Review: Mortal Kombat 11 (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download (Premium Edition)
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required
  • Move None
Title: Mortal Kombat 11
Format: Blu-Ray Disc/PSN (39.79 GB)
Release Date: April 23, 2019
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interacive
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Original MSRP: Standard Edition $59.99 (USD) £49.99 (UK) Premium Edition $99.99 (USD) £79.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

I remember distinctly how excited I was on the way home from a now defunct toy store with a brand new copy of Dead or Alive 2 around the fall of 2000. I tore through the game’s different modes and tried various characters but my excitement quickly fizzled out as I realized there wasn’t much else to do. With no internet connection and no one to play with, a fighting game’s longevity and replayability were virtually nonexistent when limited to its single player offerings.

Today, almost 19 years later, I can’t help but marvel at how far the genre has come. Between the roughly six hour story mode and multi hour tutorial lessons, the hours I’d spent with Mortal Kombat 11 reached the double digits before I’d even tried any arcade towers. Further still, the mini-endings of twenty-five unique characters awaited me after the tough boss fight of classic mode while online play and the mysteries of The Krypt remained uncovered.

NetherRealm Studios has once again outdone themselves with Mortal Kombat 11, the most content-rich iteration of this long-running series. While many of the best goodies remain locked behind a slogging loot grind, I firmly believe that the design prioritizes long term community engagement over financial predation.

Gameplay:
The FGC (Fighting Game Community) lamented MK 11’s slower pace when given access to the beta. Was Mortal Kombat doomed to lose its zany defining traits with the exclusion of a run mechanic? Of course not. With the game now a month old and the first major tournament behind us, it’s apparent that the new features are a perfect fit for the refined style of gameplay.

A notable difference from Mortal Kombat X comes by way of the meter system. Players no longer need to save up and max out their meters to gain access to their high damaging X-ray attack because this mechanic has been replaced by the Fatal Blow, an equally match shifting super move available to your character only when he/she is down to 30% health.

Fatal Blows can only be landed once per match, but they will regenerate after ten seconds if not successfully connected. With no resources spent on performing a Fatal Blow and no real reason not to just mash the triggers and take a third of your opponent’s life, it’s not uncommon to see a Fatal Blow from both players each match. The incredibly gory animations can each take several seconds and may become monotonous after so many views and so much idle time during which players have virtually no control.

The Krushing Blow is another welcome addition to the deep meta of Mortal Kombat 11. Think of Krushing Blows as critical hits that trigger only when certain requirements are met. The uppercut for instance, a staple move for every character, does decent damage when performed normally. But once per match, the Krushing Blow version of the uppercut triggers when landed in response to your opponent’s missed high attack. Not only does the Krushing Blow deal more damage, but your foe is also launched for an opportunity to follow up with a juggle combo. While the uppercut Krushing Blow is available to the whole cast, the rest are all character specific with unique requirements.

Mortal Kombat 11 has been dragged into the great microtransaction debate, and while I like to think of myself as a crusader against lootboxes in this war, I feel that some of the venom spewing may have been misguided. For clarity, the only items in Mortal Kombat 11 that can be purchased with real money are Easy Fatality Tokens and Time Krystals.

The former are just what the descriptor suggests, tokens that allow players to perform the franchise’s infamous and iconic fatality maneuvers with two simple button presses. These are completely unnecessary as fatality inputs are not at all demanding and players can even pause the game and look them up in the move list. These tokens are also awarded in some Krypt chests that are unlocked with a type of in-game currency earned exclusively through playing the game.

Time Krystals on the other hand can only be used to purchase any or all of just five random skins or pieces of loot (the game contains thousands) and the list of available items refreshes just once a day. Even those inclined to buy all five cosmetics would have to wait until the next day to make any more purchases. Taking an extra step to install safeguards in order to save purchasers from themselves is probably the opposite of predatory.

I’ve gravitated towards Noob Saibot as my main in these early stages of Mortal Kombat 11‘s life cycle and I’ve grinded through countless towers, frustrating matches, and arbitrary milestones to unlock sweet looking sickles and masks. I probably would have fallen victim to buying skins if the option was available. The game’s loot system simply isn’t designed to award all the spoils in the first few weeks, even for those with unlimited funds.

The production value of the story mode has again reached the series’ peak as we’re presented with a bombastic summer blockbuster in video game form. It’s fun, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it’s a perfect introduction to a fighting game that, for me and many others, will undoubtedly have a long tail as it grows and changes through balance patches, hot fixes, and DLC drops.

Existing within Mortal Kombat 11 is a tournament mode containing only the two tournament legal variations of each character. I’m averse to the fact these are not the default character variations available in other modes and I felt like I wasted some time practicing with a version of Noob stigmatized by the idea of imbalance and tournament ineligibility. I’m not exactly attending FGC events and I’m certainly not a pro, but I can’t help but feel like any loadout that deviates from the tournament variations is somehow besmirched.

Up until the most recent update, I had to recreate the tournament variations in Kustomize mode just so they’d be available to practice with. Perhaps the more casual variations are front and center because they’re just more fun to play and the majority of consumers, who will more than likely never even notice tournament mode, prioritize enjoyment over competition. Ultimately, MK 11’s endless and illegal custom loadouts represent a robust evolution of the variation system in MK X, but only where casual exhibition is concerned.

Visuals:
Letting the game run in attract mode certainly does exactly that; attract. Every Mortal Kombat has been markedly more impressive looking that the last and Mortal Kombat 11 is no exception. Brutalities in Mortal Kombat 3 involved beating your opponent until they exploded and one body would somehow litter the arena with ten ribcages. The gratuitous violence remains unchanged but the ridiculous methods of murder now result in accurately depicted cadavers and realistic sinew. After a fatality, the screen often lingers on the most grotesque shot. It’s as sickening as it is awesome.

It’s nothing short of remarkable that Mortal Kombat 11 maintains a smooth sixty frames per second with so much happening on screen. The virtually infinite combinations of skins and gear are rendered with the utmost care and detail. The visual achievements of Mortal Kombat 11 cannot be overstated.

Audio:
I find myself humming the menu music of Mortal Kombat 11 even though it can get annoying after too many loops. Not to be out done by the graphics artists, the sound design team at NetherRealm Studios consistently goes above and beyond to vividly communicate every plop of guts, every broken bone, and every squished eyeball.

Online/Multiplayer:
Following the trend of surpassing all previous iterations in every way, Mortal Kombat 11 features some of the best netcode I’ve experienced in not only fighting games but online gaming in general. The gamut of features available in single player and local modes translates very well to the online environment with an option set to play casually or participate in ranked matches using only tournament variations.

Conclusion:
Every time I boot up Mortal Kombat 11, I get lost down the rabbit hole known as the Towers of Time and hours have passed before I realize it. They are running on staggered schedules and I always feel like there’s a fresh one to complete. I’ll fight a few matches to get a cool skin for Kung Lao or I’ll deal with silly match modifiers to secure a new hat for Raiden. Along the ride, I’ll build up a cache of Koins, Hearts, and Soul Fragments to take with me to The Krypt and unlock chests containing even more in game assets.

I finally understand the draw of looter shooters or in this case, a looter fighter. Awesome gameplay keeps players navigating the loop and periodic loot drops fuel the desire to continue leveling up. Set atop a foundation of masterfully crafted fighting mechanics and impeccable design, there’s always something to chase no matter whether you’re playing online, offline, alone, or with friends.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Emrah Rakiposki

Emrah Rakiposki

– Food
– Video games
– Rap music
It has been my life’s work to properly order the list of this world’s greatest pleasures. There is no right answer.

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