Hang ten. I'm not talking about surfboards.
The annual EVO championships in Las Vegas have become a form of enshrinement and security for fighting titles, and ever since the Mortal Kombat reboot swept the gaming world in 2011, EVO has seen fit to feature NetherRealm's title in EVO has one of its main tournaments. That is, until this last year, when it was knocked down into "side tournament" status. Fortunately, the developer hasn't rested on its laurels and is stalwartly bringing Mortal Kombat X (pronounced as the letter 'x' instead of "ten") into the fold, hopefully in time for EVO 2015.
In an hour hands-on appointment with Mortal Kombat X behind closed doors at PAX, I tested out the combat system with the currently eight-man character roster. Of course, the number of characters on the roster will be more in line with that of the game's predecessor, but the demo had solid representation between the old and the new.
Joining Scorpion, Kano, Raiden, and Sub-Zero (who's likely a new Sub-Zero since the last one was turned into a robot) is another quartet of phenoms: D'Vorah, a bug-crazy woman with insect-like skin and pincers; Kotal Kahn, a towering Aztec giant who can swat enemies with a giant sword (and apparently has no relation to Shao Kahn); Ferra-Torr who are like Ice Climbers as a duo team; and Cassie Cage, the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade. Cassie was instantly one of my favorites for her nut-punches and incredible flexibility, but Kotal Kahn comes in as a close second, in part because of his God Ray, a static column of light that does gradual damage and thus is perfectly evil when you've got a foe pinned against the wall.
The main upgrade to the combat system is the choice of three variants of the same character. For instance, Kano can either have cybernetic upgrades with an eye laser, become a knife expert with quick combos, or come packed with an arsenal of high and low parries. Not only does this effectively change tactics for both players, but it also makes me believe that this three-pronged selection can turn into some kind of tag-team assists not far from those in Marvel vs. Capcom. But that may just be wishful thinking at this point.
The combat system has changed too much at all, with basic throws, high and low attacks, normal combo moves, X-ray moves, combo breakers, and the ability to enhance any special move at the cost of one energy bar. Even storyline is a continuation to the ending of the last Mortal Kombat about five years later. The main difference is just several stage-specific interactions like swinging from a dead branch in the snow environment or whacking a foe with an old lady (no joke) in the marketplace.
That said, no one can deny that Mortal Kombat X already looks incredible with the lighting, environments, and character modeling system built back up from scratch. The close-ups of the winning character at the end of the match show how detailed the graphics have become, with even water droplets forming on Sub-Zero's hand after battling in the snow. And Mortal Kombat X isn't even close to being finished yet, so the garphics can only improve from here on out.
For convenience, bringing up the in-battle start menu reveals a quick list of moves so players don't have to dig through menus; that is, unless they mean to, especially since the developers are generous enough to provide everything from frame data, recovery frames, and all of the stats that hardcore fighters need to refine their moveset. NetherRealm also teased an extra "-ality" finishing move, but wouldn't divulge anything more about it.
Mortal Kombat X is slated for release in 2015 for PS4, XOne, PS3, X360, and PC.