The Mortal Kombat series is arguably bigger now than when it made its blood-soaked debut in the early 90s. Despite its resurgence in popularity, I missed out on 2011’s Mortal Kombat and its sequel, Mortal Kombat X. I’d heard nothing but good things, but one can’t always make time to play every game out there. Thankfully, I received a review copy of Mortal Kombat 11 and got to check out how the series has evolved since I played it back in the day. After spending nearly two weeks with it, I can honestly say Mortal Kombat 11 is one of the best fighting games of 2019.
Like the two previous installments, Mortal Kombat 11 has a fairly involved story that mixes, magic, mysticism, and science fiction. Since I didn’t play the preceding games, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Unless it concerned the characters and stories I remember from the first three entries, the story had me completely lost. Despite that, I appreciate the epic scope of the narrative and how cinematic it felt. Again, I’m iffy on the particulars, but the exciting nature of the story had me hooked from beginning to end.
Mortal Kombat 11 has some of the best fighting game controls I’ve experienced in recent years. I love how smoothly I’m able to chain combos together, and how easy it is to perform special attacks and fatalities. I found the controls stiff in the closed bta, so I’m happy to see the finished product vastly improved. Mortal Kombat 11 just plays great.
Since this is a Mortal Kombat title, it contains insanely over-the-top violence. This is by far the goriest fighter I’ve played in years. Every punch, kick, slash, and stab produces copious amounts of blood. Accentuating the violence are Fatal Blows. Players can perform these after receiving a great deal of damage to turn the tide of battle. Fatal Blows are essentially mid-match fatalities, though they don’t result in death if the player on the receiving end has enough health. I don’t know how opponents manage to survive some of these moves, but hey, that’s what this game is all about.
Every cracked bone, ruptured spleen, and bloody entrail is masterfully brought to life thanks to the superb graphics engine. Each character and background contains a stunning and impressive amount of detail. I can’t think of a single stage or setting that doesn’t look magnificent. What I like best about the graphics is how they’re not entirely realistic. Yes, they’re detailed, but still stylized. This helps Mortal Kombat 11 stand out from other fighters. It also prevents the gore from appearing too graphic.
In addition to the aforementioned story mode, players can fight a series of opponents in Klassic Towers. If you’ve played previous installments, then you know what you’re getting here. Completing a Klassic Tower with different characters lets you see their individual endings. Some of these are extremely silly given how they’re mostly about travelling through time and changing the past. I found it slightly disappointing to see the endings were essentially still images with narration. However, given the sheer number of characters, I can let this slide.
Towers of Time is an interesting take on Towers because each level contains a different modifier, or combinations of several. Players may have to face multiple opponents simultaneously or fight while avoiding missiles. They may even have to avoid missiles while fighting several foes all at once. Thankfully, they can purchase modifiers to help balance the scales. Using a health modifier in a stage where one is poisoned comes in handy. I don’t personally care for Towers of Time because it feels gimmicky, but I’m sure many will love the insane challenges it provides.
The Krypt is a radical departure from the rest of the game because you control a character in third person. The purpose of the Krypt is to explore a vast dungeon and unlock treasure boxes with the Koins and currency collected from other modes. One fun thing about the Krypt is you have to solve puzzles to advance to other areas. The Krypt also brims with a wide variety of Mortal Kombat Easter Eggs. Players have to grind a lot in order to gain keys and koins to unlock treasure chests and rooms. As you can imagine, this becomes tedious after a while. Since the Krypt mostly exists to provide different armor pieces, I don’t find it particularly useful. If you’re into that sort of stuff, you’re probably going to spend most of your single player experience grinding for Krypt loot.
If you’re tired of ripping the spines out of A.I. opponents, you can fight others online or locally. Local is always a blast since you’re fighting against someone who’s actually in the room with you. If you can’t find someone to fight locally, you can always jump online. I found online matches stable, for the most part. Choppy gameplay from slow servers wasn’t an issue that cropped up often. This isn’t surprising given NetherRealm’s experience in this field. Playing online felt as responsive as playing locally.
Those new to Mortal Kombat or who’ve been away like me will appreciate the depth of training mode. The tutorial teaches players everything they need, from basic combos and special moves, to more advanced techniques. A fun thing about training mode is how you actually learn fighting game terminology. Even as a person who has played fighting games since the beginning, I can admit I’m not familiar with most of this lingo. Thanks to training mode, I’ll be able to better understand what’s being said at EVO.
Fatality Training is my personal favorite training mode. It is sometimes difficult to know where to position yourself to successfully perform fatalities. In this mode, a colored square underneath your character’s feet shows you the proper distance. If it’s red, then the fatality won’t work. If it’s green, you’re good to go. Fatalities are the best part of any Mortal Kombat so I’m thankful to see this mode included.
Those looking for more personalization will find it in Kustomize mode. Here, players can change how characters look with different gear pieces. This isn’t all for show, since you can level up individual gear pieces and add augmentations. Augments are most useful for some of the trickier Towers of Time challenges. You can also change special moves, fatalities, and even intro cinematics. This makes your character unlike anyone else’s. While I appreciate the amount of options in Kustomize, I prefer playing with the base characters. Also, don’t worry about going online and fighting against created characters since they’re not available in competitive modes.
I honestly had no intention of playing Mortal Kombat 11. Yes, it looked badass, but I felt hesitant about it since I missed the last two installments. I’m glad I got a review copy because I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I’ve lost most of my passion for fighting games in recent years so it’s great to play one I truly want to master. I know there’s a ton of fighters out there, but Mortal Kombat 11 is one you don’t want to miss out on if you’re a fan of the genre. It’s bloody awesome!