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Mortal Kombat 11

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Release Date: April 23, 2019


PS4 Review - 'Mortal Kombat 11'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on April 22, 2019 @ 5:00 a.m. PDT

Mortal Kombat 11 deepens and personalizes the experience unlike ever before with an all new Custom Character Variation System that gives players the creative control of building customized versions of the character roster.

Buy Mortal Kombat 11

Oddly enough, Mortal Kombat has become a game where the story is almost as important as the fighting. It might be a cheesy, ridiculous, over-the-top action title, but there's something delightful about characters like Johnny Cage, Shao Kahn, and the ever-unlucky Raiden. Mortal Kombat 11 leans fully into that, giving players what is likely the biggest and one of the most content-filled Mortal Kombat titles to date. It has its flaws, but fans will be able to easily overlook them.

MK11 opens up shortly after the end of MKX. Raiden has gone full evil mode and decided to eliminate Earthrealm's enemies, starting with the captured Shinnok. Unfortunately for him, this brutal act of violence drew the attention of Kronika, the goddess who controls time. Raiden meddling with time leads Kronika to remake the universe. To help her goal, she shatters space-time to bring younger versions of MK universe characters to aid her. The heroes of the Earthrealm, Netherrealm and Outworld must unite to stop this threat before reality is undone.

The story has a lot of cool moments, but it lacks overall cohesion. It ends up feeling like a series of cool moments strung together with little rhyme or reason. It feels like the developers were trying to wrap up the current trilogy, and in doing so, strung together a lot of endings. Without saying too much, the final ending feels unsatisfying for a lot of characters, and if it's intended as an ending to the storyline, it's a bit thin and may be a contentious point for some people.

At the end of the day, I have to say that Mortal Kombat 11 is the weakest of NetherRealm's recent story efforts. It's still a fun and enjoyable romp, but it's the first one where I've left feeling unsatisfied. It's also hurt by a few weird aspects. Sonya Blade has been stunt-recast using popular fighter Ronda Rousey, who does not do a good job. The other actors run circles around her, but several plot critical moments rely on Ronda's voice acting talents and fall completely flat when they otherwise wouldn't. The time travel aspect also feels underutilized. Little comes of it except an excuse to have the "good" version of evil characters. There are a couple of neat twists, but it feels like the developers wrote themselves into a corner with characters like Liu Kang and Raiden, so they're using the past counterparts as a way to retcon that.

The combat engine in MK11 is very similar to the previous games. It feels a hair slower and less juggle-heavy than MKX, but that may just be the lack of experience with the mechanics. Combat feels weightier, with individual blows having a more significant impact. If you've played prior MK games, there's a lot that will feel familiar. Almost every character has received a makeover — usually to expand (not change) their move sets, but some are entirely new. There's also a handful of new characters with some cool gimmicks to boot, such as an elder goddess who commands the elements and a weird time warrior who manipulates sand with ease.

As far as mechanical changes go, a small handful is significant. Instead of a single super bar used for everything (as in previous games), you now have offensive and defensive meters, both of which are divided into two segments and refill rapidly over time. The offensive meter can be used to augment attacks, while the defensive meter can be used for special evasions or to use interactables in the game's background. The quick-filling meters mean that using amplified special moves and dodges becomes a much bigger part of the game. On the other hand, it also means that spamming them will leave you at a bigger disadvantage because you can almost assure your opponent will have at least one bar of special meter remaining. It's a neat change, and it's a big improvement over the previous game's method of handling it.

What I think is genuinely the coolest mechanic in MK11 is Krushing Blows. Each character's move set is augmented by Krushing Blows, which are triggered by satisfying a condition, ranging from "hit the enemy with the move as a counter attack" to "perform a move X number of times in a row." Each Krushing Blow increases the damage of the attack and adds a nasty X-ray animation. You can only use it once a match, but each one causes a huge chunk of damage and is well worth it.

Krushing Blows significantly change how you play the character. It's worth the effort to figure out how to work it into combos, since the bonus damage can provide a giant boost. Some of them are easy to work in, like Liu Kang's bicycle kick. Others require modifying your play style, but this adds a fun mind game for the player and the opponent, as the fighters try to fill the conditions for their own Krushing Blows while denying their opponent. It's a ton of fun and a great addition to the game. It's also helpful that they aren't particularly long, so they don't interrupt the flow of the match.

Of the new mechanics, the only one that doesn't work well is Fatal Blows, which replace the X-ray attacks. They become available once a character is low on health and activates a lengthy cinematic. They can only be used once a match, so if you use it in one round, they're gone for the rest of the fight. If they are missed or blocked, they need to cool down for a short while before they can be used again. Since you need to be low on health to use it, the enemy can capitalize on that, but I expect a lot of casual players are going to be on the receiving end of a Fatal Blow just when they think they've won.

They are a rematch mechanic, but there's little reason to exclude them, so you're going to see a lot of lengthy animations, which kill the pace of matches. They're often as gory-looking as any Fatality, which makes "finishing" someone a lot less meaningful. The only difference between some fatalities and some Fatal Blows is that the character somehow gets up after having a 10-inch spike driven through his eyeball in into his brain. The limited nature is cool, but I got extremely bored of seeing the same animation over and over again in a short amount of time, since it came up far more often than super moves in Injustice or X-rays.

Overall, MK11 has a wonderfully diverse set of characters. While it is primarily comprised of classic MK heroes and villains, they are all amplified in interesting ways. Johnny Cage's move set has gained a number of movie-based special moves, including a bizarre mime-based parry attack, while Liu Kang adds nunchucks to his Bruce Lee-inspired repertoire. Each character has multiple variations that can be used in pre-set configurations (for tournament play) or for customizable Injustice 2-style equipment slots for casual play. I didn't enjoy every character, but this is the best-feeling cast yet in a Mortal Kombat game.

The customization feels very similar to Injustice 2 for good reason, but the developers have improved the method for drops and added more customization options. The customization is fun, but it means the characters tend to look a little action-figurey, rather than having a full and cohesive design. The customization options mesh much better with MK's bizarre tableau of freaks and geeks than it did with DC's superheroes.

There is the usual bucketload of content in MK11. In addition to the lengthy story mode (3-4 solid hours), there are also the usual challenge towers and gimmick modes that let you fight as your favorite character against challenging odds. There is also the return of the Krypt, which lets you explore Shang Tsung's island and solve minor puzzles to find chests you can unlock for concept art, gear, items and other bonuses. It can be a little grindy at times, but from what I experienced, it's not more than the other recent NetherRealm games.

Visually, MK11 is the best-looking game in the franchise to date. The animations have seen a huge step forward, which do wonders for making the fights more fun to play and watch. Attacks have solid weight to them, and most of the animations look excellent. My only complaint is that some of the facial animation is still weird for a handful of characters. It's also the goriest MK to date, but that was expected. The voice acting is also top-notch, with the one aforementioned exception. A lot of it is cheesy, but considering Mortal Kombat is pure cheese, that makes sense and fits.

All in all, Mortal Kombat 11 is a solid addition to the franchise. It has arguably the weakest story mode in the new MK trilogy, but even that mode has one of the better fighting game story modes on the market. The gameplay is solid, satisfying and fun, with a lot of potential depth. There's a lot of good single-player content for those who like beating up various characters, in addition to the online multiplayer that is genre-standard. Mortal Kombat 11 is everything that a Mortal Kombat game should be, and it's something fans should enjoy.

Score: 8.0/10

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