From strong initial offerings to a series of confused experiments that started with Mortal Kombat 4, Mortal Kombat has seen its ups and downs in its seventeen year journey. It wasn't until the release of Mortal Kombat 9 in 2011 that the franchise once again found its footing in a mechanic that worked. Mortal Kombat X improved upon that and now Mortal Kombat 11 somewhat completes the trilogy in more ways than one. There's more of everything that made the previous two games so likeable, and a lot more that's been thrown into the mix. Does it all work? There's a lot to talk about before we can get to answering that question, so let's get started.
We don't usually spend a lot of time discussing the story or plot points of fighting games, because in most cases, they're just a glorified excuse to get you to fight. But in the case of Mortal Kombat, it's one of the most interesting facets (as convoluted as it is), and a big reason why its fans keep coming back. If you're one of those fans then there's good news for you.
Without getting into spoiler territory, Mortal Kombat 11 ties up the story elements from the last two games. The rebooted events that started with Mortal Kombat 9 and continued with Mortal Kombat X see a finality of sorts in this game. The Story Mode makes that quite obvious with numerous callbacks to the main plot-points from the previous game, and also the fact that the Story in this game literally starts where Mortal Kombat X ended.
Gone are the quicktime events that were there in the previous games, so you can rest your thumbs in between fights without worrying about being surprised. The cutscenes are longer here and have a bigger sense of scale in comparison to the previous games, which is definitely a step-up for the franchise. The writers also seem to have upped their humour game this time, as there are a few (intentionally) chuckle moments in the story.
With that said, you wouldn't miss out that much if you don't remember what happened in the previous games, or have never played them at all. But there are a few grand moments in Story Mode that will have a better impact if you remember the previous events. It will be worth it for die-hard fans to watch a YouTube recap, at the very least.
The game starts you off with an extensive roster of 23 fighters right off the bat — 24 if you received Shao Kahn as the pre-order bonus character. It's a mixed bag of old and new characters, with classics like Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Kano, Johnny Cage, Sony Blade, Raiden, among others, along with the relatively newer fighters that were introduced in Mortal Kombat X — Jacqui Briggs, Cassie Cage, Kotal Kahn, D'vorah, and others. There's also a mix of characters making a comeback after a break like Kabal, Baraka, and Jade. Finally there's an introduction of new characters – Cetrion, Geras, and The Collector.
Fan-favourite Mileena, who was killed off in Mortal Kombat X's Story mode, is not brought back from the dead in this one, much to the disappointment of many fans. No Sindel either. Netherrealms Studios has, however, confirmed that Shang Tsung as the first DLC character, who's now created in the likeness of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (actor who played Shang Tsung in the 1995 Mortal Kombat film), complete with his voice acting.
It seemed a bit odd initially that Kronika, the first ever female boss in the Mortal Kombat series has been left out of the playable roster, but once you fight her in the game's various mode, the reason for that becomes quite clear.
As always, each character comes with his/ her/ its own story arc and an ending that you can unlock by playing Mortal Kombat 11's single-player tower modes.
If you spent enough time with Mortal Kombat X, or even Injustice 2, Mortal Kombat 11 will immediately feel accessible. There are slight changes in special move combinations that may have you looking at the moves list initially before fights, but, generally, Special Moves are easy to implement with simple inputs like down-forward button press or back-forward button press, and so on. Core hits are again delivered by controlling the front hand and leg (the side facing the camera), and the rear hand and leg with each face button of the controller.
Mortal Kombat has been getting really good with its combo implementations. There isn't any grand change in that formula, and it still works well in delivering multiple hits and keeping the opponent in a state of un-blockable retreat, as long as you're chaining the moves right. The point is, whether you want to spam special moves or get more technical with combos, you have both the options here.
Finishers, which have been a franchise stable right from the beginning make a grand comeback in Mortal Kombat 11. You have multiple Fatalities per fighter, each delivering a different mix of torture, decapitation, disembowelment, and the works — all delivered in the over-the-top style that just keeps it a step away from becoming too realistic. The combinations required to pull off Fatalities require a combination of button presses that are slightly more complex than special moves. However, anyone familiar with a controller layout should have no issues pulling a Fatality off in the generous 10 seconds that the game offers the victor at the end of the match.
There are ‘Easy Fatalities' on offer as well that simplify the process to just a couple of button presses. If that's what you'd rather use, you have the option to pay for more Easy Fatalities once you run out of the three provided in the game. Unless you're new to video games, you'll probably never use that option.
Brutalities on the other hand are a lot more accessible this time, though they still come with pre-requisites. For example, to pull off an uppercut spine-pop brutality, you shouldn't have used block throughout the match. These come quite suddenly at the end of the round and can be more gratifying considering that you're boasting your victory despite meeting the Brutalities conditions.
There are other visual breaks offered by showing you slow-motion x-ray implementations of certain moves like an occasional uppercut, or when using one of the stage elements to smack your opponent, or even when you pull off Fatal Blows, which seem just as over-the-top as Fatalities. The fact that opponents always get up and continue fighting despite getting constantly spiked through the head or getting one of their internals pulled out, maintains the required illusion of how silly all of this really is.
Underneath the silliness, however, is solid fighter that has taken a lot of care to balance out most of its roster, one that offers you pro-level options to customise just about every aspect of the game.
Each fighter has more moves than ever before to the point that you are encouraged to create a variation of each character with movesets that will make the most of your fighting style. Each character comes with three slots for additional special moves (apart from the preset special moves), and you're presented with a list of moves that may take up one or two of those slots. The options range from offensive moves to parry to even air moves. This truly is a game-changer for the series, and it gives you the option to really hone your skills on a character that complements it.
We tried out a bit of multiplayer as well, and had a bit of a mixed experience. The connections were largely stable through the matches but there were instances where we faced a bit of lag in the middle of the fight. This could be due to various reasons, but the important bit is, instead of skipping frames the action slowed down to the point where we could still execute the moves and understand what's happening, rather than simply stopping. This happened in a couple of matches, but we found the connection quite solid in most cases.
Among some new innovations, the Tower Modes where you face off against a predetermined roster of enemies, you now have the option to use modifiers to give you an edge in the matches, in case you find the opponent too tough. These are not available in PvP modes though. There's also an AI mode, where you can modify the AI settings of your customised characters, and use them in a team of attackers and defenders. These can then participate in AI controlled tournaments where your role is plainly as a spectator.
Speaking of which, Mortal Kombat 11 is bound to get many players dizzy with the number of customisation options. Besides the special moves, the game is packed with gear that not make cosmetic changes to it but can also level up as you use the fighter. You can select one of the many opening and ending animations for your personalised fighter. The good part is you get to preview all customisation options even before you unlock them, so you can plan accordingly and not waste time upgrading or unlocking items you'll probably never use.
There are two major options the game offers you for item unlocks — the Krypt and the Towers. The Krypt has now become a series staple, and this time it's even more accessible as a game than ever before. You explore it as a mysterious character who makes his way to the now dilapidated Shang Tsung's island, only to discover the treasure chests and other vessels all over it. Not everything is immediately accessible though, as you have to spend Kombat Koins, Hearts and souls as currencies to unlock the treasures. These can be won by playing more matches in any of the game modes offered in Mortal Kombat 11.
There's a different Koin value associated with each chest, with no indication of what's in store so it's pretty much a game of loot box unlocking. Only here, each loot box has a fixed asset associated with it, which you may be able to cheat through using an online guide. That said, the island has been well designed and there are puzzle elements associated with unlocking new spaces on the island, which makes it feel a bit like an adventure game in itself.
You have the option to buy these Kombat Koins using real money, but in our play through we found that quite unnecessary, as it did not unlock anything beyond cosmetic and bonus items or at the most additional Fatalities — none of which would affect gameplay or offer specific advantages.
We reviewed the PS4 edition of Mortal Kombat 11 in both 1080p and 4K resolutions, and the game ran at a solid 60fps through all the fights. Cutscenes in Story Mode run at 30fps, and the switch is certainly noticeable. The game looks highly detailed and gorgeous, and a lot of work has been put in on making each of these characters layered not only gear-wise, but also from the inside, considering the damage models used.
The levels too are highly detailed with little details like the blood staying on certain surfaces like wood and stone, and getting absorbed when you're fighting on sand. There's a lot happening in the backgrounds as well. Unlike the dull, off-focus backgrounds used in Mortal Kombat X, here the details are sharp. In fact a bit too sharp as you can tell the cut-offs made to keep the fights going at 60fps.
For example, in one level that takes place on a ship afloat the sea of blood, you can see that the water splashing animations run at a much lower FPS, especially compared to the action in the foreground. We even noticed some checkerboarding on certain levels even when we were using the PS4 Pro with a 1080p display. Of course, these are minor issues and the game does look stellar despite all this.
The game also presents you with various options for audio output. We tried it on a 5.1 home theater setup using the preset in the game, and found that the game did a great job of position various sounds from the levels to the surround speakers. On the PS4 version, the game also uses the DualShock 4's internal speaker to generate sounds, like when you earn coins at the end of the match. It's a neat feature, but not really a game changer by any means.
Like we said at the start, Mortal Kombat games have got their mojo back since Mortal Kombat 9 and Netherrealms Studios has been working on that formula ever since. The problem is that it's reaching a point where the said formula is starting to feel a bit repetitive, especially since we also have Injustice games following a similar style. But that doesn't mean that the game is not fun. Mortal Kombat 11 adds a lot to give you more control, modify just about every aspect of how you play this game, while keeping the gameplay tight enough to be pro-tournament ready.
The 23 fighters are well balanced and come with more personality than their palette-swapped predecessors. A lot of effort has also put into Story Mode, which will be a highlight for many players. There is a substantial amount of grinding required to master your characters, but that's expected as a necessary mechanic for character growth.
The multiple currency options, though, seem like a questionable decision. You are rewarded quite generously in matches but having three different currencies for the Krypt seems a bit much.
That said, there's clearly a lot more done right that wrong in Mortal Kombat 11. It stands out as the best entry in the new trilogy and presents you with a lot to explore, learn and even master. That is why Mortal Kombat 11 will continue to be the game that you're playing in-between other games, long after you're done with it.
Fun Story Mode
Expansive customisation options
Great fighter roster that's well balanced
Confusing currency system
Gameplay can be grinding at times
Rating (out of 10): 8
Gadgets 360 played a review copy of Mortal Kombat 11 on a PS4 Pro. The game is out on April 23 for PS4, Xbox One, Windows PC, and Nintendo Switch. The Mortal Kombat 11 price is Rs. 3,499 for consoles and Rs. 1,349 for PC.
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