Also On: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Publisher: WB Games
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Mortal Kombat is a franchise I have been playing since it first released in arcades back in August 1992. It was such a big deal, because everyone was playing Street Fighter II and the thought of another fighting game wasn’t on gamer’s minds. At least not where I grew up. Little did anyone know, that MK would change fighting games and the video game industry forever.
Fast forward, 17 years later, the franchise is stronger than ever and what better way to show that then to release a new game that doesn’t feel like everything we have played with previous entries. The series has seen more than 11 titles, with sub titled games like “Deadly Alliance” or weird non-fighting game entries like “MK Mythology: Sub-Zero”.
One thing that the franchise has always been known for, outside of gore, is its creative fighting mechanics or new and twisted ways of finishing off your opponent. From Fatalities and Brutalities to Friendships and Animalities, there was never a shortage of “alities”.
Mortal Kombat 11 is a real breath of fresh air despite the overall concept being intact from previous entries. The primary reasons are subtle but really make the game standout in a way that it hasn’t for me in quite some time. NetherRealm Studios has really listened to the fans of not only the MK games but also the Injustice ones. One of the biggest surprises this time around was the introduction to a “Gear” system, clearly inspired by Injustice 2.
This is something that works on so many levels for MK. For one, this is a great way to include a variety of outfits for characters, most which have had several iterations. This also includes simple color swaps as well as weapon design changes. Another way this makes for a great addition, is tying into the Story Mode, which I would dive into too much due to spoilers, but as can be seen in trailers, MK11 deals with different versions of characters like Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade.
For existing followers of the previous games, a lot of character arcs were changed — either it would be someone dying or changing alliances and this has had a long term affect on the game and the latest story finds a balance in this for the most part. With these changes, the “Gear” System is an ample component that will provide plenty of customization for characters old and new, for use both off and online.
As I mentioned before, this game is a refresh for the series in a lot of ways. One of the biggest pieces that I saw this with, is the “Krypt” mode. This is a mode, I could care less about before, not because of the vast amount work you needed to put in for unlocks, but more about the mechanics and how stiff they were. It felt like old PS One first person games that didn’t get the controls right.
The new Krypt, which takes place on Shang Tsung’s Island, is chock full of nostalgia for veteran MK fans. The fact that NetherRealm brought actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa from the original ?90s movie as an older Shang Tsung was a great addition for the game. The mode, this time feels more like a mini adventure game, now from a 3rd person perspective.
You progress in a Metroidvania style fashion, in which you will find new items to help you access new areas. Eagle eye fans will appreciate the overall architecture of the island as there are many throwbacks to the original game. I found myself spending a couple hours at a time exploring all the nooks and crannies the map has to offer. Unfortunately, sight-seeing is all you can do, if you haven’t played through other modes to unlock in game currency to open chests, which provide various unlocks for the game including Gear, Cosmetic character skins, Art and Music.
I would encourage to start your journey playing the Story Mode. I won’t dive into much due to the large number of spoilers but will say this is the best story I’ve seen in the series and in some cases is a great character tutorial since you will play with a large percentage of the playable characters throughout the 7-8-hour mode.
The story itself deals with different versions of certain characters as the trailers has shown, including some that are visually inspired by the ?90s movie. This is something that lends itself to the justification of character skins in the Customize Mode. With Injustice 2, there were so many skins you could unlock that paid homage to each character’s history and the addition in MK11 is beyond welcome.
Outside of these, the traditional modes we expect from the newer MK games are here and play like they did before. The last thing I want to focus on, is to me, the meat and potatoes of why I love Mortal Kombat 11. It’s all about the KOMBAT! If you remember when the Run button was introduced in MK3, this was a huge evolution in the series and something I was so excited for.
Walking into an arcade and seeing the game for the first time was a surreal experience as a huge fan of the previous 2. It was a pleasant refresh to me as each game added new mechanics, but this changed, how you played the game. For me, I haven’t had that type of excitement for a MK game since. That was until I played MK11.
The thing is, it’s not like the game has added a new button. So, what can I be speaking about? I’m speaking about how the X-Ray moves have been streamlined into the overall combat, along with the addition of the Final Blow mechanic. The original X-Rays were awesome the first dozen times and for me got stale with use and found myself avoiding them all together.
With MK11, Each element of combat blends together harmoniously. I found myself with a smile from cheek to cheek after most matches. The creative Final Blows can sometimes be jaw dropping and simply over the top for something that isn’t considered a Fatality. Playing with some friends and watching their first reactions to one or even one of the series’ best finishing moves in recent years, brings back pure joy reminiscent of playing in the arcades many years ago.
Mortal Kombat 11 simply has the most content I’ve seen in a fighting game and there is more than enough justification for consistently revisiting the game to unlock Gear, Skins, and experiment with an impressive roster. My main gripe from the game is something that has happened in previous games: I’m not a fan, of characters being excluded from the roster that are within the Story Mode. We can hope for them to be included in DLC, but there are too many for them all to be included without them being surprises.
I hope that the micro-transactions won’t deter fans from being able to unlock everything via the in-game progression. This was not available during my review process. Overall, Mortal Kombat 11 is a game I wasn’t excited for until I played it myself. Since then I haven’t put it down yet and don’t see doing so for some time. Twenty nineteen is shaping up to be a great year for existing franchises.
Note: WB Games provided us with a Mortal Kombat 11 PS4 code for review purposes.