Ed Boon is a right sneaky one. During the VGAs, Ed dropped a trailer for Mortal Kombat 11 on us and boy was everyone pumped! Glorious ‘sick filth’ had returned as Scorpion and Raiden beat the living hell out of each other till Raiden got the upper hand, straight up murdering Scorpion.
When we last left our brutal kombatants in Mortal Kombat X, Raiden had gone all kinds of evil after purifying the Jinsei and taking Shinnok’s amulet. Ever since the 2011 Mortal Kombat brought the series back to life, they’ve featured some of the most meaningful storylines you’ll find in fighting games. Each chapter put you in control of a different character, weaving together an involved storyline, and NetherRealm’s formula even started to feature subtle branching paths and multiple endings in Injustice 2.
MK11 picks up straight after the events of X, showing you just how far down the wrong path Raiden has gone. The opening cinematic has him torturing Shinnok, before decapitating him and placing his head on a table. Unable to die, Shinnok now gets to spend eternity without a body, staring into the middle distance… or he would, were it not for the appearance of a new villain. This is Kronika, and she has an agenda to stop Raiden’s meddling with time. Her existence and the jumping back and forth in time that she allows for explain why we saw a young and not dead Lui Kang in the trailers alongside other long lost kombatants.
So far, seven characters have been revealed: Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Sonya Blade, Raiden, Baraka, Skarlet and new guy in town, Gera. Each character has three variations you can choose from, changing their fighting styles ever so slightly, giving you more options, but not changing them to the extent that they become difficult to adjust to. It was a great idea in MKX and NetherRealm expanded on it in Injustice 2, with many of those changes now found in MK11. In fact, it looks an awful lot like Injustice’s loot system. Scorpion, for example, has a selection of different masks, katanas and spear tips, each of which have slots for augments, and that’s before you get to picking different special abilities. We haven’t been shown all possibilities here, but there immediately seems to be a huge amount of depth and variety for players to dig into.
Running on Xbox One X, MK11 looks as stunning as you could hope and naturally runs at 60fps, letting you revel in the gore that is so frequently splashed across your screen. And boy is there a lot of gore! Just when you think they can’t get more visceral than the last game, they prove you wrong. Gera, the new kid on the block and Kronika’s lackey, can punch you so hard in the back of the head, your face comes off and brain flies out, all in glorious slow motion. Sonya, now voiced by Rhonda Rousey, can kick you skywards and then continuously shoot you into the rotating blades of a chopper. It’s absolutely, ridiculously brilliant. The creativity that goes into the finishers are well thought out and really gets you jumping out your seat when you can pull one off.
Going hands on with the roster of announced characters, the controls feel great. They’re slightly more forgiving than MKX, taking cues from the tighter feel and polish of Injustice 2. The characters also help in making you feel badass. Scorpion feels a bit different, but very comfortable, serving as a nice starting character with lots of easy to pull of moves and combos. One of his variations was called ‘Boon’s Main’, but his ‘Fire Breather’ variant was my personal favourite, sporting a Japanese styled mask, a green tone to his outfit, and lots of fire-based moves that helped me win a fair few games. Then again, they all have their advantages. Baraka in his ‘Bone Deep’ variation has access to an anti-air attack that shoots sharp spines up and outward, making him the perfect counter to people who think it’s funny to jump in. Meanwhile, Gera comes in as a time manipulator, letting him pull of some cool trickery, either reducing the time left on the clock or increasing it if he feels like it. Oh, and he can also freeze his opponents in place while he gets a few hits in.
Update: Turns out that ‘Boon’s Main’ was an unclear example of the ability to rename custom variations.
In previous Mortal Kombat games, resources meters would be used for both offensive and defensives buffs. Now in 11, you have separate bars for both attack and defence, so you can make those defensive plays and still be able to bounce back with some hard hits. Timing your block correctly creates a flawless block or a parry, which momentarily freezes your opponent so you can get an attack in. The defensive meter can be used to quickly escape your opponent’s clutches when your character has been knocked down.
Another new mechanic gives your fighter access to a Fatal Blow move when their health is reduced to 30%. It’s like the X-ray moves from X, just 11 times more brutal, but since you can only use it once per match it’s a card you should only play when the time is right.
Just when you thought NetherRealm’s fighters couldn’t get any better, they come out with an uppercut of gory fighting goodness to prove you wrong. Mortal Kombat 11 looks and feels like the business, and we’ve only just seen a smidgen of what’s on offer. Kombat Kasts have been promised, revealing more characters and modes in the run up to launch. If it’s looking this good now, we can’t wait for what’s (or who’s) next.