Over the years, the Mortal Kombat has seen a major resurgence. Gone are the clumsy 3D physics of games like Mortal Kombat 4 and Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, instead replaced by solid 2D gameplay fitted into a gorgeous and brutal 3D world. That formula has done rather well over the years, starting with Mortal Kombat in 2011, and continuing with Mortal Kombat X. Now, from out of nowhere, we have Mortal Kombat 11. Announced just under four months ago at the Game Awards 2018, the game has teleported onto the field like Scorpion in a battle arena, ready to conquer the world.
There are some mild hang-ups you have to get over, and we only have a small piece of the downloadable content puzzle thus far. But if you can accept certain things – especially now that a game-changing patch has been applied – you’ll find that this fight has definitely reached its peak.
Getting Into the Game
First off, if you’re new to the Mortal Kombat series – or you’re just scared to death that you won’t be able to pull off a fatality the right way – we’ve got some good news. NetherRealm has the game loaded with amazing tutorials that teach you everything that you need to know.
For starters, you’ll begin with basics. But then they’ll dig in a little deeper and show you cool things, like how to block at the right time and, yes, execute someone in the goriest way possible. I swear, these fatalities. Make sure you don’t eat before you play this game. Trust me on this.
The system really teaches you a lot here, and before you know it, you’ll be applying some of these techniques in battle, both locally and online.
Thankfully, it’s not over-complicated. There are no unnecessary functions included with Mortal Kombat 11, and that’s probably why it works the best. Most of the combat system from Mortal Kombat X and even the Injustice games is intact here, whether it’s using an item in the background, grabbing an opponent for a throw, or launching into a series of bone-crunching combos.
There is some new stuff here, and probably the most notable feature is the introduction of the Fatal Blow. If you’re taking a good amount of damage during a fight, this will become available. Once your health drops around 30 percent or so, you’ll be able to execute this with the shoulder buttons. As you do, you’ll launch into a super combo with slo-mo moves, allowing you to get back into the fight. It’s amazing just how balanced this is, like a fully realized X-Ray. And, man, the damage you cause…I just wonder how some folks can stay alive after you unleash all of this.
There are also offensive and defensive bars to use. These are helpful when it comes to planning counterattacks on opponents or trying to get back into a fight before you unlock Fatal Blow. You’ll learn more about these in the tutorials, but it’s really great how well it all comes together. Throw in classic MK moves, combos, and, yes, fatalities, and you have a game that feels surprisingly familiar, and yet fresh.
Making Your Fighter Better, But At What Cost?
There are some neat components with Mortal Kombat 11 when it comes to customization. For instance, augments become available, which you can equip your character with. They’re mainly for AI battles, since you can’t use them online. Still, they’re quite useful, as you can get additional armor, a health push or even a tag-in from someone else, King of Fighters style. It’s a pretty sweet system, though you’ll need to hunt around the Krypt for a while to find what you’re looking for.
Speaking of the Krypt, it’s pretty good, as you can dig around and find some sweet in-game currency and unlockable goods. Granted, you play as a general character and not really your personal favorite, which is slightly confusing. But the mode offers a bit more than you may realize.
That said, things do get confusing with the Currency system. It would’ve been fine just to deal with the coins…er, Koins…to purchase stuff. But there are also Soul Fragments, Time Krystals (they hate the letter C, don’t they?) and hearts. It can get a little confusing, though they’re broken down to buy certain items. You’ll need Time Krystals to get the best ones, though, and that may cost you a pretty penny.
Still, the system is not as bad as it was before. When the game first launched, players complained about the “grindiness” of the whole affair, and worried that the Microtransactions would empty their wallets. Thankfully, things are a little more lenient with the patch in play, which is cool. You get a little more money for your trouble, though there are some things you’ll have to fight through to unlock.
Also, thankfully, the difficulty issue has been resolved. Going through the Towers of Time was a real pain in the butt before. But, post-patch, it’s a little more balanced, so you actually don’t lose in frustration all the time. Kudos to NetherRealm for keeping an open ear to the ground and listening to its community, instead of doing the cold shoulder “deal with it” response.
Jump On In With Mortal Kombat’s Kontent
Mortal Kombat 11 gives you a lot to do, but it’s not entirely perfect, mainly due to a requirement that’s hard to look past. However, let’s talk about the content first.
There’s a story mode here, and it does involve some time-jumping and rather humorous situations. It’s not the most sturdy story mode out there but it’s entertaining. The way it involves various characters from the MK universe is rather neat, and it has a slight comical tone, even for all the carnage that’s flying around the screen.
Outside of that, you can take on Klassic Towers, where you work your way through various opponents. It’s a fun old-school mode, and, now, thanks to the patch, a little easier to tolerate, though still a challenge. The Konsumables can be somewhat confusing at first, but you get used to them.
The Towers of Time also add some interesting challenges to the mix, so you can tackle them however you see fit. There’s a lot to get here, and you can challenge other players online or locally as well, if a versus battle is what you’re into. Thankfully, the online connectivity works smoothly, at least on the Xbox One X front.
Alas, that leads to the big issue – the fact you need an online connection, even if you’re going with single player stuff. Maybe NetherRealm will fix this in the future. But for now, it can be an annoyance for those of you that don’t have the most stable of connections. You have been warned.
A Great Looking Contender, With Sound To Boot
When it comes to making a great looking fighting game, NetherRealm knows what it’s doing. Injustice 2 is still a shining example of how well it can put things together. This continues to go strong with Mortal Kombat 11, its best-looking game to date.
The visuals are outstanding on the Xbox One X, with animations that are smooth as silk and little details that are astounding. This is especially true when Frost takes the battlefield, as you can see her icy exhaust kick out in places and make things more interesting. The other characters are a blast as well, especially Skarlett, who’s a trip with her bloody powers. Don’t anger her, yeah?
There are a couple of character models who aren’t as well polished – Sonya Blade’s seen better days – but the apocalyptic backgrounds are a delight, including little things that you can actually interact with during each battle. And the game as a whole has a smooth 60 frames per second approach, save for slo-mos with the X-Ray style attacks. Really, Mortal Kombat has never stood out more than it does here with its graphics.
Just be warned – the game is bloody. The fatalities are creative and somewhat gross to some, and there’s carnage flying all over the place, even if you just land a few quick blows. NetherRealm knows what works for a game like this, so we can’t complain too much. But, again, hold off on the meal until maybe an hour later.
As for sound, it’s great as well, with a couple of small caveats. The soundtrack provides a lot of fun themes to fight along with, and the sound effects are as meaty as ever. And, yes, the announcer calls out what you do within the game like a boss. I mean, what would Mortal Kombat be without Shao Kahn anyway? By the way, if you didn’t get him as a pre-order bonus, you’ll need to pony up $6 to unlock him. Well worth it for his fatality, though.
Some things, however, are out of place. There are some points in the soundtrack where we’re not sure why a tune was selected. It’s not too big of an issue, but you’ll notice when the music’s good and when it’s…just okay. Also, I miss the classic Sonya Blade. Ronda Rousey does okay with the role, but I think I prefer the sass of the old-school MK3 Sonya. Nothing personal, I assure you. Just feeling the vibes in the room.
This is clearly the most balanced Mortal Kombat to date. The fighting still feels as fluid as ever, and the inclusion of the Fatal Blow and a strong defensive system go a long way into introducing something new. And now that the difficulty isn’t too much of a grind, a lot more people can enjoy it. Thumbs up.
It’s a fancy Mortal Kombat, but at its essence, still Mortal Kombat. That said, NetherRealm knows what a game like this needs to make it click, and it really does here. The new features are nice, although the need for a consistent online connection can be a royal pain for some. If you can get past that, though, you’ll have a good time here.
Learning Curve: 9/10
When it first came out, I would’ve had trouble recommending this game for amateurs. But thanks to a new patch, I can easily give it a thumbs up across the board. Veterans will love the features and challenges, while newcomers can check out the heavily loaded tutorial system and learn to be a true Kombatant themselves. Bravo to the developers for going the extra few miles here.
Easily one of NetherRealm’s best looking games to date. The fatalities can be a bit much in some places, and not all character models are made equal. But the stage design, character animation, slo-mo moves and blood and guts really come together nicely, creating a visceral experience that’s been long overdue for some.
I’m not quite feeling Ronda Rousey in the role of Sonya Blade. And not all the music is perfect. But when Mortal Kombat 11 hits that classic vibe or lets other characters speak up, it’s a winner. And the dialogue can be good fun, especially from Johnny Cage. Don’t change, ya egomaniac.
Value for Money: 9/10
Once you get over the fact that you need to be consistently online to enjoy the game, Mortal Kombat 11 has service for everyone. The tutorials will help you brush up on techniques; the story mode is surprisingly long and filled with a few shockers here and there; the Towers will give even the most seasoned player something to do; and the gameplay is rewarding with its combination of old and new. Not to mention all the stuff you can unlock in the Krypt, even if you have to take a while to figure out the currency system the right way. It…can be a handful.
What makes a sequel great is when a developer improves upon a winning formula and manages to bring in more people as a result. Mortal Kombat 11 has this appeal, bringing back the trademark gameplay we’ve gotten so used to over the years and introducing new elements, modes and features that give something to everyone across the board. Now that the patch has taken care of mild issues with it, there’s very little to complain about here. While some things could still use slight cleanup, what Mortal Kombat 11 brings to the table is more than hearty – provided you can stomach all the tearing apart these warriors do. If you can take a few fatalities into your system, you’ll love what this game can do for you. NOW FIGHT!
Amazing visuals bring the game to life like never before
Fun gameplay, with some new features that add quite a bit
Lots to do, including online battles, Towers, a stacked Story Mode and tutorials
Customizable options are surprisingly loaded
The currency system could use simplification
The classic Sonya Blade is missed (still love ya, Ronda)
You need a continuous online connection
The ultra-gory fatalities could be rough for some
(Disclaimer: WB Games provided a review code for the game on Xbox One. It's also available on PlayStation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch.)