Mortal Kombat’s illustrious 27 year history gets a new chapter this year. After the success of 2011’s soft-reboot and its sequel, and long-time developer NetherRealm Studios’ creation of the DC Comics inspired Injustice series, we are back fighting to defend Earthrealm in Mortal Kombat 11.
Back in 2011 when the studio rebooted the classic fighter, they brought with it something no one thought possible. A cinematic story mode. A GOOD cinematic story mode. Imagine that, a series based on beating seven bells out of each other and then ripping their heads off gets a story mode. What was a surprise was just how good it was. Resetting the entire MK canon back to the start and giving all the famous characters, and a few newcomers, the chance to rewrite history. 2015’s Mortal Kombat X upped the ante sending the Earthrealm defenders after an evil eldergod, Shinnok, with the help of a host of new characters who have appeared to take the places of the recently defeated Shao Kahn.
Now, Shinnok’s death has angered Kronika, the goddess of time. Deciding she has sat back and watched long enough, the mother of Shinnok decides that it’s time to intervene and hatches a plan to reset the timeline completely – this time without the power-mad Raiden around to interfere – by merging the past in with the present and forcing her previously defeated allies back into the present to assist. Now it’s up to the remaining Earthrealmers, and their past counterparts in places, to stop Kronika’s plans and restore balance.
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As this trilogy comes to an end, it’s a glorious moment when you realise just how great a story has been woven into this long running beat-em-up franchise. While this last part of the story doesn’t quite hit the constant quality of the second chapter, it does have a few spectacular highs worth warming your fighting thumbs up for. Young and cocky Johnny Cage butting heads with gruff and grown-up Johnny is a moment worth playing over and over again, as is the spectacular bromance between old favourites Scorpion and Sub-Zero. And watching newcomer Kotal Kahn defending his status as honour-bound ruler is one of those cool old-school scenes that gets you rooting for them harder than you expected.
That said… As these things always do, it requires a Deus Ex Machina kind of ending that is slightly dissatisfying – not helped by Mortal Kombat‘s penchant for cheap difficulty spikes come the final fight. It shouldn’t put players off going through the story, it’s only a few hours after all, but maybe expectations should be slightly tempered. It does leave things wide open for the series’ twelfth inevitable instalment. This tale could go absolutely anywhere now.
Elsewhere, Mortal Kombat 11 delivers a fighter experience unparalleled, ever. Everyone loves freezing their opponents and screaming “Get over here!” at the guy on the other side of the screen. But far more focus has been put on bone-crunching close-quarters fighting, allowing for high-speed and high damage combinations to be pulled off with little struggle, leaving players feeling unstoppable at times. It is very easy to forget MK is a “minute to learn, lifetime to master” game at times, and I all too regularly pulled off amazing combos that hit nothing because I was too far away, and by the end of that particular online sparring session I looked a right tit!
Thankfully, Mortal Kombat 11’s tutorial section has had a massive overhaul and is now one of the most comprehensive ways to learn a fighter that there has ever been, teaching players everything from the basics of handing out a beat-down to juggling combos. Whether you’ve never picked up an MK game, or played every single one, there’s something here for everyone. You can even train in those gruesome fatalities for each character; learning to remove body parts in the most disgusting ways possible is oddly satisfying, more so once you get to use them on people. More intimidating is the frame data tutorial. Proof that MK may be taking the crown from Street Fighter as the greatest fighter game series is the addition of a frame-by-frame movement and counter lesson that will scare those not ready for it. But anyone wanting to become a great player should just give it a passing glance.
The returning towers, from the old-school arcade type that would pit you against a handful of fighters to see your characters story ending, to the random and changing challenge towers that range from fun and different to downright infuriating, are a welcome addition.
A roster of old and new characters, a near perfectly realised fight suite, and a fitting end to a brilliantly realised story makes Mortal Kombat 11 the best fighting game ever to grace home consoles and the new high watermark for fighters to come.