Mortal Kombat X Visual Analysis: Xbox One vs. PS4 vs. PC

NetherRealm’s Mortal Kombat finally debuts on current gen but is it a significant leap forward?

Posted By | On 16th, Apr. 2015 Under Article, Graphics Analysis

It’s amazing to think that we’ve gone more than four years without a sequel to Mortal Kombat. Often called Mortal Kombat 9, the fighting game was arguably the best the series had to offer in terms of story-telling and previous gen capability. Mortal Kombat X is now upon us and marks the jump to PS4 and Xbox One for the franchise. One of the biggest changes it offers is a native 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second gameplay on current gen consoles. Oddly enough, Mortal Kombat X runs on a highly modified Unreal Engine 3 like its predecessor. How do these elements all gel together?

Let’s start off by looking at the resolution and frame rate performance. The PS4 version runs at native 1920×1080 resolution while the Xbox One appears to be utilizing a dynamic 1080p resolution. Similar to the solution seen in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare for the Xbox One, Mortal Kombat X switches between 1920 x 1080 and 1360 x 1080 resolutions in some places. We’re still observing pixel counts on the Xbox One version just to be sure.

Head to head video comparison between PS4, Xbox One and PC. Please select 1080p and 60fps for best possible video quality.

In terms of frame rate, both versions run close to 60 frames per second with very few drops in between. Frame judders can be observed when transitioning from cinematics to gameplay or from interactive QTEs to gameplay and vice versa. In these non-gameplay instances, the game is mostly running at 30 FPS and the switch back to 60 FPS results in severe frame pacing problems. You’ll have noticed something similar while playing Dead or Alive 5: Last Round on current gen consoles. It’s not debilitating gameplay-wise but is quite the annoyance.

One important point that needs to be noted is that NetherRealm Studios is focused on the PS4 and Xbox One with this iteration – as evidenced by the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions being delayed – but still opted for Unreal Engine 3. Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 is the engine solution native to current gen platforms and oftentimes, developers haven’t had the best results relying on UE3. That being said, in Mortal Kombat X’s case, the frame rate performance is roughly comparable to the previous generation with NetherRealm doing a pretty good job adding 60 FPS support.

The studio has also done good work with the game’s custom post process anti-aliasing. The FXAA seen here clearly distinguishes edges without disrupting the geometry of characters and objects, unlike Borderlands: The Handsome Collection (whose games ran on a customized version of UE3 and also faced issues on PS4/Xbox One). It’s not perfect but we’ll get to that.

At the very least, along with the resolution and frame rate bump, Mortal Kombat X manages to distinguish itself with a large amount of post processing effects. Motion blur, screen space reflections, depth of field, limited physically based rendering and more have been implemented with the lighting effects looking particularly stunning. Just watch the various little bolts of lightning arc around Raiden even as he stands around or the various projectile attacks and powers performed throughout fights to see what we mean. Specular reflections are cast by spells on surrounding objects but PBR’s use is limited overall. Sadly, non playable character model geometry does get broken up at times and you’ll spot some low resolution textures on more than one occasion.

Head to head screenshot comparison between Xbox One (left), PS4 (middle) and PC (right).

When it all comes together though, Mortal Kombat is a brutal, bloody affair. The in-game physics is better than ever and it’s awesome to see such small details like blood dripping on the floor in real-time. Given how dark Mortal Kombat X can be, both in subject matter and lighting, it’s nice to see the custom AO solution smoothening out blurry edges and reducing the amount of dithering in shadows, especially in those cast by characters.

The PC version of the game is where things get a bit…weird. When downloading the game, you’ll be required to download individual packets from Steam. Users have reported their fair share of problems in this regard. After all that trouble, you’ll find the graphical options are surprisingly limited. You can adjust shadow quality, texture quality, ambient occlusion and whatnot but only FXAA is available as an anti-aliasing solution. Even if the game is running on an outdated Unreal Engine 3, it’s still annoying to be so limited.

We tested Mortal Kombat X across a variety of different configurations. Check out the GPU/CPU settings below and their respective frame rates.

  • GTX 750 Ti, Intel i5-4460 – 71 FPS
  • GTX 970, Intel I5-4440 – 54 FPS
  • Radeon R9 280x, Intel i3-2120 – 59 FPS
  • Radeon R9 280x, AMD-FX8320 – 58 FPS
  • GTX 960, Intel Core i5-4570 – 60 FPS

Both a decent GPU and CPU would be required for the full 60 FPS experience but for the most part, it’s not difficult to achieve high settings in MKX on PC. Even with reports of instability, we had a relatively smooth experience across different hardware.

The real issue arises with the game’s default gamma, contrast and brightness. As the comparison videos indicate, the PC version’s settings differ from the console versions by quite a bit. Despite adjusting the three settings, we were unable to mirror the look of the console versions. Even though gameplay seems more or less on par at default settings, the cinematics lighting appear quite messed up. At least a fix for the frame judders that occur during gameplay and non-interactive scenes can be corrected with a fix. It’s a shame that this is even a problem in the PC version at all.

The PC graphical options and settings are limited.

mortal kombat x pc graphical settings options

mortal kombat x pc graphical settings options

Mortal Kombat X is an overall mixed bag visually, regardless of which platform you play it on. The PS4 version is arguably the best experience since its 60 FPS frame rate sees the least amount of frame drops and its native 1080p resolution looks great. However, there are various issues that still need to be resolved across the board including the frame judders and pacing problems. The PC version is surprisingly limited in terms of graphical options and the dynamic resolution on the Xbox One doesn’t do it any favours.

Hopefully there will be a patch for the frame rate issues sometime in the coming weeks. Fighting game fans will find plenty to like here, even if the visual experience isn’t a massive overhaul from Mortal Kombat (2011). We can’t wait for the day when Unreal Engine 4 replaces UE3 as the de facto engine for current generation consoles.

Note: Analysis was carried out by Bill Smith. Additional reporting by Ravi Sinha.

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  • d0x360

    Ive recently built a new enthusiast level gaming pc so ive all but stopped buying games on my ps4 or xb1 unless they are exclusive. That said I ALMOST bought this on xbox one because its where most of my friends would play and Xbox live. Nether realm doesn’t have a good track record on pc netcode so I figured xbl would be the way to go.

    In the end I went pc anyways and was met with a broken game on day 1 and then a game with a gimped frame rate after that. It drops to 30 during any scripted event and it makes zero sense and also is incredibly jarring and ugly when it happens. Thankfully there is a config tweak to fix this so if you have it on pc be sure to look it up.

    • MS

      Thats a cool story bro. Moral of the story, the X1 is superior, PC sucks


    • d0x360

      I’m wishing I had bought it on xbox now since the pc version keeps crashing and is all over the place with its frame rate

    • Grahfex

      Please don’t say that unless you’re prepared to give us VARIOUS facts as to why PC sucks.

      I haven’t played the console versions yet so I can’t accurately judge them. But from what I’ve seen…and I mean by other sources and not just this, they all seem identical. I don’t understand why however, that during cut scenes the frame rate is dropped to about 30fps. Not a big deal but you would imagine that if the game is on a PC it would at least be 60fps just like the in game battles.

  • This Guy

    So now it’s coming out that it is a variable resolution? How did all the res elitists miss this one with their 6700″ TVs?

    • MS

      Because its a dynamic res so it can change from scene to sccene, so you have to count alot more screenshots. Its basically a 900p game. So get your facts right, before you spew out stupid sounding sh’t, so you dont look so dumb.

    • This Guy

      Has the minimum res been determined yet? Last I heard it was 1360×1080 which is higher than 900p.

    • This Guy

      Oh and relax dude, no need for the aggression.

  • Mark

    Only difference I see is the strength of the colors. I won’t even say who’s look best, but they’re 90-99% theee same. And the game is awesome imo.

    • MS

      It doesnt matter what you see, thats subjective, the objective fact is that the PS4 version is always running at 1920×1080 while the X1 version is changing between 1920×1080 and 1360×1080 (aka 1080PR which is basically equivalent to 900p). So basically its a 1080p game on the PS4 vs a 900p game on the X1

    • Mark

      One of the dummest comments I’ve seen in months; “Doesn’t matter what u see”. Ok bye

    • Truth_Hurts

      I see you don’t know what objective and subjective mean. Yet you’re calling @disqus_TD13MJKDwu:disqus dumb? Lol okay…

    • Mark

      Right, I don’t understand what he means haha. So when considering what console I’d buy MK for, I should observe the fact one’s native 1080p and the other dynamic, instead of just lookin at both…….nah I’ll just use my eyes. Haha. Wow

    • Dr. MKhalil

      the pc version lose some contrast ,, look a hair of lady ,,, and fire ,, ps4 and x1 more details .

  • Failz

    Them PC pics are Gorgeous, waiting for Steam sale for this one, in the mean time KI will keep me busy, Cinder incoming, Gonna be hot.


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