Mortal Kombat has always been a violent video game that even started the debate around games causing violence. It was still one of the best fighting game series of its time that continued to sell really well. NetherRealm Studios is the most consistent game developer when it comes to developing Mortal Kombat fighting games and has maintained a level of quality unprecedented in the industry. It reflects in their latest effort in Mortal Kombat 11, albeit some of its impressive productions values are held back due to a flawed progression system.
The fighting mechanics of Mortal Kombat series keep revamping after every entry. In the start, they looked a bit janky next to some of the Japanese fighting games like Street Fighter as the animation was not up to the mark, but over time, they are slowly catching up and with Mortal Kombat 11, I feel like it challenges some of the top fighting games in term of game mechanics and depth of its fighting system. On the surface, it looks like an easy to understand gameplay system but underneath the easy combat is some complex fighting game mechanics.
The good thing about Mortal Kombat 11 is that it offers a very detailed tutorial that explains every concept of its gameplay. The easiest special moves that you can execute in the game are the Fatal Blows that just need you to press both the trigger buttons when your health is in critical stage, but most of the rest are quite easy to master. The tutorial explains the basics of fatal blows, even diving into move canceling and combo system, which is crucial to master any fighting game.
The tutorial starts by explaining some of the most basic concepts like controlling your characters but slowly dips into the complex topics. It is not just a simple tutorial but the developers have taken extra care to develop systems along with it that help you nail down the timing of combos, and if you make a mistake, it is given a highlight in easy to understand language so you can figure out most of the complex inputs. I have seen similar impressive fighting game tutorials in most of the Japanese fighting games but this is the first time a Western fighting game has focused on creating one from scratch.
The story mode of Mortal Kombat 11 doesn’t reach the height of Mortal Kombat 9, but it feels like a better successor to Mortal Kombat X. It is a direct continuation of the events from Mortal Kombat X and there is no refresher provided in the beginning, so newcomers might have some issue understanding the crux of the story, but once the story kicks in, it is a repeat of familiar faces into new events that deal with time travel shenanigans amidst a crisis that threatens end of the world.
The story picks off from the events in Mortal Kombat X. Raiden is now corrupted with power and plans to destroy all the enemies of the Earthrealm. Raiden ends up decapitating Shinnok in an attempt to crush him but this forces the hands of Kronika, the keeper of time. She tries to stop Raiden’s plan by rewriting history so the events leading to Mortal Kombat 11 never happened. The time travel concept is not new to Mortal Kombat series but now used in a great way to tell a story that spans across different generations so you will meet the same heroes but with a young and old version of them fighting along with each other. This does make for plenty of interesting encounters in the story, which is not that long but offers a perfect length without any artificial padding.
NetherRealm Studios has masterfully crafted every gameplay mode in Mortal Kombat 11, from the story mode that offers extremely high-quality cutscenes, often giving the impressions of a full pre-rendered movie, to the single-player gameplay modes that are chock full of content. The issue here is that a lot of the unlockable content, particularly in the Krypt that makes a return here in a rather ambitious form, feels locked behind an economy that feels broken now. As a result, it will force you to grind to unlock this in-game content and there are further barriers placed to artificially extend the length of this grind, which is just not good game design.
When Mortal Kombat 11 launched, the rewards offered by completing the single-player content like the Klassic Towers were simply not enough. You need more coins to unlock chests in the Krypt and this meant you had to play more of the Klassic Towers. Towers of Time offered challenging battles but the game balance felt broken with some unfair difficulty imposed on some of these battles. These issues feel somewhat fixed now with an update that just launched yesterday, but it still needs some testing done. We didn’t have the time to check the update thoroughly, but we did notice an improvement in the rewards offered for completing the single-player content.
Mortal Kombat 11 is visually beautiful and offers cutting-edge visuals. It looks like a blast to play on the PS4 Pro with a silky smooth frame rate, high response rate, and excellent controls. The fighting system appears balanced well and it is not that hard to master a character thanks to the tutorials. It is a shame that the launch of the game suffered some controversy due to the complaints of grind, but it is good to see that NetherRealm Studios is listening to the fans and are trying to resolve any issues in the game as soon as they can, which is clear with the first major update.
Mortal Kombat 11 Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Mortal Kombat is back and better than ever in the next evolution of the iconic franchise.
Final Score - 9/10
Mortal Kombat 11 feels like a highly polished fighting game with a great story campaign. There are certain issues with the game balance and economy that make it somewhat less appealing, but the developers so far have been quite vocal and open about resolving it, which is encouraging and shows a promising future. Given some time, this could be an easy contender for the best Mortal Kombat released so far.