Fighting games are like some sort of detox. After playing game after game where I’m living a power fantasy playing a fighting game can be a slap to the face, a reminder that I’m not as good as I think. One on one there are no excuses. Failure needs to be owned. Lessons must be learned. Inventive swear words must fill the air like so many angry, foul-mouthed bees. And my favourite fighting game series in history is Mortal Kombat. I’ve been playing them since Mortal Kombat 2, and now we’re up to the 11th numbered game in the series. For a while things were rough, but then NetherRealm made an epic comeback in 2011. Since then, Mortal Kombat has been better than ever. But Mortal Kombat 11…well, it’s a little trickier.
The Story & Characters
The story mode is lavishly made with detailed cutscenes, awesome fight sequences and even some strong voice acting in places, provided you don’t count the awkwardness that is Ronda Rousey voicing Sonya Blade. We open with Raiden having gone off the deep end. Determined to keep Earth Realm safe he’s now willing to go to any lengths to achieve that. Unhappy with the way things have gone a character by the name of Kronika pops up and starts messing with the timeline. Suddenly earlier versions of the Mortal Kombat cast start popping up. Young, cocky Johnny Cage is interact acting with his older, wiser self. Cassie Cage has to deal with meeting the earlier versions of her parents. It’s prime material for some klassic Mortal Kombat cheesiness.
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Reviewed On: Xbox One X
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Do be warned, though; if you can’t help but nit-pick stories then Mortal Kombat 11 might just drive you crazy. The thing that typically bothered me the most is how both heroes and villains would knock their deadly opponent’s out and then just leave them there. In a game that features incredibly violent killing animations, loads of blood and more violence than an average Saturday night in Glasgow it’s strange that so many lethal threats are left alive.
In short, there are a lot of plot holes involving the time -travelling shenanigans, but the story is surprisingly good fun. The only real complication is that keeping track of the Mortal Kombat timelines requires a college degree. This is the second sequel to the 2011 Mortal Kombat which served as a reboot for the series. Mortal Kombat X bumped the storyline along 25-years, thus introducing characters like Cassie Cage, the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade. Throw in time travel and lots of references to prior games and you’ve got one confusing mixture.
Time travel also gives the developers an excuse to mix up their character roster. Old classics make a most welcome return, such as Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Noob Saibot, Liu Kang and Johnny Cage. Then there are the newer members like Cassie Cage and Erron Black. Finally, there are a selection of characters introduced in Mortal Kombat 11. There’s Geras, the hulking servant of Kronika, and Citrion, the daughter of Kronika who can wield the elements. It’s a good mix of characters, and the roster will only get expanded. But with that said, holding Shao Kahn back as a pre-order bonus was a dick move.
Fighting Mechanics & Changes
Look, I’m no expert at fighting games so this isn’t going to be a review that approaches the combat from a technical perspective. This is just going to be from the view of someone who likes punching virtual opponents in the face. On the surface this is still the typical Mortal Kombat experience where you dial combos and special moves and watch the blood fly. Hits feel impactful, the controls are responsive and the game looks fantastic.
Probably the most obvious change is that running has been ditched entirely, so the intense rushing of Mortal Kombat 10 is thankfully gone. Instead, its back to dashing, though players have already found an insane method using dashing that lets them hop across the screen in seconds. Despite the intense on-screen violence the pace actually feels more thoughtful and methodic.
Then there’s the inclusion of Krushing Blows, painful slow-motion moves that show of your opponent’s bones and organs being decimated. Every character has access to a few of these, but the way they’re triggered varies. Sometimes they need to be used as a counter, for example. Each one can only be used once in a fight, so to get the most out of them you need to vary attacks. I like these, because at first I didn’t even think about them and only occasionally hit one by accident, but over time knowing how and when to use them became more important.
Perhaps the most divisive tweak to the way fights play out are Fatal Blows. When your health is low a quick pull of both triggers activates a Fatal Blow, which is basically a super attack animation complete with spikes going through eyeballs, ice-axes being driven into chests and so much more gloriously over-the-top forms of violence. They’re fun the first time around, but after that the lengthy animations disrupt the flow of a fight and each character only has a single Fatal Blow animation. They can also just feel like a cheap way of balancing out fights, so that someone getting hammered can suddenly pull of an immensely damaging move. However, the wind up for a Fatal Blow does give the opponent a good amount of time to block. Plus, a Fatal Blow can only be used once per fight.
I have to say, though, that Fatal Blows in the story mode are hilarious. In the opening scenes you play as Cassie Cage and must battle her mother Sonya Blade to prove she is capable of leading a squad. Mid-way through the fight I activate Fatal Blow and suddenly loving daughter Cassie Cage proceeds to break Sonya’s jaw, put a bullet through each of her knees and then finish up with several rounds into her gut. Then the match ends and both people act like all they had was a demonstration bout. Only in Mortal Kombat.