offer players a chance to earn bonus experience and coins to spend. Living Towers are all connected to the MKX servers and you can compare your results to the rest of the world. Tower Challenges allow you to challenge your friend in a randomly generated tower. Test Your Luck is the "˜'I'm Feeling Lucky'' of a Google search, where you fighting against the AI with random gameplay modifiers. For two players offline there's standard PvP, Test Your Luck, Test Your Might, and Kustom Kombat. Online lets you join and host rooms, participate in versus, King of the Hill, Team Battle and Tower Battle, and all will contribute to the ongoing Faction Wars which is a new addition to the series. In Faction Wars, players choose to align themselves with one of five factions: The Lin Kuei, Brotherhood of Shadow, Black Dragon, White Lotus, and the Special Forces). Players participate in a persistent online cross-platform competition, winning points for each faction and can ultimately reward players with unique faction-specific finishers if the player's faction wins at the end of any given week. Playing this game for just over a week and witnessing my first faction win, since all the cool kids chose Lin Kuei, Faction Wars seems like it's a tremendous opportunity to improve the game's longevity.
The coins you earn during any of these modes can be used in The Krypt. In MKXL, The Krypt is where players can unlock new fatalities, concept art, brutalities, alternate costumes, stage music and more. It's all done in this impressively designed labyrinth that you navigate in a first person perspective. It controls like a tank-controlled dungeon crawler, and will toss random quick time event enemies in your way just to reward you with some extra coins. Some areas are locked and will remain locked until you find certain items, or solve a specific puzzle. Throughout the Krypt there are also timed chests that will appear and disappear and you will need to find them within their timeframe. There's a lot to do and a whole lot to spend in the Krypt. Where it gets you is that you have no idea what you're unlocking until you unlock it, encouraging you replay the game enough to farm a war chest of coins.
I had initial complaints regarding the visuals for Mortal Kombat X back when it first released, noting that while it certainly looks clean and crisp, and maintains a solid framerate through and through, it ultimately still looked like a highly polished UE3 game. Nothing particularly bad about that; it's just when you take a look at games like Street Fighter V, and how using the Unreal 4 engine really shows with the incredible detail in the character models and various visual effects. I wasn't expecting a new engine out of XL, as it's just a complete edition of an existing game, but it's worth noting to new buyers. On the plus side, characters are all nicely modeled and the environments have a great sense of depth to them, but it's clear this is a highly polished UE3 title; only managing to take a step up above their previous games like Injustice and Mortal Kombat 9, rather than the leap the hardware increase ought to allow. That being said, character models all sport multiple layers and show wear and tear over the duration of each match, and the X-ray attacks have improved detail in the bones, muscles and tissues to really make people squeamish. I am pleased to note that the game runs absolutely smoothly at 60 frames, and haven't noticed a significant drop that would hamper the gameplay.
Fans of Mortal Kombat X needn't pick up a physical copy of XL unless they really want Sub-Zero on the cover. It's available digitally for core buyers to add in all the fantastic characters. Those who have yet to dabble in Mortal Kombat X, XL is definitely the way to go. It's the definitive version of MKX, and offers everything that has been digitally released, on disc for you to enjoy. As I mentioned in my last review, Mortal Kombat X still serves as one of the stronger entries in the Mortal Kombat franchise as a fighting game. The mechanics are finely tuned and vastly improved upon from the 2011 reboot, and while the character roster may not reach the quantity of previous games, there is still a considerable amount of quality in its kombatants. After seeing them put so much thought and effort into characters like Leatherface and Bo' Rai Cho, it is still rather disappointing be teased with Sindel, Rain and Baraka during the campaign. Overlooking the character omissions, the game is still packed to the brim with enough content to last players a good long while. There are plenty of offline and online modes to take part in, Faction Wars has certainly proved its worth after a year since inception. The single player campaign may fall on the short side but it is a pretty good ride, and NetherRealm still serves as one of the few development teams to actually care enough to want to include a story mode in their fighting games; and one that actually serves to tell an overarching story, rather than toss in 2-3 matches per character and call it a day.
|New additions to the characters are great.|
|The definitive version of Mortal Kombat X.|
|Absolutely packed with content.|
|Story is a little on the shorter side. And it would have been nice to have an additional story that incorporated the extra characters.|
|The game looks very polished, but UE3 still shows its age.|
|Fully realized characters that arenâ€™t in the playable roster is still a downer, one year later.|