Mortal Kombat 11 Review
Player(s): 1-2 (local), 2-8 (online)
Extra Features: Online Multiplayer, Download Content, Leaderboards
NetherRealm Studios (NRS) has been on a roll with their fighting games ever since Mortal Kombat 9. MK9, Injustice, MKX and Injustice 2 have all been great fighters and each one shows that NRS continues to get better. Each game has been a major step up from the last game. Mortal Kombat 11 (MK11) is no exception to NRS's latest path. There is so much to love about MK11 that it is hard to break everything down into a single review. MK11 is the most expansive MK game that there has ever been when it comes to content.
MK11's story picks up where MKX left off. We enter the story after Shinnok's defeat. Raiden is now using the power of Shinnok's amulet and is noticeably much less forgiving than he once was in his attempt to wipe out all that threaten Earthrealm. Kronika has taken notice to the events that are taking place and decides that she wants to set a new balance so she unites past with present in an attempt to rewrite history. Current MK warriors meet their past counterpart and some of the dead warriors are now alive again. MK11's story is full of epic moments and if you're an MK fan, you will no doubt have a smile upon your face during some portions of the story. It's filled with references to past events and overall MK fandom. Thankfully, the MK team left out QTE sequences so we can sit back and enjoy cutscenes without having to worry about button icons this time. The story does a good job of sharing the spotlight between the more popular characters - some of them actually share chapters and you'll get to choose between who you want to play. The shared chapters open up the opportunity for branching dialogue paths but have no major effect on the overall story.
MKX looked quite impressive for the time period it was released in (first generation of newer consoles), and MK11 ups the stakes even higher with much more impressive visuals. The character models are very lifelike and the backgrounds are littered with detail as usual. The upgraded graphics really make the fatalities stand out well. The game seems to use the same type of blood and guts system as MKX, but this time you get to see even more such as more intestines and other organs during explosions. NRS seems to have this thing for eyeballs popping out during fatalities this time as well. The game seems to run at a smooth framerate (60 fps) at all times on the Xbox One version. The only time the game lags a little is during some of the chest opening in the krypt. NRS always has great sound in their games and this game is no exception. The gurgling and tearing sounds during some fatalities is truly amazing. Most of the voice actors do a good job with their roles. Some of the phrases get a bit old (such as Kabal's cheap one-liners) and Sonya has got a very monotone voice. The overall music seems better this time compared to MKX. I really like the Black Dragon Marketplace music.
The game once again has a starting cast of 25 characters - one of these is Shao Kahn, who is a preorder character. Along with returning characters, there is the Kollector, Cetrion and Geras. The game does a good job at bringing in characters that we haven't seen in a while such as Jade, Frost, Shao Kahn, Noob Saibot, Kabal, Skarlet, and Baraka. The returning characters from MKX are Johnny Cage, Sonya, Cassie Cage, Jax, Scorpion, Raiden, Jacqui Briggs, Sub-Zero, Kano, Liu Kang, Kitana, Kung Lao, Erron Black, D'vorah and Kotal Kahn. The Kollector is a six-armed fighter that carries around a backpack full of items. Cetrion and Geras are both elder gods that work for Kronika. Cetrion has the power of nature and light and Geras seems to have earth and time powers. Every returning character from a previous MK still has many of their trademark moves but they all have a new feel to them leaving them feeling fresh. One of the more noticeable character changes is Jax - he has certainly been livened up a great deal. There is not a single character that feels boring in the game - I could see myself playing all of these characters at some point since all of their gameplay styles look fun.
All characters have their own variations just like in MKX, but this time you get to customize variations. Every character starts out with two default variations and the game gives you the option to pick from all of the variation moves in order to customize your own variation and name it. All fighters have their own special moves that they have no matter what variation that you choose and all characters also have their own variation specific moves. Each variation has three slots for moves. Some moves take up two slots and some moves only take up one so it's up to you decide which moves are more important to you while customizing your variation. This system opens the door to some very unique play styles and overall strategy per fighter. Sadly, at this time, both tournament and ranked modes only allow for the two default variations. This means that some moves go unused at the moment and some mixes of moves will likely never be used in a more professional mode or setting unless the option for custom variations in these modes is added later. When it comes to any modes outside of tournament and ranked modes, players are free to mix and match their variations any way that they see fit.
The gameplay has changed a great deal from MKX. At first glance, the game appears to play a lot like MKX, but then you realize how it's been slowed down to the level of MK9, but it plays different from both - it's actually easier to play than its predecessors to me. There is no run command in MK11. All characters have their own type of dash forward and backward however. You have to earn your way into your opponent with your attacks this time and it's harder to pressure. Rushdown and overall pressuring is still in MK11, but you have to work more to maintain it. The Fatal Blow takes the place of the X-ray attack from older games. Fatal Blows can only be performed when your fighter is at 30% health. These attacks are limited to once per match and if you miss one, you have to go through a cooldown period before you can perform it again. There are Krushing Blows which amplify certain attacks. All krushing blows have their own unique requirement for activating, such as countering a high attack for the uppercut krushing blow. Krushing blows amplify the attack to take off around double the damage that the move usually does and some open up the opportunity to juggle afterward.
There are now two meter gauges - the attack and defense meter. The attack meter is for amplifying (meter burning) special attacks and the defense meter is more for performing wake-up attacks and grabbing environmental objects. The most unique part of the two meters is that they slowly recharge (sort of a cooldown period) as they are used. You no longer have to attack your opponent to gain meter. The new meter system is a fantastic way to mix up the usual method of staying aggressive to build meter. Now matches are more about conserving your meter and keeping an eye on its recharge rather than focusing on building it. The game has two types of wake-up attacks - one that has armor and one that pops the opponent into the air for a juggle combo. Delayed wake-up has returned and you can now roll backward or forward after getting up. There is also a move called "Breakaway" that allows your character to gain super armor while falling from the air to avoid juggling. All of these defense moves take a certain amount of your defense bar and sometimes some of the attack bar as well.
MK11 has a super helpful tutorial. This mode is fantastic for teaching newer players the ins and outs of MK11 (and fighting games in general). It goes over terminology and techniques that no other fighter has ever addressed. For the past several years, fighters have included frame data along with their move lists and this tutorial actually goes highly in-depth at explaining how to read the frame data and use it to your advantage. It goes over examples of how certain moves have negative frames on block and can be punished with certain moves that have quick starting frames. And the best part about the tutorial is that it goes into strategies such as how to deal with zoners and many other strategies that you can use to your advantage. It's very easy to tell that NRS now has a retired professional fighting game player on their team now, and I bet he helped out a great deal with the tutorial. MK11's tutorial is literally next level tutorial information that all fighting game fans should take a look at. You're still going to have to go online for tips on how to use your fighter, but when someone says that a certain character's move is -23 on block and that it is punishable, you'll understand what they mean and you'll want to look over frame data just like professional players.
Just like all MKs ever since Deadly Alliance, MK11 has its own krypt and this is the best krypt there has ever been. The krypt is a type of adventure mode where you get to play as an unnamed character and explore Shang Tsung's island and unlock the treasures (unlockable content) that can be found throughout the various areas. You'll gain items that allow you to unlock new areas and find hidden secrets along the way. MK has always been big in secrets and the krypt is full of them. There are also many references to past MK games that many hardcore MK fans will get. My first time exploring the krypt, I spent around 2 hours exploring the area and unlocked many new areas and there were still many more to find on my next run. Koins, Soul Fragments and Hearts are used to unlock chests in the krypt. You gain all of these items through single player or online games. Sometimes the krypt will help you out with giving you a collection of these currency types. The krypt also has a forge for making items, a slot machine where you can bet on a random prize with coins, and the Kollector appears in a certain area and will exchange certain items for unlockables.
The single player portion of MK has never been so expansive as it is in MK11. Along with story mode and krypt, you have your normal towers and Towers of Time. The normal towers include three difficulty settings just like the usual MK game and have an Endless Battle and Survivor tower - besides gaining rewards, you also unlock character endings by completing these towers. The Towers of Time is where you'll dedicate most of your time most likely. The towers in the Towers of Time all change up based on time. Each tower will appear then have a time limit to complete the tower. You can gain skins and brutalities along with other rewards by completing the towers in this mode. There is also a collection of towers that serve as a tutorial for the mode and there are also character exclusive towers for each character. The character exclusive towers have several series of towers that you'll have to buy that will unlock extra gear for that character. The Towers of Time have modifiers that are active much like the Living Towers in MKX, but this time you can equip modifiers to your character so you can cheese the CPU just as much as they cheese you with their modifiers. Adding modifiers to the player's side makes the battle much more tolerable this time. Modifiers are unlocked through Towers of Time and through the Krypt.
Returning from Injustice 2, all characters now have gear that you can equip to three different portions of their body. Along with skins, gear will change up the look of your fighter. Gear can be equipped with augments to give certain attributes to certain attacks on your fighter. The extra gear can help out for Towers of Time and other single player modes. Along with the variation and appearance of fighters, you can also customize their CPU AI. You can pick from different categories to make your character more aggressive in certain aspects such as Rushdown, Kombo, Reversal, Zoning, etc. Once you are happy with your AI character, you can unleash them on nearly all the single player modes and have them unlock content for you. The game can literally play itself if you so desire. The AI characters can also be placed into a team on a mode called AI Battle where you can pit your team of characters against another team to earn unlockables.
MK11 has a TON of content to unlock. You'll be unlocking items in this game for months to come even if you grind the living hell out of the game with an AI character. There are so many skins, brutalities, gear choices, icons, augments, kollector materials, forge materials and tower konsumables to collect and it all becomes pretty mind blowing if you're a completionist. No matter what level of grinding that I had to resort to, the majority of the grinding was a blast. The bottom line is that the game is fun, the krypt is great and it's overall just a joy to play, so constantly repeating battles isn't noticed that much.
The only nitpick that I have with the grinding is that some of the currency items (soul fragments mainly) are not as freely available as others and getting a vast sum of them for certain unlockables in the krypt can be quite time consuming. There is one portion of the krypt that requires a certain item that is unlocked through a 10,000 soul fragment chest and that price seems incredibly steep when you're just trying to get it for access to the final areas of the krypt. It seems that NRS are addressing some of these issues already with their updates - they have increased soul fragment and heart rewards and lowered some grinding requirements for character towers at the time of writing this review, so perhaps this flaw will be less noticeable in the future.
And last but certainly not least, the online play. Online has your standard ranked and kasual matches. Ranked are "first to 3" matches much like most other fighting games. As already mentioned, you have to choose between two variations per character and don't have access to kustom variations in ranked. Kasual matches can be played with the usual 1v1 matches through waiting for an opponent or while in a lobby where you can invite other players for matches. There is also King of the Hill option where all players wait in a lobby and spectate a fight until it is their turn. The online seems to hold up just as well as the beta. If both players have a good connection, the fight will go quite well. Wired connections feel just like local play and wireless connections work well depending on the overall strength of the connection. As usual, I did run into bad or dropped connections at times. MK11's online is one of the best online experiences I have had with a fighting game when the connection was good.
Overall, Mortal Kombat 11 is a fantastic fighter. If you love fighting games at all, be sure to check it out. It's going to be awesome to see how this game grows in content as the DLC characters are released and improvement is made on the fighting game engine and existing characters. I feel this game could easily be NRS's Street Fighter that they could update for years to come if they actually stick with it. It would be so nice to see a Mortal Kombat with loads of support like a Street Fighter.
+ Very epic story mode
+ The krypt is the best it has ever been
+ Ability to customize variations
+ Loads of single player content and unlockables
+ An expansive tutorial that is extremely helpful to all skill ranges
- Tournament and Ranked modes only have two character variations to choose from
- Some of the grinding for unlockables seems overdone
Final Rating: 93% - Mortal Kombat 11 is the pinnacle of MK games so far and it sure does have a lot of kontent to konsume.
Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.