Mortal Kombat is probably one of the most well-known fighting games in the world… If not one of the best-known games, period. So when a new entry arrives, you best believe the gaming world pays attention. While fighters aren’t usually my forte, I find them fun to pick up every now and then because there’s no better way to entertain yourself on the couch with some friends. If you can brutally slaughter them in bloody Kombat, all the better, right?
Will MK11 live up to the expectations or should we put it out of its misery with a gruesome fatality?
Mortal Kombat 11 is perhaps one of the more solid fighters I’ve had the pleasure of playing. In recent years I’ve been avoiding the genre because I’ve always found it to grow stale rather fast and I usually return to my favourite titles like Killer Instinct. To my surprise, however, I’ve found myself addicted to the game ever since I have gotten my hands on the review Kopy.
The balance between the effectiveness of your special techniques and how easy they are to perform is done exceptionally well. Everyone can probably remember the signature moves from Scorpion & Sub-Zero and I was happy to discover the inputs have remained unchanged ever since I first played Mortal Kombat 1 & 2 in arcades and on the Nintendo Gameboy. but Kombo’s are a different story; they require a good memory and perfect timing to perform, and if chained together correctly, they can lock your opponent into a juggle or frame-advantage that is difficult to come back from.
There is a whole host of tutorials in MK11, teaching you not only about the ins and outs of this game but of fighting games in general. From the most basic attacks and hints to the more advanced movesets for each character, it doesn’t skimp on details. Sadly, I’ve found the bigger Kombo strings so hard to perform that I haven’t even been able to get the achievements for Kompleting them all.
So, what makes this entry into the Mortal Kombat franchise so interesting? To start they’ve introduced a new mechanic called Fatal Blows. It’s a once-per-battle move you can perform when your life bar is Kritically low and if it connects, will take about a major chunk of health from your opponents.
Erron Black: Fatal Blow
Our cowboy tosses two coins up in the air, fires some shots, tosses his gun right into Kotal Kahn's face to then ricochet his bulelts off the coins through the eyesockets of the unfortunate opponent.#MK11 #MortalKombat11 #MortalKombat pic.twitter.com/f7QxWNBlC8
— BloodyGoodReviews (@Bloodyspasm) May 1, 2019
The X-ray attacks from the previous entry also make a return, but they’re now called Krushing Blows and can be performed mid-combo. They’re basically more powerful variations of existing techniques that deal more damage if you meet certain requirements. For instance, if you duck under your opponent’s swing and uppercut in response: it’ll count as a Krushing Blow and you’ll get a satisfying slow-mo animation of their face being… well, Krushed!
You also have two new bars for defence and offence in the bottom corner of your screen. You get two slots for each and they’ll replenish automatically after being used. Defensively, you can make a quick recovery from an attack that would otherwise knock you back or you can use the offensive one with a simple press of RB to enhance certain special techniques. A simple example would be multiple shots of a projectile attack whereas it would normally only fire one, or Liu Kang’s signature bicycle kick can be used up to three times in a row.
If you use the same RB button near certain objects in the arena, you can also perform powerful grab attacks. My favourite one being in the hangar arena where you grab a power drill and jam it through the eyesockets of your adversary.
Obviously, Fatalities also make a return: needlessly bloody and lethal finishing moves you can use at the end of a match to really rub in your victory. They’re gory, over-the-top and Oh. So. Satisfying to perform. (I also appreciated that you could purchase tokens that allow you to perform them more easily instead of having to pause the game and check out the move-list, or Elder Gods forbid: memorise them 😉 )
Sonya Blade's To Tha Choppah Fatality is a fun call to Arnold's line in Predator. A barrage of bullets launches Kabal into the blades of a helicopter. CHOP Suy! #MK11 #MortalKombat11 #MortalKombat pic.twitter.com/FCk6RRU4vZ
— BloodyGoodReviews (@Bloodyspasm) May 6, 2019
Each character has two of them but the second one will have to be unlocked through playing the game or by getting it as a random drop from chests. Lootboxes, you ask? Yes, by they’re very definition the game has lootboxes: you have to spend in-game Kurrency to open chests that contain random stuff. From Konsumable items to Kosmetic changes or extra moves/intros/victories for each of the 26 main characters.
You find these chests in the Krypt and while the game’s economy has received some Kritique on social media the past few days, we shouldn’t forget that this only concerns Kosmetic changes and has almost zero effect on gameplay. In my opinion, the way they’ve packaged it only adds to the addiction level of the game, but in a good way: It gives me a reason to return to the game every day and Komplete Kuests to earn more of the various forms of Kurrency.
It helps that the Krypt is exceptionally well done: you explore Shang Tsung’s island and progress further by discovering new items like Shao Kahn’s Hammer or Scorpion’s Iconic throwable spear. It feels great to discover hidden passageways or to finally crack a puzzle and see that there is a whole different area hidden behind it.
Sadly, some of these puzzles are almost impossible to find out yourself and I have to admit I had to refer to online tutorials for a lot of them. I even resorted to using some glitches to proceed through the Krypt more quickly, rather than grinding for souls. I would have preferred to have the progression not being tied to the different versions of Kurrency as well. Key items can be hidden in chests that require 80K gold or 1K souls and those take a while to accumulate.
Netherrealm has listened to social media outcries and has since modified the economy and rewarded day one players with a considerable amount of spoils. The chests that require 250 hearts to unlock were especially daunting, as performing Fatalities or Brutalities only seemed to award me 1 heart per instance and now I get 5-8 of them. It goes without saying that the more expensive chest do Kontain more epic gear.
Kollecting Koins & other Kurrency (sorry if I’m taking this over the top with all the K’s, I Kouldn’t help myself 😉 ), can be done simply by playing matches, but the most effective way is by Kompleting the Towers of Time. These are more difficult challenges that will pit you against powerful fighters, usually with modifiers that make your survival very unlikely unless you are extremely skilled or came equipped with some useful Konsumables of your own. You can assign items that will heal you, use iconic attacks, or summon other fighters to help you out for a few seconds.
You also have Klassic Towers; regular versions of the above without handicaps or overpowered benefits for the AI. They’ll give you fewer Koins, but beating them at least rewards you with an ending for each of the characters.
I can still recall a time when this type of tower was the only story content you’d get in a fighting game: an intro, some fights in between and then an ending to reward you for beating the final boss. But luckily they have since evolved and can have some pretty entertaining stories. Mortal Kombat 11 has the most interesting of these I’ve seen since Tekken 7.
At the start of the Story, Raiden has managed to decapitate Shinnok, erasing the world’s most powerful evil and creating an imbalance in the Universe. Enter Kronika, the newest villain in the series and mother to the Elder Gods Shinnok & Cetrion. She uses her time-based power to merge different timelines and recruits bad guys from the series’ past and present to help her reset the universe entirely.
It’s an extremely effective method of reintroducing characters that have switched sides over the course of the previous games and creates some hilarious interactions. Johnny Cage meeting his less mature past self is one of many highlights I can think of. Mortal Kombat has never been funnier, especially with some of the characters now having an offspring of their own.
It’s a well-written ramp through famous locations and setpieces and even has a considerable length to it. Some chapters even let you choose which character to play as, acting like a decent motivator to revisit them after beating the main story (which has 3 different endings depending on your results in the final fight)
If the story mode, getting the 26 different character endings in Klassic Towers, beating all Towers of Time (in multiple difficulty settings) and exploring a Krypt full of goodies isn’t enough to keep you busy, there is always the multiplayer left. Both offline and online multiplayer feels perfect to play with no server lag to speak of. I’m pretty terrible against human opponents myself, but I still found myself coming back to it as it never seemed impossible to win (and the game did a good enough job of pitting me against players I at least had a sliver of a chance of beating)
While their server performed adequately, I did face some local network issues while playing the game and I find it quite disturbing if I can’t progress offline, not even in purely single player Kontent.
One last thing I’d like to bring up are the deep AI combat options: you can customize AI fighters to fight for you and at x4 speed you can quickly rampage through a few AI v AI matches each day to unlock even more cosmetics & augments. I’m afraid to admit that my Noob Saibot AI performed considerably better in the towers than I did myself. I guess that makes me the Noob here…
Mortal Kombat has never been better. It blends gameplay from all past generations and adds new elements into a potent and bloody mix. The Fatalities and Fatal Blows are as gruesome as you’d expect from a title in the series, the fighting mechanics are extremely satisfying and a well-thought-out story mode elevates it into the top tier of fighting games. It certainly earned a spot in my weekly rotation. Flawless Victory!
(Reviewed on Xbox One X, Review copy provided by Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment)