"Mortal Kombat 11" is brutal, bloody, and boring
"Mortal Kombat 11" makes some very interesting improvements to its rather outdated formula, but it’s still a fairly mindless, button-mashing palooza.
Ever fantasized about kicking someone so hard in the no-nos that their skeleton propels out through the top of their head? Well, you’re in luck, my freakish friend – NetherRealm Studios’ "Mortal Kombat 11" is here to make sadists out of us all. While maintaining the core brutality that the series is known for, the latest installment, which is actually the twenty-third entry in the franchise if you count the bundles and DLCs, is looking to make a few needed changes. But are these upgrades enough to win over gamers who aren’t as interested in the fighting genre?
Short answer? No. If fighting games have never been your fancy, "Mortal Kombat 11" isn’t going to change your mind. That much is plain and simple. There is only so much developers can do to shake up a genre before it strays so far from its source material that it becomes a new game entirely.
This is a gore fest, first and foremost. You can pepper in story elements and customization options all you want, but at the end of the day, people are still tuning into this franchise because it allows you to tear off someone's skull and eat their brain. It's hilariously violent, and the sheer brutality never gets old, even if the gameplay does.
On a technical standpoint, the characters carry with them a lifelikeness that makes every punch, every slice, and every decapitation that much more vicious. Several characters have also been given much-needed redesigns, and the detail put into their facial and body movements is awe-inspiring, especially in this violent and relentless world. While the game never reaches 60 FPS on consoles, matches are fluid and fast, and combos are quick and easy to pull off.
On the topic of the world, each map feels carefully constructed to represent the lore and history of the franchise. For instance, the stage Lost Hive is the home of lady D’vorah, the hive queen, and it showcases hundreds of insects, both alive and dead, as well as eggs sacks that sway in the wind. Yes, it is absolutely revolting, and that’s what makes it fantastic. There’s also Kharon’s Ship, which floats on the Sea of Blood while a storm rages in the sky and pelts the deck with sloppy red fluid.
However, the most enjoyable stage is simply titled Tournament – a small arena filled with old arcade machines, NetherRealm Studios merchandise, and other memorabilia that will leave die-hard fans feeling euphoric while tearing their opponent’s eyes out.
The real improvements come with the incorporation of custom variations. Not only can players now adjust characters’ abilities, combos and fight styles, but skins have been split up in order to mix and match. This allows every encounter online to feel slightly different (in player matches, that is - this is disabled in ranked play). It also gives players the chance to show off all the cool loot they’ve collected over their hours of playing.
Speaking of loot, it isn’t the fighting, fatalities and customization that makes "Mortal Kombat 11" a worthy successor in the franchise, it’s the updated Krypt mode. Players take the role of a third-person warrior as they explore ancient ruins for loot chests. Before you ask, yes, microtransactions are alive and well, unfortunately.
The areas you venture through once again pay homage to more than twenty years of franchise memorabilia, with Goro’s Lair, The Pit, and The Dead Woods taking the cake as most memorable. This is far from a typical loot scavenger hunt – you’ll find artifacts on your journey that bend the rules of this large free-to-roam map; you'll also utilize forges and other upgrade stations to make your exploration that much richer and more enjoyable.
The one downside with this is that exploring this island of mystery takes time – too much time. Players must collect “Koins,” “Hearts,” and “Soul Fragments” to open locked doors and rebuild broken structures. To earn these currencies, you must play matches, and a lot of them, at that. To progress, players should expect to play, and win, roughly fifteen matches to then gain about ten minutes in the Krypt. This is very limiting, especially since this mode is where I had the most fun, and found myself returning to whenever I could.
When a fighting game's most enjoyable mode doesn't have fighting in it, you know something's wrong.
The currency drag isn’t the only limiting element of "Mortal Kombat 11." The story, while full of fun Easter Eggs and lore, is more of a short film than an engaging experience. A cutscene will play, you then fight a quick two-minute match, and then another cutscene cues up. Rinse, repeat. This continues for nearly six hours, and half of that is spent watching the screen rather than playing. Most of the time, I'd turn to my phone and scroll through Instagram while these scenes played out, only then returning once it was time to play. Now that I’ve completed it, I’ll never return to that mode. There's no reason.
So, with all of this in mind, who is "Mortal Kombat 11" made for? Well, like all genre-heavy games, it will satisfy some and bore others. The sheer brutality and shock of tearing people apart is enough to amuse a group of friends, especially when alcohol is involved, but for the solo gamer, it’s a lonely adventure. Only when the hints of progression come out, such as in the customization and Krypt exploration mode, did I find myself completely engaged. Because of that, its lasting appeal is low. Sorry NetherRealm, but even throwing Raiden into the whirling blades of a helicopter gets old after you do it a dozen times.
- Final Thoughts -
"Mortal Kombat 11" pushes the boundaries of the fighting genre to create a richly detailed adventure that will shock, scare, and cause squeamish people to run for cover. However, a lack of constant progression restricts the flow of gameplay. Because of this, players are forced to surrender too much time, or too much money, to access the best parts.
("Mortal Kombat 11" image courtesy of Eneba)