It’s going to make me seem like a damn old fogey but I’ve been playing Mortal Kombat ever since the first one came out on the SEGA Mega Drive back in the day.

I distinctively remember entering the Kombat Kode (A,B,A,C,A,B,B) at the legal screen to enable blood and fatalities on the Mega Drive version. Back then, games like Mortal Kombat and Night Trap were unjustly blamed for violence people caused (some things never change do they?). The hyper realistic graphics for the game didn’t help matters either.

While the furor eventually died down, my love for the series didn’t and I’ve been playing every single iteration of the game (yes, even the god awful Game Boy Advance version).

So yeah, I guess I’m familiar enough with the series to review Mortal Kombat 11.

What is Mortal Kombat 11?

mortal kombat 11
Shao Kahn and Raiden, together again.

Mortal Kombat 11 is a 1 on 1 fighter with an emphasis on over the top violence and gore. Characters are realistically rendered, with moves that shatter bones, teeth and rupture organs. At the end of a match, the victor gets a chance to finish her/her opponent. Input the right command and the winner will execute their own incredibly gory finishing move that usually leaves their opponent very, very dead.

mortal kombat 11
Off with his head!

It’s brutal, visceral and very entertaining.

Mortal Kombat 11 doesn’t mess with the formula that’s been established. It is very much Mortal Kombat, with modern gameplay tweaks, like quick recovery and metered wake-up attacks. Fatal Blows, once dependent on meter, is now relegated to a one time move per fighter per match.

It makes a huge difference on damage dealing as Fatal Blows are no longer that much of a game changer. They still look damn cool (some are arguably much cooler than Fatalities), do a boatload of damage but now can only be triggered when a fighter’s life bar is at a set amount.

Other than that, for better or for worse, this is Mortal Kombat XL, but with a mostly different cast of characters (you will be sorely missed Alien and Predator).

mortal kombat 11
Here’s the full roster at launch. Shao Kahn is available if you pre-ordered or buy the Kombat Pack. Frost is unlockable when you complete Chapter 4 of the Story mode.

Fighting is still going on at 60fps, moves are still connecting with snappy sound effects and NetherRealm’s trademark smooth animation. The different fighting styles are gone, but this time you can create your own one, mixing and matching moves with your own custom fighter looks.

Weirdly, I feel that that facial animation quality’s taken a hit when compared to the Injustice 2’s. Character faces don’t move convincingly this time around, particularly around the mouth and eyes.

Character banter isn’t as varied as Injustice 2’s or even Mortal Kombat XL’s too, with less interaction and acknowledgement between the kombatants.

Still, there are some incredibly funny exchanges, like the one you may get when two Sonya Blades face each other where one asks the other which reality she’s from, getting a funny reference to the Terminator universe.

Kombat modes.

mortal kombat 11
You can replay chapters (even choosing specific fights) at any time.

Compared to Mortal Kombat XL, the Story mode’s still as corny, with plenty of B-movie schlock. This time around the plot revolves around time travel, an evil time Goddess (mother of Shinnok) and her desire to rewrite history.

There are 12 chapters, with multiple fights in each one. The story is linear, but the game does allow you to choose between two different fighters in some chapters.

It doesn’t affect the story (except give you some alternate cutscenes) so replaying them all isn’t really necessary. You’ll only want to do Chapter 4’s alternate fights to unlock Frost.

The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger (which sucks), especially since NetherRealm will probably release Injustice 3 (or a new I.P.) before we see Mortal Kombat 12 in four or five years.

Luckily, once you’re done with the Story, you can move to much more meatier modes, like the Towers of Time and Klassic Towers modes.

The Towers of Time mode is like Injustice 2’s Multiverse mode.

The events (towers) are all limited timed, with their own special rewards. Beat them all and you get whatever reward is being offered for the tower set. It keeps you coming back over and over again as there are TONS of stuff to unlock.

mortal kombat 11
These towers are incredibly hard, even if you’re a decent player.

Some of the towers however are incredibly brutal, requiring you to not only be great with your chosen character, but lucky as well since fights are almost always skewed towards your opponents.

Klassic Towers is the opposite of Towers of Time. Here the towers are static, and you can choose what difficulty to play on. Finishing them gets you consumables and items and also plays the character ending for the character you choose. Think of it as the game’s Arcade mode.

You can of course take on other opponents, via online or local gameplay modes. Local gameplay is as you’d expect but online is a bit of a letdown, especially considering how good Tekken 7 and SoulCalibur VI’s netcodes are.

It’s considerably laggy at the moment, plagued with slowdown and disconnects. Thankfully, Ranked Matches aren’t available yet, so hopefully the issues will be improved by patches in the future, so they’re at least competitive.

Kustom fighters.

mortal kombat 11
Some of the customization options include Klassic looks for the characters.

MK11 also comes with MUCH, MUCH improved Krypt, Training modes and customization. It’s something in the vein of Injustice 2’s, although much more basic and simplified.

Undoubtedly, that’ll be the main hook for the game; customizing your favourite fighter not only gives them a unique look, but you can also assign specific moves (up to 3) to your custom creation.

While this feature isn’t allowed in ranked online (you can only use the game’s default offerings), it’s still a cool (and sometimes overpowered) addition, letting you personalize your own fighter.

mortal kombat 11
Everybody get 3 customization parts.

Sadly, those expecting Injustice 2 levels of customization will end up massively disappointed.

You only get to customize 3 types of gear per character (usually a headgear, their weapon and an accessory) and the choices aren’t as obviously different to the naked eye. Plus, you can’t choose the colors too, which is another questionable omission.

Playing to each character’s strengths is a must to make a good AI fighter.

However, being able to customize your own AI fighter makes all the other shortcomings almost worth it.

You can assign attribute points to determine how your character fights and then unleash your creation in special AI Battles online, or in the Towers modes so you don’t even need to participate to earn in-game currency.

The Training modes in the game are the best I’ve seen in a fighter.

The game goes through everything, from basic movement to advanced terminologies and tactics. There are even individual character tutorials, with explanations on their strengths and weaknesses and combo guides.

mortal kombat 11
So much to learn, practice and master!

If you’re a beginner looking to get into the series, MK11 is a great starting point.

Return of the king.

Exploring Shang Tsung’s island is incredibly fun.

Another highlight of the game is the much revamped Krypt mode. It’s here that you can use the in-game currency to unlock extras (like skins, customization options, production art and more) but it’s like a game onto itself.

It’s set on Shang Tsung’s island from the original Mortal Kombat (and visited briefly in MK11’s Story mode) which is a great bit of fanservice as you actually get to explore the old stages in a free roaming third person capacity.

Look familiar?

If you’ve played the original Mortal Kombat, you’ll definitely get a kick to see some of the older stages return.

You’ll get to see the Shang Tsung’s Courtyard, the Pit, the Warrior Shrine and even Goro’s Lair as you explore the island, find new items and solve puzzles to unlock the different parts of the locale.

How about this one?

The whole experience is akin to a casual Metroidvania, where you’ll need to revisit past areas to find new secrets as you unlock new skills like being able to wield Shao Kahn’s hammer, Scorpion’s chain, Ermac’s amulet and even Kenshi’s blindfold.

It’s so fun that it makes you pine for a new Mortal Kombat spin-off like Shaolin Monks or Mythologies.

I just wish that getting in-game currencies (kredits, souls and hearts) are much easier. Right now, it’s an incredible grind, especially for hearts which you can only mainly get from doing finishers in the game.

Finish him!

As a veteran, I’ve come to look forward to each new installment not for the fighters or the lore (though since NetherRealm has taken the helm, this is a VERY close second) but for the finishers.

Compared to the ones in the earlier games, the series’ finishers have progressively been more anatomically accurate (with internal organs rendered), as the finishers themselves gotten more gory. In that aspect, I wasn’t disappointed in Mortal Kombat 11.

All the cool X-ray effects only happen with Fatal Blows.

Well…that’s not exactly true, I’m actually mildly disappointed that they’re not more elaborate or cooler. I expect more imaginative finishers to be honest, not the same old slicing, decapitation and dismemberment bits and it’s starting to get old.

Finishers need to ape the Fatal Blows and be more elaborate and cooler or else they’re likely to be overshadowed by how awesomely choreographed the Fatal Blows are.

Looking good.

Blown away by Liu Kang’s killer punch.

With each NetherRealm game release, the studio’s raised the bar for the visuals. It’s been that way for years, as the studio jumps back and forth between its Injustice and Mortal Kombat games.

It’s no different this time.

While the visuals don’t look much different from Mortal Kombat XL at first glance, closer inspection reveals much has changed from improved depth of field effects, to god rays (moon beams in this case) shining through withered branches on Shang Tsung’s island.

Internal organs are rendered much more convincingly this time around and gory finishers look much more realistic. Characters move much more realistically now too, with none of the stilted, jerky movement that’s present in Mortal Kombat XL (especially when you’re doing combos).

Facial animations too are leagues better than Mortal Kombat XL, but as mentioned earlier, don’t seem as good as Injustice 2’s.

The bottom line.

Hit or miss?

NetherRealm hit the mark once more with Mortal Kombat 11.

The same classic Kombat is still feeling fresh, and the minor tweaks to gameplay changes things up for those coming from Mortal Kombat XL.

Incredibly, the secondary modes like the Krypt and Training mode are the stars of the show, with how in-depth and fun they are.

Longevity isn’t an issue too with the game’s Towers of Time modes as you’ll steadily get a ton of unlockables, provided you keep playing. While online play is a bit laggy, AI and Tower battles are more than enough to overlook that.

TLDR:

Great fighter but fatalities need to be better. Online play is a mess that hopefully will be improved via patches. Secondary modes like Krypt, Training and AI Battles steal the limelight from the normal gameplay modes.

The Good.
– AI customization fun!
– Tons of fanservice for hardcore fans.
– Great fighting system.

The Bad.
– Online play is a mess.
– Fatalities starting to get boring and predictable.
– Low rate of gaining in-game currency.

Sal's been in the industry since the early 2000s. He's written for a ton of gaming and tech publications including Playworks, Hardwarezone, HWM and GameAxis. A geek and hardcore gamer, Sal will play everything, on any platform.

Sal's been in the industry since the early 2000s. He's written for a ton of gaming and tech publications including Playworks, Hardwarezone, HWM and GameAxis. A geek and hardcore gamer, Sal will play everything, on any platform.