Fatality: Mortal Kombat X's Brutal Misfires
Mortal Kombat X is a good game. A very good game. Actually, it's really goddamned good, probably the best Mortal Kombat since Deception, my personal favorite. I picked it up at the midnight launch and have been looking forward to every possible chance I might get to put in a few more rounds into it. From a mechanical standpoint, it's almost pitch-perfect. Every round feels distinctly different, there are numerous ways to play each diverse character, and the combat is blisteringly fast yet never completely out of control. As a lapsed fighting game fan, what I've gotten to play, so far, has sparked my interest in the genre again.
But when I put out my review sometime in the next day or so, I won't be able, in all good conscience, to give it a "perfect" score, or even something very close to a "perfect" score. That's because, despite everything Mortal Kombat X does right, it serves a grim reminder at the state of modern gaming.
Flawless victory? Hardly.
As the round drew to a close, one guy tried to execute one, but somebody else pointed out that he was out of Easy Fatality Tokens. Immediately, this set off an alarm in my mind. Tokens? To access easier special moves? It stroked me the wrong way, considering other fighter games just put in simplified movesets for free, but hey, I guess you had to earn them in-game or something. I turned to a kid next to me and joked, "it'd be pretty funny if they made you pay for more of those." He laughed, I laughed. What a great joke.
Only it wasn't. A few hours after the game got put in the hands of consumers (Konsumers?), news broke that, aside from the occasional ability to unlock one in the Krypt, WB Games and NetherRealm actually expected people to buy these tokens with real-world money. 5 Fatalities for 99 cents, 30 for five bucks, before tax. The very same type of tiered, finite premium content (Kontent?) that has turned the majority of mobile gaming into a joke. Except... you know... in a sixty dollar game. Is it as bad as Assassin's Creed Unity? No. Should it be there at all? Hell no.
But that's not all! There's more cynical bullshit to be had. On top of the thirty-dollar season pass, which doesn't include Goro (that's another five bucks if you didn't preorder,) and the 2 dollar Blue Steel Subzero, which allows players to donate to the illustrious cause of a tournament prize pool (no, really,) players can also drop 20 smackers to unlock everything in the Krypt in "one fell swoop."Again: it's the same deal as a freemium mobile game, only with a sixty dollar entry fee. If you were to spend money on every possible DLC in conjunction with the game, not including the unlimited amount of money you can pump into the tokens, it would hit almost $120.
Also, it's worth mentioning that a Day One update intentionally lowered the coin drop rate, making it harder to unlock stuff in the Krypt. It's almost like WB Games wants players to shell out extra money to unlock stuff or something!
Remember when everything was on the disk you paid money for, and you unlocked it gradually, at a fair rate? Yeah, those were the days. Oh, yeah, speaking of things that are on disks...
Remember Rain, Baraka and Sindel? If you're a dyed-in-the-wool Kombat stalwart, it's almost guaranteed that you do. These are some of the more beloved ancillary characters in the franchise, and all of them showed up in the last entry. Because people loved them so much, they're also in Mortal Kombat X... as characters you can only fight against and can't play as. Oh, yeah, their character models, movesets, voice acting, and everything else are all right there, on the disk... you just can't play as them. Same goes for Tanya, who shows up in the campaign, but will only be playable once the main DLC starts rolling out, which is a little earlier for those who got the season pass.
That season pass is good to mention because, to recap, it gives you four characters as they hit the market: Jason, Tremor, Predator and Tanya. Now, on top of the fact that thirty dollars for four characters is, honestly, a fucking ridiculous asking price, there's something else I really want you to think about. Aside from not getting Goro, there are a significant number of unplayable characters on the disk that aren't covered by that season pass. "Well," you must be thinking, "that just means that they're only cameos, and not meant to be played at all. This isn't another sleazy way of loading a game with DLC!"
In all likelihood? It probably is, if the intentionally vague comments offered up by Ed Boon are any indication. He points out that "a bunch" of characters make cameo appearances, but hints that they may be playable in the future. How would they be playable? Honestly, if Goro is any indication, I'm starting to think that this initial bum rush of DLC is only the beginning of the fatality WB Games intends to pull on our wallets. Of course, this is purely speculation right now, but I won't be surprised if we get more DLC announcements in the near future. Maybe more Kombat Packs, maybe a la carte characters, maybe both. The point being, I don't think we've seen the ending of the DLC hailstorm for Mortal Kombat X. If anything, I think we're only in the first wave.
I don't need to tell you how this is scummy and seedy. You already know. But I'll say this: a season pass is supposed to give you, more or less, every bit of DLC a game has to offer. That's why it's called a "season pass" and not a "half to quarter of the DLC sort of kind of maybe pass." And what's worse, these characters are already on the fucking disk. All the DLC would be, most likely, are overpriced unlocks for shit that's already been coded and animated and voiced. Maybe some fatality/brutality bits, although that being on the disk wouldn't shock me either.
BroKen Online Komponents
The netcode for Mortal Kombat (2011) and Injustice was absolute trash. Nobody can really deny that. Even Ed Boon has since come out and said, "yeah, that sucked, sorry about that, guys." He's also promised that Mortal Kombat X's online components would be a vast improvement, and consistently work, and about a dozen other ways he could say "we won't blow it this time" without directly saying that. Sad thing is, I believed him. I mean, Boon's a nice guy, and NetherRealm is a good developer, so maybe, with the backing of WB Games, they were able to finally pull it off. Third time's the charm, eh?
Nope, because the online in Mortal Kombat X is absolute trash. Oh, sure, there are a ton of modes and options and other things that all look and sound great on paper But there's a fine line between "sounds good on paper" and "works when you actually want to play them." I have tried, numerous times, at varying points of the day and night, to try and engage an online match. Everything ends up going to high hell when I do. It takes a minute to find a match. Then I have to sit around while the game lags on telling me who I'm facing. Then it starts falling to pieces when I have to select a character and stage, and then I get booted. "The game can no longer be found." Great. As of this writing, I haven't been able to play a single match online.
Before anybody wants to mouth off with, "get better internet" or "find friends," I want to put something in perspective. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which, by the way, is part of a massive franchise that has millions of people playing at launch, worked right out of the box the instant I logged in on launch day. So do a good portion of games, although these days, botched online launches are becoming less and less surprising. The point is, a game should be functional right out of the box, no questions asked. Some glitches can be expected, but shouldn't mar the entire experience. But Mortal Kombat X, a game where all you really have to load are two fighters and a stage, can't even get me into a match? Are you kidding me? Is that a joke?
Really, it is a joke. The fact that I can't play this game that I paid sixty bucks for against other people online is a bad joke, the kind that your creepy, estranged uncle tells and makes family dinners wildly uncomfortable with. Where I live, at this point, I can only locally game with a few people, and none of them are into fighters. So, as of right now, I'm screwed if I want to "test my might" against actual opponents. Yeah, there's plenty of content here to keep me busy for a while, but how long is that going to last before I want to put it down and start sinking time into online games that, you know... work?
Korrupt Korporate SKhemes
Now, am I blaming all this on NetherRealm? No. Not at all. Aside from the netcode (which might not even be on them,) they've actually put out a fantastic fighting experience. It's one of the best fighting games I've played, ever, from a pure mechanical stance. I genuinely believe that Ed Boon and everybody else in charge have only the best of intentions, and want to deliver a great product. Personally, I feel like all of these slimy DLC schemes can, most likely, be blamed entirely on WB Games and the cynical corporate suits that are in charge there.
I say this because, let's be honest, the company has always been kind of awful when it comes to its practices. Remember the Catwoman Online Pass fiasco? Or how they admitted they'd rather pump out DLC than patch a buggy game? What about purposefully strong-arming YouTube critics into saying nice things about Shadow of Mordor? The list does, sadly, go on, and it's disheartening to realize that it's these people who own the license to not only Mortal Kombat, but to other awesome franchises like F.E.A.R. The future of their releases is pretty bleak if they can't listen to what consumers want. What do they want? The polar opposite of whatever this crap is, that's for sure.
The saddest part is that, like I mentioned above, Mortal Kombat X is a really, really fun game when you get right down to it. It features a welcome return to fighter games with substantial single player content, including a Campaign and special endings for all of the fighters in Classic Tower Mode, stuff that's become a rarity in the genre. All of the characters feel different and are lovingly animated. There are so many varied modes that there's something for almost everyone here. Make no mistake, this article isn't knocking the quality of the core game, because the core game is substantial and worthwhile.
And because of that, the presence of all the DLC and microtransactions sting that much more. This is a strong enough game to stand on its own, without the need for any of that mobile game-inspired garbage. It's a damn shame that WB Games didn't seem to feel the same.
My full review will go up within the next 24 hours.