Mortal Kombat 11 – Blood and Guts for Two
PC, Switch, Xbox One, PS4
As Mortal Kombat is a one-on-one fighting game, we thought it was appropriate to have two reviewers take on the latest in NetherRealm’s long-running franchise. So we konscripted Matt and Dylan into the area so we could punch some words out of them.
Dylan: My relationship with Mortal Kombat stretches back a good 27 years. I was 12 when the first game came out and I remember vividly riding my bike down to the local video rental store which had an adjunct space replete with around 20 arcade machines – from Golden Axe to King of Fighters to some game about a leaf that was 40c per play. Of kourse, the most popular (and newest) kab was Mortal Kombat, and there’d be a good krowd around it most times, often komprised of older kids who would push you aside and steal your kredits when the owners weren’t watching (Ben, you arsehole!).
What drew me to is was, I must admit, it’s hyper-violence. It was thrilling, as a typical young lad, to see unedited bloodshed – spines ripped from bodies and hearts pulled from chests. Even more thrilling to remember the korrect inputs and pull them off at the required time (remember, this was before the wide blanket of always-available internet, so you’d need to find the moves list in a videogame magazine and write them down).
I stuck with the franchise beyond the arcade, lining up to spend $130 on the SNES version (I sold my trampoline for $80 and made up the rest with pocket money). This version was absolutely shit, with green blood replacing the red klaret of the arcade and most of the gore removed: fatalities edited and background details such as impaled heads on spikes removed kompletely. But the all-important gameplay still beat in that poor version’s muffled heart, and it was exciting to be able to play rounds over and over again without paying a dollar per time – and without Ben and his kronies hovering to bully my two final kredits.
I must admit that my dedication to the series has waned as I’ve grown, but I have a soft spot for the series and after spending some time with the Switch Version of Mortal Kombat 11, I kan safely say that things feel awfully familiar and nostalgic. The speed of the game feels pulled back, almost in line with the first game itself! I’m no fighter expert and tend to struggle to remember a large roster of move lists, but the old thrill definitely returned the first time I performed a fatality in MK11 (admittedly, after looking up the korrect inputs). How about you, Matt, did you also have a local hangout with attendant bullies?
Matt: It was the local fish and chips shop for me, many a time I ordered a dollar less chips so I could have a few turns of MK. As for my history with the franchise, I have followed it closely for its entirety. The good games with the bad. Thankfully the last few have most certainly been on the good side of things and MK 11 seems to kontinue that trend.
I guess for me the thing that has kept me koming back year after year is not the fatalities or the ultra-violence, it is the single player kontent. Unlike just about every other fighter available, MK can be enjoyed by yourself, if fact it is actually encouraged with a whopping amount of activities to take part in. The klassic towers (i.e Arcade mode), towers that spice things up with added challenges and difficulty spikes, the massive krypt full of goodies to unlock and the story mode. I love the stories in these games and 11’s is the best yet. It is b-grade sci/fi told with a triple-A budget. The kind of batshit mental story you used to find in action movies from the ’80s. So much fun and cheese all squashed into a 4-5 hour runtime. Did the story do it for you Dylan?
Dylan: It’s an impressive niche that NetherRealm Studios has karved out for itself, with interesting twists and turns that have even, I hear, resulted in people enjoying the story by itself via streams and YouTube. I should probably talk about the Switch version, though, as it’s all kinds of magic. Sure, the graphics look a bit blurry, but when you’re holding the entire now-gen game in your hands, fighting Sub Zero in 60fps, it’s hard to stress about fidelity. And sure, the sky in the Krypt is just an ugly grey background, but again – there are hours of kontent here just mucking about with hammers and walls and minotaur horns and amulets and such.
My main gripes with the game are threefold: one, the existence of multiple kurrencies, which of kourse you kan purchase with real-world money. These are initially just too konfusing and almost stressful to keep track of, both in terms of how you gain them and what they kan be spent on.
Second, the komplete randomness of unlocks, which means you kan spend a lot of in-game koin before unlocking anything useful for the characters you actually want to use. Frankly, the existence of microtransactions at all in a game puts a sour taste in my mouth and just makes me turn right off bothering to engage with the unlock path itself.
And thirdly, there’s the fact that the game requires you to always be online, which isn’t such an issue for konsoles, but with the Switch it’s a baffling requirement which limits the fun you kan have on the bus/train/plane as all your progress relies on a konnection with the NetherRealm servers.
Matt: Yeah, you hit the nail on the head there. All three of those things are the real negatives for the game and I kan’t help but feel that perhaps Warner Brothers had their say regarding the unlocks and microtransactions. In fact, with the speed at which NetherRealm has been moving to fix things, it makes me feel like they knew the backlash was coming and they were ready for the mea culpa. In fact, as of the time of writing, the prizes for winning matches have been greatly increased, reducing the Krypt grind in the process. There is also the promise of some better balancing in the very near future, so I feel like the Krypt will eventually be less of a boring drudge to unlock the goodies.
Thankfully though, the gameplay is top notch. The addition of multiple meters is a masterstroke, in my opinion, allowing for a much more adaptive fighting system. There is no need to save for the big move, you can blast away with amped supers or combo breakers to your heart’s kontent as they recharge with time now and not with damage caused. The final blow system is a real game changer too, with the ability to unleash a devastating (and eye-watering) move on your opponent once per match. It is a real field leveller and more than once brought me back from the brink.
The netcode is rock solid on the Xbox too. I have heard similar things from PS4 and PC owners too. This is a nice change from the past few releases which went through some online teething problems on launch. How are you finding the actual fisty cuffs Dylan?
Dylan: I must konfess that I’m still getting the hang of things, as I’ve been out of the fighting game, er, game for a few years. I got really put off by Street Fighter IV with its need for perfection and speed with inputs. The speed in MK11 feels great for someone like me, and there are a lot of helpful tutorials and character guides inside the game to help bring you up to speed with where fighting games are at right now. You kan even pause the game and quickly check on the frames per move as all the info is made transparent in MK11’s menus.
The timing of enhanced moves feels generous and I do enjoy that moment of relief when your fatal blow konnects and you kan breathe easy for a few moment, ‘enjoying’ the hyper-violent sequence that follows (how do they even get up from some of those?). I guess you’re right – when it comes to post-release support, there have been a lot of changes already and NetherRealm does seem to be listening very klosely to the community to try and tweak things to be less frustrating. I do like the Krypt, so hopefully, they kan turn that into a more meaningful diversion, because right now it’s hard to know whether or not to spend koins on opening chests as you just don’t know if you will unlock a fatality for your favourite character or some krappy kostume.
I do also want to acknowledge the recent reports of NetherRealm mistreating kontract workers, reportedly demanding krunch through an entrenched work kulture of karrot-dangling full-time positions that never eventuate. We do not kondone krunch in the industry – it is abuse – and we are of the opinion that a good game is worth waiting longer for. It’s even worth not having certain features in a title if it means that workers are not going to get abused in this way. We do hope that, if true, NetherRealm changes its approach to its output. Yes, we are whinging in this review about changes that need to be made, which in turn kontributes to support crunch, but I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say that we kan be patient – no videogame is worth risking the mental and physical health of those making it.
Matt: That is 100% Korrect. Hire more people or take longer to do things. The cycle of krunch needs to stop before the whole industry kollapses as a result.
But moving back to MK11. I think it is safe to say that despite the oddities and niggles associated with the krypt, this is the best MK has ever been. Gameplay is tight, focused and visceral, the story mode is A grade nonsense and the online modes are smooth and jitter free. Give it a month and most of the kinks regarding unlocks should be sorted out making this a must buy game for anyone that enjoys the occasional head being ripped off or spleen being diced into meaty chunks.
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