Review – Mortal Kombat 11
Words can’t express how much I was looking forward to the full release of Mortal Kombat 11. At the risk of causing mass hysteria from all suburban moms from the early 90’s, I grew up loving these games ever since I was a little kid, playing Trilogy and Mortal Kombat 4 on my Nintendo 64 with my brother at the age of five. I was even a fan of the often criticized Mortal Kombat Armaggedon, as well as someone who’ll forever affirm that the first movie is one of the greatest and most enjoyable dumb flicks of all time.
After initially playing the game at a preview event a few months ago and realizing that the gameplay was as pristine as one could have hoped for, all I wanted was to finally experience the brand new story mode, to have fun with all characters and to crack a few skulls online. I got everything I wished for. Mortal Kombat 11 is truly a fantastic game that’s just short of being a masterpiece due to one glaring issue.
I’ve talked about how good the gameplay was back in my hands-on preview article. To sum things up, the game builds up from the gameplay estabilished in Mortal Kombat X, but with a bigger emphasis on its two new gauges (offensive and defensive), and the final blow mechanic, which is only unlocked when your character’s health reaches a low level. This is the most balanced Mortal Kombat has even been: it’s easy to learn, extremely hard to master, but it has enough elements to give newcomers a little bit of a chance against more experienced players, motivating them to get better afterwards as a result.
Thankfully enough, Ed Boon and his mates care as much about the story and single player content in their games as they care about Mortal Kombat having pristine gameplay. The story mode in Mortal Kombat 11 is the best in the series. I wasn’t expecting for it to be so well-written and for basically every single character in the roster to have a great role in a plot revolving around time travelling and multiple universes, which is usually a recipe for disaster.
Almost every character is likable in the story mode, even the villains. Both Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs were my least favorite additions to Mortal Kombat X‘s roster alongside the rest of the teen titans in that series, but I have to admit that Cassie might as well be my favorite character in this entire game due to her arc being so well-written. Every single voice actor delivers an excellent performance with a couple of exceptions. Jax’s voice actor delivers a subpar performance when compared to the rest of the cast. Then we reach Sonya’s “voice actress”, former MMA champion Ronda Rousey. As expected, she is far from being a professional actress, and even though she actually tries really hard, she’s just not at the same level as the rest of the actors in the game. The highlight, on the other hand, goes to Shang Tsung’s voice actor, who’s no other than Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, the same man who portrayed the character on the Mortal Kombat movie in 1995.
Besides the story mode, Mortal Kombat 11 features a wide assortment of other modes, including a classic arcade mode and the Towers of Time. The online multiplayer is, as expected, fantastic: Netherrealm games are known for having excellent netcode and working just fine right at launch, so there’s no issues in here. The game also features a very deep tutorial mode which rivals the likes of Dead or Alive 6 and Under Night.
Last, but not least, there’s the Krypt. This mode has really evolved over the years, starting out as a Battleship-esque grid in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, before becoming a frustrating dungeon crawler in Mortal Kombat X. Netherrealm really outdid themselves this time around, as the Krypt is now basically a third-person puzzle-adventure set in Shang Tsung’s island. You can freely explore it, all while collecting items that will help unlock more areas inside the immense dungeon. This is almost like having a game inside another game.
Of course, you can also unlock items in the Krypt, just like any other iteration of the mode. You can unlock containers by spending three different types of currency: koins can be obtained by doing anything throughout the game (be it winning or losing a match) and can open chests that mostly contain concept art. Soul fragments can be earned by winning matches and can revive mummies and destroy green containers, always containing at least one skin or two pieces of gear. The most precious currency is hearts. You earn them by performing fatalities or brutalities, and with them you can open glowing red chests that always contain a ton of skins, gear pieces, new fatalities, and so on.
There is a lot to open and unlock, but it’s not easy, as the game forces you to grind a TON in order to get enough currency to buy the most valuable containers. Think of it: red chests cost on average about two hundred and fifty hearts. You earn one heart if you win a match with a fatality, two if you win it with a brutality. You may earn a bit more if you have a modifier, but that’ll take some extra time to unlock. Getting koins is stupidly easy, but rarely do they offer something worth mentioning. I thought that was an excuse to make players spend real money on premium currency, but while there is this option, you cannot use this premium currency on the Krypt. You can only use it to either buy a few random items in a separate store or easy fatality tokens. In a way, it’s not so different from the grinding featured in Super Smash Bros Ultimate, but it’s still painful. You can also unlock items via the Towers of Time mode, but the more difficult levels are downright nightmarish to tackle.
Mortal Kombat 11 is the most fun I have had with a game from the franchise ever since my childhood days playing Mortal Kombat Trilogy on my old Nintendo 64. This game features the single best story mode ever put in a fighting game, as well as many other enjoyable modes and a fantastic online infrastructure. This could have easily been the single best fighting game of this generation, or even the decade as a whole, but its progression system and huge focus on grinding tarnish what could have been a magnum opus for the fighting genre. I still fully recommend this fantastic game without a doubt, but be advised, there will be more grinding involved than Kung Lao’s hat while pulverizing his victims during a Fatality.
The characters and environments are well-detailed, especially during the story mode cutscenes. The priority on a constant framerate is a blessing. You can notice the game isn’t running on a very high resolution, though.
Keeping the tradition of past modern Mortal Kombats, as well as the Injustice games, the gameplay is fast-paced, easy to learn, but very hard to master. The controls are very responsive. That’s all you need in a game like this.
An excellent soundtrack and stellar voice performances on the game’s lenghty story mode. Bringing back Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa to voice Shang Tsung is easily the game’s highlight. A couple actors didn’t perform as well as the rest of the cast though and you can clearly notice the distinction.
Fun Factor: 8.0
Mortal Kombat 11 features the best story mode in fighting history so far. Its gameplay is solid, its modes are great, and its multiplayer is trouble-free. Unfortunately, its progression system and huge focus on grinding hinder what could have been one of the best fighting games ever.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Mortal Kombat 11 is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Xbox One.
A copy of Mortal Kombat 11 was provided by the publisher.