Gore - what is it good for?
Fatalities have always been Mortal Kombat's misunderstood genius, rewarding cartoon cutscenes that you can trace back to the sanitised ultraviolence of Tom and Jerry cartoons. They're a joke, a self-conscious nudge from the developers, saying "this is all a bit silly, eh? Look at how that man's melting, ha ha ha!".
But not any more.
Mortal Kombat X, with its high-fidelity graphics, its movie-quality sound production, and its unflinching artistic eye for what it must look like when a person's head is shoved down their neckhole by telekinesis has gone too far. I've gathered seven bits of evidence from the new game to show you just what I mean. Hold onto your stomachs, and then hold onto all the vomit that comes out of your stomachs (you can bag it up and send it to the police as evidence).
The one with the face
Look, I already have enough of a problem with the real-life body horror that is my mouth. It is a HOLE in your FACE, that tunnels all the way through your body to your ANUS. I know it's a fact of life, I'm just saying that if I could cover over my mouth and eat through my eyes, I would.
Which is why this fatality disturbs me so. By showing, in excruciating slow motion, what I've got concealed behind my blessed cheeks, it is directly confronting me with a reality I never asked for in a video game.
The one with the child
Call me a prude, but this one is beyond the pale. Interactive environments are cool and all - I really like the stage where you can use an old lady as a missile - but we must not involve children.
Worst of all, this stage-specific fatality starts in acceptable fashion. In the grand scheme of Mortal Kombat history, watching someone get decapitated is pretty tame. But when Kitana, having finished, looked directly into the camera, pointed offscreen, and a slow camera pan revealed a traumatised 6 year-old who had watched the whole sorry affair, I realised I'd been the victim of a cruel ruse.
The one where Johnny Cage kicks a dog into a cat into a horse, the horse runs over a switch that releases a thousand mice onto a set of scales attached to a pair of scissors that, when weighed down, snips the rope holding up a huge rice paper fist filled with wasps, causing it to fall into a paddling pool with three sharks inside who, as their hand-prison dissolves, gorge themselves on wasp-flesh and eventually explode, showering the stunned opponent with stingers and they die.
Virtual animal cruelty is one thing, but I draw the line at Rube Goldberg machines. They're stupid.
The one with the fawning Joss Whedon reference
Everyone loves an Easter Egg, never more so when it shows that game devs are just as much fans of pop culture as we players. So you'd think it'd be cool to see NetherRealm tip their hat to Joss Whedon's first Avengers movie, a lovely bit of solidarity between creators - WRONG.
The fact that Scorpion spontaneously creates a shawarma wrap - a reference to The Avengers' famous post-credits joke - is just out of keeping with the rest of the game. The fact that we also have to watch the whole of The Avengers' 10-minute credits sequence itself before we even get there takes the homage too far.
The one where you vote for a far-right political party
I don't want to get political - which is why I'm so angry about this one. I might choose to play as any number of murderous sociopaths, but I do NOT want to know how they'd choose to vote in an election. It's called a secret ballot for a reason.
I particularly don't like how personally motivated this fatality is. That I watched Shinnok leave the arena, walk to the post office, cast his vote and then whisper that he only went for that party because "I reckon it might get my opponent deported" seems like a perversion of the political process, and sets a bad example to young voters.
The one with the ethereal bass guitar note
This one's a tricky bastard. When Kenshi pulled out a gnarly ESP LTD EX-104 bass guitar, I was like, "now we're talking". It's silly, it's fun, a real throwback. "This is the kind of fatality I want!", I yelled, sucking back an ice cold beer.
But wait a second, why was it ice cold? I had just pulled them out of the cupboard!
It's then that I realised that Edward Boon and his cronies had gone too far once again - that single note is actually what para-scientists (a specialised field of paranormal scientists who get around by skydiving) refer to as a "Tonal Dimensional Rupture", and witches call "The Ring of Death". My room is now full of ghosts attracted to the noise. Boo.
The one that goes on and on and on...
God, cut to the chase already. When I watch Quan Chi slice Raiden in two, I was as repulsed as ever, but when he just kept slicing and slicing, I could barely stand to keep watching. But I did, because journalism...
...and on and on and on and on and on...
And he just kept slicing! Kept slicing until Raiden looked like the kind of low-grade beef mince that I have to buy because I can't afford the good stuff. And then he just sat down, and watched. Like he knew something was going to happen next...
...and on and on until the opponent becomes a flowerbed.
And something did happen. The minced man rotted away, becoming a sort of bloody mulch. Over time it was digested, excreted, re-digested and re-excreted by thousands of different species, until it became soil. Eventually, what was once Quan Chi's victim became a flowerbed, a seemingly spiritual symbol of the endless lifecycle we all form a part of, the process from birth to death to new life. It was really boring.