Mortal Kombat X seems to live up to its gory pedigree

I won't claim to have in-depth, intricate knowledge on Mortal Kombat X - the demo I played only featured six characters and three stages - but I can confidently say that short of a few changes, the game should feel very familiar to fans of Mortal Kombat 9.

The biggest change I was shown offers characters a trio of styles to choose from before battle. After selecting Sub-Zero, for instance, players can opt for a defensive style, a style focused on crafting weapons from ice and a third style centered around the character's classic ice clone move. Taking a page from the Injustice: Gods Among Us playbook, Mortal Kombat X also features interactive backgrounds, though instead of focusing purely on damage, these elements are more useful for positioning. An example would be Scorpion leaping from the back of a dozing sabertoothed cat to land behind his opponent, or swinging from a frozen tree branch to extend his jumping range.
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Mortal Kombat X (E3 2014)

Those who enjoy Mortal Kombat purely for the franchise's trademark bloody spectacle need not fear that NetherRealm has toned down anything for this latest entry. The X-Ray attacks and Fatalities I witnessed are the most brutal in the series' history. Scorpion's X-Ray attack features the demonic ninja blasting across the screen in a fiery interpretation of M. Bison's Psycho Crusher, launching his foe into the air, then catching them in mid-flight via chainspears through the eyes, before slamming them to the floor.

Though most new cast members were hidden behind silhouettes, the six characters on display offered a wide variety of new play styles. Series mainstays Scorpion and Sub-Zero retain most of their classic appeal, but as Mortal Kombat X takes place years after the events of Mortal Kombat 9, the new fighters are best described as an evolution of the existing cast. Cassie Cage, for instance, is Johnny Cage's daughter, and shares her father's brutal disdain for male genitalia. Kotahl Kahn's name may instantly remind fans of a certain end-boss, but NetherRealm is currently unwilling to say how or even if he's related to Shao Kahn.

D'Vorah is among the most unique new additions. A bug lady who relies on exoskeletal limbs to dismantle her foes, D'Vorah ends each battle by lovingly plucking a pulsating larvae from her torso. Ferra and Torr, are actually two separate entities who function as a single character, in a Master Blaster-esque pairing. One of the new fighting styles attached to this duo removes Ferra from the Torr's back, leaving the giant to battle by himself while Ferra cheers from the background.

Unfortunately, with Mortal Kombat X still attached to a nebulous "2015" release date, the developers were unwilling to expand on a number of expected features. I asked about the return of the Kombat Krypt, only to be met with a laugh, and a diplomatic, "we can't talk about that just yet." This also held true for Johnny Cage's possible appearance, as well as DLC costumes and additional, post-launch characters.

The feature most likely to be deemed controversial, a meter that runs down as characters dash backwards and forwards, seems minimal, but it could have drastic implications during combat - at least at the hardcore, tournament level. However, my guide to the demo explained that NetherRealm is making a concerted effort to appease both casual and hardcore Mortal Kombat fans, so this feature may be changed any number of times before Mortal Kombat X hits store shelves.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.