Mortal Kombat 11 – Best MK Game Yet? Final Verdict
Platform: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Release Date: April 23, 2019
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Since 1992 Midway Games has been making the Mortal Kombat series and catering to fans who wish to see more. With over-the top characters, brutal fighting, and even more brutal fatalities, they’ve kept up the MK story and characters up until Mortal Kombat Armageddon when it was supposed to be the end for the series. Eventually in 2008, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe came out, where the characters would perform fatalities on our favorite DC heroes but with less-decapitations. This was Midway’s final game until NetherRhealm Studios took over and partnered with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. With the original Director, Ed Boon taking lead with they decided to continue the series with Mortal Kombat 9 in 2011.
Since the success of MK 9 it’s been clear that NetherRealm Studios is competent in making the best fighting game they can. They proved it further in MK 10 by improving the graphics, tightening up the gameplay, and creating a more compelling story mode. Now it’s 2019, and Mortal Kombat 11 has it all, it has a cinematic story, fully-tuned gameplay, and plenty of Fatalities to go around. Does this mean that MK 11 is officially the best in the series? Let’s find out.
Kombat Brings More Techniques
Mortal Kombat 11’s gameplay has drastically improved from the previous titles with faster-paced combat and some new features that make the gameplay more balanced while encouraging strategic fights. The X-Ray mechanic has split into Fatal and crushing Blows. Normally at low health the player will be able to use a Fatal Blow which does massive amounts of damage in a short cinematic scene. Crushing blows work differently as they are basically mini Fatal Blows that can be used once-per round depending on the move. These blows now offer a bit more strategy in fights while looking pretty stylish.
Also since the Fatal Blow bar is separate from your special bar on the bottom left of the screen, players can amp up one of their specials for added damage. This gives a lot more freedom to either mixing up special attacks or dodging a move with the press of a button. While the input for these moves may be a little too specific at times, they do add quite a bit of depth to all of your fights.
If that wasn’t enough, MK 11 features one of the most detailed Tutorials I’ve seen in a fighting game. It even has a tutorial to help players understand frame data and hit boxes. If players don’t understand how to play, then they should check out the Tutorial.
Visuals and Audio
Using a modified version of Unreal Engine 3, Mortal Kombat 11 plays perfectly in a smooth 60 fps framerate for every fight. This way players can see the blood splatter, arms break, and colons sliced during battle. Though when it comes to Fatal and Krushing Blows, it will be at 30 fps. Ed Boon explained that they did it, “so we can do cooler visuals with the crazy olympic blood and the cool-lit and higher resolution models with the characters.”
While the 30 fps during Fatal Blows make the hits have a huge impact, the frame-rate also counts towards the Story mode’s cut-scenes. While this makes the story more enjoyable to watch with the higher-resolution models, its definitely odd to see the frame-rate go from 30 fps to 60 fps during the cut-scene to fight transitions. This is especially noticeable since the models for fighting are clearly different from the models in the story cut-scenes. Other than that the game will always run at a generally perfect 60 fps on consoles with no stutters or lag
The sound design is also terrific for the most part. The music in the stages and sounds of each hit during fights are so satisfying to witness. Better yet is the characters’ voice acting which includes hundreds of dialogue between all of the characters at the start of all matches. The voice lines both add a lot of personality to MK’s fighters and gives players a sense of lore when they fight.
The story is one of the most enjoyable cinematic experience I’ve seen in a fighting game. After the events of Mortal Kombat X, a mysterious being named Kronika endangers the lives of both Earthrealm and Outworld inhabitants as she plans on keeping the timeline balanced in her favor. It’s because of her that characters from the past and present must work against and with-each other in order to stop her.
For the most part the story is great and possibly goes above and beyond making cut-scenes for fighting games. The animations for each character are akin to Injustice 2’s cut-scenes where the facial animations are just great. Not only that the interactions between characters will resonate with fans of the Mortal Kombat series. Unfortunately, some of the voice acting can be pretty jarring to hear for some characters.
The only real problem with everything going on is the story’s fighting scenarios. They make almost no sense when a character decides to let the other live after a fight. They will make you wonder why Cassie Cage let Liu Kang live when he’s obviously a huge threat. Same goes for how the revenant characters in-game are constantly losing fights but nobody really cares in the end. While the story can be enjoyable for the character interaction, it’s hard to take the story seriously.
The Krypt this time around is a third-person puzzle/adventure mode where the goal is to unlock chests that contain unlockables for character customization. You play as an unnamed character whose only goal is to seemingly explore Shang Tsung’s Island for its riches. You’ll open chests, bust through walls, and solve some puzzles in order to fully unlock all of the secrets in the Krypt.
It’s an interesting mode that basically lets the player take a tour around Shang Tsung’s Island which houses many of the stages throughout Mortal Kombat’s history such as the spike-filled Pit and Goro’s Lair. While the Krypt is expansive and has so much to explore, it mostly just serves as a dedicated Island where players can unlock loot chests filled with goodies.
The chests you unlock contain random items ranging from rare outfits to some character artwork. Because of the randomness, it can be hard to unlock items for your favorite character which is a shame since certain Brutalities and Fatalities are locked behind the Krypt.
When not unlocking chests players can visit The Forge in order to craft character equipment. Though, more likely than not, players will have to open chests anyway to even gain these forging ingredients in the end. Also if players decide to pay to the money shrine, they can get some goodies as well though you’re better off opening random chests as the rewards are generally the same unless you give lots of money.
The towers on the other hand are two separate modes with their own familiar set of challenges. The Klassic Tower acts as traditional arcade/short story mode where you go through a set number of fights with any character depending on what Classic Tower you choose. After beating the tower’s boss, players are rewarded with a character ending, a decent number of Koins and character equipment.
The Towers of Time offer a different challenge. Depending on what tower you choose in Towers of Time, the player will engage in combat with various modifiers for each fight. These modifiers include homing missiles, increased elemental damage with a character, or accomplishing a certain amount of hits in a round. Unfortunately, fights can be unreasonably hard due to these modifiers. At times it would seem that enemies would have too much health without any indication, and other times the opponent would simply spam the same move over and over.
Not only that but there’s also the fact that the character-specific Time Towers require 20,000 Koins to unlock just to do their own challenge. Even though the Towers and modifiers change every hour or so, they could use some serious re-balancing.
Never Change Online Kombat
Finally, there’s Mortal Kombat’s online features. The amount of Online Modes MK 11 has is amazing. Starting off with the casual modes are the normal versus modes where you can challenge other players through matchmaking. (redacted AI fights to the end)
In King of the Hill, a player enters a lobby full of people who want to beat the current King of the lobby. Up to 6 people can watch while the king and his challenger fights, then it moves on to whoever is next in line. While it’s a fun gameplay mode it’s nothing special though, there is a bit of fun in performing Fatalities in front of a small audience.
Then there are the ranked modes which require that players use the Tournament Versions of the character variations. This is understandable since we don’t want players with mixed move-sets to plague online ranked. It’s a first to three full matches wins so players should expect to get their A-game on. The net-code between matches is perfect here and there are no stutters at all.
If fighting random players isn’t your thing then players can do private fights, create Kustom Lobbies and do practice matches with friends online. This is a great feature as players were never able to properly practice with each-other online.
Next up are the Rooms where players can create or join a lobby of up to 100 players. This way you can choose from a huge list of players to challenge. It shows all of the information about all of the players in the lobby including win/loss ratio, winning odds, and the opponent’s connection. So pick whoever you want, start a match and have some fun with it.
Next NetherRealm Studios has brought back a mode from the previous Injustice game, Ai Battle Mode. In AI Battle players can send a group of three AI-controlled characters that fight differently depending on how many points you put into them in the customization screen. Players can put points into a character’s chance of grappling, use of rushdown mechanics, reversals, zoning mechanics, and using runaway tactics.
After customizing your AI, you can set up a team of 3 of them to defend your placement. This means that players will be able to choose your defending team to fight against. Afterwards you can choose to attack a player’s defending team. If you don’t have time to watch several fights involving your AI team you can choose to fast-forward the matches. Or if you don’t have time to waste then players can simply play a different mode, and the defending team will do the rest and pick up rewards while you’re gone. Additionally, you can send your AI against the Towers as well if you don’t feel like playing against a heavily modified opponent.
Also if you don’t feel like playing a casual match, you can do AI Only matches, where players choose their characters with customized AI and watch them fight instead. Players can also fast forward these fights and the players will still get the full rewards. It’s an interesting way to learn different combos for each character and getting money but it requires more watching than actual playing.
Mortal Kombat 11 is a fan-pleaser that aims to improve from the past in every way possible. While I enjoyed MK 9’s gameplay then fell off after MK 10, MK 11 is definitely a game that I can go back to. There’s now just so much content to see and so many Kustomizations to unlock that it will take up so much time out of anybody’s day. Unfortunately, the grind to get those unlocks can be a bit much. For this I give Mortal Kombat 11 and 8 out of 10.
For fans of the series I think this is probably the best they’re going to get for a while as it certainly ends the current storyline NetherRealm started from MK 9. Save form many missing characters, fans will be pleased to see how much time and care NetherRealm Studios put into the game and will have some great time with it. It’s unfortunate that some of the modes require way too much skill to beat. In the end I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here and I have high hopes that NetherRealm Studios will deliver.