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As an avid fighting game fan, I’ve naturally played the majority of the Mortal Kombat games since their inception back in the 90s. The series has carried on, through many entries, studio closures, and even a reboot. The franchise has retained its 2D gameplay and outrageously violent combat, but has evolved mechanically and visually. Now, Mortal Kombat 11 is here, and it brings with it the bloodiest fighter yet, albeit with more changes to gameplay, character designs, and more. Is the latest in the long-running killing-focused fighting game series worth it? Read on to find out!

Mortal Kombat 11
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Platform: Windows PC, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One
Release Date: April 23rd, 2019
Players: 1 – 2
Price: $59.99 (Review Copy Received)

Mortal Kombat 11 brings the series panache and massive focus on violence to another level. For the most part, the game looks fantastic and the character animations, environments, weapons, and of course – the killing, all shine. The game has a fluidity to combat, and it’s pretty awesome.

The latest entry brings back that smooth visual transition from story cutscenes to legit brawls, something I wish other fighters could try experimenting with. The cutscenes are generally very fun and look great, and the actual in-game models are pretty close to their recorded alternatives.

Performance overall is solid, I never really noticed any visual issues or frame dips. The environments shown within each stage also shine, there’s quite a lot of details and things going on. Everything makes you feel like you’re in the twisted, Asian mythology-influenced world of Mortal Kombat.

While character models typically look great, I have to question the design decisions behind the men vs. the ladies. While there’s no problem with the male characters showing skin, there was an active focus on reducing the sexuality of female characters. Some of the designs can look silly.

I normally don’t knock a game for how they choose to style characters, but Mortal Kombat has had a history of absurd violence, and both men and women wearing crazy outfits. I just don’t get why gratuitous murder is fine, yet women in revealing outfits is distracting or disgusting.

If you haven’t played a game in the series for some time, Mortal Kombat 11 shakes things up a bit much like its reboot predecessors. Fights still feel like they flow the same, however there’s a number of changes in how characters move and engage each other. For one, you can no longer run.

There are new additions too, like the Crush Counter-inspired Krushing Blows, a King of Fighters-inspired Hop, a perfectly-timed Flawless Block, and more. The meter is now split in half – into Defense and Offense meters for things like breakaways and stronger moves.

A small gripe is how the Fatal Blow mechanic breaks up the fight. Launching one of these triggers a long, repetitive, highly-damaging cutscene-like auto-combo. This ruins the pace of a fight, and gets tiresome. Other fighting games have big flashy moves that are a fraction of the length.

The biggest problem Mortal Kombat 11 has, however, is the way you unlock content in the game. Unlocking content via The Krypt and Towers of Time is infuriatingly tedious, unfair, and set up in such a way that players might get impatient, and use real money to unlock the content.

You unlock Koins, Souls, Keys, and Hearts in battle, all of which are used for unlocks. The game doesn’t make it easy to progress through unlocks. The Towers of Time will have you raging over button-copying AI, unfair or near-impossible fights, and more. To bypass this, you use in-game consumables.

To further confound things, the Krypt is now entirely randomized, meaning there is no way to know where you can get that one cool set of gear for your favorite character. Overall the game feels more like a mid-paced fighter in comparison to Mortal Kombat X, which had lots of take downs.

Aside from the annoying unlocking system, however, Mortal Kombat 11 feels like the most well-rounded game in the series. At first combat can feel stilted, but over time it feels more tactical, leading to some interesting zoning maneuvers. It’s now even easier for newcomers to join the series.

The focal point of Mortal Kombat 11’s story is a time-bending demigod that – you guessed it – gets consumed with a thirst for power under the guise of maintaining balance. This opens the door for many other characters interpreting or manipulating things as they see fit. It just gets silly.

The main story mode follows a set path and blockbuster-tier production that involves the majority of the Mortal Kombat cast. For the most part, it feels like a Mortal Kombat movie with playable bits, and it’s a fun ride that gives you a tour of the various worlds, including Earth.

Another gripe I have with the game is the various endings you can experience for each character, which are unlocked via the arcade ladders. One in particular is nonsensical, hamfisted, and modern partisan politics. It made my eyes roll so hard I questioned who approved that ending.

I get Mortal Kombat is a twisted universe centered on a fighting game tournament focused on literally murdering people. However, many of the characters’ endings were just throwaway writing, and this one character’s ending was like partisan fan-fiction – and it makes even less sense in context.

One character has a fight intro where he literally says “Make Outworld Great Again.” I wish I was joking. These questionable additions, clearly stemming from partisan politics, combined with a focus on covering women up – all of it makes me question who approved these decisions.

The soundtrack in Mortal Kombat 11 generally fit the stages and characters, and is a mix of orchestral, techno, and hip hop. It’s serviceable but there aren’t really any bangers or memorable tracks that will have you slapping your knee. Some notable rappers even contributed to the list.

Voice acting is mostly good, all of the characters play their roles well and Steve Blum sounds like, well, Steve Blum pretending he’s Sub-Zero. Some of the lines were particularly good, but others – including many from Cassie Cage – felt very forced.

Mortal Kombat 11 is the latest and greatest entry in the long-running fighting game series focused on excessive murder and crazy Asian-inspired supernatural things. The formula is bloodier, more refined, and improved upon, and this feels like the definitive Mortal Kombat game.

The unlocking system for content is currently a massive setback for the game – however NetherRealm has said they’re looking at addressing fans concerns. As for the hamfisted politics – those are here to stay. Underneath it all is a solid fighter with a panache for murder.


Second Opinions

  • Caitlin Harper – Mortal Kombat 11 takes brutality and gore to a whole new level, while also making combat and specials extremely accessible to new players. While the series has always been known for its copious amounts of blood and over the top violence, MK11 not only ratchets it up to 11, but absolutely revels in how violent, bloody and vulgar it can be. It does all this while simultaneously seeming to eschew any sort of physical titillation. MK11 really is the quintessential western, Americanized game. Loads of violence, blood, vulgarity, and the most god awful, ugly looking characters this side of burqas-r-us and he-man wanna be’s. At least the fighting mechanics are alright.
  • Tyler Valle – So far I am very pleased with my experience in Mortal Kombat 11. The gameplay is probably the best it has ever been for the series, and its presentation is incredible. Every character feels tight to control with combos easy to learn, but difficult to master, and with the introduction of environmental attacks and the new “Fatal Blow” system, Mortal Kombat 11 is a welcomed addition to fighting games. It must be stated that the grind of the Krypt is a controversy that should never have grown to as big as it got, and the inherently greedy nature of a pay-to-skip-the-grind shop, as well as day one DLC is a conversation that needs to be discussed, but as a fighting game, there are few out there that manage to to feel better.
  • Cody Long – Mortal Kombat 11 is a respectable entry in the series, thankfully toned down from MK10’s focus on rushdown mechanics. The new systems like the meters and Fatal Blows lend themselves well to the kombat, and there’s a halfway decent number of characters on the roster at launch, which is great. If you can get past the occasional political messages shoehorned in, as well as some particular heinous monetization (It’s a $60 game, I am sick of this crap), I think most fans will be pretty satisfied with MK11 for what it has to offer.

Mortal Kombat 11 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a review copy provided by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 7.5

The Good

  • Fantastic visuals that really add to the brutality of the game
  • Mechanics are mostly improved or refined upon
  • Killing animations are bloodier and more grotea

The Bad

  • Tedious, grindy, unfair system to unlock mechanics
  • Hamfisted partisan politics sprinkled throughout the game
  • Bizarre focus on reducing sexuality in female characters
Brandon Orselli

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Big Papa Overlord at Niche Gamer. Italian. Dad. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry. I also write about music, food, & beer. Also an IT guy.