Not one of my longer pieces, but it’s something that’s been on my mind lately as I look at Mortal Kombat X discussion and coverage as I await either the release of the Xbox 360 version or to own a platform it’s currently on. Well, I guess I have a PC, but I’m already in front of that most of the time, so it’s a last resort.
Now, before anyone asks, I’ve been with this franchise since pretty much the beginning, even enjoying it as the fervor around it tapered off. In much of that time, I’ve never been particularly squeamish about the sheer amount of blood or the Fatalities on display. In truth, despite the highly-controversial “realism” of digitized graphics back in the day of the series’ origins, they were still more over-the-top and goofy than anything cringe-worthy to me, regardless of what was being depicted on screen.
They just never seemed that “real.”
Fast-forward to today and the two most recent entries in the series, and a different story is there to be told as it feels like we’re starting to enter “uncanny valley” territory. The blood is still by and far negligible, but the close-ups and more dynamic camera angles combined with more sophisticated graphics have pushed things quite a bit further than what we had in the early 90s. It was good for the time, and while it worked within the context of the game itself, it had all the believability of a bad Photoshop job.
While some of the newer Fatalities are enough to make me wince just a little uncomfortably (such as this one, which I’m fairly certain warrants a “Not Safe For Work” tag), what really makes me uncomfortable are the X-ray moves — those close-up cutaways in mid-kombat that show bones breaking and joints being shattered. Let’s just say that I’ve had some personal experiences that make these particular displays of violence a little more cringe-worthy as limbs and other things move in ways they were never meant to, and just leave it at that.
While the concept has potential, though, it’s ultimately pointlessly graphic, and does nothing to serve the gameplay. From what I’ve seen, despite rendering the shattering of arms, legs, etc. in such excruciating detail, the victims are all just fine a moment later. Unlike other games out there, you’ll find that there is no limp, no weak spot to work over — they’re there solely to make anyone watching or playing uncomfortable, or for a “wow” factor at best.
As it stands, for the sake of everything else that comes in the package, I can just tolerate the X-rays. That said, I’d still rather have a way to turn them off. Not even the entire moves, as they’re a part of the gameplay, but just the spectacle of zooming in and showing the cutaway of the bones going astray.
On a side note, how brutal these games can be is actually kind of funny, in a way: Whenever Mortal Kombat is shown in other media, it almost never reaches these levels of violence; it’s usually been sanitized to an almost Street Fighter-esque degree. Despite this, or even in spite of it, the developers seem quite intent on carrying things so very much further, which is sort of funny/weird/interesting in its own way.
Anyway, those are just my thoughts on the subject. Maybe I’m alone, maybe not; I still love the franchise and I’m not really asking them to tone anything down, but more options are never a bad thing.