There are few fighters I adore as much as Mortal Kombat. It’s a series that’s been with me for over 20 years, and I’ve got plenty of fond memories of playing various iterations from the debut right up until 2015’s Mortal Kombat X. The series has seen plenty of changes throughout the years, but since the reboot back in 2011, NetherRealm Studios has managed to put out one hell of a polished fighter, and Mortal Kombat 11 is about as good as they come. Plenty of effort has been put into refining the fight – the series’ core strength – and every facet of each round is pure perfection.
The current roster sits at 25 fighters, and each one feels unique. Depending on how you play, there’s someone to fit your style, and when you get that relationship going with your main, there’s seldom feeling like it. If you prefer close combat and plenty of power, fighters like Jax and Shao Kahn utilise their strength to get the job done, but if you want speed, Kabal and Kung Lao might be more your thing. Series stalwarts like Sub-Zero, Scorpion, and Raiden are back, but MK11 introduces new fighters like Geras and The Kollector to make things interesting. Normally, I find it relatively easy to find someone I click with, often opting for Sub-Zero or Kung Lao, but I was hugely impressed by how Johnny Cage plays and how he isn’t as sluggish as in MKX.
It’s probably down to how smooth the game plays in general as to why fighters who may not have appealed in the past feel fresher and more refined here. Each fight has lightening quick response time when inputting combos, and there’s a wide variety of moves to give you a run of successful attacks. Special attacks can do significant damage, but other combos can also do great deals of harm, and using the right shoulder button can also improve certain moves by making them do more damage, but it’ll deplete some of your offensive meter in the process.
Both your defensive and offensive meters can be utilised to give you even more control on performance – something that’s been changed since the last game. The new Perfect Block system can give you an advantage if you time your blocks, giving you a window to derail your opponent’s attack and unleash a combo of your own. Your offensive meter can be used to increase the damage done of special moves, at times making them last longer and look great as well. To maintain the balance, NetherRealm has gone to great lengths to give every player a chance until the final moment, and the Fatal Blow mechanic gives you one last opportunity to turn the tides of battle.
If your health drops below 30%, pressing the two Trigger buttons together unlocks a cinematic where you go to town on your opponent. It’s like the specials in Injustice 2, and whilst it looks cool and takes off a significant portion of your opponent’s health gauge, there’s always a chance for them to still finish you off. Even when you’re on the receiving end, there’s always an opportunity to recover, making every battle uniquely challenging. Everything about the fighting is incredible, and I’m still finding new ways to use my moveset in a fight.
Outside of the Special Moves, simple combos can be built up and initiated with a bit of practice. Taking the time to master each one takes time, but when you come across one of those annoying gamers that bash buttons rather than master the complexities of combat, your knowledge will benefit you much more than it’s ever done before. Long are the days when repetitively twatting punch and kicks gets you a victory, and even if an opponent gets a bit of an edge with this tactic, the satisfaction of destroying them with a Fatality will feel divine.
Fatalities are stunning, and when you get it right, it’s a perfect stamp on a victory. Each one is ridiculously over the top. Blood flows like lava from an erupted volcano, and the animations are hilarious. Eyeballs pop out of heads, spines get booted out of necks, and plenty of heads and bodies get sliced in half. Every fighter has an excellent Fatality, and on top of that, both the Fatal Blows and Brutalties are also a thing of beauty.
Something Mortal Kombat 11 does exceptionally well is the tutorial. Obviously, you get shown how to do the basics like punch, kick, or block, but there’s more depth when it comes to guiding you through combos and their different forms, including exactly how much time is needed between each button input. For those of you that loved Injustice 2 but never dabbled with the Mortal Kombat series before, this tutorial will show the nuances between the two and give you a great handling on the differences.
Customisation has been drastically improved to give you a great deal of control on each character. You can change skins, equip new pieces of clothing, augments, and weapons, and even rename custom get-ups. On top of that, you can chop and change your special moves as well as your Brutalities and Fatalities, giving you the tools you need to finish off your opponent in style. You can also unlock new intro and outro cinematics to see you enter each fight like a badass. These can be unlocked through the Towers of Time mode, a similar mode to Injustice 2’s Multiverse, as well as opening boxes with your Kombat Koins in the Krypt.
Perhaps the main issue with these unlocks is the random nature. My current “main” is Kung Lao, and after spending a long time in the Krypt, I have yet to find a new Fatality for him. Not just that, but I’ve unlocked seldom new skins or equipment. The search continues, but I’ll get there eventually, perhaps? It’s a problem, as I’d much rather know which one of the many chests had items for a specific character, and with the need to spend a lot of Kombat Koins, or one of the may other types of currency to open them, I have no idea what I’ll be receiving. Despite this, the Krypt is a nice mix of simple puzzles and Easter eggs, and your journey through it isn’t always about opening the chests.
The Kampaign can be finished in around four hours, and whilst it’s shorter than expected, the effort that’s gone into making it worthwhile is clear from the start. After Shinnok’s defeat at the hands of Raiden, the balance between the realms is unsteady, leading to a potential end to existence. Kronika – the game’s new big bad – plans to reset time and remove Raiden from history, but her methods of doing so bring out some of Mortal Kombat’s biggest enemies to aid her. Playing with time also brings back some classic versions of characters like Lui Kang and Johnny Cage, including some fan service which does a fantastic job of putting a smile on your face.
There’re also some tragedies along the way, but it still manages to provide one hell of a journey and some incredibly memorable fights. Among the bombastic moments, there’re also some surprisingly sentimental and emotional sections that almost brought a tear to my eye. This series was rarely known for its story depth, but MK11 delivers in so many ways and the impressive story is one of its best features.
Towers of Time is a decent mode that throws in curve balls depending on the type. Each one requires you to defeat a number of fighters to progress to the next one, often ending with a single boss fight. Upon completing the towers, you’ll be given a complete set of a specific fighter’s equipment (which isn’t random), as well as currency, and Konsumables to equip in each fight. These range from giving your fighter additional health, to power ups that can do damage to your opponent. These range from deadly farts (seriously) to fireball hands, and whilst they do help a little, I rarely felt the need to use them.
Some of the challenges feel rather unbalanced, making fights quite difficult. Whilst fighting Johnny Cage, you may have Kitana jump in sporadically to kick your ass, and if Skarlet is your opponent, vampire missiles will hit you and take away life from your health meter. There’re lots of variables you might encounter, and whilst NetherRealm are putting in the effort to remove the harshness of these challenges, you may still encounter the necessary difficulty spike.
Klassic Towers are brought back, featuring straightforward gauntlets where you must defeat a tower of enemies, and the online battles work incredibly well, especially King of the Hill. I haven’t encountered any network issues, and battles don’t take long to connect at all. There’re a lot of different modes online that give the game even more depth, and with connectivity being so good you can end up spending plenty of time playing against others from around the world.
Mortal Kombat 11 is a fantastic fighter, providing plenty of depth for each character, both in how they play and what augments, skins, and customisation can be equipped. It also looks amazing, both from the way each character is animated to the cutscenes in the story. The randomness within the Krypt is annoying, and the difficulty in the Towers of Time takes away the fun from a good old fashioned one-on-one fight, but generally this is the best MK title in the series’ 27 year history.
Combat is exceptional
Story mode is engaging
The randomness of unlocking gear in the Krypt
Variables in Towers of Time make fights difficult
Story mode is rather short