As shallow as it sounds, Mortal Kombat 11 had me sold by just one fatality.
Kabal’s Road Rash fatality has him running at super-speed, opponent gripped in his hands as he drags them along the floor, messily shearing their face off in the process. The coup de grâce is seen only a few seconds later when he throws his hapless, mangled foe into the air and runs back around the other way and cleaves them cleanly in two – the camera lingering on the departed halves of the Kabal’s unfortunate opponent. This was brutal, this was fun, this was Mortal Kombat.
Of course, there’s much more to Mortal Kombat 11 than just its grisly range of wince-inducing fight cappers. With Mortal Kombat’s sophomoric PS4 entry, the series feels like it has finally come of age, and in Mortal Kombat 11 Netherrealm Studios have proffered a roundly thunderous offering that sits at the absolute zenith of the entire series. This one is for reals, folks.
Mortal Kombat 11 evolves kombat to new heights
Building upon the hugely satisfying combo and juggle based gameplay that has long existed at the beating heart of the franchise, Mortal Kombat 11 is a resoundingly well-tuned fighter that not only soars beyond Mortal Kombat X, but also represents a leap even beyond what Netherrealm accomplished with its grandly received previous title, Injustice 2.
The devil however, lay in the details as he always does. Starting with the showy stuff – X-Ray moves have been rechristened Fatal Blows and here, Netherrealm’s murderous imaginations have truly been allowed to run amok. With each Fatal Blow representing a devastatingly satisfying ballet of slow-motion, ultra-violent murder, these stylish sequences of martial nihilism remain a reliable highlight of every fight – Frost’s Fatal Blow really is a sight to see (pun intended).
New name aside, there are functional changes which Fatal Blows bring to the table which serve to separate them from their X-Ray counterparts yet further still. Though Fatal Blows remain hugely damaging attacks that can sap roughly 30% of your opponent’s health, they can now only be used once per match and will only become available once your health drops below a certain point. This adds an extra degree of strategy to using Fatal Blows that wasn’t present before; impressing the need to absolutely time them precisely to get the most out of them and fulfil their ‘Hail Mary’ potential.
The old X-Ray moves also bleed through into regular combative parlance too, as the new Krushing Blows put a cinematic spin on the idea of dealing a highly damaging critical strike. A spontaneous, slow-motion x-ray shot of an uppercut shattering the jaw of the opponent, or a ruinous shattering of the ribcage from a vicious body shot, Krushing Blows really underscore the notion of a critical strike coming from absolutely nowhere to devastate your foe, and feel immensely satisfying to employ as a result.
Elsewhere the introduction of Flawless Blocking rewards those players who have a knack for timing, with a perfectly timed block providing a momentary window of opportunity to counterattack and disrupt the offensive rhythm of your opponent. A range of smaller, more delicate tweaks have also been made to many of the returning fighters too; prompting a re-learning of their various moves and combos.
Scorpion’s iconic spear move for example, now no longer leaves the enemy stunned after pulling them into close range, as instead he slashes at their spine as they stumble past, meaning veteran players will have to adjust their strategy as a result.
New wrinkles to the formula aside, Mortal Kombat 11 retains much of what the series introduced in its 2015 entry when it comes to the brass tacks of its in-game scrappery. Environmental attacks return with brutal aplomb, as does the charge mechanic which allows you to perform energised, more damaging variations of existing attacks. Mortal Kombat 11 then, strikes the perfect balance between meaningful tweaking and knowing when, well, the wheel isn’t broken. In short, Mortal Kombat 11 is a superbly tuned fighter and one which the esports community will surely embrace in short order.
Mortal Kombat 11 is all about that customisation life
Perhaps the biggest of all the new additions that Mortal Kombat 11 brings to the table is the idea of Kustom Variations. A feature that allows players to create variations of existing characters and tweak every aspect of their design, from their threads to the very moves they use and the weapons that they take with them into each and every battle, Kustom Variations is a definite value add to the game which assuredly provide it with significant legs going forward.
Providing an insanely deep suite of creative opportunities, Kustom Variations not only allow players to make their favourite fighters their own, but it also embeds itself deeply within the in-game reward infrastructure of the game too. By unlocking items in the Krypt (itself now a less stuffy, free-roaming third-person affair that is much improved over its 2015 iteration) completing towers and modes, players will find themselves being rewarded with currencies, experience points, items and other augmentations that can all be used to improve their Kustom Variation.
If there is one drawback to Kustom Variations it would be that quite simply, it just isn’t explained all that well. From the vast range of different currencies, through to augmentations and how they work, it can often be easy to bamboozled early on as you collect all kinds of shines that, initially at least, you have no clue as to what their purpose is.
Mortal Kombat 11 is a monstrous, value-stuffed offering
Roster-wise, Mortal Kombat 11 boasts a selection of new and old fighters that should satisfy fans of the series. Though the return of long tenured combatants such as Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Raiden and others was never in doubt, some other names who featured in the previous games have not make the cut at launch, such as Rain, Bo Rai Cho and a handful of other folk (though there is every chance some might pop up as DLC characters later on).
Balancing things up a tad are the three completely new fighters that Mortal Kombat 11 brings in Geras, Cetrion and The Kollector; all of whom possess vastly different combat styles from one another and feel great to use; though I suspect that The Kollector with his lightning-fast multi-limb attacks will become a wide favourite among the community sooner rather than later.
One other new addition to the roster is Mortal Kombat 11’s big bad – the goddess Kronika, who comes across as some sort of twisted cross between Galadriel and Thanos – however she remains unplayable as of right now. Though impeccably designed with a range of super cool time-shifting abilities, she sadly joins a seemingly endless cadre of end mode story bosses that possess unfair mechanics, deal far too much damage and whom are completely resistant to numerous attack types.
New players and genre rookies are also ably catered for too. A range of comprehensive tutorials handily lay out how to do everything, from basic movement and combos, to special moves, fatalities and just about everything in-between. Mortal Kombat 11 doesn’t crap on you for not being ‘gud’ – it helps you ‘git gud’, and does so extremely quickly.
In terms of the sheer number of modes available, Mortal Kombat 11 does not skimp. Classic Towers return, and allow players to experienced an abridged version of the main story as they fight a small selection of foes to unlock endings for each character. New daily challenges reward you for playing with a particular character a number of times, or executing fatalities with a certain frequency, while AI battles have you staffing up a team of fights and pitting them against a team belonging to another player while the AI plays out the result and dishes out rewards to the winner.
Truly though, it’s the Endless Towers mode that Mortal Kombat 11 will keep players enraptured for a long time after the story campaign has been beaten. A never-ending selection of towers bursting with rewards that tally directly with their difficulty, they collectively represent a fresh challenge for players of all skill levels. More than just a gauntlet run against other fighters, these towers instigate special conditions (such as acid rain, vampire missiles and much more besides) in each fight to keep things spicy, while players can use modifiers of their own, collected through Krypt loot and other in-game rewards, to even the odds.
The story campaign is the best Mortal Kombat movie never made
Speaking of modes, the story campaign in Mortal Kombat 11 is easily among the very best ever seen in a fighting game. After the goddess Kronika decrees that the Thunder God Raiden has disrupted time by his torture and subsequent murder of Shinnok, she triggers a time shock which causes fighters from Mortal Kombat’s past to come face to face with their future counterparts.
As one might imagine, this scenario lends itself well to a range of wonderfully creative storytelling avenues and confrontations. Perhaps the most entertaining of all these is when Johnny Cage encounters his younger, cockier self who proceeds to hit on Sonya Blade pretty much right in front of him, setting the stage for a rambunctious mirror match of sorts between the two.
The choreography during these story cutscenes is absolutely top drawer stuff too and stuffed full of highlights, too. Whether it’s Scorpion beating some dudes to death with their a freshly detached spinal cord, or Cassie Cage channeling John Wick in breathtaking fashion, Mortal Kombat 11’s high-octane story mode is simply the best Mortal Kombat movie never made.
Functionally, the story campaign makes a few other changes too. First off, those pointless QTEs from Mortal Kombat X’s campaign mode are gone, meaning you can relax between fights without having to worry about doing any pesky controller inputs. Another change that Mortal Kombat 11 brings to its story campaign is that certain fights allow you to choose between two fighters – with different rewards provided depending on who you choose. Luckily, you can replay an act in the campaign so it’s never any trouble to go back and play as the fighter you overlooked first time around.
Mortal Kombat 11 is, by far, the best entry in the series to date
Mortal Kombat 11 is the very definition of a gaming blockbuster. From its massive selection of fighters and modes, through to smaller, easily missed details such as each fighter having something unique to say in the pre-fight smack tack to the other depending on who it is, it’s obvious that Netherrealm Studios has the capability to match its substantial ambition for the series.
Perhaps nowhere is there a better exemplar of this seemingly boundless ambition than in the visuals. Mortal Kombat 11 pushes the ageing Unreal Engine 3 to its absolute limit, fashioning one of the best ever looking fighters in the process with extremely highly detailed fighter models, backgrounds and a super smooth framerate to boot. Facial detail in particular is one area especially worthy of note as each character model boasts full lip-sync and fully co-ordinated eye, mouth and skin animations, making them look far more lifelike than ever before.
Much like Shao Kahn himself then, Mortal Kombat 11 is a monstrous offering. Offering up a tremendously deep core fighting engine that is ably accompanied by a bounty of modes, combatants, a genre best story mode and some of the finest visuals ever seen in a fighting game, Mortal Kombat 11 is as close to a flawless victory as the series has ever gotten. That Kabal fatality though eh? Eeesh.
Mortal Kombat 11 releases for PS4, PC, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch on April 23, 2019.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.