Review: Mortal Kombat 11

The reveal of Mortal Kombat 11 saw one of the creators of Mortal Kombat, Ed Boon, Ronda Roussey (The now voice of Sonya Blade and UFC Champion.) and the talented developers at NetherRealm Studios come together to showcase their new game.

The game was released with an updated aesthetic, new story timeline, refined combat mechanics and some of what we Kombatants love about the series: Over-the-top, gratuitous violence and visceral dismemberment of your foes with a darkly humorous touch.

Mortal Kombat 11

The reveal was a well marketed campaign and generated massive amounts of hype for the new installment. It was however, not to be all it was cracked up to be in the actual retail release of the game.

While the release showcased literally, only the best parts of the game, a lot was left to be desired and/or introduced only at launch, and these aspects, at first had me very confused, both about the monetization structure Warner Brothers and NetherRealm studios employed and then later… The political stance the game took in a lot of its showing.

There are a few core things that you look forward to as a fan of the Mortal Kombat series

These are generally the things you would find in any installment, they are:

1. Gratuitous violence

Mortal Kombat is Gory. It is the over the top violence and use of ridiculous physics to pull off the fatalities and brutalities and mind-bending combos that make the game so fun. The shock/horror/wtf value is part of what makes this game so good.

2. Campy premise

The story of Mortal Kombat is ridiculous. It is utterly nonsensical and seeing the actors take what they’re doing so seriously just adds to that hilarity. It’s awesome.

3. Finishers

By now every person reading this article whether you’ve played a Mortal Kombat game or not, should know the phrase “FINISH HIM!” and “FATALITY!” This is MK’s special sauce. You’ve won a fight. Now you get to make your opponent sick to his stomach to add insult to injury.

4.Sexual objectification

The Characters are sexy. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Mortal Kombat 11 Image 1

5. Towers and tournaments

The main progression mechanic throughout most Mortal Kombat games. While each game does have their own self-contained story, each character gets their own story as well in the Tournament of Mortal Kombat.

6. Eviscerating thine enemies

I mean play against your friends. What’s better than sticking it to your mates in Mortal Kombat then beating your chest in all your alphaness? Look at you go you total badass.

7. Replace all letters “C” with “K”

Who cares if that’s grammatically correct?

Mortal Kombat 11 is still campy with violent finishers

You can still do towers and tournaments and you can still beat fluids of varying viscosity out of your friends. But there are two things about this latest installment that simply feel wrong. This a game franchise that made its stance in rebellion, off challenging the status quo, it seems to just be running with it now.

An inordinate amount of care has been taken to tone down the sexuality of the female characters. The studio has chosen to hide skin to a level of prudeness that your grandma will appreciate with her dismembering.

Of course, this makes total sense. We can kick a character so hard in the crotch that it literally ejects their spine/skeleton out the top. With one of the more monstrous characters you can rip someone’s face off. Then rip the front of their skull off and then eat their kebabed brain….. But God forbid we see some side boob. That’s just ludicrous.

Mortal Kombat 11

For the opposite side of the argument, Ladies, your bare chested, ripped, and sexually dominant male characters are intact. And men everywhere are fine with it. But hopefully my point isn’t lost on you.

It’s this cognitive dissonance that messes it up for long time fans. It was not long ago that a scantily clad woman beating the utter living snot out of a man would have been the height of female empowerment.

The other thing that irks me is something that publishers nowadays are completely corrupt with. But are slowly seeing the error of their ways. The evil we call micro-transactions (small amounts paid for in game items that you can simply unlock rather than paying for).

At first glance this micro-transactions doesn’t seem too bad

Until you take into account that at the time of release, the game was made so difficult that you had to buy these things because there would have been no reasonable way the mass market would have gotten good enough to get anywhere with character progression in a reasonable timeframe. Ed, we love Mortal Kombat. But you’re not the last game we want to play.

Ed Boon and NetherRealm, have, at the time of this writing, made things more manageable though, but the character progression mechanic, unchanged as a whole, is so similar to that of a money-grubbing mobile games platform, that it leaves a foul taste in everyone’s mouth. Especially when you’ve already paid full price for a game.

At this point you’re probably thinking, “Damn Levi, tell us how you really feel? This sounds rather shit. Why would I waste my hard-earned money on such a waste that disrespects my wallet and shoves ideologies down my throat?” Because dear reader, barring these two foul injustices (;P) to Mortal Kombat.

The fighting, at its core, is just the finest Kombat that I’ve ever seen in a Mortal Kombat game

This is the arguable best in fighting mechanics, and I love it. I love mastering techniques in training and then taking them to towers and online matches and using what I’ve learned.  This is something that this iteration does very well.

The burn meters from previous NetherRealm game, Injustice, has been replaced by an offensive and defensive burn meter. The offensive burn meter allows you to double up on the damage that you deal on special attacks by modifying them to do extended combos or charge up moves.

It also dictates your bone-breakers; partial cinematics during gameplay where a skull is crushed or a bone is broken, etc. and is a modification of an existing move that does double the damage and gives you a healthy dose of ego when you put unruly AI and Kompetitors in their place.

Mortal Kombat 11

Defensive burn meters can be used to fall out of a juggle (a string of moves that keeps you taking damage before you hit the ground), to dodge past your opponent’s attacks and perform reversals and cancels. (faking moves for more devastating combos) Combos for the most part remain intuitive and make sense in input translating to spacial actions. Something I find missing in many other fighting games.

Fatal blows are brought back to dish out some cinematic bludgeoning

So good. Fatalities and brutalities are back and are joined by a new finisher “Mercy”. This finisher allows you to give your would-be victim some breathing room and health. Allowing him to try to beat you. Cheeky. I like it.

The combat system in any fighting game is always an easy thing to pick up, but a difficult thing to master. Ed and the team have seen fit to develop the most comprehensive optional tutorial I’ve ever seen in a fighting game.

It takes things the advanced fighter might appreciate, such as frame time data and tactics, situationally safe and dangerous moves and defending successfully and makes it understandable to the layman who just wants to smash.  I had to beat my head against the wall in quite a few fights before I went through these tutorials and had my “Aha” moment.

Granted these tutorials helped a lot but the real magic comes from practice. Take a character and learn all their combos and which combos work well together to juggle your opponent, which combos and strikes to use tactically for quicker and slower opponent reactions and learn to use this on the fly. Because while your teacher may be the best. This is still a skill you’ll have to learn, and once you do… man you feel like a badass.

Towers make a return in Mortal Kombat 11

They yield you some nice Koin rewards to use in the Krypt. This is still the way you unlock personal stories for each character. They do not vary much in terms of difficulty but is still quite fun to zone out with.

Towers of time, the Mortal Kombat version of Injustice 2’s “Multiverse” return in its own flavour. Giving opportunity to grind for loot. Mortal Kombat 11 takes a queue from Injustice 2 in character customization, both aesthetic and active augmentations. Towers of time is how you earn these rewards.

There are different difficulty challenges as well as different challenges in their own right to keep things fresh

Some are standard towers; some are towers with stage modifiers. These modifiers range from a shuriken that you should avoid every 20 seconds to localized time dilations that slow down time in a specific place. All adding to an additional challenge to make things interesting.

On top of this sometimes there will be a boss tower. Where there is one character to fight at brutal difficulty level. And it’s up to you and a few other online players to whittle down all that enemy’s health before he kills you all. Some towers simply add more of a story element and some are used for specific currencies or ingredients that you can used to craft consumables and armor pieces.

The controversial Krypt makes its return

While this is a good idea, the implementation of the mobile game grind structure seems to be the major progression system behind it. It’s not a massive irritation but sometimes can just take the fun out of discovery which this time, the krypt does quite nicely. Giving you history to all the characters you’ve ever had to face and their own mythologies and backstories by exploring the site of the first Mortal Kombat. Shang Tsung’s island.

So you see dear reader. It is a bitter sweet review. While I would sincerely like to rate the game for its core mechanic. It is simply not what makes a Mortal Kombat game what it is. And I can’t in good faith give it an unbiased review without considering the factors that detract from it being a good experience. If, However I was to rate it simply as a fighter at its core mechanic.

I’d easily give this game a 9

But because of the issues I mentioned earlier I feel as though Mr Boon has sold out. He’s become the “Dollar signs in the eyes” suit we all hated. And he’s made issues where there are none to be made the same as the audience he’s trying to pander to. And I find it quite sad.

I would recommend picking it up on PC on Steam, as while also being the most graphically spectacular version of the game, it also seems it’s the cheapest at one third of the comparative console price. That’s a no-brainer for me. But it also is worth mentioning that you will probably find more concurrent multiplayer presence for longer on console editions. That is something important to consider for the hardcore among us.

Mortal Kombat 11 Rating: A perspective based 6.8

Reviewed on PC and Xbox One.

What do you think of my Mortal Kombat 11 review? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Feedback is appreciated.

Watch this space for updates in the Gaming category on Running Wolf’s Rant.

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Levi Schooling

Gamer. Game Reviewer. Philosopher. Wordsmith.

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