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Mortal Kombat is one of the most storied franchises in gaming. From its gory introduction in 1992, its depiction as the heart of the battles surrounding violence in video games, and the 27 years since, it has become a staple in the industry. Mortal Kombat X’s release in 2015 was met with mixed reactions. While NetherRealm Studios had produced another excellent fighting game, it was a larger departure from some of the series staples particularly after the beloved MK9. With Mortal Kombat 11 then, NetherRealm faced the challenge of reinvigorating the series while simultaneously pleasing their hardcore fanbase. Did they succeed? Overwhelmingly the answer is “Yes”.
With each entry, the team at NetherRealm makes some tough decisions on how the combat should flow, how important details such as countering and rushdowns will behave, and many other factors that will impact high-level players and the longevity of the game. For MK11, they’ve narrowed the distance between players and returned to a more intimate style of kombat that is more akin to MK9 than MKX. For me, I believe this to be a large improvement and I prefer it without question. Each player now has a single “Fatal Blow” they can use in a match that is able to be activated upon their health bar reaching less than 30%. This is essentially the new Xray super move but can be used in any round thus leaving the strategy of its use up to the player. Lastly, as fatal blows don’t use meter, the meters are now two-tiered for both offense and defense and used soley for those purposes.
Returning as expected is the story mode format that NetherRealm has used in its titles over the last few MK and Injustice titles, but I found it to be a far more enjoyable experience than MKX due to a more cohesive story and abundant homages to past Mortal Kombats. Not only do many fan favorite characters return, but it also leaves the future of the series in a place where they can now take it anywhere while making more sense than some of the convoluted entries in the past. If you’re a long-term fan, you’ll find a lot to love in the story.
As we saw with Injustice 2, customization is one of the biggest additions to MK11 with each character having hundreds of items for players to unlock; three of which are unique to each character. For example, for Sub-Zero you can modify the masks, belts, and axe while coordinating with an overall skin. These items are unlocked by playing the story mode, completing towers, and by playing through the Krypt (which is almost a story mode by itself). While the game received a heavy amount of criticism upon release for this design, much of it was misplaced as you unlock nearly every single item simply through gameplay and can only use real money to purchase a handful of items. And a few days post-release, NetherRealm increased the rewards structure to make it easier on players in the long-run. The Krypt is centered on Shang Tsung’s island and very extensive while also containing many treats for long-term fans (which as I’ve noted is a running theme through MK11). Watching fighters in the distance fight over The Pit or walking into Goro’s chamber simply brought a smile to my face.
Online Play is critical to modern fighting games as beyond local co-op, it is the only way to compete and hone your skills. NetherRealm has been a leader in this area over the past several years with a large focus on improving the netcode to eliminate as much latency as possible. It shows here with smooth online play across all of the modes you’ve come to expect including simple 1 on 1 and the beloved King of the Hill. Ranked play is included as you would expect and coming soon in an update is a new worldwide competition mode which I’ll comment on more in the future once I’ve had time with it.
Mortal Kombat 11 represents what I consider the pinnacle of modern day fighting games. It introduces several new wrinkles while pleasing fans with references and content from its storied history and containing a tremendous amount of content. For a fighting game to contain tens of hours of content for fans that may not even be that into fighting games is impressive. And of course if you are a die-hard MK player, you’ll find a near endless amount of content that NetherRealm is planning to support for years to come. I honestly don’t know where they take the series from here in the future. But for now, I’m going to continue honing my skills with the community while pleading with Ed Boon to bring back Nightwolf.