Mortal Kombat 11 sees the return of the nearly 27-year-old franchise, and likely for its last hurrah on this generation of consoles. NetherRealm’s latest is a solid kontender for the best PlayStation 4 beat-em-up, but its heart has been korrupted by a baffling progression system.
Picking up after the events of 2015’s Mortal Kombat X, Raiden is now acting as judge, jury, and executioner of all threats to Earthrealm – including the undead versions of his former comrades. After he executes Shinnok, new antagonist Kronika appears to attempt to rewrite the history of the Universe.
Kronika’s time manipulation powers allow the campaign (or should that be kampaign?) to bring together fighters from across the storied franchise’s history. While seeing young Johnny Cage meet his older self may sound like it borders on fan-fiction, the smart writing and excellent voice acting throughout make for some surprisingly effective moments. There’s comedy, tragedy, and drama throughout, and these characters have never felt more believable – no mean feat considering the series’ history of jumping between dimensions, worlds, and alien races with plenty of hamminess.
The idea of timelines colliding leads to pure fan-service, and each cutscene is more bombastic than the last. Heads roll, castles are stormed, and there are twists and turns galore across the story’s six to eight hour runtime. It’s easily up there with NetherRealm’s work on the Injustice franchise, and shows how it's been honing its craft for so long.
There are some foibles, of course. Watching Cassie Cage spar with her mother Sonya Blade seems neat until she shoots her in the kneecaps or cracks her skull with a handgun. These instances of ludonarrative dissonance are surprisingly funny, like a game so irreversibly set on violence trying to reconcile with the more human elements of its own storyline only to remember that it is, first and foremost, a beat-'em-up.
Thankfully, it’s a (very) bloody good one at that. For a franchise that built its reputation on over-the-top violence, it’s easy to forget how well the series has controlled. Mortal Kombat 11 is weightier than its predecessors, and will feel glacial for those accustomed to Street Fighter and other contemporaries. Fights feel more tense thanks to a 'Perfect Block' mechanic, which paired with the larger window of counter-attacking left after an errant flurry can cause all sorts of problems for players reliant on spacing special moves.
If a fighter’s health drops, players can execute a 'Final Blow' attack. These replace the previous X-Ray moves, and can turn the tide of battle – dealing huge amounts of damage. Of course, they aren’t guaranteed to hit, so working them into a combo can be the best course of action. Simply put, every fighter feels dangerous – and an excellent suite of tutorials help onboard newcomers and veterans alike.
This slower pace does nothing to stem the viscera – Mortal Kombat’s violence has always walked the line between the ridiculous and the wince-inducing, and Mortal Kombat 11 feels like the purest form of this. As always, fatalities are the big draw, but environmental attacks and special moves have a chance to trigger the X-Ray vision of bones breaking and organs puncturing.
These details are bought to life through impeccable presentation. Mortal Kombat 11 is one of PlayStation 4’s prettiest titles, be that in-game or in cutscenes. On PlayStation 4 Pro, frame rate is solid, too – even with detailed backgrounds often filled with moving parts and characters.
Mortal Kombat 11 is stuffed with content (kontent?), too. There are 25 characters included at launch, including newcomers Geras, Cetrion, and Kollector. Unfortunately, there are significant omissions, too; with no Smoke, Ermac, Kenshi, or Reptile on the roster, we’ll hope for some robust DLC. It’s a shame for die-hard fans of those characters, and there’s a lack of diversity in characters, too – without Goro, there’s no hulking brute of a character such as Bane in Injustice.
What Mortal Kombat 11 has gained from its superhero sister-franchise is the addition of customisable gear pieces. While they serve no gameplay purpose, the central time-shifting conceit means you can recreate classic costumes throughout the roster.
It’s in the unlocking of these items that Mortal Kombat 11 fumbles, however. Currency can be earned throughout all modes, but it comes in various forms. These can be spent in the Krypt, a third-person area located on Shang Tsung’s island.
This sounds simple enough, but unlockable content is found within crates which act essentially as loot boxes. Some contain specific rewards and require alternative currency, but the sheer number of insignificant items (player banners for online play, for example) dilutes the pool cosmetics to the point where skins, taunts, and fatalities feel all too rare.
This can be negated somewhat by the inclusion of Towers, themed gauntlets of encounters. By unlocking character-specific towers, gear can be unlocked for that fighter – but this requires grinding against difficulty spikes.
These spikes can be lessened with the use of augments, items that can be socketed into gear to give an advantage (only in towers, mind) – but these sockets are randomly decided and it costs currency to re-roll a piece of gear in the search for a more useful setup.
At the time of writing, microtransactions aren’t live on the PlayStation Store, so it will be interesting to see if they remove the need to grind for some of the higher-tiered cosmetic gear in the game.
Structural foibles detract from the fact that Mortal Kombat 11 is an excellent fighter with lots to offer. Those yearning for the gore-soaked days of old will find plenty to love, and newcomers will be enthralled by its excellent story and deep fighting system.
Really good review Lloyd. Been reading up on the single player grind and it sounds totally stupid. They've clearly got a great game here that's been stuffed with unnecessary crap and it's a huge shame.
That’s a real shame. Looks like a brilliant fighter that they’ve ruined with unnecessary ‘depth’/grind.
No Mileena no buy!
I didn't find X's story that good at all honestly (sloppily written in fact) despite the praise it got (Cassie is just as awful as Jacqui, Kung Jin and Takeda)
So I'll wait til 11's Komplete edition is £5... Though maybe it'll go up to ten if Ash Williams and The Terminator really are DLC Kharacters
Another game clearly tainted by the need for more monetization on top of the (presumably) multiple fighter passes and two different special editions. All that extra progression junk is clearly there just to frustrate people into spending microtransaction money. Warner Bros disgust me.
Wonder how many people are just gonna see the score and freak tf out.
Not the biggest MK fan out there but I am kinda tempted to get this. I’ll probably just main Raiden and Kitana and that’s it. Hmm, it’s possible there could be a Komplete Edition somewhere down the road. Might be best to hold off, for me at least.
You guys Should of give it a 7.5 or 8. 7 seem to low.
I remember the first game coming out when I was at school, so definitely not 17 years ago. 🤨
The only MTX available will be Time Crystals, whether that plays into it I'm not sure.
I'll buy the XL version 1 year later when it's discounted then. I like the new mortal kombat story (x and this), I still want to play it but not at a full price, especially if the game has mobile-like mtx.
They're blatantly waiting to add microtransactions to the store post-launch. It's really scummy that publishers keep doing this
Not interested in fighting games but may be worth a $7 weekend rental at Redbox to play through the story.
@Fandabidozi exactly what I was thinking so looked it up, the first game came out in 1992 so 27 years ago 👍
Makes me sad seeing NetherRealm go down the route of making unlocking items really grindy and tedious. I thought Injustice 2 was pretty generous with their unlocks and the amount of currency given from just doing matches.
Everything else in the review sounds up to the standards we've come to expect from the studio's past few games, post transition from Midway to NetherRealm Studios.
I don't feel like cancelling my pre-order, especially since I can get it today, but it's a shame they mucked up the grind. From what it sounds, they've basically took Injustice 2's formula and slowed the heck out of it down. Injustice was very generous and rather nice with it's loot box mechanic (I have way more than I know what to do with, and I've only recently booted it back up), which only had character customization items. Now they've broke what didn't need fixing, it seems.
I don't care about the cosmetics at all so this is still a day 1 for me. However, are you saying the fatalities are behind a grind wall? If so, that's cack.
I’m very disappointed about this. Game sounds great but I’ve been put off by the way it’s structured.
Well, if it keeps receiving negative publicity it will up the chances of it being patched.
This problem sounds like it could be fixed with a patch.
I don’t mind a grind for unlockables. Sometimes it gives a short story solo player game a longer term appeal... but not if it feels cheap and unrewarding. This feels like that by the description.... so annoying they feel the need to milk these extra revenues.
Cheap loot boxes that give pointless stuff and duplicates too often are so annoying.
Was thinking of getting this on switch as I have injustice 1&2 on PS4 and XL on 360... but don’t want to reward cheap milking systems like describing here
Is the game mechanics still floaty? If that makes sense
Just to vent about something, I think it was a huge mistake by their marketing department to feature Cyrax and Sektor (with awesome new models!) in the launch hype trailer days before release, then exclude them from the roster.
With games like MK, a lot of fans are always gonna get upset with each entry. This is unavoidable with as many characters as MK has - and to be honest, you wouldn't want too many characters, because balancing would be a nightmare/impossible. I know a lot of people are peeved about Mileena. Never cared for her, but I feel that pain with this roster in other ways.
I honestly feel like they leaned too much toward including Special Forces/human characters. I won't know how they actually play until I get my hands on the game, but from a lore perspective you have a lot of interesting characters from which to choose, and there are a lot of notable omissions. Did we need Sonya AND Cassie Cage, or would you rather have, say, Nightwolf, Sektor, or Reptile in place of one of them? Or heck, a new character!
I think they need to man up and finally put Motaro in! The roster is the most disappointing for me since MK3 left out Scorpion, although I'm sure a lot will love it.
glad to reviewer isn't shying away from pointing out the tedious grind mechanics, Netherlam used to bee good now they're just another gaas greedy studio trying to reach for your pocket with every chance they get
I agree, I intensely dislike Takeda, Jacqui, Cassie, and Kung Jinn. I feel like their inclusion was pretty forced, especially with their whole "they are all kids/relatives of established characters". That felt really contrived and cheap.
The writing IS terrible for all the MK games. There have been so many retcons and plotholes, you couldn't list them all. But I think it is done in a fanservice-y way that is okay for this type of game. That said, I thought MKX's story was not interesting at all, because of the focus on the kiddos. You have a huge pool of interesting characters, and they left them on the sidelines mostly in favor of a vanilla cast.
@Fandabidozi I think that was my mistake when editing. Fixed!
The franchise is actually over 17 years old. i read the whole reviee. it sounds like a solid game with a grind for cosmetics which tbh it's not a big deal for me. I do not support it though.
@fuzzy833 Fatalities have never been behind a "grind wall". You can unlock a fatality in the krypt or by finding the command in an online move list. By doing the latter, the fatality will unlock on the in game move list.
Between the fake activism and microtransaction garbage I'm not disappointed to be skipping over this entry. I am disappointed with how NRS has gone about development of the game.
The unlocking sounds awful. Ill have lost interest in the game and moved on by the time i get all the gear fir the characters i like. Just let us have what we want.
Lloyd, you didn't answer the most important question.
Is the song in the game??
@lloydcoombes I have no question. But I want to say thanks for the harshness against the, borderline scam, progression system.
Everybody was to lenient with MKX, and Netherrealm got greedier.
They heard that you liked all sorts of currencies, so they put some currency in your currency so that you can spend some currency while playing the game.
As much as I love playing dress up with my virtual characters, it still sounds like the most important thing, the gameplay, is a win. Sucks that the kyrpt is krap, but honestly, it's not a deal breaker. Let's give Nether Realm some respectful, constructive feedback and hopefully they can rework it with a patch down the road. How is Nether Realm with taking feedback?
Pretty much called it, this has been the usual for fighting games as of late. Like SC6 and DOA6, this will be on my "wait for sale" list. I refuse to pay full price for these overly bloated fighters.
Man I miss the days of games like Mortal Kombat Trilogy.
Yet another game that would probably have got a 9/10 rating if they'd not ruined it by putting in MT's. When are these companies ever going to learn? Never I guess, not when fools actually pay for that rubbish!
i think ill wait for the komplete edition to come out
I expected no less from Ed Boon.
Had trouble reading this article. I noticed that all the hard "c's" weren't replaced with "k's".
The idea of timelines kolliding leads to pure fan-service, and each kutscene is more bombastic than the last. Heads roll, kastles are stormed, and there are twists and turns galore across the story’s six to eight hour runtime. It’s easily up there with NetherRealm’s work on the Injustice franchise, and shows how it's been honing its kraft for so long.
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