Most fighting game franchises–Street Fighter, Tekken and the like–don’t try to convince players that pain’s being dished out in agonizing quantities. Believing that Ryu’s roundhouse kick actually hurts requires a suspension of disbelief on the player’s part.
Not so with the new Mortal Kombat. These brawls clearly hurt.
The damage wrought on the character models is such that Scorpion, Sub-Zero and their opponents look like they should barely be able to stand. And then there’s the new X-Ray Moves, which reach a new pinnacle of brutality. When triggered, you can see bones shatter and viscera explode. Ain’t no doubt about it: you’re in a fight to the death.
It’s those X-Ray Moves along with the series’ trademark “Fatalities” that had the Australian Classification Board refuse to give MK a rating, effectively banning it from the country. (It’s rated ‘M’ for Mature here in the States.) While MK’s Fatalities are nothing new, the X-Ray Moves are, and they’re not the only thing new in the reboot of this bloody brawler.
(More on TIME.com: Mortal Kombat Gets Punching Noir Rebirth)
Netherrealm–the development studio that rose from former publisher Midway’s ashes–reboots everything about this once-controversial series. The visuals, controls and storyline get a soft reset, familiar costumes get updated (so Sub-Zero and Ermac don’t just look like re-colored versions of the same characters) and iconic backgrounds from Mortal Kombat 1 and 2 get hi-def re-imaginings, too.
The reasons we’re seeing those established locales has to do with the story. This new MK technically picks up after Mortal Kombat: Armageddon in series continuity. Netherrealm assumes the worst case scenario: evil extra-dimensional overlord Shao Kahn emerges victorious from the bloodsport tournament, spelling doom for both the Earthrealm and Outworld dimensions. Cribbing from J.J. Abrams, thunder god Raiden sends a message back through time to his past self to try and prevent Shao Kahn’s future victory.