After a steady stream of character reveals and promotional videos, Mortal Kombat 11 lands on all major consoles and PC. We went toe to toe with the Playstation 4 version.
Out of all the big fighting game franchises, Mortal Kombat is the hardest one to keep track of for me. With all of the spinoff titles, re-releases, reboots, cross-overs and trilogies, I had no idea where the main series was at. Mortal Kombat X fixed that problem for me, and it also put NetherRealm back on the map with the first proper Mortal Kombat title on the current console generation and a title that easily held its own among the competition.
Mortal Kombat X (and it’s expanded re-release Mortal Kombat XL) did great, both critically and commercially, so it was only a matter of time before the series returned. NetherRealm provided us with the excellent Injustice 2 first though, which to date is still a hallmark title when it comes to cinematic visual flair in a fighting game. Both titles together certainly raised the bar for Mortal Kombat 11, which over the past few months and weeks has been marketed as an “old versus new” approach that features both classic characters from the franchise as well as a few new ones (and of course a couple that will be released later as DLC characters).
Instantly recognizable as a game that builds on both Mortal Kombat XL and (in parts) Injustice 2, Mortal Kombat isn’t ashamed to showcase its strong roots. As a result, veterans of Mortal Kombat should feel right at home with the control scheme as well. Remember the combinations of the right button presses, and you’re on your way to pulling out some deliciously violent special moves. Street Fighter’s quarter, half and full circles are nowhere to be found here, so Mortal Kombat is still a tad more forgiving if you’re not too precise with your thumbstick controls.
That doesn’t mean that Mortal Kombat 11’s fighting engine is shallow. In fact, the system’s been tweaked on several fronts to make the fighting experience slightly deeper than before. Instead of having a single meter to charge, you can now charge offensive and defensive boost meters separately. Both can sway the fight in your direction in their own way, and the new system encourages you to use a diverse fighting style in order to keep your options open when things get tough or an opportunity arises.
Something new that seems to have carried over from Injustice 2 are the game’s new Fatal Blows, which are extremely powerful and violent moves that are delivered with a bombastic flair when executed successfully. It adds to a more cinematic style of presentation, but it’s a system that felt more at home in Injustice 2’s comic book-inspired setting than it does in a Mortal Kombat title – where you expect the combat to keep flowing.
There is plenty of additional depth to be gained from learning how to pull off combos and which strategies work best against which opponents, and Mortal Kombat 11 provides a great tutorial to help you get better at this. With a few difficulty levels to choose from you don’t need to practice endlessly to tackle the game’s story mode either, and you can ascend the roster in a series of a fights that’s not story-driven as well. Prefer riding that escalator all the way to your nemesis without bothering with the story? You can do that – and you’ll probably want to if you’ve completed the story already.
Speaking of which, Mortal Kombat 11’s “old versus new” angle is quite prominent in the story mode, which uses time travel to set up clashes between older and younger versions of the same characters, fighters from different generations, etc. It’s a fun yet outrageous way to explore an alternative Mortal Kombat timeline and stop at certain parts of the franchise’s timeline along the way.
As weird as the story may be, NetherRealm has certainly embraced their own work in Injustice 2 as their standout way of visual storytelling can be seen in Mortal Kombat 11 as well. With a roster of 24 characters at launch there is plenty of story/character diversity as well, with more personalization coming by way of the gear you can equip them with. It was a feature I played around with a little bit in Injustice 2 because every little bit of gear also changed up your abilities a little, but that’s only part of the recipe in Mortal Kombat 11. Gear that boosts your abilities is still there, but there’s also plenty of purely cosmetic stuff you can unlock – the kind of stuff I never cared much about and which can make unlocking these things feel like a grind.
These are minor issues though, and not something you’re likely to encounter if you’re mainly interested in straight up combat. That part is extremely solid and refined, and it’s great to see a few familiar faces return in a glorious audiovisual style. Can’t wait to see what NetherRealm tackles next – besides their usual stream of post-release content.