Okay, so I may have been a little over excited when I published my Top 7 Fighting Games article. They are without a doubt our best games of the genre, but there’s a new gun in town. Don’t worry, that article will be left well alone, but if I could make a revision to it, NetherRealm Studios’ latest release will smash right into it. Of course, I’m talking about Mortal Kombat 11, the latest entry in the bloody violent fighting series. NetherRealm have developed and improved its unique fighting engine, which was last seen in the fantastic Injustice 2, and created a beast of a game in every sense of the word. Pulses raced when this game was announced, and I’m glad to say it was everything I expected and more.
Mortal Kombat 11 takes place right after the events of Mortal Kombat X; Shinnok has been defeated, and in order to cleanse the realms and protect EarthRealm, Raiden has become corrupt and destroys anyone in his path, good or bad. The defeat of Shinnok prompts the arrival of Kronika, Shinnok’s mother, who just happens to be the keeper of time. She plans to rewrite history in order to erase Raiden from it completely, but in order to do so, she must form alliances, but that comes at a cost. Anomalies are formed that result in the past merging with the present, and this in turn brings forth past versions of Mortal Kombat combatants to clash with the present versions. The story mode is fantastic in MK11. Each individual character has a unique personality that really shines. Sonya and her daughter, Cassie, have a tight relationship but show their professionalism by maintaining their respective military status. Johnny Cage’s clash with his arrogant and self-aware past self is a clear-cut highlight providing some comic relief and, of course, the new antagonist, Kronika, certainly does her job well at displaying her awesome power. The story format follows the same blueprint as that seen in NetherRealm games since Mortal Kombat 9. Players fight using a character for a set period in their part of the story before moving on to the next, and the seamless transitions are just excellent.
The tight-knit fighting engine is polished to perfection here, with a few interesting mechanics thrown in to enable more strategy in fights. You’re still able to perform special moves, unique moves, brutalities, fatalities and combos using simple button patterns, but gone are the popular and ever brutal x-ray moves. These have been replaced by Fatal Blows, which can only be performed when below 30% health. Fatal Blows are best described as non-match ending fatalities that can easily turn the tides of battle. If you miss, you have to wait a period of time before you can try using it again. They are awesome to pull off, although it is weird for your opponent to be able to fight on immediately after having their face sawed off by Kung Lao’s hat.
Another new addition is Krushing Blows, which are more cinematic versions of certain moves that can only be activated when certain criteria are met. Activating them shows a close-up animation of bones crushing beneath your hand or foot, and afterward leave your opponent stunned for a follow-up attack.
Being on the defensive can be reversed quickly too by using one of the two segments in the defense gauge (you have an offense gauge for powered up moves too) by blocking at the precise time an opponent’s hit lands. This allows you to perform a Flawless Block, which shoves your opponent back, allowing you to begin a combo of your own. These new mechanics increase the strategy potential in matches and allow you to think more rather than going all-out offense and hoping your hits land.
There is an impressive, diverse roster on offer here, with series vets, returning fighters and newcomers completing the lineup. The faces of Mortal Kombat, Scorpion and Sub-Zero, dominate the left and right wings of the character select screen, with fan-favorite Noob Saibot and the Tartakan savage, Baraka, making a return. New to the series though are Geras, a time-melding bad boy created by Kronika, the Elder-Goddess Cetrion and Shao Kahn’s greedy servant, Kollector, each of whom fit nicely and are excellent fun to play as.
Aside from the story, you’re able to take on the famous Klassic Towers, which require you to take on a series of opponents to get to Kronika at the top, but the meat and potatoes of single-player is the Towers of Time, which works exactly like Klassic Towers, but each fight has different variables to be aware of. These variables range from missiles being fired at you or blasts of fire to avoid, to acid rain that drains your health if you’re caught in it. This isn’t to say you’re at a disadvantage as you can collect consumables that give you the same advantages and abilities, and you can even get characters to assist you, providing you have that consumable.
Completing Towers in any mode, story mode chapters or even unlocking chests in the new Krypt (which takes place on Shang Tsung’s island) can unlock items in the returning Custom Variation feature taken from Injustice 2. You can unlock new masks, weapons, costumes and more, although they are purely cosmetic this time around, and you can adjust their move list to assign to your new character design. Playing dress-up with your favorite Mortal Kombat characters is brilliant fun, making way for some really interesting designs, and the journey to collect things is a great incentive to keep playing, especially if you’re an MK fan.
Mortal Kombat 11 is one of the finest fighting games available today. The polished and refined NetherRealm combat system is silky smooth and spectacular to watch, making this entry one of the very best in the series. If I had to nit-pick, I’d have to say that the roster could do with filling up with more classic characters, such as Ermac, Reptile, Smoke and (my favorite from MKX) Tremor. I just hope that the recent DLC leak isn’t true as too many novelty guest characters can ruin the aesthetic as the Predator, Jason Voorhees and Xenomorph in MKX were just silly to me, although on the other hand, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Injustice 2 was absolute gold. It remains a concern.
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch
Release Date: 23rd April 2019