This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Mortal Kombat X.
NetherRealm, why you always gotta make me hit you? I'm mainly interested in narrative design, all you have to do is not have a story mode and then we can leave each other alone. Smash Bros. figured that out, and now I can't give two squirts of frosted cum for what they do. But you and your fighting games just don't feel complete without a story campaign and then I have to play through them, the way I play through all fighting games by slapping the controller against my armrest with one hand while reading a book with the other.
You're letting yourself down because when I talk to my friend who's into fighting games in his brief moments of lucidity between medication trials, he says your fighting games are pretty good as fighting games go, but you remain to storytelling what a man with bollards glued to his hands is to pottery making. We knew that from Mortal Kombat 9 when you sensibly rebooted the series to remove all the tangled bullshit that was the series canon at that point and then proceeded to put all the tangled bullshit straight back. And with MK X being a direct sequel to that, we can expect it to entwine a few more cowpats before this day is out.
Considering that most fighting games these days are built on more heritage than the fucking Merovingian dynasty, I'm surprised by how many original characters are introduced in MK X. There's even a gay one apparently, and it's not the one dressed as a cowboy which I call a fucking missed opportunity. "Original" might be a poor choice of words actually. One of the new characters is blatantly Master Blaster from Mad Max 3 and most of the rest are the younger offspring, cousins, and catamite love-slaves of the returning old farts.
I remember saying about MK 9 that it was written like a subpar superhero comic trying to earn a tax rebate on red ink, and that comparison's only getting stronger now that everyone's got a fucking teenage sidekick! The trademark extreme violence feels rather incongruous combined with this whole Muppet Babies concept. You can play the story campaign and watch Johnny Cage complain to his ex-wife, Sonya Blade, that she never makes time for their daughter any more, and then you can go into one of the non-story modes and watch Johnny Cage snap his daughter in half length-ways like a giant Kit-Kat.
Anyway, the plot (such as it is) involves a big evil god of death-type fellow imprisoned in an amulet and everyone's really scared of him getting out even though the first we see of him is getting his shit pushed in by Johnny fucking Cage. What follows is a textbook example of an "idiot plot", or plot that only happens because every single character is an idiot. The necessities of the format mean that the game must be constantly contriving reasons for two characters to fight, but about sixty to seventy percent of the fights are founded on misunderstandings or pranks so that after the fight ends, the participants can be all chums again two dialogue lines later as the winner helps awkwardly stitch up the loser's gaping stab wounds and picked up the pieces of broken jawbone that have blasted out of his asshole.
It's also disappointing having made up all these original characters that the plot has to focus so much on all the shit ones. You don't even get to play as the sexy cowboy or Master Blaster in the campaign and they were the interesting lads I wanted to know more about. I was pretty sure I could guess where Cassie Cage came from: Johnny Cage's sperms getting up Sonya Blade's cooch, although knowing this series, she probably had to tear them out of his living balls and then they tunneled into her pelvis with miniature hooks.
As I said, I'm not the person to talk about the mechanics of one-on-one fighters because my playstyle can be reproduced by dressing up the controller like a sexy girl-dog and letting a hyperactive terrier have his way with it, but I do know this: FATALITIES ARE DUMB. They may as well be renamed to formalities at this point. Back when you had to look them up in magazines, the effort gave them a certain spice, but now the game flatly tells you how to do them, they have become a pointless ceremony. The fight is already won, there's nothing more to prove, so we must dim the lights and rearrange the chairs and play a little fanfare so that the victor can pull apart a Plasticine replica of their foe with awkward fake anger like they were the "before" video on an infomercial.
So I like this new "Brutalities" mechanic. How they work is: if you fulfill certain criteria during a fight and deliver the final blow with the right attack, one or more body parts will fly off as you do so. It's more of a challenge, it punctuates the fight without killing the rhythm and more importantly, it's a lot funnier. I can turn to the loser and say, "Man, I really thought you had him right up until he punched you in the balls and your head fell off."
But while it might be a legacy game, Mortal Kombat isn't above taking a few licks at the puke stains of modernity. And I have a few gripes under the heading of "Shit That I Am Under No Obligation To Use Or Acknowledge But Which Annoy Me Regardless". For example, when you start, you are forced to pick one of five player factions. You can complete special challenges to earn points for your faction and whichever faction has the most points at the end of the week... er... is the faction with the most points that week. Thanks for trying to get us involved in a forced school sports day kind of way, but if you could imagine the penis of a mosquito brushing gently past a section of the labial folds of a blue whale's colossal vagina, that is how much of a fuck I give about my faction!
Oh yes, and lest we forget, micro-payments. If those complex button combinations required for fatalities were providing the last quarter-ounce of challenge necessary to make them the slightest bit satisfying, you can now get rid of even that by paying real money (that your mum and dad to work to earn) to buy a limited number of easy fatalities. Perhaps next we can have shooters that offer to sell us bullets that aim and fire themselves, or perhaps just bung it a fiver to just cut straight to the end credits. But while it's cunty to sell such things, it's even cuntier to pay for them. This is a two-cunt system, people, like a double-ended dildo. And I consider Mortal Kombat to be the lesser cunt in this scenario.
No, the worst thing I can say about Mortal Kombat X is that its so-called "high impact violence" has no impact whatsoever. You remember in the MK 9 story mode that half the characters suddenly died in a plot twist as smooth and natural as a six-lane pile-up? Well, in MK X, most of them have been brought back as evil revenants, and then some of them get restored back to life after Quan Chi gets beaten up and WHOOPS! I think someone just pulled an Ori and the Blind Forest and introduced magical resurrection, thus performing a fatality on the plot itself, pulling out all the stakes like it's a still-beating heart!
The evil Shinnok conquers the Earth (or at least claims he has; he just turns the sky red and I'm not convinced his plan went any further than that), the heroes show up, call backsies and unconquer it, but who fucking cares? 'Cause even if they fail and die, apparently they can come straight back by strategically punching someone. Now we know why Johnny Cage was snapping his daughter in half: death has no meaning, so that's just how they discipline the kids. One infraction, snapped in half, two infractions, take the mobile away.
- Borstal spambot: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Other words ending in 'ality' for your consideration: Actuality, Centrality, Bestiality, Venality and Banality
- 'Babality' isn't even a real word for fuck's sake