Four years passed since the last Mortal Kombat game and now in 2019 Mortal Kombat 11 (MK 11) enters the stage. US based developer NetherRealm Studios presents a definitive version of their fighting franchise which began way back in 1992. The series has seen several versions across multiple platforms since then. Perhaps it’s not really applicable to ask whether MK 11 is any good then because NetherRealm’s long-standing commitment to the series means a lot of technical prowess and improvements are a given. The better question to ask is, whether it’s worth buying given its full price of entry.
Diving into what’s on offer and it’s clear all the usual suspects present themselves, although NetherRealm take a leaf out of their own Injustice series play book. Players can immediately dive in to a cinematic story mode, although this seems to be shorter in length than past offerings. Various tower modes which hark back to the classic arcade gameplay, versus modes against the AI, local opponents or the Online community. Practice and training and then the Towers of Time which add all sorts of play conditions and nuances to the basic fights and as the name implies are time based events. The Krypt returns as a long-winded method of unlocking the game’s extras. Perhaps the freshest addition to the package is the customization area which allows players the chance to change facets of the characters appearances. AI battles with custom teams and so in all, a fair bit to sink ones teeth into.
The actual fighting remains largely unchanged save for new come back special moves which seems to be a norm now in all fighting games. You guessed it, if losing badly, players connect with a special attack which somewhat evens the score (taking a large chunk out of the opponent’s health bar). However, it does slow down the gameplay for several seconds (far more than the X-ray moves of the previous game) where the canned animations play. Whilst fun to look at initially, after a while begin to grate. That said, the inclusion does add an extra layer of tension to the bouts. It’s probably quite divisive amongst players whether the comeback attacks should be a part of the game or not.
After booting up both MK 9 and MK 10 to compare, the gameplay feels somewhat slower paced – especially compared to MK 9. It comes across as a serious fighting experience compared to the somewhat comical presentation of MK 9. However, in terms of fun MK 9 has it beat. The seriousness of MK 11 loses something in the process which is quite hard to put the finger on. Either way, it’s an accomplished fighting experiences with plenty of nuances for players to hone their skills as either button mashing experts or skilled frame data counting technicians. It’s a pretty easy game for anyone to pick up and play but just a lot tougher to master – as is any competent fighting game.
MK 11 presents a healthy roster of 25 characters to choose from where each has his or her own distinctive style. Whilst not every character from the series features here (just yet), the starting roster seed many old favourites such as Raiden, Sonya Blade, JAX, Scorpion and Sub-Zero to name but a few return. Newcomers from MK 10 such as Jacqui Briggs and Sonya and Johnny Cage’s daughter Cassie also make a return – whether they are welcomed is up for debate. At least series vet Skarlet makes the starting roster this time which is a nice nod to fans.
Without going too deeply into specifics then, Mortal Kombat 11 ticks all the right boxes in terms of its content. The customization seen as standard fare nowadays given a number of fighters include this feature. The extra event modifiers the same but at least somewhat uniquely incorporated here. There is no doubt then the core experience is up there with the best of them and offers good value for the investment.
Moving into another realm with the visuals and Mortal Kombat 11 certainly ups the game compared to its predecessor although sharing similarities with Injustice 1 and 2. Fatalities look gruesomely awesome although border on the comical rather than shocking. Interesting to see what crazy death scenes NetherRealm come up with. Surprisingly we haven’t seen a community competition for creating a fatality to feature in the game. Digressing aside, the visuals are top quality with great attention to detail not only on the characters but the various stages as well. Coupled with 4k and HDR and you have a visual feast for the eyes. However, it’s not all rosy. Without diving deep into the politics, some of the female costume designs whilst looking very nice, move in a particular direction compared to the past. Comparing to MK9 especially and none of the female combatants have an option for revealing outfits to suit some players (not even as an unlockable extra). It looks like a distinct mandate to cover up the female fighters yet allow the male characters to continue showing ripped muscles, exposed abs and pectorals. A shame, but a design choice NetherRealm adopted all the same.
The visuals also take a hit on PC with some moments dipping into 30 frames per second or lower making the experience not as smooth as it could be. It’s quite jarring when scenes during fights drop from the desired 60 fps to 30 and that’s with top end hardware. The PC game as of now does feature plentiful bugs such as crashes to desktop (CTD), text overlays not displaying correctly and other bits that aren’t up to par for such a high profile game. At launch, balancing issues and a “grindy” nature for unlockables posed a problem which seemed to encourage the use of items which led to many seeing a desire to get players forking out for marketplace extras using additional cash. Not a good look at all but at least addressed now since then. MK 11 fares better now than it did at launch but still is far from perfect.
Looking at the audio and despite featuring names such as UFC’s fallen queen Ronda Rousey voicing Sonya Blade, the audio is pretty decent all round. Although it’s not a game to tap your feet to in terms of music. The story presents the most drama and option for the characters to shine. And shine they do with plenty of quips and remarks prior to fighting, during and after. Aside from any niggles with bugs and dodgy frame-rates, it’s generally pretty hard to fault the overall audio visual presentation.
Longevity then is a mixed bag because naturally all fighting games require a fair amount of hours learning. Players choose to master select characters or have a firm grasp of all of them. This takes quite a lot of time investment. The constant changing towers of time, the ever-present online communities and you have a game aiming to last years until the next game in the series pops up. The real issue is staying power and as mentioned, the customization options help to a degree despite the long-winded process of unlocking content. Some things get old rather quick though and so mileage will vary depending on whether you’re a hardcore or casual player. If collectibles and completion is your thing, then MK 11 certainly delivers a full plateful of content to acquire.
Mortal Kombat 11 offers a neat playing experience, perhaps a little more visceral than the Injustice games which tie with the DC franchise and therefore have obvious limitations. As a next stop for the MK series, this game ticks all the right boxes in every department which is good. However, it is plagued with elements needing a closer inspection and fixing. As it stands, MK 11 is worthwhile for the asking price and if you’re a fan a no-brainer purchase. That said, if you’re not a fan of the comical gore and rather serious overtones then this is perhaps not worth an immediate look-in, rather a wait-and-see until it’s up to scratch or until it drops in price.