Mortal Kombat X PS4 PlayStation 4 First Impressions 1

Mortal Kombat X is genuinely funny. You can bombard us with Johnny Cage-esque green orbs in the comments all you like, but there's no way that developer NetherRealm built this game with a straight face. And that's a good thing. The amount of tomfoolery on display at times is outrageous – and it's bettered only by the amount of content that's actually stuffed into the game. We'll talk microtransactions another time, but it's certainly hard to feel short changed here.

There's so much stuff, in fact, that we don't really know where to start – but we'll perhaps focus on the bits that we've seen so far, seeing as this is merely an initial impressions piece. The fighting is much as you'd expect – sharp, swift, and crunchy – and it's enhanced by a new styles system, which allows you to further tailor a specific fighter to your tastes. Cassie Cage, for example, can select from a ranged stance that sees her calling in off-stage artillery or a more personal grappling moveset.

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It's worth noting that you're still fighting as the same character whichever style you select: Sonya Blade's aforementioned offspring still competes with a mix of her parents' manoeuvres, but picking a specific style gives her access to a handful of different moves. This sounds like a nightmare to balance – and, of course, we'll be looking into that aspect in more detail with the review – but it certainly keeps the combat fresh, even if you're primarily sticking with the same character. It's a decent little addition.

However, that the developer's gone to such trouble to differentiate each individual character with multiple styles is unsurprising, as this package is practically bursting with small little touches. Selecting a character, for example, sees your chosen adversaries face-off in the menu screen, blowing bubble gum or smashing ice in each others' faces. A lightning fast loading screen paves way to a short little cut-scene, in which the stars will talk smack before the fight actually begins.

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And given how minor they are, these exchanges are surprisingly well written: a mirror match between two Cassie Cages sees one comment on the others' attire. "I look better in it," the clone counters. After fighting the same battle with the same characters a few times over, we did start to see repeats in the speech, but when you consider just how big the roster is, it's not something that's going to happen too often unless you stick rigidly to the exact same heroes.

Speaking of which, the lineup's a mix of new and old – literally. Favourites such as Raiden, Sub-Zero, and Scorpion are joined by a new generation of brawlers, such as Jacqui Briggs and Kung Jin. We haven't played anywhere near enough to be able to talk with authority about any of these newcomers yet, but we quite like the idea of the kids fighting side-by-side with their elders; there's a real feel-good nature to proceedings – which is unexpected considering the amount of bloodshed.

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Of course, we'd be remiss to overlook the fatalities, which are more ludicrous than ever before. One of Sub-Zero's finishers sees him creating a bed of spiked ice, before tossing his opponent on it. That would be enough in the old days, but there seems to be a punch line to each and every finale this time around; Bi-Han hops on his foe's body and an eyeball pops out and nestles on one frozen spire as a result. It's grotesque, yes – but in a cartoony, slapstick kind of way. It's goofy.

The presentation is impressive across the board, too, with the character models chunky on the screen – and some great lighting effects. One stage is caught amidst a thunder storm, and the rain lashing down in the foreground illuminates as bolts branch across the sky. The art direction's obviously going to come down to personal taste, though – it still looks like it's stemmed from the imagination of a teenager obsessed with his dad's heavy metal record collection.

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Assuming that you can get beyond the looks, mind, there's so much on offer that it's staggering. The new Factions mode sees you picking an allegiance and contributing to a global meta-battle by earning points and clearing challenges, while there are multiple permutations on the traditional tower format. There's also, of course, the story mode, which boasts some seriously impressive transitions between cut-scene and combat. It's also as enjoyably dumb as you'd expect.

First impressions are good, then. NetherRealm really does go the extra mile with its fighting games; the amount of content on offer here is borderline overwhelming from the off, and it's not often that we write that about any game. The fighting's fast and fluid, though we still need to get a better feel for the full cast and see how the balance holds up. Even if it falls apart under scrutiny, however, we doubt that we'll ever tire of that selfie fatality. OMG!

Have you managed to rip into Mortal Kombat X yet, or are you still on the fence regarding this PS4 fighter? Grab us by the goolies in the comments section below.