So the past few weeks I’ve been heavily engrossed in the two most popular fighting games, possibly of all time, certainly of right now. Mortal Kombat XL and Street Fighter V, as such here’s a review and comparison of the two games set to dominate this year’s competitive fighting scene.
Mortal Kombat XL is the re-release/Komplete Edition (sic) of last year’s Mortal Kombat X, along with the base game is every piece of downloadable content released since MKX launched. The game offers a variety of challenging modes including minigames, survival modes, classic tower arcade modes and a detailed story mode broken into 12 chapters. Of course the main appeal in any fighting game is the characters on offer for head to head fighting against friends and online foes alike. MK XL doesn’t disappoint offering a diverse range of characters; Mortal Kombat mainstays Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Reptile, Sonya Blade, Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Raiden and Jax are joined by newcomers Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs, Kotal Kahn, D’vorah, Takeda, Erron Black, Ferra/Torr and Kung Jin.
Perhaps most interesting is the connection the new Earthrealm fighters have to some of the classic fighters; Cassie Cage is the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, combining Sonya’s penchant for guns and explosives with Johnny’s obsession of punching people in the dick. Jacqui Briggs is the daughter of Jax and in place of bionic arms has metal gauntlets on her forearms that allow for similar shockwave and energy based attacks as her father. Kung Jin is the younger cousin of Kung Lao and utilises a fighting style built around his bow and arrow which allows for a combination of projectile attacks and long-reaching physical strikes. Lastly Takeda is the son of blind swordsman Kenshi who has been trained in combat by legendary ninja Scorpion, effectively using a style that combines his father’s swordsmanship with Scorpion’s style of fighting and use of harpoon style weaponry.
On the Outworld side we find new emperor Kotal Kahn an Osh-Tekk (Aztec) blood god who can make use of the sun to burn his enemies and heal his own wounds. D’vorah the insect queen who can summon a number of creepy crawlies to help out in a fight and also utilise a number of air based attacks. Erron Black is a mysterious wild west outlaw who utilises dirty brawling techniques combined with six-shot revolvers to create a unique playing experience and lastly Ferra/Torr is a new concept entirely for the series combing a small female child in Ferra with a large hulking brute in Torr, the two function as a symbiote fighter and have a number of attacks based around the unity between the two.
The combination of 8 newcomers and 15 classic characters rounds out the base roster with 23 choices for the player, of course this is the XL edition so we also get a number of DLC characters free of charge. The DLC can be broken down into 3 categories; classic characters, new additions and bad ideas. So let’s start with the classics: Four-armed warrior prince Goro makes his return, an excellent choice due to the characters popularity and enjoyable play style. Drunken Kung-Fu master Bo’Rai Cho also returns being one of the more amusing characters he’s also a welcome addition to diversify the styles and the last classic character to be added is Tanya the Edenian warrior who utilises a similar albeit different fighting style to popular mainstays Kitana and Mileena.
In addition to the classic DLC characters are a few new MK faces; Tremor is the latest in MK’s popular ninja line. Tremor utilises earth magic able to summon boulders, crystals and cause earthquakes he’s a cool edition to the line currently represented by Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Ermac and Reptile. The other new DLC character is technically a collection of old characters melted into one; Tri-Borg is a cybernetic ninja and is able to take on the forms of the three classic cyber-ninja’s Smoke, Sektor and Cyrax, he can also become the cyborg Sub-Zero which makes him the most varied character in the game. Tremor and Tri-borg are both awesome additions one being entirely new and the other being an interesting way of including three classic characters in a new shell.
The mistakes: this is the part of the game that’s a little unfortunate, there’s a number of MK characters that fans would’ve loved to see included in the game like Sindel, Rain, Baraka and Shang Tsung just to name a few. Instead for whatever reason MK XL gets lumped with 4 other characters that don’t fit at all; Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th, Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre the Alien from Alien and Predator from, you guessed it; Predator. In terms of gameplay these characters aren’t bad, they’re quite balanced and well designed for the game, but honestly no one wants to play as horror movie characters when there’s a number of major MK characters that haven’t been included. In particular this is annoying as Sindel, Baraka, Rain and Sareena are all included in the games data, in fact in story mode you fight Sindel, Rain and Baraka at random points so it’s a massive shame that these characters so far are yet to be included.
As gameplay goes, MK XL is fantastic. Trading on the more traditional style of hard, medium and light punches/kick, MK XL simplifies its system to two punches and two kicks one for each limb. This allows a greater variety of multi-strike combinations, allows for grappling throws to be a single button and allows guarding to be a single button. It’s an interesting system that debuted in the previous release MK (2011), that not only distinguishes MK from its main rivals Street Fighter and Tekken but is also easier to pick up for new players. Also making a return are X-ray moves, attacks that do big damage and come with neat cinematic sequences that show bone breaking damage being done to your opponents.
Of course as is always the case I’ve saved the best until last; Mortal Kombat XL’s best feature is the variation system; every fighter gets three separate variations that grant each character a handful of unique skills to build a play style around. For example; Sub-zero players can pick between Cryomancer, Grandmaster and Unbreakable modes; Cryomancer allows Sub-zero to create swords, hammers and other weapons out of ice to enhance the range and damage of his attacks. Grandmaster Sub-zero allows players to create an ice-clone that can be used to block an opponents attack or be used as a direct weapon against them and Unbreakable mode allows Sub-zero to envelop himself in an icy armour reducing the damage received from normal attacks and allowing him to create a shield against projectiles. The variant system applies to all characters and Tri-Borg is perhaps most interesting as he gains 4 separate variants each one based on a cyber-ninja.
Overall; MK XL is easily the top fighting game for 2016 unless Tekken 7 gets released before the years end. 9/10.
Street Fighter V:
Street Fighter has long been the dominant force in fighting games; previous release Street Fighter 4 has basically functioned as the foundation for all competitive fighting game tournaments since 2009 and Capcom is still hoping for SFV to continue the trend. Unfortunately in its current state I don’t see it taking the crown from MK XL any time soon; Street Fighter V isn’t a bad game by any level, it is however a very, very incomplete game.
Capcom and Sony rushed SFV to a February launch, the intention of this was to have SFV ready for the beginning of the competitive fighting season so that MK XL wouldn’t have another year at the top of the food chain. Unfortunately this rushed release meant that the game is hugely lacking in content beyond online competitive play. The story mode limits characters to 2-3 fights with little actual story taking place. On top of this there is no arcade mode available meaning the only single player mode available is the very limited story section and the training mode. Needless to say when competing directly with MK XL it’s rather obvious that one game has a massive single player mode and the other has next to nothing on offer. Online play and versus play is fine, although Capcom is still working out a method of punishing rage-quitters.
Street Fighter V boasts a 16 character roster at launch, with 12 returning fighters and 4 new characters on offer. In addition to this Capcom has announced 6 DLC fighters that will be available over the course of 2016 with Alex set to be the first character released toward the end of March. Main characters Ryu and Ken return, alongside M. Bison, Cammy, Chun-Li, Zangief and Dhalsim. Also included are some previously featured characters such as R. Mika, Nash, Birdie, Karin and Vega. These characters offer a decent variety of play style, in particular Ken who started out as a clone of Ryu has been adjusted to offer a faster style of play with a hadouken fireball that launches more quickly and travels a short distance.
The new characters also add some interesting play styles to the mix; F.A.N.G. is an entirely new concept for a fighter utilising poison-techniques that chip away at an opponent’s health after contact. Laura Matsuda utilises a style built around Brazilian jiu-jitsu and electricity based attacks. Rashid is a middle-eastern fighter whose style is built around tornados and speed based fighting. Finally Necalli is an Aztec god (Seriously?) who utilises a heavy-strong style of combat. The new characters are cool, however the total roster is a fair bit lacking, seriously no Blanka? Come on!
Fighting mechanics remain relatively the same as previous SF games, still relying on the quarter-circle and half-circle system. The circle system isn’t necessarily bad, but it functions best in an arcade setting with the old-school joystick controller, with a standard console controller it can be a pain at times. The biggest change is the introduction of the V-gauge and Critical Arts systems; V-skills charge up the V-gauge when performed correctly and vary depending on the character, V-counters use up a portion of the gauge to counter an opponent’s attack and full V-gauge can activate the V-trigger allowing players to either perform a special V-attack and/or enhance normal abilities e.g. Ken’s hadouken changes colour and increases damage. Critical Arts replace Super and Ultra combos from SF4, using the EX meter to build up to a Critical Art which when executed correctly treats you to a high-damage cinematic attack. The EX meter can also be used to enhance certain techniques.
Street Fighter V is a quality fighting game, its biggest drawbacks are the complete lack of single player options available at launch (For the record Capcom has announced a story mode and arcade mode to be released as a free update in the future) and its limited roster. In terms of actual gameplay the game is solid, however as it is currently an almost exclusively online game adjustments must be made to improve the online experience.