Okay, so I got my hands on the newly announced Mortal Kombat 11 last night and I have a few questions. Not about the game itself, necessarily, but I have questions all the same. Here’s the thing, Mortal Kombat 11 is a hell of a lot of fun. It’s entertaining in just about every way that you would hope and expect it to be.
Developer NetherRealm has used this release as an opportunity to refresh the Mortal Kombat experience, taking steps to tighten up some core areas of play and introduce some brand new elements to the long-running series.
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Well, new for Mortal Kombat but not entirely unfamiliar. NetherRealm is a studio that is constantly shifting its focus between its two leading franchises, Injustice and Mortal Kombat. In doing so, it has been able to safely play with new ideas, mechanics and systems without fear of upsetting either fanbase. More importantly, it means that every element of Mortal Kombat 11 has been finely tuned over a number of years. NetherRealm slowly iterates and refines its best ideas, factoring in feedback and player data generated from its two ravenous communities at every opportunity.
What this means is that, in so many ways, Mortal Kombat 11 represents more than four years of iteration and evolution. The results speak for themselves. The game is as measured and malicious as you remember MK to be. Only now it has been imbued with an array of additional features and some dizzying refinements behind-the-scenes that only help to make this one of the best feeling Mortal Kombat games to date.
Anyway, let's get back to these questions.
Blood, guts, and a few friendly faces
Question number one: Is there an administration official that handles roster invitations for each of these Mortal Kombat tournaments?
While the full roster is yet to be confirmed, Mortal Kombat 11 will feature an array of both new and returning brawlers – looking at the character select screen I’d wager somewhere in the region of 25 at launch, although with poor Shao Kahn locked behind a pre-order barrier. I’ve played six of them so far, but it was the arrival of two in particular that caught my eye.
Skarlet and Baraka are back on the scene, bay-be! Here's the thing, I would love to know the circumstances surrounding their eight-year absence from the greatest fighting tournament the eighteen realms has ever seen.
Listen, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I understand the meandering plot of the Mortal Kombat series. And, if we’re being really honest with ourselves here, I don’t necessarily believe that anybody does. Still, I was pretty disappointed that these two didn’t show up in MK10. How on earth do you get uninvited from attending a Mortal Kombat tournament? For now, were I to hazard a guess, it would be because these two both act like total assholes.
Need an example?
After getting my ass resoundingly kicked by Skarlet she then takes it upon herself to draw all of the blood from my body. It’s there, floating above me, quickly congealing into six distinct bloodcicles. It’s super grim. For a second I wonder what they are going to be used fo-ah, I see now. The bloodcicles are sliding through my torso. One after the other, my body becomes a lifeless husk peppered with puncture wounds in a matter of seconds. She then takes it upon herself to impale the final one right through my eye socket with her own two hands, sending a mess of viscera blasting out of the back of my head. It’s bloody unnecessary is what it is. Absolute Brutality.
And then there’s Baraka. In a decidedly similar situation just a few minutes later, Baraka has decided that he’d like to take my face... off. He does this without hesitation, hastily discarding the fleshy remnants to the ground before surgically removing the front of my skull, my brain revealed for all the world to see. Next, he impales the thing on a spiked gauntlet, time slowing as he takes a big ol’ bite out of it with his maw of jagged and bloodied teeth. To add insult to injury, my opponent – sat just a few inches to my left – is doing his best Nicolas Cage impression as this all goes down. And I’ll tell you what, as far as Face/Off routines go it actually wasn’t all that bad. Total Fatality.
So maybe it wasn’t the returning characters that were the problem but the people in control of them all along. Mortal Kombat really does bring out the worst out in people, doesn't it?
Not that I would have it any other way.
Things can get real brutal, real fast
Question number two: Is Mortal Kombat 11 the most gratuitous and violent that the series has ever been?
Yes. Yes, it is. I can say that unequivocally. The X-ray assaults of MK10 have been replaced with ‘Crushing Blows’, a move that, when activated, will see the action pause briefly as that game revels in the glory of bones being shattered upon impact. ‘Flawless Block’ will give those of you with a keen sense of parrying ability the capacity to brutalise players with devastating counter attacks – they can get real nasty, real fast.
And then there is the ‘Fatal Blow’ which allows those with a dwindling health bar another opportunity to get back into a round. In fact, Fatal Blow is one of my favourite additions to Mortal Kombat 11. They are stomach-churning assaults, revelling in the blood and viscera being spilt as your chosen fighter unleashes a wave of pent-up aggression upon their aggressor.
This is unquestionably the most responsive a Mortal Kombat game has ever been. It’s a huge improvement over MK10 and it feels far tighter and slicker than the play offered throughout Injustice 2. The pacing is best described as methodical, with the decreased speed of floor runs and dashes only serving to push players into near constant instances of close-quarters duals. The animation is smooth as you'd like and the performance was solid throughout. What more could you possibly ask for?
It’s also great to see NetherRealm responding to the criticism directed at MK10, getting rid of the single three-tiered resource meter system and replacing it with something far better. You’ll now find two, one for attack and one for defence that sits comfortably in the corner of the screen. This change gave me more flexibility to explore my moveset and to better utilise opportunities that were presented to me throughout play.
Basically, I’m desperate to play more of Mortal Kombat 11.
An outfit for every occasion
Question number three: When heading off to participate in a Mortal Kombat tournament, does Scorpion pack his own suitcase?
Usually, this wouldn’t be a pertinent question, but NetherRealm has gone to great lengths to properly integrate gear into Mortal Kombat 11 – expanding on the customisation elements that have existed on the periphery of the experience since MK10 and that were further expanded in Injustice 2 to much success.
Each fighter in Mortal Kombat 11 will be heavily customisable, giving you the opportunity to tweak everything from the clothes you wear to the weapons you carry into battle. These items can be further augmented by socketing items you collect throughout your time with the game. Of course, if you’re a stickler for detail or tournament play these options can be turned off in the menu, but for the rest of us, it’s an opportunity to really get into the skin of some of these characters. The class system returns again too, bringing a greater deal of flexibility to your available movesets, adding a huge amount of depth to play.
You know what you get with Mortal Kombat, right? It’s a violent fighting game that has a way of getting people amped up like no other – a unique experience that seems to delight casual and core players in equal measure. That’s something I think will only continue to be with Mortal Kombat 11. Given the huge degree of customisation, it can make coming up against familiar characters feel new again; it gives you the opportunity to be unpredictable and to try and expand your horizons in-game, with seemingly impeccable balance working to ensure that combat will always function as intended.
And yet, still, the questions remain: Does Raiden pack all these different hats into a suitcase and risk them getting creases or does he have, you know, a hat guy at the tournament? Will Rain get an invite to this year’s big event? Will Mortal Kombat 11 be so disgustingly violent that I'll be too afraid to play it out in public on my Switch?
The only one of these questions I can confidently answer is the final one. Don't play this on the bus, kids. It's going to freak some people out. On the plus side, I did learn that Mortal Kombat 11 is bloody excellent though – the strongest the series has been in quite some time.
I suppose that there is a chance that the internal politics of the Mortal Kombat invitational and clothing transportation systems will be explored in the single-player campaign this time around but I’m not holding my breath. I can only imagine that it’ll be another amazingly absurd mess of conflicting interests, sub-plots, and gorgeously animated cinematics. God bless single-player campaigns in fighting games.
Still, if single-player isn’t your jam then you should rest easy knowing that an excellent multiplayer experience is headed your way. This is a strong showing for Mortal Kombat 11 and, as Warner Bros. and NetherRealm continue to reveal new stages, characters, and details in the coming weeks, I have a feeling that it’s only going to get better from here on out.
Want to know what else is coming out this year? Here’s all the new games of 2019 have to offer!