Mortal Kombat 11 Review: NetherRealm continues to deliver the bloody, gory goods that fans want
Played On: PS4 (Original)
NetherRealm returns to bring more blood and carnage with Mortal Kombat 11 as well as great gameplay, characters, and, unfortunately, a story mode that left me mixed.
While the Mortal Kombat series always been known for gory fatalities and creative combos, recently, the series has also garnered a strong reputation for strong storytelling. NetherRealm really got the ball rolling back in 2011 with the Mortal Kombat reboot for fighting games to have cinema-caliber story modes. That effort hasn’t changed with MK11 and this time around, the story mode serves to look back at what the MK story has brought thus far and give fans a glimpse as to where it goes into the future. Unfortunately, in its effort to add more alternate timelines and time travel to the MK timeline, the story mode ends up being a messy and confusing entry for the series.
However, this retread of the past Mortal Kombat lore is also where the story falters, along with the inability for the story to choose between alternate timelines and time travel. Going through the story, there’re no rules for how Kronika’s magic and the appearance of younger versions of iconic characters really works. Sometimes the rules of time travel are implemented with things that happen to younger versions also happen to older versions, like the older Johnny Cage receiving a cut on his cheek after his younger version is shot there and the older Kano disappearing after Sonya kills his younger version. However, these timeline rules are contradicted by the story’s desire to focus on alternate timelines with certain characters being a part of the original Mortal Kombat tournament and lack of consistency of the rules. For instance, Erron Black was not introduced until long after the original tournament and when Kitana kill Shao Kahn, why don’t the revenants disappear? There’s no clear decision if the story focuses on time travel or parallel timelines and it leads to a really confusing experience as a fan.
Even the choice of the alternate timelines rather than just solely time travel kind of ruins seeing the younger versions of characters as they don’t really feel that different from . I under having different designs for the same character can be a pain to animate, but this concept could be taken so much further than it is here. The alternate versions look more like alternate skins than younger versions and I would’ve much rather seen Cage in his looser suit and tie rather than the bright colored pants he has here. Honestly, there’s also so many details said about past events that I almost felt like I had to take notes in order to be able to think about them all. Honestly, MK11 could use a little recap section like other recent sequels, like Kingdom Hearts 3 and Devil May Cry V, had. It could’ve been narrated by Shang Tsung or Raiden and it would’ve been awesome. Another small gripe I had was that I wished there were quick time events in cut-scenes just so players can be more involved and so that some of the fights could land a stronger punch.
Where the game does land strong, though, is through some great fighting mechanics and additions that give fans customizations options the series has never seen before. Character play-styles are very unique to one another and what’s even better is how players can now customize the move sets and looks of their favorite characters. NetherRealm introduced the idea of combat variations with MKX and the Gear system in Injustice 2, where players could customize the looks of the characters while also improving their stats. These are all brought together in MK11 with players being able to create their own variations to fit their play-style and create their own look for their favorite characters. So, if you want your Liu Kang to have his Nunchaku Stance, Dragon Parry, and Shaolin Vanish, you can do that. Not to mention, there’re many more combinations players can create, plenty of styles that players can make their own, and awesome skills and fatalities players can obtain.
Now, as per usual, the fatalities and fatal blows are truly top-notch blood and gore and are creatively some of the best of the series. Whether it’s Jax using his opponent’s head as baseball, Frost uses the spine of her enemies to create more Cyber Lin-Kuei, Baraka tearing the face off of his opponent to get at their delicious brain, or Johnny using the top half of his opponent to have a little puppet show, fatalities are better than ever. There’s no holding back on the blood and gore that their attacks bring and there’s even some I get queasy just thinking about. All of these things can be unlocked through delving into the Krpyt and using in-game currency to unlock chests. I have to say that the Krypt is actually more in-depth this time around as it’s more like exploring an open-world with plenty of great callbacks, fun gameplay mechanics, and a great cameo from Cary-Hiroyuka Tagawa reprising his role as Shang Tsung from the 1995 film adaptation.
Lastly, MK11 brings back more online features to battle against players from around the world and towers that bring some what-if scenarios to the MK universe and some augmented battles. There’s nothing really new brought to these modes, other than some consumables that players can find in the Krypt that let’s players have some more variation in battles. Again, there’s nothing too new that’s brought here and I’d be lying if I said that I couldn’t help but crave something fresh with these staples to the franchise. Some other technical issues I had was with the notifications and ways to claim rewards. There’s a lot of switching between menus to claim rewards and they can easily be forgotten about, so players could miss on rewards they deserve.
NetherRealm clearly still knows how to deliver the goods on pulse-pounding fighting mechanics and gruesomely graphic fatalities that fans will love, but just couldn’t piece together a story of the same caliber. Those going into Mortal Kombat 11 looking for shocking fatalities and great gameplay to play against friends, you’ll easily find what you’re looking for. However, it’s hard for me to think what could’ve been with MK11’s story, but there’s clearly a bright future for something more.
*All photos, unless otherwise marked, were taken by the author.