Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Mortal Kombat X: Predator review

Predator, the fighter I was rooting for back when it wasn't certain who would appear in the Kombat Pack (sorry, Spawn fans), has finally stepped into Mortal Kombat X's bloody world. Given the fact the alien's a skilled combatant who's loaded with all kinds of weaponry, it's really should come as no surprise that Predator makes a solid addition to NetherRealm Studios' evergrowing MK universe.
Now if we could get a Xenomorph in the game...
Predator's three variations are Warrior (brutal close combat), Hunter (healing and the ability to set traps), and Hish-qu-ten (gains use of the signature shoulder cannon). While these obviously benefit three different gameplay styles, one surprising thing is Predator doesn't have unique combos for any of the variations. On the plus side, that means there's less to memorize and the character is "easier" to master since each of the three variations have the same melee attacks and combos - it's just a matter of how you'll work in the different new special moves to make your opponent suffer even more. But on the down side, that's kind of disappointing. How great would it have been to use the Predator's impressive strength in new ways for the Warrior variation? Or the Plasma Caster at point blank range to conclude a harsh combo with the Hish-qu-ten variation? Or what if the Hunter variation had a combo that ends with trapping your enemy in a net, leaving them temporarily open for an extra combo? There's so much potential here - the Predator is heavily armed, after all - so to have no unique combos is a bit of a letdown.

Even though Predator's lacking unique melee attacks across his three variations, the special moves shared by all three are still satisfying. Obviously, Predator has the ability to cloak - no real surprise that was picked as a move or what it does - but Scimitar Stab is ferocious and exactly what you'd want to see from a Predator. With the ability to lunge forward pretty far, the Predator impales his enemy with his wrist blade, slowly lifts them up and abruptly throws them away. It's savage, it's swift, and it has the Predator doing his memorable noise. All in all, that one never gets old. While it doesn't have as much fan service as the wrist blade toss, Smart-Disc is a hugely effective special move. Instead of throwing the disc directly across the screen, the Predator tosses the bladed weapon into the air. From there, it waits for a moment or two before launching after its target. If the Predator is knocked around, the weapon falls. Otherwise, it seeks out and stuns its target. This is probably the biggest and most creative surprise for the character. I fully expected the Smart-disc to be incorporated, but I assumed it would be a relatively standard throw. Well played, NetherRealm.

The combos he does have are pretty simple yet still good fun. I'm glad the Combi-stick is utilized to give the extraterrestrial a little more reach and his one very easy combo with the pointy melee weapony is appropriately cool and effective. It's really easy to juggle with the Predator and all of his listed combos are easy to execute. Best of all, they all feel true to the character. From the way the Predator walks towards his enemy to the handling of his attacks, it's obvious NetherRealm put a lot of love into bringing the iconic movie character to life in to the video game. You can also tell NetherRealm had a good time naming Predator's combos. From "ugly mother" to "CONTAAAAACT," the names are likely going to make any fan of the movie(s) smile while looking through the move list for the first time - I sure did. Oh, and his throw is beyond cruel. The way he uses his wrist blade is relentless.
At least "Carl Weathers" has a fair shot at winning this time around.
Warrior - my favorite variation - is simplistic and focuses on an aggressive tactics. With the mask removed, this is the Predator when he's ready for some vicious hand-to-hand combat. This one's all about blunt damage and giving your enemy no room to breathe. Meanwhile, the Hish-qu-ten variation - which equips the shoulder cannon - can be used by clever players at just the right moment, but honestly, it's clear this is what the spammers will adore. This variation only gives Predator the ability to fire forward, downwards (you can alter the range by holding the direction) and upwards. You can also aim with the laser sight and fire whenever you're ready. In the right hands, this can serve as a game-changer. In the wrong hands, it'll be obnoxious. Thankfully, you've learned how to counter spammers at this point, right? Last but not least, the Hunter variation takes the most talent to use well, so if you're an especially skilled and tactical player, this could be your go-to variation. The ability to lay traps is guaranteed to manipulate your enemy's movement and if they do step on the trap, they're left vulnerable. Plus, the ability to generate some extra health - especially while your foe is stuck in a trap - doesn't hurt.
If only the Predator mimicked Dutch's "stick around" line after stabbing someone.
Just like with Jason Voorhees - another movie character who doesn't speak English - Predator's intros don't offer a lot of variety. As a fan of the alien hunter, seeing the Predator roar and get ready for a fight is consistently awesome, but the way characters react to this new fighter isn't all that entertaining -  based on what I've seen so far, that is.

I'm left with really mixed feelings on the ending. On one hand, the development is huge for the Predator and it gets my mind racing with all of the ridiculous and over-the-top possibilities. On the other hand, it seems somewhat out-of-character and I'm guessing an honorable Predator wouldn't want to make things too easy for himself. Yeah, the Predator has technology that makes a fight unfair for its opponent, but they often relish a challenge, too. This development seems to imply the Predator will never have a proper fight again; he'll have no problem obliterating all of his prey with ease. I would have liked to see the ending go in a different direction, but it's still an amusing twist.
I ain't got time for pacifism. 
Even though Predator's first fatality is solid (as if stabbing someone in the gut isn't enough, he then slices off the top part of their head with the Smart-disc), it's pretty swift. Yes, it's a fine way to humiliate your friends and it's cheerworthy the first time around, but when we're waiting this long to play as a character, you can't help but expect more. The Predator's generic win sequence is more satisfying (it includes the signature spine rip and then adding the skull to his trophy room). Thankfully, the second fatality is much, much better. Using his should cannon - and we get a glimpse of his vision as he locks on - the Predator systematically blasts apart his enemy. That one offers a little more fan service, feels more brutal, and it definitely feels like a fatality that holds up to all of the other combatants' ridiculously over-the-top finishers.

When it was announced Predator would be included in the Kombat Pack, it's ridiculous just how excited I was. Seriously, I wrote about it at least twice. My expectations were way up there for the deadly extraterrestrial and overall, I think NetherRealm Studios has handled the Predator very well. The animations, sound effects, basic attacks and combos all feel true to the character. You can really tell the developer picked the Predator as an extra fighter because they're fans of the character - this was a passion project for them, not just a fighter that's getting tossed in there mainly because fans demanded it. I mean, just look at what happens if you pick "Carl Weathers" Jax and "Commando" Johnny Cage! Would I have liked more unique moves with each variation and a more jaw-dropping first fatality? Yes. Do I think everything else about the character is excellent and all kinds of fun? Absolutely. NetherRealm Studios, you've made this Predator fan very happy.

Predator is currently available for download if you have the Kombat Pack. For everyone else, he'll go on sale July 14.

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