The Mortal Kombat franchise has been blazing a blood-soaked bath through the beat em up genre since the early ’90s. Although titled Mortal Kombat 11, over the years we’ve certainly seen more than 10 titles preceding it as well as many changes as they’ve come along. The big question is, does MK11 adapt well with the times? Or is this a franchise that should be finally laid to rest?
This seems like an almost bizarre section to have to cover in a beat em up game, but one of my favourite elements of Mortal Kombat has always been the universe it’s set in and all the lore. Being a massive fan of the first film, early games, and the animated series, I’ve loved the more cinematic feel Mortal Kombat has had since MK9.
MK11 continues on from where our story left off on MKX. Shinnok has been defeated but at a price, as Raiden had become corrupted from cleansing the Jinsei. His lightning now having turned red and using Shinnok’s amulet as a weapon, our defender of Earthrealm may never be the same.
Enter the new big bad, Kronika, Mother of Shinnok and Cetrion. Angered at Raiden’s interference and the beheading of her son, Kronika brings the past and future timelines together as she tries to rewrite time to create a New Era.
Although nothing groundbreaking story-wise, I loved seeing past and future characters come together, especially the likes of Johnny Cage and Sonya. It really highlights the growth and changes we’ve seen our fighters go through and also makes funny moments.
The campaign is also jam-packed with some awesome action scenes, from seeing Cassie go John Wick on a squad, to large scale clashes between Outworld and Earthrealm, it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Someone seriously needs to give Earthrealm troops some weapon training though as these guys seem to aim like Stormtroopers.
The combat in MK11 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.
The X-ray attacks of 9, and X have been replaced by a new system called Fatal Blow.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.
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. Part of me is still craving just one more fight, and that alone is something the last game didn’t quite nail for me.
On top of the games story mode, you also have your Klassic towers which are effectively your arcade mode, Towers of Time, which are timed exclusive towers with modifiers which offer exclusive rewards if you can conquer them, versus mode, and finally, The Krypt, which I shall cover later on.
I can’t comment too much on the balance of characters at this time as it’s still earlier days, but I can give you all some comfort – Inferno Scorpion is gone. He’s still a strong character, but not quite that insane.
Like Injustice 2 before it, MK11 now features a gear system. This for me was initially a cause for concern, as it was a feature that I wasn’t overly fond of in Injustice 2, as it wasn’t just cosmetic – it made your characters noticeably stronger.
Netherealm reassured us it wouldn’t be pay to win and would be cosmetic only, but this still had me rather dubious having been stung in the past. Thankfully, they weren’t lying.
Characters can be customised in a variety of ways. You can change the base character skin, equipment, and add additional moves. For example, with Scorpion, I can change his base skin so it’ll change whether he’s human still or not as well as having various armours in different colours, and equipment wise, select which face mask, sword, and spearhead he uses.
On top of the equipment customisation, as you play a character you earn XP for the equipped items, which eventually unlock augment slots. This allows you to equip up to 3 per item, adding modifiers to your damage, resistances, and even modifies some moves. You’ll be relieved to hear however, these only apply to single player and AI battles, so the online playing field remains completely fair.
These ‘Kustomisations’ are unlocked through various methods: Progression through the story, Towers of Time, levelling up your account, and The Krypt.
The Krypt is something you’ll be familiar with if you’re an MK vet, but this time it’s been majorly overhauled. It is now set on Shang Tsung’s island with the awesome Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa resuming the role.
As well as the usual chests you use the kurrency to unlock, it also now features an exploration/puzzle element to it. You’ll explore the island finding items which allow you to explore further or find secrets.
After being disappointed with MKX, thinking it looked dated and the story not grabbing me at all, MK11 has come in swinging. The game looks beautiful, runs smoother than Barry White on date night, and a story that although not anything new, was another to keep me gripped from beginning to end.
If you’re a completionist it will be a heck of a grind to unlock everything, but at least it isn’t pay-to-win or all locked behind a paywall. For me, the grind is far too steep but then I imagine the hardcore MK11 fans will appreciate having a plethora of items to unlock. This is the main area that seems to be agitating players and although I agree that the grind is painstaking, it has definitely been blown out of proportion. Not once have I had an offer thrown in my face or felt obligated to purchase anything.
All in all, a must buy for MK fans, old and new alike. If you’ve missed the previous 2 titles, recaps are readily available online so don’t let that hold you back. This isn’t a Mortal Kombat to be missed.
A massive thank you to Warner Bros for providing me with the key to bring you this review.
Title: Mortal Kombat 11
Developer: NetherRealm Studios, QLOC, Shiver
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Franchise: Mortal Kombat
Release Date: 23 Apr, 2019