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Mortal Kombat 11 – Review
For every niche game genre, there is a popular, more mass-appeal entry in its genre. Like Pokémon to JRPGs and Destiny to MMOs, so is Mortal Kombat 11 to fighting games.
The Mortal Kombat series is what I like to call a dudebro fighting game. It’s got a low barrier for entry, and it’s easy to cheer during the game’s gory sequences. While that may sound negative, it really isn’t: any game that can get more people to enjoy fighting games should be celebrated.
With Mortal Kombat 11, however, we have the case of a game that’s almost confused as to what it wants to be. It’s a good fighting game, and the addition of fine-tuning characters to your playstyle certainly helps add a personal stake to games.
However, the game’s own insistence that customizing is important while also making it damn-near impossible to customize your character without dropping obscene hours into the game leads to an ultimately confusing experience.
Mortal Kombat 11 is very much a Triple-A game. As far as the objective quality of the game’s presentation goes, everything looks great. The models are all intricately detailed, the backdrops interesting and its gore made abundant.
However, in its attempts to also be a Live Service, it takes many bites out of its own enjoyability as a fighting game. Silly “Dragon Challenges” cause constant pop-ups at the bottom of the screen telling you to do things like land five crouching kicks every few seconds, as well as constant score notifications on the left. Points tallies at the end of rounds, even in local splitscreen make hitting rematch take that much longer.
Due to the game’s focus on customizing things, the game loses out on a lot of basic appeal most fighting games have. Some characters’ win screens are flat-out boring, because they have several others to choose from but only if they can unlock it by spending time in other game modes.
While this may seem like a nitpick, remember: Mortal Kombat is a game all about its flash. No one does fatalities because they tell a deep and touching story, they do them because they shock and awe. So for MK11 to be anything less than that right out the box would be a serious blemish on the game’s track record.
As a fighting game, Mortal Kombat 11 is great. Combos in this game are generally quite short, and the new feature of a separate offense and defense meter that recharge over time is really interesting. Rather than have supers, the game has certain special moves that you can enhance at the cost of one meter, dealing more damage.
However, a huge gripe I have with this game is its insistence on wasting the player’s time. In the actual fight, many animations are so focused on showing off how bloody and shocking it is that the animations feel pointlessly self-indulgent.
A good comparison to make would be 2016’s Doom, where the gory finishers were designed specifically not to interrupt the flow of combat. This game does that, but in a polar opposite kind of way. Kotal Kahn, for example, has a move that ends with him sawing through the opponent. However, the game bothers to painstakingly show him thrusting the blade in and out of the opponent for what in fighting game time feels like the pre-production phase of Anthem.
There’s also the problem with unlocking materials for your character. Many of them have specific modes you need to beat to unlock them, primarily the “Towers of Time”, which is an arcade ladder with “Konsumables” that add abilities. The problem with this is the game actively punishes you for not using Konsumables, giving you a lower score, and the only way to get more is by opening lootboxes. The opponents, meanwhile, always have the best Konsumables, making some fights nigh unwinnable as they cover half the stage in passively damaging lasers and knock you out of combos with invincible assists. Considering how much the game wants you to customize your fighters, it’s pretty obvious how much they’d want you to play this mode.
If you’re playing this game with local vs, make sure you have a separate profile with its own account for player 2. P2 cannot use any of your gear/loadouts for your character, so without forewarning prepare to feel very scummy if whoever’s playing P2 is stuck with the default loadouts while you have your customized character.
I used to have a problem with the customizable special moves in this game, but given more time I quite like them. The ability to remove certain moves that I wasn’t using with better moves or upgrades for unremovable core moves actually does help personalize the experience, and even AI games feel a little better as a result.
Mortal Kombat 11 feels like some sort of weird reverse-logic justification for paid content in a sixty-dollar game. The game has plenty of unlockables, as well as features like Skip Challenge tokens for arcade ladders, none of which can be bought with real money.
The problem is that the game is very much designed for you to have these features, despite them all being completely random drops. If anything it feels like the game wanted to make them paid, had them built around that, then yoinked the paid option out of the game just so someone could write an article wishing they could pay to skip some of the utter nonsense this game pulls.
The game has plenty of modes, such as Story, Klassik Towers (Normal Arcade), Towers of Time (We talked about this earlier) and the Krypt. The story and basic Arcade ladders are relatively inoffensive in their offerings, and pretty much what you’d come to expect from a Mortal Kombat.
— Wamirul @ [PULL MY DEVIL TRIGGER] (@Wamirul) April 25, 2019
The Krypt is the most offensive part of Mortal Kombat 11. It’s a pretend-adventure game in which you explore a huge area to spend your gold opening lootboxes.
Remember when I said Mortal Kombat feels like it constantly wastes your time? It’s never more blatant than with The Krypt, where it almost makes you wish for a generic lootbox screen. So much chaff is thrown into the lootboxes that it might actually be impossible to get anything you want. Things like concept art, crafting materials and konsumables are thrown into the pool too, making any attempt at making your character look cool turn into a wasted half-hour of getting an overworked artist’s hard work that they were underpaid for.
One thing from recent entries that I love in MK11 is its move list. All the moves, combos and even fatalities are easily accessible in the menu, with their frame data laid bare for all to see. Aside from letting more advanced players know how to plan their combos, this also opens the door to more casual players learning about the more in-depth aspects of fighting games, and I think that’s great.
As said before, Mortal Kombat 11, at its core, is fun. The most fun I’ve had with this game has been just having people over and doing some best-of-threes and learning the characters. In a field test, the flashy animations and cool character designs have even won over my non-fighting-game siblings to get them to try it out.
The action-figure-esque design of the characters, the ridiculous gore of the Fatal Blow moves, they’re all fun. It’s a great party game to have, since even non-players can’t help but cheer when something ridiculous happens.
As said before, Mortal Kombat 11 is a great fighting game. It’s fun, relatively accessible and for most people, just flashy enough to get a crowd excited.
Yet the moment I leave local versus mode, I cannot think of anything else I enjoy in this game. Its obsession with being a live service ruins everything else in this game, especially when loading screens are enhanced by the need to connect to servers constantly. Not getting to simply buy the cool outfits for my wraith-ninja using any of the game’s multitude of currencies as I drown in konsumables and concept art really take a hit to this game’s fun, which is a shame because in the heat of a match, it’s great.
While some may argue it is commendable that they didn’t simply lock all the gear behind a paywall, I can’t say this is much better. I used to think that Dead or Alive’s progression system was mean with its costume shards, but at least I was guaranteed costumes for the characters I played. And even then, I unlocked everything in 3 days of casual play.
If I could, I’d give the actual Kombat vs the rest of the game separate scores. It’s a genuinely good fighting game buried under a pile of time-wasting chaff. It’s certainly a good party game, but I wouldn’t advise any kind of serious play with it.
Review copy provided by the publisher