Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
Genre: NetherRealm-branded 2D fighting with ninjas

Right from the game’s launch trailer (which came out days before its 23 April release date), developer Netherrealm Studios are doing a throwback with their latest Mortal Kombat. Combining the new from MKX and the old from MK9, Mortal Kombat 11 ends up being a hodge-podge of awesome fighting coupled with some new-age problems that thankfully isn’t going to sour the entire experience.

I’ll break it down to 11 reasons why because numbers.

#1. LOVE: The meaty single-player experience.

You can’t just release a barebones fighting game without mandated features like a story mode and some unlocking shenanigans; remember when Street Fighter V came out as a paid beta a few years back? MK11 comes with a bevvy of options for practicing, playing, and multiplayer.

Want to just learn the ins and outs? Play the game’s in-depth and super-detailed tutorial featuring basic and advanced mechanics to character trials and tutorials. Just want to find out what happened after Mortal Kombat X? Play the story mode which should last you a good 4 to 5 hours.

Want to just unlock stuff in the game’s Krypt? Play through the Tower of Time and Klassic Tower to net you koins for unlocks and character endings. I have issues with the unlocking that I’ll get to later, but at least you’ll get your triple-A money’s worth with most of MK11.

#2. LOVE: The revised fighting.

The fact that the game switches to more footsie-oriented gameplay mean that players can’t rely too much on combos that can take half you lifebar away like in past MK titles from NetherRealm. I talked about this bit in detail in my previous write-up and my stance is still the same: this focus on neutral and old-school fighter gameplay is sorely needed.

The meter management and defensive options too help keep the fights a lot more than just combo-juggling mayhem matches. Not to say that it isn’t fun, but MK really needs to be more than just a slight upgrade from MKX.

Plus, it’s fun to watch on an esports level to see players outguess the other with solid fundamental play & tactics.

#3. HATE: “Janky” MK controls.

I’ll have to harp on the game’s controls: unless you came straight from a 3D fighting background, MK’s controls are not like Street Fighter/Japanese-made 2D fighting game controls. The “rustiness” and “awkward” feel when inputting moves will take some time getting used to, especially if you can’t pull off some simple special moves even after turning off Negative Edge and other control options.

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#4. LOVE: The gritty/colourful aesthetic balances.

While MKX was gritty and “realistic”, I do miss the saturation and wacky art sense from past titles. Good thing NetherRealm decided to blend the two to create what could be the series’ finest-looking coat of paint to date.

From ruined landscapes like the deserted Shaolin Temple to the Black Dragon Nightclub, every locale exuberates an outlandish, alien, and unique aura that preserves the series’ fantastical over-the-top tone. The character designs still impress; I love the fact that you can customize and switch between classic and new-school Sub-Zero and Scorpion.

Regarding the series’ Fatality finishers, they manage to hit that sweet spot between “bloody” and “absurdly hilarious”. If you’re still scarred by MKX’s snuff film torture porn kills, MK11’s finishers are the antidote.

#5. LOVE: The roster’s new zoning additions.

As someone who likes his keepaway and footsie games kept dirty, I approve of characters like The Kollector, Cetrion, and MK9’s Noob Saibot. Regardless of their variations, they have a ton of ranged and poking tools that can keep enemies away and possibly rage-quit.

#6. LOVE: The rest of the cast’s diversity.

I don’t mean the female outfits, though they’re fine. Every character’s play style feels balanced for all kinds of players. If you don’t like zoning characters, go for up-close savvy folks like Sonya Blade, Jax, and new hard hitter Geras. Want to lay down traps and make opponents come to you? Erron’s revamped fighting style lets you do just that. Need to play as someone a little more esoteric? Frost’s mix of head-popping moves and blade-spinning robot tricks can hook you up.

The best fighting game framework lets you play whoever you want regardless of cast size. While not as huge as past games, MK11’s roster makes it up with quality and variation updates. Oh and it’s really fun to customize your chosen guy/gal with the items and equipment you get ala Injustice 2.

#7. LOVE: The story mode fanservice.

There is a lot to love about NetherRealm’s latest single-player offering. The game starts off with Dark Raiden storming the in-game NetherRealm ruled by zombie Liu Kang and Kitana. After that botched siege, a time-warping Elder God named Kronika enters the fray to gather enough power to erase and start time over.

The heroes will have none of that; luckily they’re assisted by the younger versions of the cast like Jax and the OG a-hole Johnny Cage. Yes, they’ll be short moments like future Johnny working with young Johnny, and young Jax working with his daughter Jacqui. True, fighting game stories aren’t exactly known to be deep and logical, but it sure as hell entertains to a degree.

Fans will definitely get a treat seeing some characters making a comeback, while newbies can just relish in the insanity that follows.

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#8. HATE: The story mode’s resolution.

Without giving anything away, let’s just say it ends on an ambiguous note. Also, you get a “special” character to use in the story but it’s a cosmetically-different version of an existing fighter. It’s still leagues better than whatever story mode Capcom and Bandai Namco can craft up for their respective fighting games.

#9. HATE – The grinding.

Time hasn’t been kind to the current way of playing games. Every title nowadays from your online loot-and-shoot titles requires you to stay online, grind for in-game currency tirelessly on the same missions, and tests your patience with its stingy loot drops.

Enter MK11’s new Krypt, where you have to stay online, spend thousands of koins to unlock chests and items without any clue on what you’re getting, and then tirelessly play through the Towers of Time (random series of fights with random properties/obstacles; like Injustice’s missions) crafting arbitrary objects to unlock more things. It’s the worst kind of time-waster; the kind that doesn’t seem to give the same kind of returns for your patience.

#10. HATE – The arbitrary difficulty that comes with said grinding.

The Towers of Time can really put the beatdown on you if you don’t use Konsumables (which are limited FYI). While the enemy AI isn’t a cheat, it’s the handicapping that will break your spirit. There will be challenges where you fight a Kano who can call in unblockable airstrikes every 4 seconds while your attacks can only do half damage. Also, the missiles can either deal 10 percent damage to your health or reverse your controls. Talk about being incredibly unfair and time-wasting.

#9 and #10’s problems are a clear case of producers and publishers trying to stick mobile game-style grinding on a fully-paid title with upcoming DLC. It doesn’t work and it serves to turn many MK fans off especially when all they want to do is just play through the game without any of this extra bull.

#11. (???) – The online mode.

Okay, I lied. I only have 10 points worth contesting to justify this game’s awesomeness. I can’t play online yet since it’s not even out for public consumption. Give me a few days and I’ll get back to you on this; perhaps my score may be adjusted if the online is not as hot as it should be.

Is Mortal Kombat 11 a true comeback for fans and new players? Possibly so. Is it the perfect one that eclipses Mortal Kombat 9’s debut? No, it’s not, but at least fans will get a deserving helping of over-the-top violence and fun fighting. Sometimes, that’s more than enough to maintain your place in the Western fighting game battlegrounds.

Pros

– Lovely aesthetics.
– Refined Mortal Kombat fighting mechanics focused on footsie/neutral play.
– Meaty tutorial to teach you fighting game ins and outs.
– Fun single-player modes (to a point).
– Customization options are immersive.

Cons

– Mobile game-levels of unnecessary grinding.
– Towers Of Time’s arbitrary difficulty spikes.
– Will not convert fighting game fans stuck to Japanese-made titles.

FINAL SCORE: 80/100

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