The latest Mortal Kombat is all about getting nice and close with you.
My extremely brief (and very wide-eyed) hands-off demo with the game at E3 took place over two fights showcasing the new fighting style variants and characters. But one aspect not advertised during the show is the closer camera. The static position at the start of the fight has been moved inward and now more tightly focuses on the characters, with far less empty space above their heads. Most shots during fights are also angled more frequently, their slanted perspective giving the bouts a more immediate dynamic. But it did take some getting used to, just from an audience perspective.
And if you thought the kill cams in the recent series reboot got personal, Mortal Kombat X pulls in a half a foot closer for that slow, lingering look at the juicy bits. At one point, Sub-Zero ripped out a portion of Scorpion’s intestine, froze it, and stabbed him through the eye socket with it. For another finisher, Scorpion sliced off the first few layers of Sub Zero’s face, the blue ice-ninja falling to the ground before his brain began to seep out of the head cavity. For the first time in a lifetime of adoration of Fatalities, I squirmed.
It may ultimately be for the best to have the camera so close, though. While what was on display at this year’s show is not likely the final direction some of these stages will take, there was a jarring disconnect between the foreground and background on the more dynamic levels. Especially with fighters now able to interact with some elements of each stage – leaping off branches in the Forest or kicking a bloated corpse launched by the tide – it resembles more of an advanced holographic projection with a few key props jutting out of the screen. Like a CG-heavy movie, its aesthetically gorgeous but technically distracting.
The closer camera also helps keep apparent which combat variant each fighter has equipped. Scorpion’s ninjutsu variant gives him swords on his back, while new fighter D’vorah’s poisonous variant coats her hands in green ooze. In the heat of battle, being able to note your character’s variant could play a role in anticipating their combat strategy.
The new characters are perhaps the strongest step forward -at least visually – Mortal Kombat X has taken. While they do have that thick, oily coating that comes with “next-gen lighting”, they boast strong individual identities in both movesets and costume. The aforementioned D’vorah is an insect/human hybrid with all the sexy bits carried over from the latter half, Ferra/Tor are a collaborative team of a tiny crazy lady on the back of her massive tank of a manservant, Kotal Khan (likely related to longtime series bad Shao Khan) is a gigantic blue Aztec fellow, and Cassie Cage is the result of Johnny Cage finally winning over Sonya Blade.
NetherRealm Studios are about to find out just how far they can take the Fatality. The closer camera leaves a lot less comedic possibility to the series’ trademark finishing moves, but does provide an opportunity to convey a lot more information (and possible strategies) outside of pre-fight menus. But if the devs really want a draw factor for Mortal Kombat X, promise us the story will go into detail on just how Sonya settled for that Hollywood douche with the sunglasses.
Mortal Kombat X is scheduled for release on the PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One sometime next year.