Dead On

HIGH Stellar production values, fantastic story mode, tons of Kontent.

LOW There’s so much to take in, it’s a little overwhelming.

WTF Bo’Rai Cho’s assist.

Mortal Kombat has come a long way since 1992. Sure, its debut made a splash in arcades thanks to digitized actors and over-the-top gore, but let’s be real here — as a game it sucked. Stiff, janky, and with little flow, people were only coming to it for the OMG factor. However, I’ve got to give credit to the NetherRealms team… They’ve taken something that should have been a flash in the pan and turned it not only into a legitimate fighting game, but one that’s at the forefront of the genre.

Mechanically, MK11 feels like the best Mortal Kombat ever been. The controls are tight and responsive, the cast of 25 characters (including DLC Shao Kahn) feel polished and nuanced, and the collision is spot-on. I’ll personally never get used to pushing a button to block, but that’s my own issue – from every other angle, the core pieces a fighter needs are in place and the machine is running like it should. On that solid foundation, there’s layer upon layer of polish, detail and content that make it stand out.

To me, one of the finest features is the ability to customize any of the cast. For example, the iconic undead (or is he?) ninja Scorpion is front and center, but he initially comes in two different flavors. Both have a few moves in common, but there are some differences — one has a chain swing and the other has a fiery air grab, to name just one. I experimented with both, but couldn’t settle on either as my favorite. But then, why settle? I chose a ‘blank’ Scorpion in the Kustomize menu, cherrypicked abilities from the two versions and made my own — a third option who’s now my favorite with all the moves that I like and none I don’t.

There’s a wrinkle to the customization, though, and here’s where some players may take some issue.

As has been the norm for recent NetherRealm titles, there’s a lot of stuff like character and weapon skins, “augments”, crafting recipes, fatalities and more that need to be unlocked, either through some of the peripheral modes or in the Krypt — an area full of randomized chests that must be unlocked with Kurrency earned through play, although certain things (not all) can be had for real cash via microtransaction.

Early estimates from fans were thinking it would take thousands of dollars and/or a lifetime of effort to get it all. However, the devs were quick to release a patch that rebalanced rewards (and it’s possible another might drop) and I spoke to a player who’d earned everything possible in about 40-ish hours, so at the moment, MK11 seems to be fairly reasonable when it comes to Kollecting stuff. Still, it might take a little more grind than some fighting game fans might be used to, so Kompletionists should be warned.

As expected, the online is solid. Also as expected, people that I encountered have spent more time mastering the game than I have, and they wiped the floor with me more often than not – it’s the critic’s lament. While I have a terrible win/loss ratio, I have no complaints about the MK11’s performance in terms of lag, connection, or otherwise.

Leaving PVP to those who live for it, I turned my attention to the story mode, and NetherRealm once again shows why they’re the current leaders in singleplayer fighting game narratives. While each character has a brief, personalized ending in a separate mode, the main attraction once again takes the bulk of the cast and strings together a twisting, turning soap opera of a tale much like they did in MK9 when their flavor of grand drama first appeared.

Essentially, the mode is like an extended feature film punctuated by fights woven into the narrative. Without spoiling too much, a character called Kronika is playing havoc with the timeline in an attempt to rewrite history to her specifications. It carries forward plot threads stitched in the last two MK story modes and offers tons of amusing and cool moments for fans. Seeing young, douchebag Johnny Cage alongside older, more parental Cage was a particular highlight, although there’s plenty of ninja angst, old faces resurrected, and a number of surprises in store that I won’t spoil.

Apart from being uninterested in the grind to unlock everything, I’ve got no complaints about Mortal Kombat 11, and I could go on and on about the highlights like the jaw-dropping graphics or an incredibly comprehensive tutorial mode that’s robust enough to take a complete newcomer through the ranks and turn them into a competitor who can hold their own — every aspect is polished and tuned, there’s a mountain of Kontent to dig into, and the whole thing is just cool as hell thanks to strong designs and on-point aesthetics. This game is a far, far cry from what it was back in 1992, and if there was such a thing as a quadruple-A game, Mortal Kombat 11 would be it.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by NetherRealm Studios and published by WB Games. It is currently available on PC, PS4, XBO and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 12 hours of play were devoted to the game between the single-player mode, the story mode and online, and the story mode was completed.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, and Strong Language. The official ESRB description is as follows: This is a fighting game in which players engage in one-on-one battles against characters from the Mortal Kombat universe. Players punch, kick, throw, and use special attacks (e.g., guns; blasts of fire, ice, or lightning; bladed weapons) to drain opponents’ life meters. Battles are highlighted by screams of pain, realistic gunfire, and exaggerated impact sounds; large blood-splatter effects occur frequently. Some attacks are depicted with slow-motion x-ray views of characters’ bones shattering. Each character can perform various finishing moves (Fatalities, Brutalities) after an opponent is defeated; these over-the-top moves can result in characters being dismembered, decapitated, and mutilated. Instances of intense violence include a character’s face and skull torn off; a character ripped in half leaving entrails exposed; a character cut into pieces by a hat blade; a character’s spine and head ripped from its body. The words “f**k,” “sh*t,” and “a*shole” appear in the dialogue.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: While there are sound cues that accompany certain moves, the game runs at such speed that I never found it helpful to listen for the cues and would instead focus on the visual information. All dialogue is subtitled and the text size is not adjustable. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

Brad Gallaway
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