Mortal Kombat 11 Review

Richard Walker

How does developer NetherRealm manage to ramp up the gore factor with each Mortal Kombat game? MK X took the flying offal, splintering bones and shattered skulls to never-before-seen levels of stomach churning nastiness, but Mortal Kombat 11 is something else altogether. It's proper grim. While we still have nightmares about a Fatality from the previous game that saw Jax unhinging and ripping open an opponent's jaw to use their head as an ashtray, NetherRealm's latest gets really inventive.

But Mortal Kombat 11 doesn't just feature enough blood to float a cruise ship; it's also quite possibly the best entry in the series to date. NetherRealm's development cycle has become such that each game – new iterations of Injustice and Mortal Kombat every couple of years – feeds off one another, going back and forth, fleshing out new ideas. As such, Mortal Kombat 11 takes Injustice 2's gear system and makes it its own, while building upon what's gone before.

Each and every character has a range of skins and separate parts that can be switched out and experimented with, and as you fight with them equipped, you'll level up and earn the ability to augment each item. There are stacks of different alternate looks too, and although the variety and range of gear doesn't come close to that of Injustice 2, it's still fantastic to see this level of 'Kustomisation' making its way into Mortal Kombat.

Story mode makes a grand comeback too, complete with a brand new villain known as 'Kronika', the Keeper of Time. Kronika has her own motivations in Mortal Kombat 11, her plan to rewind history resurrecting offed characters from the series, creating all manner of weird and wonderful scenarios in which past and present versions of beloved fighters butt heads. NetherRealm remains the best in the business when it comes to fighting game stories, amply demonstrating that you can make a fighting game with a decent narrative.

For MK 11's Story, the developer has really pushed the boat out, with cinematic presentation, realistic digital performances, and an epic, almost knowingly overblown yarn that raises the stakes. It's a great conceit that means old and new characters alike get to rub shoulders, and as such the roster benefits from older and newer (mostly undead revenant) versions of stalwart MK kombatants. Everybody wins. Except for fans who wanted Mileena and Rain. And Reptile. And Ermac. And Quan Chi. And, and, and... You can't please everyone.

It's hard not to be pleased with what's on offer in Mortal Kombat 11, however, Konquest mode providing a one-stop shop for Story, versus battling against a friend or the CPU, and the returning Towers modes (comprising both live and classic Towers to conquer). Add that to all of the usual online stuff and the completely revamped Krypt, and MK 11 is once again a package brimming with meaningful content that you'll want to plunge headfirst in to. Of course, it helps that the meaty fighting mechanics are intuitive and immediate, and that each bout feels like a bone-shattering battle to the death.

Mortal Kombat 11's gameplay and fundamentals will be familiar to anyone who's played Injustice and MK X; the staples all present and correct, albeit with a few fresh mechanics thrown in. Like, for instance, the addition of 'Fatal Blows' that take the place of X-Ray Moves, and effectively serve the same purpose. Both are designed to turn the tide of a fight, but where X-Ray Moves showcased shattered bones and busted-up ribs, Fatal Blows run the whole gory gamut with a lot of impaling, bludgeoning and general blunt force trauma that would kill a mere mortal.

The thing about Mortal Kombat 11 and its ultra-violence is that it's extreme to such a degree that it's comical, almost laugh-out loud funny. Clearly that's the intention, and you can't help but marvel at the level of creativity that's gone into the game's outlandish Fatal Blows and those signature, vomit-inducing Fatalities. New characters inject a little more variety into MK 11 too, Raiden's fellow Elder God Cetrion bringing an arsenal of elemental abilities into the fray and a slightly different, more ethereal look not shared with the other macabre characters.

Other new guy Geras is Kronika's henchman, a nigh-on invincible burly bruiser with time-bendy moves who slots into the roster fairly well alongside the likes of Kotal Kahn, Jax Briggs, and Kano. Kollector, meanwhile, has his own backstory revolving around the struggle between rival would-be rulers Shao Kahn and Kotal Kahn, and his own gangly six-armed fighting style using a lantern, curved daggers and chains. He's a nasty little customer.

Perhaps the biggest and best update to MK 11 is the Krypt. Previously a first-person journey through a series of graveyards and tombs, the Krypt in Mortal Kombat 11 is a full-fledged third-person adventure of sorts, featuring puzzles and Metroidvania-style progression. Conceivably, you could while away hours exploring the entirety of Shang Tsung's labyrinthine island, spending koins, hearts, and soul fragments on unlocking various rewards secreted away in treasure chests, soul cages, and monk corpses.

There's even a bit of story woven into the Krypt, revealing the fate of certain characters like Goro and Ermac, which is a nice touch when you're running around unlocking skins, new moves, concept art and such. When you're not rooting through the Krypt or attempting to foil Kronika's dastardly schemes, you can jump online and test your mettle against other players. Standard Versus and King of the Hill modes are back, while Ranked Matches comprise best-of-3 'Sets' and the Kombat League, due to go live next month.

You can create online rooms or enjoy Private 1v1 bouts, Kustom Lobbies, or just practice, while there's a wealth of couch multiplayer options too, from local Tournaments to straight-up 1-on-1 match-ups. If you do venture online, it's worth noting that Mortal Kombat 11 is an incredibly technical fighting game. Button mashing is pretty much out for this one, making the glut of different tutorials remarkably valuable. There's clearly a reason NetherRealm ramped up the learning tools for MK 11 – there's a lot to understand and master, and you'll need to actually put some time into practicing before pitting yourself against online rivals.

From the basics to more advanced tutorials, you can even get into the nitty-gritty of frame data, defensive and offensive tactics and strategies if you're so inclined. Then there are tutorials for getting to grips with each character and to learn Fatalities: it's comprehensive. Indeed, Mortal Kombat 11 has almost everything you could possibly want from a new MK game, with a varied roster, an array of modes, a stable, well-presented online offering, and a superb story.

You need only look at Mortal Kombat 11 to see that it's a cut above many fighting games currently on the market. Fleshing out what NetherRealm has previously brought to the table, Mortal Kombat 11 not only draws upon the series' legacy in a way that will delight fans, but will also appeal to fighting aficionados of all kinds.


Atmospheric music, excellent voice performances, the sound of splattering blood. It's all here and it's all fabulous.

NetherRealm's best-looking game by a country mile. Backdrops are filled with activity, character models are remarkably detailed, and Story mode is wonderfully cinematic. Awesome.

The barrier to entry in Mortal Kombat 11 can be quite high, and stringing together combos proves tricky at first, even for someone who's played practically every single MK game in the series. Easy to pick up and play, hard to master, putting the time and effort in reaps rewards.

Truly, every base is covered here, from the slew of online options, to the lengthy and entertaining Story mode, Towers, Krypt and more, there's no baulking at what MK 11 has to offer. It's a lot.

There is a smattering of grind in here, but for the most part, MK 11's list has excellent spread and a nice mix of daft and interesting trophies to tackle. A nice, all-encompassing list.

NetherRealm continues to evolve its fighting games with each one it makes, and as such, Mortal Kombat 11 marks the pinnacle of what the studio has achieved to date. A flawless victory, then? So very nearly.

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