In a lot of ways, the Mortal Kombat franchise is one of the last relics of bygone days. The bygone days I’m referring to is the 90s, an era known for making everything extreme, and purposely misspelling everything to make it seem more kool.
Whereas most franchises have moved on from the childishness of the 90s, Mortal Kombat almost seems to embrace these 90s clichés with a sense of pride. From continuing to replace every hard ‘c’ with a ‘k,’ to its actual premise – Mortal Kombat is a series about Ninjas and robots fighting in a tournament to save the entire Earth. The franchise has no shame showing off its 90s pride.
None of that is more prevalent than it is in the series’ most recent entry, Mortal Kombat 11. Just like every other great franchise, Mortal Kombat 11 is where the franchise finally succumbs to the time travel story device. It is essentially the unspoken rule of every great franchise; if you last long enough, you’ll inevitably have to do a time travel story.
Mortal Kombat 11 does something special with its narrative. It is essentially the same old time travel story we have seen dozens of times in other series, but never before with Mortal Kombat characters. And that’s ultimately MK11’s greatest strength. Despite the ludicrousness of the premise and even the characters, there’s plenty of pathos to make even the most jaded fans invested.
This is not even touching the phenomenal gameplay and the unfathomable amount of content in the game. Mortal Kombat 11 continues the franchise’s upward trend that began way back with the 2011 version of Mortal Kombat, and further cement NetherRealm Studios as the king of making amazing fighting games.
The fighting in Mortal Kombat initially comes off slightly slow, especially compared to more recent titles in the franchise. However, once you play the game more, you’ll get used to the pacing, and the matches end up being as quick as previous entries in the series. Most characters in the rosters have similar basic combos, making it easier for casual players to understand the standards with all the characters. The more complicated combos still require skill, meaning there’s still plenty for hardcore players to master and understand.
Every character has a Fatal Blow, which is a move that a character gets once their health gets less than 30 percent. Fatal Blows are easy to activate, and they cause a lot of damage, but can only be used once in an entire match.
Mortal Kombat 11 also gives players the options to have AI Fighters battle matches for them in some of the game’s modes. If you’re too busy with work around the house, yet still want to collect some of those juicy collectibles, have the AI fight all your matches for you. It’s a convenient way to grind and collect some of the cosmetics in the game.
Every playable character can be equipped with dozens of gears, and each gear can be armed with augments. Augments boost certain stats and abilities for the characters. Augments are hard to collect honestly, especially to get the right ones. They also do not change the pace of the game too much, so they end up feeling a little pointless. At best they give you extra currency at the end of the game.
From my personal experience with the game, I haven’t had much use for augments. Every character can have up to five variations; each variation has its own skin, gears, augments, intros, and many more customizations. The player can customize all variations.
Graphics And Sound
Mortal Kombat 11 continues NetherRealm’s trend in having beautiful looking fighting games. NetherRealm’s Injustice 2 had character models that looked very realistic, and the stages were full of elaborate details. Mortal Kombat 11 has the same thing; it too has realistic looking character models and amazing looking backgrounds.
Possibly more important though is how the blood pops in the game. Blood has always been a main feature of the Mortal Kombat series. Where would the franchise be without its trademarked Fatalities? Fatalities are the very violent moves that kill the losing opponent. The red of the blood lets the visuals stand out, making the extreme violence look almost artful. Every time the game freezes at the end of every Fatality, it almost looks like a painting; a very grotesque painting, but a painting nonetheless.
The sound design also helps makes sure players get to hear every kick, stabbing, biting, and nut punch. We hear it every time your character breaks a bone. The music is perfectly serviceable, with moments of grandeur during some of the high points in the story mode. It is overall a solid soundtrack for the game.
Online Multiplayer Modes
On my end, online matches worked well. A few of my matches did have some frame rate issues, especially the longer I played, might be happening because of my internet. Other than those few matches, most of my matches ran smoothly with little stuttering.
There’s a Kasual and Private option for online play. Kasual, as the name suggests, is for more casual play. Don’t want a hardcore experience with the strictest rule set? Then Kasual will do nicely for most players. In Kasual, you can have 1v1s against players you find online.
There’s also the classic King of the Hill option in Kasual. King of the Hill is where a group of players watches a match between two other players. The group is on a list, and whoever is on top gets to fight against the winner of the match. The game continues down the list. There’s also the option to pit against your custom AI Fighters to fight against other AI Fighters.
Private has more costume settings. This is where you make your own custom lobby, and invite personal friends to play with you. You even have the option to practice with friends online in Private. There’s also a final option in MK 11’s Online Mode, and it is called Room. This is where you can join a list of players online, and choose who you want to fight against. You can either join or create a room.
There are plenty of options for gamers who simply wish to play by themselves in their homes. There are story mode and two different tower modes. There is a Klassic Towers Mode and a Towers of Time Mode. Towers are similar to the arcade options as seen in older fighting games. You fight a series of opponents, each fight becoming increasingly more difficult.
Klassic Towers Mode contains the usual arcade options found in older games. There’s a Klassic Tower, where you fight a series of opponents until you reach the main villain Kronika. Then there’s an Endless tower, which is where you continuously fight against CPUs until you lose. Then there’s Survivor where you must fight a series of opponents with your health staying the same after each match.
Towers of Time Mode offer you several different platforms that have multiple towers on them. The platforms are constantly changing every hour, meaning there’s always a different set of towers to play in every so often. It is in these towers that you can obtain a lot of the game’s cosmetics. Both tower modes offer Tower Konsumables, which are special abilities that aid you in matches. You can change Konsumables after every match. Towers can be tough, nevertheless, they have become increasingly easier after the game’s launch.
There’s a Krypt mode where you take control of a nameless warrior, and wonder the island from the original Mortal Kombat game. On the island you can open different chests and soul vaults with the currencies you collect from every match and completing towers. You can always restock all the open chests with new items by sacrificing some of your Koins.
It is enjoyable to wander the island and explore the different areas from the original game. However, the contents of the chest are almost all random; there’s a no set of items you get in most chests. Most of the cosmetics of the game can only be found within the Krypt mode, meaning you’ll have to constantly replenish the many different vaults and chests in this mode. You have to hope you get that one skin that you really want, and it is never fun if you have to pray to get what you want. I still don’t have Kitana’s Edenian Blue, and I really want it.
There’s also too much to collect. Each character has at least 60 different skins, most of them are recolored variations of other costumes. Then there are 90 different gears that every character can equip, and all the different intros, outros, and taunts that also need to be collected. It is honestly overwhelming, and the random nature of getting all this stuff makes it annoying. I don’t want any more Geras skins; I just want my Scorpion and Kitana skins.
Not only that, but the game has four different types of currencies. You get Koins, Souls, and Hearts after every match, though for the case of the latter two you get only very little. Time Krystals are special currencies you get from leveling up your Kombat Kard and for beating towers in the Gauntlet in Towers of Time.
Time Krystals are used to buy specific cosmetics that are available in the premium store. The cosmetics found in the story are usually things that can be found in other modes, and the items change daily. All these currencies make it difficult to keep track of everything, and it takes so long to collect everything.
You get plenty of Koins from simply playing the game, yet it takes a lot longer to get a lot of Souls and Hearts. You need all three of those currencies to open more chest and vaults in the Krypt mode. Eventually, you’ll get to a point in the Krypt mode when the chests and vaults mostly give you useless Augments and Tower Konsumables.
Ultimately you’ll end up at the Shrine area in the Krypt, sacrificing your Koins to the statue and hope you get the cosmetics you desperately want. If you have my luck, you’ll end up with even more skins of characters you don’t play with. It is a frustrating aspect of the game, one that sours my playtime at times.
There are of course the standard 1v1 fight options for singly players, as well as a Tournament and AI Battle mode. AI Battle has you test out your AI fighters against other AI fighters. The Tournament is when you play against a friend with special Tournament settings. Both are fun distractions from the game.
Probably the crown jewel of my playtime with the game, Mortal Kombat 11 continues NetherRealm’s streak in creating some of the most engaging story modes in fighting games. Since Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, the Mortal Kombat series have been telling their stories in a series of chapters. In each chapter, you play as one of the main characters. Each chapter has four matches before you move on to the next chapter.
The 2011 version of Mortal Kombat is when the series really struck gold with its story mode. A retelling of the first three games in the series, MK 2011 told a gripping story full of plot twists and genuine pathos. The decision to kill off a majority of the main heroes was a shocking, and horrifying moment in the story that truly set the stage for the sequels.
Mortal Kombat X continued this trend of amazing storytelling with its equaling involving story mode. Mortal Kombat X centers more on the next generations of heroes, introducing new characters that have quickly become fan favorites in the franchise.
Mortal Kombat 11 is in many ways the natural end of the narrative that first began in Mortal Kombat 2011. Though all the games have been self-contained for the most part, Mortal Kombat 11 resolves a lot of plot threads that first began in 2011. Heroes who had fallen from grace are redeemed, and character arcs have reached their conclusions.
Mortal Kombat 2011 centered on the classic cast, whereas Mortal Kombat X mostly focused on the new characters. Mortal Kombat 11 decided to split its attention to both the old and new casts. With its time travel focus narrative, Mortal Kombat 11 were able to bring back long gone characters, and they were able to interact with the newer characters. We finally have Liu Kang return as the proper protagonist, yet the previous protagonist of X, Cassie Cage, isn’t regulated to the background. Jacqui Briggs can interact with a younger and more stable version of her father. We even get a classic Jax versus old Jax match that works really well.
This isn’t to say Mortal Kombat 11 completely ends the story of the franchise. Mortal Kombat 11 set up a lot of new stories for the main characters, and it also has a very ambiguous ending. A new reboot may be on its way for the franchise again.
I also appreciate how much agency the story gives its female characters, and avoids objectifying them like so many other fighting games have done. While fan service is still in the game, look at Cetrion’s design, it is nowhere near as bad as it was in MK 2011.
This is not to say everything about the story work. The main villain Kronika is too stoic, lacking much of a personality. The new playable characters aren’t also that interesting. Geras, The Kollector, and Cetrion don’t work the same way that Cassie and Kotal Kahn did in Mortal Kombat X.
Notwithstanding that, the story mode is probably one of the best modes in the game and a personal favorite of mine. So much thought has been given to the story, and it has a blockbuster feel to it. In fact, it may be on the same footing as some blockbusters. Even though watching the Avengers fight Thanos is undeniably awesome in Avengers: Endgame, seeing Johnny Cage punch Kano in the nuts may be just as entertaining.
Mortal Kombat 11 maintains the franchise’s strong streak, turning in another fantastic fighting game. Although the current controversies with NetherRealm studios have sullied the studios’ reputation, the quality of their games in recent years cannot be denied. There were able to invent a narrative that is thoughtful and is full of stakes. Most of the characters have been fleshed out enough that you now care about them. We care about Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and the others after having spent so much time with them.
The grinding aspects and the extreme violence of the game may be a turn off for a lot of the players. Nevertheless, everything on this game is impressive on a technical level. There’s plenty of content to keep players occupied for weeks. I highly recommend this game for any Mortal Kombat fan.
Disclosure: Our PlayStation 4 review copy of Mortal Kombat 11 was provided courtesy of NetherRealm Studios.