Reviewed on Xbox One X
Since the series first upset parents and politicians back in the nineties, Mortal Kombat has always been a franchise that grew from excess. Excessive violence pillared the series’ original release and has ever since, but the truly excessive aspect of modern Mortal Kombat has always been its excessive amounts of content.
Ever since the PS2 era, which saw Midway chuck literally everything they could into a Mortal Kombat mixing pot, each new game in the iconic series has been designed to last. With extra modes like Puzzle Kombat in Deception or Motor Kombat in Armageddon, MK is a franchise that will always make sure you can justify your purchase. Mortal Kombat 11 doesn’t delve back into the draw-from-a-hat style modes of the PS2-era predecessors, but it does include a staggering amount of content (or kontent) for players to sink their teeth into.
Most impressive is the game’s cinematic story mode, a series staple since the start of PS2. Those who have played any of developer NetherRealm Studios’ games will find that MK11 doesn’t deviate even slightly from the formula already set. Chapter-by-chapter, you’ll be placed in the shoes of a different character (or pair) as they fight a series of enemies linked together by narrative. This has always been the draw of NetherRealm’s games, alongside their fantastic fighting engine, and this time they’ve really outdone themselves.
Mortal Kombat 11’s narrative may not be as long as 9’s or feature QTE interactions like X’s, but out of all of the MK story modes, it feels the most polished. Taking place after the events of X, we’re introduced to a brand-new villain in the Kombat mythos—Kronika. Not just the first female villain in the entire franchise, Kronika is a time-manipulating badass who has had more of an influence over prior events than you’d suspect.
The gist of the story is that Raiden’s constant meddling with time has caused everything to become unbalanced and wrong. As the keeper of time, Kronika wants to return everything to her perfect timeline and perform a complete timeline reset. For reasons not quite explained, this also causes the classic (or klassic) iterations of characters to come forward from the nineties and interact with the present.
This leads to a lot of interesting interactions, especially with the opponent-specific snarky comments that prelude each fight. Nineties Johnny Cage and modern-dad Johnny Cage can’t seem to get along. Modern Scorpion, who is now friends with Sub-Zero, is seen as a traitor by his younger self. Characters that are dead in the present learn of their demise with Kung Lao and Liu Kang not knowing whether or not to trust their master Raiden after this revelation.
With time travel shenanigans like this, there’s a lot of humour and corniness within the main campaign of MK11. It’s a story that leans very heavily on the lore of the franchise and it’s one that attempts to explain retcons and missteps with a very thorough explanation. It’s an incredibly enjoyable narrative for fans of the franchise. A healthy dose of humour, gore, and action set pieces also make Mortal Kombat 11 one of the best modern martial arts movies in existence, especially near the end of its tale.
Outside of the main story, the collection of extra modes chucked in for good measure will undoubtedly keep you busy for a long time. Multiplayer, both local and online, are here in full form and they’re better than ever. In my testing with the game’s few multiplayer diversions, net code is remarkably solid—even moreso than Injustice 2. Whether you’re playing Kasual or Ranked 1v1s or King of the Hill, technical hiccups are few and far between if your opponent has a decent connection. However, fair warning: launch week may be a different experience entirely.
Klassic Towers and Endless Towers both return alongside a reiterated version of Injustice 2’s Multiverse mode in the form of Towers of Time. While Klassic Towers see you climb a ladder of fights to see a character’s ending, Towers of Time instead uses in-game loot as your reward. Each series of towers has specific enemies with added buffs such as setting you on fire if you get too close. By beating the tower, you’ll be rewarded with customisable outfit parts for your character.
Underwhelmingly, Mortal Kombat’s Towers of Time do not feel anywhere near as satisfying as their Injustice 2 counterpart, which utterly pains me to say. Whereas Injustice’s fights felt like balanced and thought-out challenges with each side of the fight getting pre-planned buffs and debuffs each, MK11 only plans what your opponent will be using against you. Instead, you’ll be using in-game Konsumables, which you earn through chests that are unlocked in this game’s absolutely brilliant version of The Krypt with in-game gold.
Each fight allows you to choose the Konsumables you’re able to use, but a lot of this is trial and error. One Tower tasked me with defeating three characters in a single life, but each character had a different buff once they reached half-health. Jax had rockets firing from the sky, Sonya had spammy trip mines that littered the floor. I don’t remember what Johnny Cage had because (thankfully) that portion of the fight was over too quickly, but it was a very difficult challenge. A lot of the fights here simply feel like trial and error as you continually try different Konsumable loadouts to tackle each challenge. However, backing out of a challenge to try a new loadout will remove the resources you were trying to fight with.
Instead of being an entertaining mode that you can always come back to like in Injustice 2, Mortal Kombat 11 focuses too hard on making Towers of Time a grindy, repetitious experience. With four different currencies to wrap your head around, it feels like a step back. As someone who firmly believes that Injustice 2 was the one game to do Loot Boxes right, MK11 disappoints in this regard.
Outside of this, Mortal Kombat 11 still delivers one of the most enjoyable fighting experiences when you’re playing it straight. There’s a lot of content here and while Towers of Time is a step down from Injustice 2, it can still provide you with a lot of hours of content with some decent rewards. Everything else is a fantastic step up for this already fantastic series. If it wasn’t for Towers of Time’s reliance on grinding, Mortal Kombat 11 probably would have been my favourite fighter of the generation.