Mortal Kombat 11 Review: A Violent Fighting Game from NetherRealm
After four years of work, finally, Netherrealm Studios returns to wave its most iconic flag, that of the dragon, and trust us: this time they have spared no expense. Warner Bros. Games must have left the taps deliberately open, because the production value of Mortal Kombat 11 has never reached these levels, whether we are talking about the story mode (far superior to the standards of the past), the new game mechanics and even the ‘endgame.
Everything has been enhanced, refined, rethought, including a technical department that, despite still being tied to the old Unreal Engine 3, leaves you literally breathless. Even the netcode, which has always been a cause of great concern for the community, this time seems free of lag and therefore impeccable on the stability front, and if it keeps its promises it could even win the record. In short, Mortal Kombat 11 is like a huge theme park, an altar dedicated to ultra-violence and western exaggeration, so overflowing with things to do, that you would never want to leave.
When you have twenty-five characters on your hands, coming from the roaring 90s, telling a story is not easy at all. If it is a beat ’em up it is even worse, especially if the exaggeration is your motto, yet the development team has reached heights that almost cross the genre, creating a concise and infinitely deeper campaign than the previous one, masterfully directed like a Hollywood Kolossal.
This is the point: you don’t have to expect the curtain-raiser, or authorial originality, because the plot remains simple and faithful to the b-movie lineup, but the way it is told is certainly considered to go in the Oscar (and the comparison is not just random). The pretext, in fact, is more or less the same as always, partly seen in the previous chapters and also in Injustice in other disguises. There’s a new villain in the city, it’s called Kronika and despite the likeness of Shao Kahn, she’s not very friendly. She is able to manipulate time and wants to distort the temporal continuum at all costs, and obviously, the earth goes, Lord Raiden and also his bunch of heroes that we have known for almost thirty years.
The war for the salvation of the planet will inevitably follow, made of epic, pitched battles and numerous things coming from different timelines of the narrative universe of Mortal Kombat 11. However, in the meantime, our beloved heroes have grown up, and however recognizable their personalities still they have something new, mature, which suggests a certain psychological evolution. In fact, this is one of the great merits of production, namely that of having given greater thickness to most of the protagonists, and in some moments, this makes the difference.
Sonya and Johnny are a family now, and their dialogues take it into account, and the same goes for Jacqui and Jax, Sub-Zero and even Raiden who, for the first time in the series, despite the immortality of his divine form, feels the weight of his actions. The dialogues are simple, yet punctuated by American-style jokes, but it is impossible not to notice a significant improvement in the overall writing, which knows how to take its time to tell that apparently insignificant detail, which however turns out to be effective and well-chosen. There is still room for some screenplay holes and some lightness to the limit (however much less than what was seen in MKX), yet as the adventure continues, important themes emerge such as personal desire and ambition, remorse from the past and so on. There are some essential traces, of course, but if they are compared to the characters of Mortal Kombat they all decline into something particular, which keeps the grip on the player until the end of the story, with some rare exceptions.
If you love the brand, however, it is clear that you are not only looking for Scorpion’s psychoanalytic session, and in fact, the highlight of the new story mode is once again the spectacle, which reaches peaks never seen before. The first five minutes are enough to notice the enormous work carried out on the front of the direction, certainly more decisive and complex, but also of photography, which appears far more variegated and extremely dynamic. All this goes hand-in-hand with a very long series of amazing choreographies, even on a very large scale, wisely and always very tense in editing, alternating with more relaxed moments, plus some nice sketches that never hurt. The beauty is that all this alternates with the fighting in a way that is almost imperceptible, also thanks to the enormous work of equalization between the renderings and the game graphics, rich in details and very high quality cinema filters. The new story mode is, therefore, a huge step forward for Netherrealm, perhaps still not entirely free from ingenuity or slips, but it is undoubtedly a great strength, which will keep you glued to the pad for at least 6-8 hours.
The freedom that was not there
Renovating is an obligation for fighting games, even at the cost of simplifying the dynamics of Mortal Kombat 11 a bit that often ends up losing a few pieces here and there. Fortunately, this is not the case with Mortal Kombat 11, which despite presenting a large number of changes, novelties and rewrites, manages to maintain the balance between the Klassic, shifting the weights and measures, but not the depth of the gameplay. Thanks to a long communication campaign, most of the changes were already known before the beta arrived, and during the review, we could confirm its effectiveness. The fighting styles have not undergone changes of any kind, but it is no mystery that the combos are slightly shorter than in the past, perhaps to ensure greater accessibility and to conform to the new ecosystem.
Here there would be a lot to say, starting from the absence of the race, which unlike the forecasts does not slow down the action at all, because to counterbalance the general speed of the characters, the movesets have been significantly increased. The joint is perfect, because it “forces” the players to better exploit the abilities of their combatant, reduces the aggressive approach and at the same time increases the quantity of strategy that regulates the match, also thanks to the perfect parade, which in turn generates an invaluable reaction window: another tool for players who prefer a defensive approach.
The partial rewriting of the bar system, which now no longer provides for the sharing between attack and defense, has proved to be equally successful. Each resource will have its own separate indicator, which is no longer even tied to the obligation to inflict or suffer damage but reloads automatically over time. Ergo, greater freedom of choice, and therefore, more tactical.
The same principle also applies to the so-called Fatal Blow (Ex X-Ray), which can be activated free of charge once per round, as soon as health falls below 30%. This involves a revaluation of the practice, which finally becomes more useful, even with more experienced players. In the old system present in Mortal Kombat X, in fact, the latter often remained unused because they were too risky to send, and many preferred the strengthening of special attacks or combos (still present and very useful).
The most important introduction, in any case, remains that of the Crushing Blows, or an attack strengthened with a lot of short cut-scenes, which, however, to be activated, requires the performance of some actions during the match, specific for each combatant. Basically, you get an increase in damage, sometimes even enormous, but the point is that despite the variety (each character has more than one), they are all extremely balanced and fit together perfectly with the roster. A more powerful Crushing Blow requires a more complex move and therefore risky requirements, which can correspond, for example, also to the execution of different moves or articulated during the span of a match. Again, this is a further choice put into the hands of the player, an important resource on which to eventually base a strategy. The beauty is that, indirectly, the dynamic of the Crushing Blow invites the players to better know and study the roster, stimulating them to learn advanced techniques, as well as a greater awareness of the game, and in addition they are spectacular to see, and who knows what does not tease the interest of even the most casual players. However, moving from the micro to the macro, it must be said that this time the roster seems well calibrated and it did not seem to us to feel particular differences in level between the individual, if not the usual step that has always affected the difficulty of access; in this reasoning we also include newcomers, and although Cetrion leaves us quite indifferent on all fronts, we really appreciated The Kollector, both for the particular moveset and for the very successful design. The judgment here can only be positive, since the solidity of the gameplay (at the launch) is undoubtedly the best we can remember; of course, to be honest we are a bit sorry for some great absentees, such as Reptile, Ermac or Kenshi, but also Sektor and Cyrax, who perhaps would have ensured a further variety to the dough, but something tells us that we will see them soon, maybe already with the next Kombat Pack.
Tales from the Krypt
As for the range of modes, Mortal Kombat 11 is well stocked and full of contents, but does not add big news. Waiting for you next to the Story Mode we will find as always the tutorial mode (finally expanded and more educational than ever) and finally the inevitable Towers, which are divided into Classic, like an arcade (with a lot of final), and also those timed, which allow you to play different challenges even in the company of friends. There is not much to say in this case, except that the general difficulty has become more difficult, and the bosses appear more demanding than ever. In short, this time the main attraction is elsewhere, that is, on the island of Shan Tsung, a theater of the first unforgettable Mortal Kombat. We are obviously talking about Krypt, which over the years has become increasingly interesting and articulated, but all in all, it has always had an accessory role, intended primarily for unlocking the accessories. The situation here changes drastically, also becoming rather controversial, because while on the one hand, the new form of the mode is a dream that is realized, on the other it gives rise to a series of not so insignificant problems.
The Krypt is no longer just a bare cemetery with some quick time events and a couple of riddles, now it is a much more extensive map that can be explored freely in the third person, plus it is full of quotes and various goodies, and we are certain that the lovers of Mortal Kombat will fall in love – rightly – in an instant. The puzzles are better, the attention to detail is impressive and there are so many things to do that you end up getting lost. And the point is just that, because first of all the loot is randomly arranged (exactly, no more guides and coordinates!), and the collectibles are so many that even once the exploration is over we won’t have taken all the objects, because there are special devices to “refresh” the treasures.
There are even recipes and resources to be used in a forge to create other materials and so on, but the fact is that the prices are really too high, to the point that they end up, as the compensation of PvE activities is not at all proportionate to the effort and time invested.
Frustration comes a few hours later when we realize that some objects necessary to continue are found outside the Krypt, perhaps in an extremely difficult tower to complete, especially without the consumable of which we spoke before. In addition, it is dispersive, because in the speakers we will also find the upgrades for the characters, but being randomly placed we can really put a life before finding the ones we want. To overcome this you can always resort to the paid market, only a pity that in the review phase it was still armored, therefore we have no idea how much the tokens will cost, a currency of exchange fundamental for the equation.
We really like the idea, because it potentially greatly lengthens the stay in the game, but if it is structured, it risks damaging the experience, and in our opinion, it would need a new price control as soon as possible. Attention: it is good to specify that this is not Pay-to-win, since in the Krypt mainly cosmetic objects are obtained such as skins (present here in incalculable quantities), but it is also true that the system directly affects the customization, weapon enhancement and PvE in general.
We do not want in any way to encourage this kind of attitude towards users, which we already know are not conducive to similar practices, therefore a choice of this kind will have its weight in the overall review budget, but on the other hand, we cannot even pretend that everything else does not exist. Mortal Kombat 11 is first and foremost a fighting game, and as such its supporting core is not affected in any way by these dynamics; unfortunately the bitterness remains, for what could have been a masterpiece of its kind.
Mortal Kombat 11 returns after four years of absence, flooding our screens with an incalculable amount of blood and ultra-violence. The eleventh chapter of the saga signed by Netherrealm and published by Warner Bros. Games is a concentration of new mechanics and classic elements, masterfully united under the sign of an above-average production. The new Story mode was already the best that could be found in a fighting game, and with this incarnation, it surpasses even the limits of genre, thanks above all to an Oscar cinematographic technique and to a technical sector that is very accurate in every detail. Netcode and gameplay, after all, seem very solid, and every single intervention has contributed to improving the formula, making it slimmer, without losing a single centimeter in terms of depth.