Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
The Mortal Kombat series continues its streak of being the most narratively convoluted – as well as most violent – fighting game on the stands with this eleventh chapter, picking up the battle for Earthrealm from the events of Mortal Kombat X. With lightning-fuelled elder god Raiden corrupted and classic heroes Liu Kang and Kitana fallen to darkness, matters get even more complicated when Kronika, keeper of time, brings past versions of characters to the present.
While the temporal shenanigans see Kronika stepping into the role of new big bad, and the displaced heroes and villains working to avert or secure their futures, it also proves one of the series’ best story kampaigns, with surprisingly affecting character moments between the two generations of kombatants, bolstered by exceptional quality cutscenes. While it’s mostly a linear progression through a dozen chapters, each containing several fights, there are a few branching moments that warrant chapter replays to see every facet of the tale.
The scenario also allows for one of the biggest rosters in any Mortal Kombat title to date. With 24 characters at launch (including the unlockable Frost; 25 if you grab Shao Kahn via DLC) there’s plenty of variety in fighters, although as ever the mortal characters – such as Johnny Cage or Jacqui Briggs – tend to feel underpowered when faced with ice ninjas and thunder gods.
A more rounded fighter than the series has ever been.
Narrative complexity can’t override the simple fact that this is a Mortal Kombat game though, which means one thing – extreme, brutal combat. Familiar tricks from recent entries make their return here, with X-ray blows showing skull-shattering damage, and environmental interactions allowing you to skewer enemies’ heads on stalagmites or toss burning embers over them.
The B-movie gorefest is elevated here though, with the addition of Fatal Blows – essentially a mid-battle take on the series’ familiar Fatalities, delivering massive damage to opponents but only executable when your own health is down to 30 percent. They’re stylish moves, and often far more gruesome than battle-ending Fatalities themselves, but the game jumps to jarringly different mini-cutscenes for them, breaking the flow of fights. Still, it’s a useful addition for turning the tide on a brawl that isn’t going in your favour.
Other kombat tweaks include separating out the offensive and defensive gauges, each now used to amplify attacks or interact with environmental hazards, and a vastly improved tutorial to get you to grips with the game’s impressively nuanced systems. Mortal Kombat 11 feels like a more rounded fighter than the series has ever been.
The game’s biggest time sink – for better or worse – may be the Krypt mode though, where you explore Shang Tsung’s island and harvest loot from treasure chests. While it’s a great little exploratory experience in its own right, mapping out the island and finding bits of lore drawn from the series’ history, it also rewards you with tonnes of unlockable items for the game’s ‘Kustomisation’ mode. That’s the “better” – the “worse” is that it’s a total grind.
Some chests cost Koins to open, others Soul Fragments, others still use hearts. However, the contents of any chest are randomised – including some items you need to open up new areas of the Krypt. It’s entirely possible to hit a brick wall and be unable to explore further if you’ve run out of kurrency to open more chests, leaving you to have to go through a bunch of brawls to earn more of what you need to proceed. Even then, it’s still a gamble as to whether a chest will give up what you want or need. It’s a frustrating and arbitrary block in what is otherwise a great mode, and the amount of grinding lets down an otherwise excellent addition to the series.