About the game:
- Developer: NetherRealm Studios
- Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
- Release Date: April 23, 2019
- Price: $59.99
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
The long running video game juggernaut is back! After 4 long years of waiting we finally have the conclusion of this new reboot trilogy that began with 2011’s Mortal Kombat (which the fanbase and collective community refers to as Mortal Kombat 9) and it really does feel like an event. They really went all out with this game in so many areas, and despite all the problems and controversies surrounding the game, they did make a very good product that is easy to recommend to fans and newcomers alike. There is a LOT to unpack here with this game so we’re going to tackle this piece by piece, starting with what is arguably the most important facet of any fighting game; the gameplay!
Or, as Ed Boon and his team would call it, the Kombat!
Honestly, the actual fighting mechanics have seen by far the most drastic changes and improvements out of any other part of the game. Most notably, the changes they made to meter. In Mortal Kombat 9 and Mortal Kombat X you had one bar of meter segmented into thirds and that was the resource you pulled from to amplify your offensive moves, as well as do other things like combo breakers or of course the X-Ray special moves. However, in Mortal Kombat 11, you have two bars. One for defensive moves, the other for offensive moves. These two bars are also only segmented into halves, instead of thirds. Because of this, with a full bar you can only amplify a move twice in a row instead of three times like in the other games. The bars recharge really fast so it’s barely even noticeable, and this game really likes throwing tons of bar at your so it really is in your best interest to use your meter instead of hanging on to it the entire match. The defensive meter bar is used for things like combo breaks, stage items, and certain special moves. Managing your meter usage is definitely still very important, but since you get so much meter in this game compared to the others it definitely encourages you to use it.
You may notice that I didn’t mention X-Ray moves in the part about offensive bar, and that’s because they have also been changed. First of all, they got a name change and are now referred to as fatal blows. Instead of being meter dependent, they are health dependent. They become available when you are near death and can only be used once per match. They’re as visceral and violent as ever before, even better than some of the fatalities in my opinion and the fact that you can only use them once per match helps keep them from being spammed over and over again. It forces you to use them more strategically. In some instances, you may not want to use the fatal blow in the first round, in order to save it for that second round instead. Small decisions like that really can make or break a game for you.
Overall, the gameplay has been slowed down and made a bit more methodical with a big emphasis on footsies and whiff punishes. In case you don’t know a lot about fighting games, footsies is basically your movement and positioning and whiff punishing is hitting your opponent with a move of your own after they miss with their own attack. Overall I really like this new approach to Mortal Kombat’s gameplay. It may have de-emphasized the combo game to a degree, but I think that overall this leads to a much fairer and more balanced game the way it’s set up now (even if my main, Kitana is low tier).
One place Kitana is NOT low tier however, is the story. NetherRealm is known for their story modes, and this game is no different. It picks up right where Mortal Kombat X ended, with Dark Raiden gearing up to take out Emperor and Empress Liu Kang and Kitana. However, before any real damage can be done, a new entity known as Kronika shows up to make a mess of the timeline. She ends up bringing in past versions of all the heroes and villains to meet up with their future versions, and a lot of the humor and conflicts comes from these different versions of the cast meeting each other. It leads to some pretty interesting situations, such as Lui Kang and Kitana fighting under Raiden, while their future selves fight for Kronika for example. Of course, the best example of this is Johnny Cage. The future and past Cage’s interactions are easily the best in the game. In fact the entire Cage trio has a ton of good interactions in this game. Plenty of references, jokes, and plot significance.
I won’t spoil the story here, but it’s action packed, very cinematic, well acted (with two notable exceptions that we’ll talk about later) and for the most part well written. The only problem I really had with the story is the ending. It just kind of feels shallow, and undoes some of the good things about this reboot trilogy. Even if it is nice getting to see my main girl Kitana get some more time to shine. However, this leads us into some less than stellar aspects of the game. Let’s take a brief moment to take address some of the controversy surrounding this game.
So the first one is their choice of actors. Scorpion was recast, which isn’t too big of a deal. The new actor gives a good performance, and while the old actor will be missed, the new one does a good enough job to excuse the change. However, Jax and Sonya…not so much. Sonya is played by Ronda Rousey, and on paper this sounds like a good idea. Get a big name in the studio to do motion capture and generate some buzz around the game. The problem is that they didn’t stop there, and they had Ronda actually voice the character as well. They could have paid an actual voice actor to do the lines, but they would have rather had a MMA star with zero voice acting training or experience voice one of the most important characters in the story. It leads to some stiff acting to say the least.
Another controversy surrounded the Krypt. At launch the game was quite grindy, and was very stingy with it’s currencies. On top of that, earning those currencies was very hard as the difficulty of the towers was artificially inflated with absurd battle conditions. Most of this has been remedied with patches, but the Krypt is still designed to be a time sink and unlike previous games, items in the Krypt are unlocked randomly (with the exception of certain special crates that have the same items in them for everyone).
However, even with those controversies, the game is very good. It’s easy to overlook those things when you’re having so much fun with the actual game! The online is super smooth, perhaps the smoothest I’ve ever played. The tutorial is easily one of the best and most comprehensive ever made, the roster is all fun and varied, and the visuals are stunning. Honestly these are some of the best character models I’ve ever seen in a 3D modeled fighting game like this. The stages are all also quite beautiful and diverse with plenty of unique gameplay opportunities in each of them as well and of course the series staple Fatalities and brutalities are as brutal and graphic as ever. Every Mortal Kombat game has that one fatality that really gets under your skin and for me in this game that is easily Noob Saibot’s “double trouble” fatality.
If you’re new to the series, this a great spot to jump in and if you’re a series veteran, I believe you will have tons of fun with this game. There are some speed bumps along the way that prevent this game from being truly amazing, but for what it is I am thoroughly enjoying my time with it.