Since its debut on home console systems back in 1992, the Mortal Kombat franchise has wowed and disgusted its audience with its mix of violent combat, and equally violent fatalities. For those of you who are in the know, you’d say that Mortal Kombat has been a mixed bag of both good and bad in the seventeen years it’s been going. You would be hard pressed to disagree, especially when considering the series’ awkward transition from the traditional 2D combat to the 3D world. However, in 2011 something magical happened, the rebirth of Mortal Kombat we were all waiting for—Mortal Kombat 9.
MK 9 didn’t so much reinvent the wheel that made the franchise great, as realign the original wheel that was made in the early nineties. They went back to basics, and they captured what made the original games so darn good whilst adding a cinematic story that spanned 3 tournaments.
We were lucky enough to be provided with a Closed Beta Key by Warner Bros so we could reveal to you our first impressions of the latest iteration of this brutal beat-‘em-up, Mortal Kombat 11. Our review will be purely based on the gameplay and features that were available to me in the beta, so that means if you were waiting on a review of the story, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
The beta had a handful of characters available to us (Scorpion, Skarlet, Baraka, Jade, Kabal) and the choice of online competitive matches or the ‘Klassic Tower’, which is pretty much the game’s ‘Arcade Mode’. In all, we spent around 10 hours in total on the beta trying out every character at least once, as well as dabbling in the games multiplayer.
After being disappointed with the gear grinding gameplay of Injustice 2, and the general feel of its clunky combat, we admit, we were a little worried that Nether Realm would’ve added too much of what ruined Injustice 2 for us into Mortal Kombat 11—they did not. The combat is tight and responsive, every hit, stab, and kick you make feels weighty and impactful right down to the way the characters react to these attacks; they really do look like they feel the blunt force trauma you’re inflicting. This makes the combat feel more immersive and truer to the universe its set in.
The X-ray attacks of 9, and X have been replaced by a new system called Fatal Blow. Fundamentally, these attacks work in almost the same way as the X-Rays only without the Sniper Elite style skeletal view and are somehow a lot more violent as a result, only becoming available when your health reaches critical levels.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t ever see the visceral skull-braking of the X-Rays though, as they are now part of the environmental attacks. If you were to pick up a pipe in an arena, or you push someone’s head into a wall, you’ll most likely be greeted by the X-Ray to see just how much damage you’ve inflicted on your opponent’s cranium.
Each character has three customisable specs, all using different variations of their special moves and attacks, as well as swanky new outfits. This allows you to choose a character and a spec that matches your playstyle which I will go into more depth with later. From my time with the beta, we did notice that there was a slight imbalance in those fighting styles. For example, we found that the ‘Chain Reaction’ spec for Scorpion was the equivalent of selecting Easy Mode both online and offline, but we do appreciate the level of customisation it allows.
We will also add that since they’ve tightened up the controls compared to the last iteration, if you’re also an owner of an arcade stick (like we are), you’ll have a lot more fun in 11 than you did in X. While the stick-play is not as tight as say, Street Fighter, it’s a definite step up, and a step in the right direction from the last game.
Think of this as the pinnacle of Mortal Kombat in terms of gameplay: The camera is positioned closer to the action, and the entire thing feels more immersive, responsive, and cinematic without sacrificing what made the originals so great. Even as we’re writing this, part of us is still craving just one more fight, and that alone is something the last game didn’t quite nail for us.
The true heart of every fighting game lies within its multiplayer experience. We only managed to play a handful of matches with our time with Mortal Kombat 11, as we decided to focus our time reviewing the more mechanical aspects of the game, however, what we did play was incredibly smooth for a beta.
We’re not the greatest beat-‘em-up player, but as I’m sure our friends would attest, we’re also far from the worst. The matchmaking was quick, so we didn’t have time to make a three-course meal before we connected, unlike the sluggish matchmaking of the Soul Calibur VI multiplayer beta, and we seemed to be matched evenly with our opponents. We imagine that this would be a different experience in the full release as people get used to the new combat system, and we end up getting beaten to Outworld and back.
The connection quality was fantastic in every one of our matches against the sea of Kabal and Scorpion players so when we lost, we had nothing to blame but ourselves. With Cass as Scorpion main themselves, we can see why he is already a fan favourite online as he has made a solid return albeit no longer as overpowered as his Hellfire build was in MKX.
The game itself feels like it will be a lot harder to balance than other fighting games due to the sheer amount of customisation it allows, but at the same time, this is going to add to more variation both casually and competitively; it has made for some interesting match ups and before long, we imagine players will know the characters move sets and will quickly be able to adjust to their opponent’s special attacks.
Like the previous games, we feel this game will truly shine with friends, either online or on the couch—there’s nothing quite like performing a brutal fatality to your best friends as you prove to them that you are indeed the greatest defender of Earth Realm. Plus, nothing says I love you like chopping your friend in half, right?
Since Mortal Kombat 11 has included a system a lot like Injustice 2’s gear system, we thought that it was important that we mentioned the customisation. With each fight you win, you get gear drop which you can then equip in the aptly named Kustomize menu to give your character a fresh look. Unlike Injustice 2, at least in the beta, these items were purely cosmetic and don’t offer any statistical bonus.
We have also got to admit that we strangely enjoyed getting loot from our fights, and we were incredibly impressed with the sheer number of cosmetic customisations you could make to your favourite fighter; however, this has also created an air of worry for us regarding the game’s microtransactions given Warner Bros history with Shadow of War and Injustice 2.
As we mentioned above, each character has 3 distinctive specs to play as, but what we didn’t cover was that these specs are also fully customisable with a thing called augments as well as an interchangeable set of special moves.
These augments modify your special moves, and sometimes even change them completely which will allow you to fully customise your favourite character to the playstyle that suits you. In theory, this is a great idea and allows for an experience that’s really tailored towards the player, however on the flipside, this could create a lot of problems if these abilities are somehow locked behind a lengthy grind or a paywall, especially if the augments are allowed in competitive ranked matches. That is something we won’t know for sure until the final release, but because of Warner Bros’ past record, I am going to err on the side of caution with this.
Mechanically, it’s the best Mortal Kombat game we’ve ever played: With a fantastic new look, a score of new fatalities and features, we can certainly see it being a lot of fun.
However, with the Injustice 2 loot system, and microtransactions confirmed to be included, it confirms how little Warner may have learnt from the Shadow of War debacle. If these items and augments offer no competitive edge to the player, then it’s safe to say, that whilst they are a questionable design choice, it wouldn’t affect anything in the competitive multiplayer department. However, if these items are more than that, the chances of this game making a name for itself on the competitive fighting scene will be destroyed before it even has a chance to get going. They have officially said they are cosmetic only, but it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve been lied to. Either way, I still believe microtransactions like this have no place in a AAA game, especially one with a £50/$60 price tag.
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and our time with this beta, although we’re still not convinced that purchasing the game right away will be worth its steep asking price. If you’re a hardcore Mortal Kombat fan, there’s certainly a lot to enjoy, but if you’re just a casual fan you’d probably be better off waiting for a price drop, or getting the game in a year or so when they will no doubt offer you the ‘Komplete Experience’ for a lot less of your hard earned Koin.
Title: Mortal Kombat 11
Developer: NetherRealm Studios, QLOC, Shiver
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Franchise: Mortal Kombat
Release Date: 23 Apr, 2019
This wonderful review was brought to you by the Potara fusion of Cassidy Roberts & Mark Newman.