Ghastly Gaming Review: MORTAL KOMBAT 11

I remember my first interaction with the Mortal Kombat series. It was the early 90’s, and I remember walking to my local candy store/arcade a few blocks from my house in my old stomping grounds of Richmond Hill, NY. My initial reaction, and I am sure was for many impressionable teenagers, was that this was an R-rated, no holds barred fighting game that went to the gory and brutal places that Street Fighter II, the premier fighting game up to that point, only dreamed about. If Street Fighter II was a fighting game for people of all ages, Mortal Kombat was meant for the adult crowd or kids who were able to sneak in a few rounds without their parents noticing.  

The first home console version I ended up owning was the original Mortal Kombat for the Sega Genesis, and that was primarily because the Super Nintendo version removed ALL of the gore and blood from the game (since Nintendo was, at the time, super family friendly), while the Genesis version included it via a simple code that you inputted at the menu screen. This game, with its copious gore and viscera, was the primary reason for the creation of the ESRB, the current rating system that games use today. I was similarly smitten with the two sequels that followed soon after, Mortal Kombat II (1993) and Mortal Kombat 3 (1995). Both of those iterations were released in arcades first before getting home console releases later on the same year. However, as home consoles grew closer to arcades in terms of graphics, essentially phasing out the whole arcade experience, the series ended up getting more associated with their home console releases, starting primarily with Mortal Kombat 4 (1997). That, for some reason or another, is when I started to fall off the MK wagon. Perhaps it was the blocky 3D graphics, a general feeling of malaise toward the combat and fighting mechanics, or just I was turned off by the overall direction the games ended up going, but I fell off the series and did so for a long time.

Then Mortal Kombat X came along in 2015, and while I was not even remotely thinking about jumping back into this series at this point, I was drawn back in based on one little thing. They tapped into my horror utopia by adding the iconic Jason Voorhees as a DLC character. My favorite horror movie slasher was being added to the bloodiest and goriest fighting game, and that fucking lured me back in. I am glad I jumped back in, because Mortal Kombat X was a fantastic return to form for the series. Whether it was just a single match, the arcade mode called Towers or the bonkers and insane story mode, I never experienced a dull moment. Now, following on the general positive reception of MK X, we now have Mortal Kombat 11 for the PS4, XB1 and PC, released on April 23rd. This was the first MK that I preordered due to my hype level from the love I had for MK X, and I must tell you all, despite a hiccup here and there in terms of design choices and the annoyance that continues to be microtransactions, if you are a fan of MK X, or of the series in general, MK 11 doesn’t disappoint and is a welcome entry for the series that still knows how to bring out the 12-year old horror gore hound in us all.

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Mortal Kombat is a series known of its rich history of unusual fighters, detail-oriented stages, multiple gameplay modes and a surprisingly cohesive story lore woven throughout (even if the story ends up being a bunch of absurd events one after the other), and MK 11 doesn’t disappoint in this regard. You start off with a healthy roster of fighters of around 20+, which includes series staples Sub-Zero and Scorpion, returning favorites such as Baraka, Kano and Erron Black, as well as newcomers to the fold such as the beefy Geras and the mystical Cetrion. At the time of release, Shao Kahn and Frost were two fighters that had to be unlocked in some manner, whether it be by pre-ordering the game for Kahn or playing through the story mode for Frost (you could also purchase each character for $5.99 if you didn’t want to be hassled with playing the story or missed out on the pre-order). The character roster displays MK’s greatest asset, with the varied fighters having unique fighting styles, combos, special moves and, of course, brutal fatalities. Based on the ones I have seen so far – each character starts off with one fatality unlocked and you discover the other one in the Krypt or just look online – are suitably gross and vicious, displaying the wacky and truly dark humor nature of the series. Each character has a different level of commitment to learn the intricacies of their play style, with Scorpion seemingly the most accessible character to start off with for newcomers to the franchise. The usual suspects of the various game modes that the MK series presents are all present and accounted for, such as basic offline 1v1 fights, online battles, and MK’s version of an arcade mode called Towers. The story mode also makes a triumphant return to MK 11, hot on the heels of the insanity and pure unbridled joy that was presented in MK X and based on what I have played through so far, MK 11 doesn’t disappoint in the least. Great sequences, beautifully horrific graphics and surprisingly engaging lore are littered throughout and doesn’t show any signs of trending down. There is even a moment of two of genuine emotional heft that NetherRealm attempted to deliver, and I personally think they hit the mark quite well. Two additional modes have also returned from previous incarnations, the Krypt and the Towers of Time. Krypt is sort of a 3rd person adventure game, where you explore Shang Tsung’s island fortress and unlock chests with items, concept art, fatalities and other cosmetic rewards via the currency you gain throughout playing MK 11. Towers of Time involves tasks and objectives to complete, some hard and some even borderline impossible, that cycle out weekly and reward the player with currency if they are completed, which keeps things fresh and new for the seasoned MK player.

However, these two modes house the major concern with MK 11. The primary concern is how much currency you get for completing anything in the game AND the insane amount of investment it takes to even unlock chests in the Krypt mode. The items that each chest and box require of you to possess during the Krypt mode is wildly spread all over the place, primarily on the extremely high side. You could play through the entire story mode, multiple towers and tons of offline matches, and still only be able to open a handful of chests. NetherRealm seems to be expecting the player to sink hundreds and hundreds of hours into this game, and that kind of commitment really can’t be expected in this day and age whether the next hot new game comes out almost weekly. NetherRealm is currently selling Time Crystals, one form of currency in MK 11 and used to purchase items at the in-game store, at various denominations and quantity, but I have always been someone who is not exactly in love with buying currency with real cash to unlock items right away. You can’t purchase the other forms of currency such as koins, soul fragments and hearts, which is the main use of currency within the Krypt, and that is really where the issue are lying with the game. At the time of writing, NetherRealm is well aware of the situation and is making changes via soft adjustments to the game to reward the player with more currency for each task completed and reduce the required items to open chests in the Krypt, but it hasn’t been currently implemented. At the moment, it is painfully frustrating to unlock items and puts a slight damper on the all the things right that have been done with MK 11.

At the end of the day, does the micro-transaction nightmare detract from the overall awesome parts of MK 11? It does to some degree, but overall Mortal Kombat 11 is a worthy new entry in the MK canon, delivering the tight fighting mechanics, wealth of various offline and online gameplay modes, bizarre characters to choose from and so much blood and gore that it might offend someone across the street without them even knowing. I am personally happy to welcome MK back in the fold with open arms, but completely understand if the slog nature of unlocking items in the Krypt turns people off. Come for the story mode and the great fighting matches you will have with the CPU and friends alike, and just hold out and see what happens with the Krypt mode. I trust in NetherRealm to make it right, and I think you should too. Finish Him!