Mortal Kombat 11 Review
Past meets the present in gory fashion.
Mortal Kombat is one of the very reasons the ESRB exists and yet that has not prevented the series from getting even more outlandish as the series has continued over the years. After some stumbles in the series during the 3D years, Ed Boon and NetherRealm Studios have been on fire since the rebooted Mortal Kombat in 2011 and now they are looking to build even further on the last few entries with a mix of the past and present in Mortal Kombat 11.
Everybody knows what they are going to get from a Mortal Kombat game on the surface with blood and gore mixed with a great cast of characters to play as. Mortal Kombat 11 most certainly does not disappoint in that aspect, offering one of the best and most diverse base rosters in the series. Even though there are some fan favorites missing like Reptile, plenty of classic characters like Liu Kang, Raiden, and Sonya Blade are back along with three brand new characters named Geras, Kollector, and Cetrion. In total, there are 24 characters on the base roster, which includes one unlockable, as well as the ability to get Shao Kahn as pre-order DLC as a 25th character from the beginning as well.
Mortal Kombat 11 boasts an intricate tutorial system that not only teaches you the basics, but also lets you try out individual characters to learn their special moves and best kombo attacks. This is actually pretty important, as the gameplay does shift a bit this time around. Mortal Kombat has typically been a very fast paced offensive style game, but Mortal Kombat 11 changes it up by slowing things down a bit. The characters now feel a bit heavier and have more weight behind their punches and any general movement for that matter. Those who have played Injustice 2 may recognize this a bit, though it’s not quite the same. This change to the combat forces the player to play more defensively sometimes, which is not in anyway a bad thing.
Variations were the central focus of the combat system in Mortal Kombat X, which have now been made fully customizable in Mortal Kombat 11. Similar to Injustice 2, you will earn gear throughout the game, with each character having three types equippable. What does differ greatly here though is that these gear pieces do not affect your fighter’s stats, but rather are for cosmetics only instead. This is great, as you can design your character to look just the way you like without sacrificing stat boosts. However, you can unlock Augment Sockets on these gear pieces that you can place Augments in to improve stats. Beyond this, you can also choose your skins, intro and victory animations, and abilities. Each character has their set moves that won’t be altered, but additional moves can be chosen that greatly differ the playstyle of that character. This is one of the most robust customization systems of this sort available in any fighter right now, offering near endless possibilities.
Another major change with the fighting system is the replacement of the X-Ray attacks with what are known as Fatal Blows. In the previous two Mortal Kombat games, X-Ray attacks were special moves that could be activated once you filled as specific meter. However, Fatal Blows are instead used as a way to balance the game and turn the tides of battle. When a fighter is down to their last third of their health bar, you will notice the bar stars flashing to tell you to press both of the trigger buttons at the same time. This then activates the Fatal Blow, which is pretty much the same as with the X-Ray attacks in the past. This can be both bad and good, as it definitely helps the loser, but it can also lead to some real frustrating rubberbanding when facing CPU players in the game.
These Fatal Blow attacks are incredibly brutal in action and the game gets even more gruesome with the signature element of the series, Fatalities. NetherRealm Studios just keeps elevating their game with the various Fatalities offered and they have raised the bar yet again this time. The Easy Fatality tokens are back again for you to earn and perform them the cheap way, but they really aren’t that difficult to perform in their normal form. The level of gore is downright insane in some of these, so they are definitely not for the squeamish types. The combat itself maintains a smooth 60fps framerate, but it does drop to 30fps for the Fatal Blows and Fatalities. This allows them to be even more in depth visually, which definitely is the more important aspect when it comes to such attacks, especially when the gameplay itself maintains the 60fps mark throughout.
Fatalities and Fatal Blows are not the only visually impressive parts of the game either, as the stages and characters themselves look absolutely stellar. NetherRealm wowed us with the facial animations in Injustice 2 and they have managed to do it yet again here in Mortal Kombat 11, offering realistic character animations that are up there with the best in the industry. The backgrounds in the stages are absolutely gorgeous as well, including locales such as the Shirai Ryu Fire Garden, Kharon’s Ship, and Black Market Alley. Each level feels completely distinct from the rest, with a lot of detail put into every single one.
Mortal Kombat has long been the king of the story mode when it comes to fighting games and Mortal Kombat 11 exemplifies why they are the masters yet again. Split across 12 chapters, you get the opportunity to play as multiple different characters that would be classified as mostly the good guys. The majority of these chapters have you playing as only one character, though a few have you alternating between two different characters as well.
The story in Mortal Kombat 11 picks up right after the events of its predecessor, as Raiden is torturing Shinnok with his new red lightning persona he adopted at the end of the last game. Raiden is no longer sitting back and waiting, but rather going on the offensive to take out any threats to Earthrealm preemptively. This causes the newly introduced villain for the game named Kronika to intervene and try to reshape the universe to her will instead.
Kronika’s plan ends up merging past and present somehow, giving us not only the current versions of characters such as Johnny Cage, but also their much younger selves. This not only allows for non-dead or evil versions of the characters that were killed in Mortal Kombat 9 like Liu Kang and Kitana to play a big part, but also gives some really good moments between Cassie Cage and the younger versions of both of her parents. There are some really poignant moments in here with certain characters that were a really nice surprise to have included as well.
The multiple timeline story was a really unique way to introduce different versions of the characters and it somehow manages to work every well even with the large roster of characters from the different periods of time. The newly introduced characters outside of Kronika do feel a little lackluster story wise in comparison to a lot of the other characters in the story, including Geras not being much more than just an unkillable character, but they still fit in with the world well enough overall and are a good bit of fun to play as otherwise.
Story mode is never the only place to get plot in the Mortal Kombat series, as arcade ladders are always available for individual characters. In Mortal Kombat 11, this is done through the Klassic Towers that are just as you know and love. This offers five different options, three normal towers of escalating numbers of fighters along with an and Endless Tower and a Survival Tower. By completing one of the regular towers, you will receive an ending via narration over artwork for that specific character. As always, some of these could be considering canon and others not, but they are still well worth working towards unlocking.
Realistic character animations that are up there with the best in the industry.
Taking a part right out of Injustice 2 are the Towers of Time, which take the Klassic Towers and amp them up tenfold. After completing initial tutorial towers, you will then be treated to a number of different options, most of which are time based. Some of these only last a few hours and some last for days at a time. Just like with Injustice, these each have special themes and typically reward you with some really great items for completing them.
Fights in the Towers of Time are far from normal fights, as they almost always have some sort of modifiers active. There are a lot of them to be found in the game, including having missiles shot at you throughout the match or slowly being poisoned. You can also equip consumables yourself to help even the odds, which means you really have to work to earn them throughout the game itself.
The one issue with the Towers of Time though is that they feel almost too brutal. Mortal Kombat is known for being very difficult, but some of the matches in the towers here are near impossible at times. The good news is that you can earn tokens that allow you to skip certain fights, which can alleviate some of these concerns. However, these towers begin to feel much more like a grind akin to a mobile game instead of feeling more balanced like with Injustice 2.
This mobile-like grind also extends to Mortal Kombat 11’s version of The Krypt as well. Koins must be collected throughout the various modes in the game so that you can then go spend them in the Krypt by opening chests. These chests hold an abundance of different items, such as gear, skins, and character artwork. You should have a good bit of Koins in your first go, but the money will run out quickly and you will find yourself having to grind for more. Really the best part of The Krypt are the puzzle based elements, as you have to solve puzzles and find specific items to advance. This was definitely the most ambitious Krypt to date with the scale, though some of the fun is sucked out when you quickly run out of Koins to spend.
Mortal Kombat 11 also includes online features for you to try out as well, with plenty of options at your disposal. Too many games in recent memory have seemed to be lacking certain basic online features at launch, such as Dead or Alive 6’s lack of online lobbies, but Mortal Kombat 11 is packed with plenty between Ranked or Kasual matches, with you able to create private matches and rooms with ease as well. The netcode also seems to be improved from past games as well, with very few issues while playing online.
Putting together a story mode in a fighting game is often seen as an afterthought for most developers, but that is always one of the most important features when it comes to Mortal Kombat and that is no different this time around. Mortal Kombat 11 features another outstanding story mode complete with impressive character animations and environments. That is only a piece of the puzzle that makes this game great, as you have Towers, The Krypt, and online play to keep you busy for a long time, even though the grind can be a little much at times. Adding in the excellent combat system that feels more balanced than ever before, Mortal Kombat 11 is easily one of the best outings for this series to date.
The Mortal Kombat series is truly experiencing a renaissance with the most consistent output since the original trilogy in recent years. Mortal Kombat 11 now continues that trend by giving fans of the series a nostalgia fueled story that somehow manages to mesh perfectly with the present day story presented across the last few games. Unlike some of its more competitive counterparts in the fighting genre, Mortal Kombat 11 remains much more approachable while still being full of the type of kontent and gore people come to expect from the Mortal Kombat series.
Mortal Kombat 11
- Available On: Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC
- Published By: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Developed By: NetherRealm Studios
- Genre: Fighting
- US Release Date: April 23rd, 2019
- Reviewed On: Xbox One
- Quote: "The Mortal Kombat series is truly experiencing a renaissance with the most consistent output since the original trilogy in recent years. Mortal Kombat 11 now continues that trend by giving fans of the series a nostalgia fueled story that somehow manages to mesh perfectly with the present day story presented across the last few games"