Mortal Kombat is one of the longest running fighting game series ever. It not only help pioneer the genre, but also the ESRB rating system, due to its use of blood and gore with its iconic finishing moves called Fatalities. This entry features 24 playable characters (25 if you count Shao Kahn who is the pre-order bonus and featured in the story mode), who are customizable in terms of moves and appearance thanks to the new Custom Variation system. These characters now fight against or alongside the new threat, Kronika, who has taken warriors from the past to help with her plan to create a new timeline. Does this game perform a Fatality on the gaming market, or just perform a Hara-Kiri on itself and the Mortal Kombat franchise? Let’s take a look and find out.
Mortal Kombat 11 is available for purchase on the Playstation Store for $59.99.
Mortal Kombat has generally been the pinnacle of fighting game stories for about a decade. Even before that, the series has a very rich lore. This game is no exception to that. The story is great in terms of presentation and evoking emotion. Even when there were characters that I personally am not very interested, I was still invested and curious what was going to happen. There were a lot of fanservice moments as well plot threads that were resolved. The ending is also very open ended and up for interpretation. The cutscenes themselves are jaw dropping, and are hard to believe that they’re from a fighting game. Essentially the story is about a new villain named Kronika, who is the god of time, and unhappy with how the timeline has been altered (since Mortal Kombat 2011), and brings warriors from the past to help with her scheme of creating an entirely new timeline. Her actions also lead to bringing back dead characters who are not willing to go along with her plan. Length wise the story is about two and half to three hours, which is pretty good for a fighting game story mode.
The only issues that I had with the story are that some things are definitely unexplained, and certain events felt like missed opportunities (all I’ll say is that one involved Dark Raiden). Secondly this is less so about the story itself but the structure of it. They continued to use the chapter structure, and with this there is about only half of the roster that have playable chapters as well as receiving more attention. If you’re a fan of any of the villainous characters like Skarlett, or the morally grey characters like Erron Black, you’re definitely going to be missing out. It doesn’t help that all of the characters that received chapters have already gotten them in the past, none of the newcomers even received one. While it didn’t ruin the story mode for me, it definitely made me happier to have it done and out of the way so I can play as the characters that I enjoy more. If Netherrealm could find a way to create a story mode with the style and presentation of this, but with more of the structure of Soul Calibur 6, it would probably be the best story mode of any fighting game.
The first thing anyone thinks of when it comes to a fighting game is the fighting. In regards to Mortal Kombat 11, the game overall still feels and plays like a modern Mortal Kombat game. It does feel slightly slower and heavier than the previous Mortal Kombat X but it’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially since the game feels and looks smoother in motion. To add to this, they have at least increased the dash speed to many characters since the beta. The X-ray attacks which functioned as the super moves for the game, are now called Fatal Blows, and are usable only once per match and the character must have low health. Though they do refill the fatal blows misses after about a minute.
There are now Flawless blocks which can allow for a quick recovery attack from a regular block. Though I, however, had a hard time pulling these off due to the strict timing. Along with Fatal Blows, there are also Crushing Blows which seem like small parts of X-Ray moves from Mortal Kombat X, and they basically are enhanced normal attacks and require specific requirements to pull them off. Lastly, there is also the gauge that is no longer connected to the super moves, but still connected to enhancing special moves, as well as defensive options such as attacks that can be used while the character rises up, or escaping out of combos. All of these gameplay editions are fun and effective, though some more than others.
There are of course still Fatalities in the game, and they look better than ever. The gore is very detailed and brutal, not holding back as Mortal Kombat typically does, with great cinematography. Instead of the character doing a pose at the end, there is a slow motion (that transitions into a freeze frame) of the last part of the Fatality. While there was a special charm to seeing what happens after the Fatality, the slow motion freeze frame is something different and typically very cool shots. Thankfully the new version of Brutalities, that Mortal Kombat X featured, make a return and they function the same with fulfilling specific requirements in the last round of a match for them to work. Unfortunately no returning “alities” were brought back, such as Mortal Kombat (2011) bringing back Babalities, but at least nothing was removed from Mortal Kombat X and they continued to improve what they had from that game.
Modes and Features
One aspect that Netherrealm Studios always delivers on is content, which is something that is never guaranteed with modern fighting games. For single player there is Story, Klassic Towers (Arcade, Survival, etc.), Towers of Time, among others as well. Online matches were very smooth, as they didn’t take long at all to find and there was very little lag during matches. When an opponent is found to fight, it also shows how many matches both of you have won and lost, and the chance each of you have to defeat each other. It also mentions the connection type both of you have. This is a great feature, though may discourage players not giving others a chance to fight them being either afraid to lose or assuming their connection is bad if they’re wireless. One problem that Netherrealm Studios has had since Mortal Kombat (2011) is not having everything the player has unlocked for player 2, making you have to have unlock everything twice if a second player wants to have access to all the content that you have unlocked. While this feature has become the norm with their games, it still can be frustrating considering all the character options this game has compared to X or the 2011 entry.
There are also still Quitalities for any rage quitters online as well. The one major flaw with online mode, is that if you’re playing Ranked Matches, you cannot use the custom variations. You can only use presets, and the presets that are available are different from the ones available in all the other modes. This not only goes against a huge feature of the game with customization, but it’s confusing for players that are even fine with using the preset variation in other modes. Unless you’re serious about being competitive, I would avoid Ranked Matches until they alter this.
All of the Klassic Tower modes are fun and good ways of earning currency, and it’s nice that Mortal Kombat continues to have Arcade endings when many other fighting games have done away with that feature. The Towers of Time can be a hit or miss experience. On one hand there is a lot of replay value to it, and there is a lot to earn from it as it keeps changing over time. However if there’s a tower that has gear/skins/items that you want, and the time limit on it runs out, you may have to wait awhile before doing it again. Not to mention that some of the Towers can be quite difficult. Thankfully they have toned down the difficulties of most of them, but some Towers (particularly in the Gauntlet) can still be obnoxiously difficult. There are consumables that can be used to make the fights easier, but of course there is something that you could unlock in place of something substantial that you actually want like a skin or Brutality which can be frustrating. Unfortunately just like Injustice 2’s Multiverse Mode, a lot of the towers are timed and will disappear (at least for awhile) if you don’t complete them in time.
The progression system is one of the few issues with the game, and possible the largest one at that. As the game doesn’t offer large values of currency most of the time, mainly the hearts (The other two values are coins and souls which are not as hard to come by). However, while the chests in the Krypt to unlock hearts aren’t random, the coin and soul chests do seem far more random, which is a shame if you just want to unlock content for characters that you like more. Thankfully, coins especially are now fairly easy to obtain, which make the coin chests in the Krypt fair less of a hassle. Basically unlocking stuff in general is not that difficult, but unlocking things you specifically want can be quite the hassle.
Speaking of the The Krypt, this mode is almost like a game in itself. This has been a feature for Mortal Kombat since the fifth entry (Deadly Alliance), and this is probably the best it’s ever been. Instead of being in first person, it’s now a third person exploration mode where you roam around Shang Tsung’s Island as a random traveler, unlocking content and making discoveries. It’s very reminiscent of Mortal Kombat: Deception’s Konquest mode, that involved exploration and just minimal combat (in the adventure part of it anyway). Not only is it large and expansive, but it features a lot of Easter eggs and fanservice for any long time Mortal Kombat fan. There’s also commentary from Shang Tsung who is voiced by Cary Togawa (actor who portrayed the character in the feature film from the mid 90’s), and is also going to be the first DLC character. The only really bad thing about this, is that you have to be online to access this mode as well as unlock certain features at that which is ridiculous.
The customization is the best of both worlds from Injustice 2 and Mortal Kombat X’s variations. Up to three (five if you get rid of the presets), and allow both the aesthetics of the character and the special moves to be changed. You can now mix and match the special moves you want for a character with some limitations. This even allows choice of intros and victory poses. There are tons of skins and gear pieces for every character that offers many options. The only two issues is that some of the skins that are more than a color change are hardly different from each other. This is also upsetting considering all of the classic outfits that many of these characters had in the past. Alongside this, the grind to unlock these can be very time consuming. The intros themselves for some reason are incredibly difficult to come by. Certain gear pieces have similar molds as well, but it’s less prevalent.
One of the traits that can determine the excitement of a fighting game is the roster, especially to hardcore fans of the series. The three new characters are all interesting and fun to play as, and it’s great they went with a few less new faces than Mortal Kombat X, while still trying to evolve the cast. Some of the better characters introduced in Mortal Kombat X also make a return like Kotal Kahn and Erron Black. The most exciting aspects of the roster for me are the characters that missed out on the previous entry like Noob Saibot, or maybe even the last two entries like Frost and Shao Kahn. Even a character I was always lukewarm to, such as Baraka, was fairly exciting and nice to see again.
The issue here is they could have gone farther with these selections. The Mortal Kombat series has over seventy characters to choose from, and this game only has about seven returning faces that have missed out recently, and about half of the roster are characters that were in the last two or three games. While some of these characters obviously have to be in such as Scorpion or Sub-Zero, some of them such as Sonya and Jax have missed out on games in the past, and the developers seem too reluctant to have them sit out now as opposed to a character that isn’t seen too often such as Smoke, Rain, Sindel, or Fujin. Admittedly, they have put a lot of work into each character, and have overall continued to evolve them from each entry. It is definitely admirable considering how many fighting games keep generally each character the same.
Overall, I think this roster is more appealing than Mortal Kombat X‘s was, but it still seemed as if they wanted to play it safe yet again and not bring back some still missing fan favorites. While this will more than likely be improved with DLC, it’s just a shame that they have to use post-launch content as a crutch instead of trying to go for a more refreshing roster from the start, especially as a long time fan of the series. The fact that the rosters can’t seem to get past 25 characters is also not helping this pattern.
Graphics and Sound
Mortal Kombat X came out early in this current gen cycle, while Mortal Kombat 11 was released late into the cycle and it clearly shows. This game is far more brimming with color than the previous entry, as well as the faces of characters looking far better. Lastly the character models also seem to be far smoother. The blood is even fully 3D now in the fatalities and during fights. Animations also seem improved as that is an area past games have struggled with, even more so than graphics. While this may be a bold statement, Mortal Kombat 11 may be the greatest looking fighting game at least in terms of graphics, while still having eye popping (literally and figuratively) aesthetics. The characters both in and out of fighting are brimming with so much personality that it’s hard to believe this game and Mortal Kombat X are from the same console generation. Even the menus and UI elements just feel so much more alive and interesting compared to the previous game.
Music for recent Mortal Kombat games has not exactly been the highest quality, as it’s typically very plain and doesn’t stand out. The tracks from both the fight stages and music at least seem like an improvement from Mortal Kombat X so far with the music. There’s more energy and variety to it as opposed to the previous entry’s more downplayed tunes that use the same type of style. Sound effects sound powerful and impactful. Don’t expect anything at a Killer Instinct, Guilty Gear, or Super Smash Bros. level, but it’s definitely an upgrade. One great detail that stood out was in Kabal’s second fatality where he pulls the opponents head in half from the jaw, and you can hear the victim’s teeth come apart that makes the Fatality all the more grotesque. Even the Krypt has very atmospheric tunes to it, such as the Kytinn Cave song that sounds like something out of Metroid Prime.