When you step into a demo for “Mortal Kombat X,” you expect large amounts of ultraviolence, some cool fatalities, and a couple of iconic palette-swapped ninjas. But the developers at NetherRealm Studios took the opportunity to show off the new content that makes this game more than just another iteration of everyone’s favorite insanely violent guilty pleasure.
Gameplay in “Mortal Kombat X” falls somewhere between NetherRealm’s previous “Mortal Kombat” and their more recent fighting endeavor, “Injustice: Gods Among Us.” The levels include a variety of environmental attacks and objects to interact with. At one point, after waves crashed upon a dock and the bloated, waterlogged corpse of some poor schmuck was tossed into the air, we snatched him up and used him as a baseball bat. It was gross. And awesome. And that’s not even as gruesome as it gets; “X-Ray” attacks return from the previous game, allowing fighters to get an internal view of damage done to their opponents.
The new characters feel like a departure from the norm for “Mortal Kombat,” and we like the direction. Two of the new female characters, Cassie Cage and D’Vorah, are more practical, well-equipped, and realistic than one expects from the series. Well, as realistic as a half-bug, half-woman who spits acid and emits swarms of insects can be. (Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Cassie Cage is the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade. That alone leads us to believe that the series’ story is getting a continuity that far exceeds the “Mortal Kombat” games of the ’90s.) After spending time as D’Vorah, using her sprouting pincers and other awesomely creepy bug moves, we were sold. And Cassie Cage is a cool amalgamation of two classic characters; her X-Ray attack, the Nut Kracker, showcases the skills she picked up from her parents, and is just as painfully graphic as the name suggests. (We’ll just say: Pop pop.)
In fact, all the new characters are really interesting. Kotal Khan, for example, is a Mesoamerican-inspired deity in a loincloth, hefting a crazy-big sword. And then there’s Ferra/Torr, a massive beast of a fighter being ridden by a spritely little maniac — think Master Blaster from “Total Recall” and you’re not far off. Each character has three different fighting styles, focusing on different weapons or skills. That means your strategy will have to change depending on which style your opponent is in. From a tournament standpoint, this just upped the game for “Mortal Kombat.” It’s going to make for some really interesting matchups.
You can tell that NetherRealm is having so much fun making “Mortal Kombat X,” and honestly, games are just better when you can inject humor into them. Especially when it’s the dark, grisly humor that turns something horrifying — like sending bugs to eat someone’s face from the inside — into something fun as hell. You’ll be able to partake of that awful, awesome fun yourself when the game hits Xbox One and Xbox 360 next year.