I have been a Mortal Kombat fan since I was six years old. I remember exactly where I was when I first discovered the series. I was taking swimming lessons at a local hotel, which had a game room. My father gave me some quarters and the first machine I went to was Mortal Kombat 2. I remember looking at the screen, with all of the colorful characters and backgrounds and wanting to try it. Well I didn't do very well and to top it all off, the CPU Jax performed his arm rip Fatality on me. My Father and I both stood where with our jaws on the floor at the insane level of violence in a videogame we just witnessed. That's when my father turned to me and said "You know son, this isn't real. You can't do that stuff in real life." To which I said "of course Dad, it's just a game". The rest I guess you could say was history. Now here I am, 25+ years later, 31 years old and am still as in love with the series now as I was back then. Now NetherRealm Studios has released Mortal Kombat 11 and it's their best fighting game to date. It's just a shame that most of the single player content suffers the same annoying problems that Injustice 2 had.
First off, Mortal Kombat 11 is a major change from Mortal Kombat X in terms of the fighting itself. The running mechanic is gone and the game has been slowed down significantly. This means that the fighting is more up close and personal and relies more on the neutral game and footsies rather than being combo'd to death and having time to go to the bathroom and come back like in Mortal Kombat X if you guessed wrong on a 50-50. The meters have been changed as well. Instead of having the three meter system from MK9 and MKX, MK11 introduces a four bar system where two of them are dedicated to defense and two for offense. Defense bars will allow you to wake ups, roll aways and breakaways that can help you escape combos from your opponent. The offensive bars are used for amplifying (previously known as meter burning) your special moves. These bars will automatically fill up as the match goes on so it's now a meta game of keeping an eye on and managing your meters as the fight goes on. X-Ray moves have been removed from the meter system and are now called Fatal Blows. When a characters health reaches around 30% health, they gain access to their Fatal Blow. These moves play out just like X-Ray moves and do huge amounts of damage, but can only be used once per game. Do you use the Fatal Blow in the first round to win? Do you have it for the final round where it's 1-1? It adds yet another mechanic to the game where you need to pay attention to not only your own health but your opponents. You could be dominating your opponent the whole round and a single Fatal Blow can change the battle in an instant and could mean rounds lost.
Finally, certain moves will have another new mechanic tied to them called Krushing Blows and will deal additional damage. Each move that has a Krushing Blow will have a certain requirement tied to it to perform. For instance, if you hit a move at full screen, punish an opponent with a move, or end an 8 hit combo with a special move, it can activate the Krushing Blow. Just like Fatal Blows, each one of these moves can only be used once per match. You can waste all your Krushing Blows in the first round but then you won't be able to utilize their additional damage in the second or third rounds. All of this combined with the absolutely gorgeous new visuals and updated character models create the most satisfying Mortal Kombat fighting game yet. The characters have weight to them and every punch, kick and special move looks and sounds fantastic and stylish as hell. Battles are now more intense when you know your opponent in sitting on that Fatal Blow in the final round.
Mortal Kombat X introduced the variation system where each character had three separate move sets they could bring with them into battle. Mortal Kombat 11 improves on this feature by introducing the custom variation system. Each character can be customized to look and play the way you want them. Like Injustice 2, Mortal Kombat 11 introduces a gear system which let's you customize certain aspects of each character. For instance for Scorpion, you can change out his Spear, his swords, and his mask. For Cassie Cage you can change out her pistols, her glasses, and her drone. Each character comes with tons of skins and gear that you can unlock and mix and match to put together the bad ass combatant that you want. Each character also has fight intros, outros, mid round taunts, Fatalities, and Brutalities to unlock and equip as well.
Lastly you can customize your move set. You will be given a decent amount of moves to choose from, each with a point value, and you can assign up to three points worth of moves for each custom variation. This is great because it allows you to play characters the way you want to. If you prefer rushdown characters, you can equip moves that add additional combos or moves that you can use up close. If you are more of a zoner, you can equip projectiles that will allow you to keep your opponents at bay. This is probably my favorite feature of the game as I have loved creating new variation for a lot of the characters in the game, some of which I'm not even fans of and don't plan on playing that much. The other great thing is that NetherRealm needed to come up with enough moves for each character to have a large variety of moves to create variations for. This means that a lot of the characters in the game have been given huge updates with new moves and mechanics. For instance, Jax's arms will heat up every time he connects with punches. At full heat he has access to additional moves and will do more damage. If you want to focus on this you can give him moves which will help him build additional heat.
If there is one thing that NetherRealm Studios does better than most other companies that make fighting games, is create a single player Story Mode that plays out like a Hollywood Blockbuster move. Mortal Kombat 11 takes place two years after the events of Mortal Kombat X and introduces a brand new villain to the series, Kronika. Kronika is the keeper of time and has shaped history in her vision since the beginning and she is none too happy about Raiden being an idiot and messing with the timelines. Kronika decides that she needs to go back and start things over once again because her beautiful timeline has been ruined. She decides to call upon allies from the past to help defend her against Raiden and the Earthrealm warriors.
Unfortunately this causes a time rift where the younger versions of characters like Liu Kang, Shao Kahn, Raiden, Kung Lao, Jade, Kitana, Jax, Sonya, Johnny Cage, and more are brought from the first Mortal Kombat tournament to the present time. This leads to some fantastic moments where you will be able to see the Shaolin Monks, Liu Kang, and Kung Lao face off against their dead Revenant counterparts. Also you'll witness the past and present Johnny Cage clashing with each other or past and present Kano being good ol chums. I won't give too much away but it's nice to be able to see NetherRealm fix some of the problems of the previous story modes including being able to see the true heroes of the series be the heroes again and for the Kombat Kids and the Special Forces to not dominate the story like they did in Mortal Kombat X. They give equal time to a number of different characters, most of which all have amazing, memorable moments to shine. It all leads up to a satisfying, but somewhat anticlimactic ending to the series. It really is bittersweet because this was a true and definitive ending to the story which has been going on for 25 years at this point. While it does leave the series open to continue in the future, and who are we kidding Mortal Kombat will return, if they decided to end the series for good here, I would be happy with how they ended it.
The story mode does have some problems though, mostly with the fact that certain characters, just like Mortal Kombat X's story mode, will just disappear never to be seen again. Kitana defeats Skarlet in her story chapter, half way through and that's the last we ever see of Skarlet despite working for Kronika. There is also the issue of some moments just not having any room to breathe. We see an amazing moment with Jax, suffering from PTSD in his trashed house freaking out cause he's worried about his daughter Jacqui. Seconds later Kronika shows up and basically says "Hey things could be better, help me please" and he just says "sure weird floating lady that just randomly appeared in my house". It's an ambitious story but maybe too ambitious cause there are many moments like this in the story where people will just instantly join Kronika without any convincing at all. But nothing in the story is as bad as Sonya Blade. MMA star and former WWE Raw Women's Champion Ronda Rousey provided the voice for Sonya. Unfortunately, she's atrocious and her voice acting sticks out like a very sore thumb. You will have emotional moments that are completely ruined by her terrible, deadpan voice acting and it completely took me out of the experience. You will have all of these characters talking, sounding professional, emoting, and then Sonya starts talking and it's like nails on the chalk board. Look, I have nothing but respect for Ronda Rousey and her accomplishments as an athlete, but she can't act at all. She was terrible in Fast and the Furious, she was terrible on the mic in the WWE, and she is just awful as a voice actor in this game.
While the actual fighting game portion is fantastic and the story mode is great as well, things aren't so great in terms of the other single player content in the game, and the big reason for that is the way you earn and unlock content for your favorite characters. The Towers of Time mode is basically the Multiverse from Injustice 2 where there are numerous arcade style towers that you can complete which will earn you consumables for towers, coins, souls, hearts, gear, and skins for characters. There are a number of these towers available including ones that last for a few hours, a day, or multiple days. The major problem with the Towers of Time is that each tower's difficulty is ridiculously high. Each fighter you face usually comes with ridiculous modifiers that are just plain unfair. One of which includes the opponent being able to carpet bomb the area with fire missiles that are unblockable and do fire damage over time.
Getting hit with one of these barrages will probably drain 25% of your health and will then do tick damage on top of that. In addition, almost all of your opponents in Towers will have double health and will do double damage to you. You aren't at a complete disadvantage as you can earn consumables to use in towers that allow you to call in certain characters to help out to defend against certain elements but they don't help much. I play all kinds of fighting games and have been playing Mortal Kombat forever. Even though this is a brand new game, I still consider myself an advanced fighting game player. These towers are damn near impossible to complete even when using consumables. This isn't fun at all. I can only imagine what casual players are going to feel like when they get the game. I can easily see people playing this mode a few times and then never touching it again. Even worse is that MK11 features character towers which are the same thing as the ridiculous legendary metaverses from Injustice 2. You have to pay a toll to access these. The first time it's 25,000 coins, then 50,000, and to advance you have to complete ridiculous requirements like perform 200 Fatalities or hit an opponent with "X" move 200 times. This is something from Injustice 2 I hoped wouldn't return because this is the absolute worst in terms of grinding and the rewards you get at the end of it don't seem like it's worth it. In the time I had with this game, I have completed maybe three or four towers. What is also annoying, and a reason I assume for the extreme difficulty in the towers is that every time you lose a fight, you have this "Skip Fight" button right in your face. In Mortal Kombat X, skip fight tokens could be bought as a form of microtransaction and I fear the same thing may be happening here.
Finally, the Krypt returns and it's the best and worst Krypt yet. You are greeted as you enter the Krypt by Shang Tsung played by Cary Tagawa himself, the actor who played Shang Tsung in the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie. This time around the Krypt is a third person mode where you control a generic character named "Traveler" and you can explore Shang Tsung's island as your leisure unlocking chests along the way. Each chest costs different amounts of coins and can contain anything from tower consumables, Krypt consumables, player icons, skins, Fatalities, Brutalities, character gear and more. Just wandering around Shang Tsung's island, listening to Shang reminiscing on the past is such a joy for a Mortal Kombat fan like myself. Walking out of the main area and seeing locations like The Pit, Courtyard, and Goro's lair brought back some great memories.
This is probably the biggest Krypt yet with lots of areas to explore, a lot of them requiring keys or you to complete puzzles to unlock. Now while the idea of the Krypt is fantastic, just like the Towers of Time, it's bogged down by its mechanics. Unlike the previous Krypts, where everything you unlock was all in fixed locations, this time all of the chests are randomized. This means that you have no idea what you are unlocking, making the Krypt feel like a giant loot box. Earning gear or skins is a slog of a grind because of course you are at the mercy of random loot boxes where you have to pray you get what you want for your favorite characters. I like Cassie Cage and Kitana and in the 15 or so hours I have put into the game so far, I have hardly unlocked anything for them while I have unlocked tons of stuff for characters that I won't use that much. That said, earning coins to unlock stuff is pretty easy as everything you do in the game will earn you the currency you need to unlock things.
Mortal Kombat 11 was a pretty emotional experience for me. This game has literally been my life, I grew up with it, and it's clear that NetherRealm Studios put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this game because it feels like Mortal Kombat is probably going to be put on the back burner for a while after this one. It's probably their best fighting game to date and the story, while it has some issues, is a fun and good ending to this series which has been running for over 25 years. It's just a shame that the rest of the single player content was bogged down by ridiculous grinding and RNG unlocking systems. Thankfully, the actually fighting part of the game, without a doubt the most important part, is the best it's ever been.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I have been playing video games for as long as I can remember. My earliest gaming memories come from playing Lady Bug and Snafu on my fathers Colecovision and Intellivision respectively. It wasnt until I was 6 years old and played a Mortal Kombat 2 arcade machine in a game room at a hotel that I truly fell in love with a videogame. I have so many wonderful memories of my dad and I playing Mortal Kombat on SNES every night after dinner. Throughout my childhood NES, SNES, Gameboy and Sega Genesis were the loves of my life. Here I am 29 years old and still as much in love with videogames as I ever was. And for the record... I enjoyed the Mass Effect 3 ending... sue me