Check out our video review:
Mortal Kombat (2011) rewrites the events of the first three games essentially making it a reboot or soft reboot and it revitalized the series with fun gameplay that pays homage to its roots while retaining the excessive violence the series is known for. It was followed up by Mortal Kombat X in 2015 which featured new mechanics, more content, and more graphic violence. These are blood-soaked fighting games that let you eviscerate your opponents because it’s fun. But accompanying all the blood and guts are great fighting games that should cater to a wide variety of players of all skill levels. Needless to say, the Mortal Kombat series has been on a roll lately and the latest entry is Mortal Kombat 11 which released for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch in April, 2019. It was developed by NetherRealm Studious and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. For this review, I played the PC version. Mortal Kombat 11 does have DLC and as of this review, if you purchase the Aftermath collection, you get everything. Aftermath released in May, 2020 and features new story content, characters, stages, and finishing moves.
After Shinnok was defeated, his mother Kronika, a titan and keeper of time, plans to rewrite history and create a new era. Several characters and younger versions of others from alternate timelines appear as a result of a time storm. While Sektor is creating a cyber army for Kronika, the Earthrealm warriors forge an alliance with Kotal Kahn with a plan to assault Kronika’s keep. There are multiple endings and the Aftermath campaign continues where the main campaign left off. Shang Tsung reveals that the Crown of Souls is needed to use the hourglass to restore time without destroying it. Because the Crown was destroyed, Nightwolf, Fujin, and Shang Tsung are sent back in time to retrieve it. I thought the story was a bit crazy but I enjoyed several of the voice performances. Cary Tagawa lends his likeness and voice to Shang Tsung and I thought his performance was the best. This is the same actor who played the character in the original Mortal Kombat film. The cut scene presentation is Mortal Kombat 11 is phenomenal. The motion capture work, facial expressions, and level of detail is truly impressive, resulting in a very cinematic experience.
There is a decent roster of characters to select from and the story mode will force you to play as a different character in each chapter. This does mean you have to learn a new move set in each chapter. Only a few characters are new and some favorites didn’t make the cut nor were they added in as DLC as of this review. I was disappointed with the absence of Reptile. Mortal Kombat 11 does introduce several guest characters; Joker, Spawn, The Terminator, and RoboCop. I’m a fan of all of them and enjoyed watching them execute opponents and get destroyed. They actually got Keith David to reprise his role as Spawn and used Arnold Schwarzenegger’s and Peter Weller’s likenesses for The Terminator and RoboCop respectively. For some reason, Arnie didn’t lend his voice to the character but from what I read he picked the voice actor.
Mortal Kombat 11 introduces several new mechanics which can easily be overlooked by casual players. You have offensive and defensive meters that are drained by using certain abilities, there’s armor breaking moves, multiple types of getup attacks, and you can perform flawless blocks, among other things. I would highly suggest you jump into the Tutorial/Training mode first before anything else. It covers everything ranging from the basics to advanced techniques. It even covers frame data. It’s one of the best training modes I’ve seen in a fighting game, right up there with the training modes from Killer Instinct (2013) and Street Fighter V. If you want to be good or competitive, this is a great place to start. Even for people like me who just enjoy playing the games casually, it showed me a lot and I was able to use some of what I learned effectively. It was fun and rewarding pulling off advanced moves. Whether you complete the training or not, you’ll still need to practice to be good and the game does include a practice mode where you can adjust various aspects of the AI.
Every character can punch, kick, jump, crouch, block, grab and throw opponents, and interact with things in the arenas. You can use objects as weapons, throw things at opponents, and jump off objects. Each character has their own set of unique moves, can perform combos, juggle opponents, and amplify special moves. Some characters wield weapons and others utilize powers. Replacing the X-Ray attacks are Fatal Blows which can only be performed once per match when your health is low enough. These are violent and bloody moves that inflict a lot of damage. These moves do look brutal and awesome but I kind of miss seeing bones get destroyed. If specific conditions are met, you can perform a krushing blow which is another move that inflicts a good amount of damage. If you’re caught in a combo, you can get out by using a breakaway, you can perform reversal attacks, and you’ll need to be mindful of damage scaling. Like the previous games, you don’t need to know or even be aware of the more advanced stuff to enjoy the single player. Some of the towers will test your skills but much of the single player content is accessible and there’s multiple difficulty modes to choose from. And if you’re trying to learn or memorize a character’s moves, you can pause the gameplay to consult your character’s move list during a match and tag moves so they appear on the screen.
The excessive violence is one of my favorite things about the Mortal Kombat series and I’m happy to report that Mortal Kombat 11 doesn’t skimp on the blood and guts. You’ll get to impale opponents, blow them up, stab them, shoot them, and execute them in a variety of ways. Fatalities and Brutalities are back and the Aftermath DLC added in Stage Fatalities and Friendships. After landing the final blow to win the second round in a match outside of the story mode, you’ll have the opportunity to perform a finishing move. Each character has their own unique set of Fatalities which are extremely violent. If you meet the appropriate requirements, you can perform a Brutality which is a special move you need to perform as the final blow, resulting in a bloody end for your opponent. In certain stages, you can use part of the environment to execute your opponent and if you feel like being nice, you don’t have to kill your opponent. Instead, you can perform a Friendship which is an act of kindness.
You’re constantly rewarded in Mortal Kombat 11. That is if you’re connected to the internet. It’s one of those games where you need to be online to get the most out of it. That includes single player content. You can still play the game offline but you won’t earn experience or rewards or have access to certain modes. As you play the game, you’ll earn rewards like koins, soul fragments, and hearts which act as currency. You’ll also earn skins, gear, konsumables, and augments, among other things. Mortal Kombat 11 includes a deep customization system and each character comes with two variations of abilities and gear. You can customize each and create new variations. You can change a character’s skin, gear, taunts, abilities which are special moves, and AI behavior which applies to AI modes which I’ll get to in a bit.
As you play, you’ll earn experience and level up and whatever gear you have equipped will also earn experience. When a piece of gear earns enough experience, a slot becomes available. You can unlock two slots and the Aftermath DLC unlocks the third slot. You can insert augments into the slots to give your character bonus properties and Aftermath added tons of new generic augments and reworked augment functionality. Augments can increase your offensive and defensive capabilities and there’s also unique character specific augments. It should be noted that augments only apply to single player modes and AI battles. I do question why we have to level up gear. Why aren’t slots available from the get-go? It’s not like a piece of gear, itself, makes a gameplay difference. These are all cosmetic. The augments is what makes a difference. Most gear needs to be unlocked first and that will take time but having to level up cosmetic gear just to modify them with augments is a completely unnecessary grind.
Not only do you earn rewards and unlock content just by playing but you can spend the in-game currency in the Krypt to unlock finishing moves, artwork, music, konsumables, and cosmetic items. The Krypt is much more involved than it’s two predecessors and you now go through it in third-person. Set on Shang Tsung’s island, you’ll have to solve some puzzles and find items to access new areas. Some items can only be found in certain game modes. You can find recipes and forge items and donate koins at a shrine to unlock things. The island is fairly large and, luckily, you can unlock shortcuts to previous areas which makes getting around less tedious. There is a lot of shit to unlock and unfortunately, it’s going to be a grind. Much of what you unlock is random and the game does include microtransactions. You can spend Time Crystals in the store to unlock cosmetic items. Time Crystals are earned in-game or you can spend real money to get some.
Mortal Kombat 11 features numerous game modes for single player and multiplayer. You can compete in the local tournament mode with another player or fight others online in ranked or kasual matches. Klassic Towers return and come in different types. The objective is to fight your way up a tower to see your character’s ending. In addition to these is the Endless Tower where you see how many opponents you can defeat in a row without a loss and the Survivor Tower where you attempt to survive a series of matches with health carrying over from each match. The more interesting towers can be found in the Towers of Time mode which does require an internet connection. These are towers of varying difficulty that change over time. There’s ko-op towers, tag assist towers, rapid towers, heroic towers, and a gauntlet. The Character Towers is where you spend currency to activate towers containing rewards for specific characters and the Summonable Towers where you use Tower Keys to summon rare towers for “extraordinary” rewards. If you complete one of the towers of time and meet the requirements, you can do it again on the Brutal difficulty for better rewards.
The Towers of Time often pit you against opponents with random gameplay modifiers which can make things more challenging and interesting. Augments can make things easier but the game will encourage you to use Konsumables to even the odds. These are often earned as rewards or found in the Krypt. You can choose them before a match and they can be offensive or defensive. You can summon other characters to help you, summon projectiles, grant yourself health, and suck the lifeforce from your opponent, among other things.
One of the more interesting things about Mortal Kombat 11 is all the AI stuff. You can configure a character’s AI behavior and send them into battle. You can deploy them to the Towers of Time or have them battle other players’ AI characters. Deploying AI fighters into the Towers of Time is a great way to farm for rewards while you go do something else. But the game will need your input in between fights. And that’s part of the problem with the whole AI system. You cannot send these characters to fight in the background or behind-the-scenes if you will. You either have to watch them or find something else to do. It’s kind of neat seeing how your AI character fights but the novelty wears off pretty quickly and I would get bored.
Mortal Kombat 11 is easily the best looking game in the series to date. The character models look incredible and feature realistic facial expressions and smooth and fluid animations. Even cooler is seeing a character’s facial expression during a brutal attack or a fatality. The game showcases some truly impressive motion capture work and facial animation. During matches, characters will show visible damage and blood will fly through the air and land on the ground from the various hits and attacks. Blood will often come gushing out of bodies during fatal blows and finishing moves. Characters will be dismembered, their eyes will pop out their heads, throats will be cut, and entrails will come flying out of bodies. The violence is graphic and looks awesome. The arenas are diverse and detailed with NPC’s and/or things moving around in the backgrounds. One of my favorite arenas is the Black Dragon Fight Club because of it’s atmosphere and lighting. I also enjoyed the Retrocade arena which was introduced in the Aftermath DLC. It’s set in an arcade venue with projectors displaying arena backgrounds from the classic games. The DLC also brought back some classic arenas like Dead Pool and Soul Chamber. On the technical side, the framerate was solid most of the time with a few hitches here and there and the game did crash on me once.
I really enjoy Mortal Kombat 11. It’s violent and absurd and the plot often makes things even more ridiculous. You know what’s funny? The plot revolves around timelines and there’s a cut scene where a bullet grazes young Johnny Cage’s face and the scar appears on older Johnny’s face. Yet, these two characters fight each other and the violent attacks you perform on younger Johnny have no affect on his older self. I find that humorous. The best thing about Mortal Kombat 11 is that the gameplay caters to everyone. Whether you’re looking for a good fighting game or just want some violent fun and enjoy watching these characters mutilate and execute each other, it’s got something for everyone. There’s a lot of mechanics which add plenty of strategy to the fighting but you can easily overlook them and still have a good time. There’s plenty of single player content and the character customization and augment stuff is really cool. There’s a lot to unlock and the Towers of Time ensure there’s something new every time you fire up the game.
While I think the gameplay and fighting mechanics are superb, I do have some gripes with the game. The absence of some classic characters is disappointing. Even worse is when you see some of them as background characters or NPCs in various game modes. The most odd omissions are Sektor and Cyrax who actually appear in the story but are not playable as of this review. The online requirement to earn stuff will be disappointing for anyone with shitty internet and unlocking things can often feel like a grind. I like the idea of the AI stuff and it would be a lot better if AI characters could complete towers or fights in the background. Maybe the developers should have implemented a separate mode simply for the AI characters to bring you back rewards kind of like how Smash Bros. Ultimate does it with Spirit exploration.
I would absolutely recommend Mortal Kombat 11 to fans of the series and the fighting genre. There’s plenty to see and do and plenty of cool and brutal ways to execute your opponents. You can customize your characters, test your skills online, new challenges await you daily, and the amount of content you can unlock can keep you coming back for a while. Definitely check this out.