The moment fighting-game fanatics have been waiting for all year has arrived: Mortal Kombat X is finally ready to rain blood and guts onto your new-gen console. The latest installment in the beloved, notoriously gory fighting series boasts deeper combat, a wealth of ways to play and some of the most shocking Fatalities the franchise has ever seen.
Here's everything you need to know before diving into the brutal brawler, which arrives April 14 on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
Editors' Note: For a more in-depth look, check out our Mortal Kombat X Full Review.
What is Mortal Kombat X? What's new about it?
Mortal Kombat X is both a follow-up to 2011's Mortal Kombat reboot and the 10th core installment in the long-running fighting-game series (hence the X). It's prettier and more technically sound than its predecessor — and even more violent.
The game takes the tighter, tournament-friendly gameplay introduced in the 2011 reboot and evolves it significantly, most notably via a new variation system. For the first time in Mortal Kombat history, players can choose among three different versions of each game character.
For example, Scorpion has one variation that focuses on swordplay, another that gives him fire-based attacks and a third that allows him to summon a demon. The system is designed to give fans as many options as possible for their favorite characters, and should add a ton of variety to both competitive and casual play.
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It wouldn't be Mortal Kombat without gore, and Mortal Kombat X's over-the-top special moves are more wince-worthy than ever. The game brings back brutal X-Ray attacks — supermoves that let you see the crunching of your opponent's bones — and marks the long-awaited return of Brutalities, which are gruesome finishers that have to be performed under certain conditions.
Thanks to the power of new consoles, Mortal Kombat's famous Fatalities have reached a whole new level of nuts. You'll see no shortage of body parts being chopped up and beat down in ridiculous, almost comical ways — there's even a selfie Fatality.
Does Mortal Kombat X have a story?
(Warning: minor spoilers for Mortal Kombat (2011) below)
NetherRealm Studios' 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot was one of the first fighting games to deliver a satisfyingly cinematic story mode, retelling the events of the original trilogy in a surprisingly coherent way. Mortal Kombat X picks up where that game left off, with the meat of the story occurring 25 years after the events of the previous game.
With notorious franchise big bad Shao Kahn defeated, Earthrealm (Mortal Kombat's version of Earth) faces a new threat: the sorcerous Shinnok. Alongside fellow magic-wielding bad-dude Quan Chi, Shinnok commands a massive army that includes resurrected, mind-controlled versions of characters that perished in the previous MK game, such as Liu Kang and Kung Lao.
With Earthrealm in danger (when is it not?), a group of series mainstays and fresh newcomers must unite to stop the invasion.
Which characters are in the game?
Mortal Kombat X is the first true generational leap in the series, with a cast that includes older versions of franchise veterans as well as younger brawlers that have deep ties to their elders. If you grew up playing Mortal Kombat, you'll likely spot one of your favorites — Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Sonya, Johnny Cage, Kitana and Mileena are among the franchise icons that have returned.
Many of the game's new fighters are descendants of the originals, including Cassie Cage (daughter of Johnny and Sonya), Takeda (son of Kenshi and apprentice of Scorpion) and Kung Jin (younger cousin of Kung Lao), each of whom borrow elements of their relatives' or mentors' fighting styles. Other newbies include the gunslinging Erron Black, the insect-summoning D'Vorah and the imposing emperor Kotal Kahn.
If you purchase the Kombat Pack ($30), you'll gain access to four additional characters: Tanya, Tremor and guest fighters Jason Voorhees and Predator. These characters will also be sold individually, and will be rolled out in the weeks following Mortal Kombat X's release.
What else is there to do in Mortal Kombat X?
Mortal Kombat X promises a ton of content for both solo and competitive play. In addition to playing in story mode, players can fight through a set number of enemies in classic arcade-style towers, as well as play in new "Living Towers," which are updated constantly with fresh challenges.
Test Your Luck mode adds random, sometimes wacky parameters to your fights (such as increased damage or dangerous obstacles), while the all-new Kustom Kombat mode lets you choose your own modifiers before heading to battle. If you're feeling competitive, you can take the fight online in both ranked and casual matches.
No matter how you play Mortal Kombat X, you'll be contributing to the game's persistent Faction War. Once you pick from one of five factions (Lin Kuei, White Lotus, Brotherhood of Shadow, Black Dragon or Special Forces), everything you do in the game goes toward furthering your clan's overall standing. You can unlock special rewards and fatalities for increasing your faction rank, and randomized "Invasion" events will let multiple factions team up against a common enemy.
Is there a mobile version of Mortal Kombat X?
Yes, there's a free-to-play version of Mortal Kombat X for iOS (the Android version is coming soon); however, the game is decidedly different from its console counterpart. MKX mobile is a simple swipe-based brawler that lets you collect and level-up a variety of characters from the core game.
When you play Mortal Kombat X on your mobile device, you will unlock special content on the console version (and vice versa), and both mobile and console players can contribute to the overarching Faction Wars.
Is Mortal Kombat X coming to Xbox 360 and PS3?
Yes, but not until the summer. There's currently no word on how the last-gen versions (which are being made by a separate developer) will differ from their current-gen counterparts, but it's safe to say that the game's gruesome action won't be as graphically intense.
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Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.