Over the last 30 years, gaming has really evolved in a magnificent way. That includes seeing plenty of beloved series such as Final Fantasy and Resident Evil mature and evolve as well. One of the shining examples is also Mortal Kombat. Starting off as a hit 90's arcade game, it thrived throughout the '90s and very early 2000's with great success. But sadly, after the monumental success of Deadly Alliance, MK lost its focus and also, its identity. Developer NetherRealm tried everything and Midway sadly pushed further and further for another smash hit. Then came MK vs DC which was .... okay for 2008 but not what we hoped it be. Plus it was the final nail in the coffin for Midway.
Funny enough, after Warner Bros acquired NetherRealm after Midway's collapse, they would go on to create Injustice, but more importantly, bring MK back into a new brilliant era of gaming. Now it's MK 11, which is bigger, better, and more brutal than ever! With the launch of the Ultimate Edition, we felt it was worthwhile taking another stab at one of the best fighting games of this generation. What is MK 11 Ultimate Edition?
Last year brought us the 11th main entry to the Mortal Kombat series. It's been a phenomenal decade for MK, with its glorious return in 2011, bringing in a fully fleshed out campaign, refined fighting mechanics, stylish brutality, and more importantly, a whole new world of characters, old and new. Then came 2015's MK 10 which only pushed the series further, but felt a little held back in some regards, but still had a great campaign and some neat extras. But MK 11 has gone all out with an epic campaign that brings in classic characters, new foes within a confident and dramatic narrative. Plus you have over 30 characters to fight as, tons of customisable gear and costumes, plenty of challenges, leagues, towers, and extras to feast upon. This truly is the ultimate experience to have with MK 11 and pretty much the most engaging and immense fighting experience for this (and even next) generation.
But there are also somethings which I don't feel are needed and will hopefully be a thing of the past. Story
For this epic installment to the MK series, we follow the defeat of Shinnok's which has turned Raiden into a bit of a jerk, causing him to be brutal, uncaring, and above all, unbalanced with his new overwhelming power. This leading him to become Dark Raiden. Not a bad thing as he still wants to protect Earthrealm by destroying all of its enemies and making an example of those who try to defy Earthrealm. Although this leads to him making new enemies after decapitating Shinnok and sending his head as a warning to his enemies. This act angers Kronika, Shinnok's mother, and the keeper of time, to rewrite history in order to erase Raiden's existence.
Without Raiden, Earthrealm falls into chaos as his enemies decide to take advantage of his absence for their own gains. Soon all-out war breaks loose and it's up to the remaining heroes in the present, and even the past to make things right and to stop that crazy b**** Kronika from causing more disruptions through time. This all resulting in classic characters coming back from the dead, epic showdowns between old foes, and of course, most importantly, the return of Frost, Shang Tsung, and Sindell! Plus, players can now enjoy in one amazing package both the main story and its harrowing expansion; Aftermath.
MK 11 holds back no punches and pretty much goes all out for its monumental adventure. The return of such iconic MK villains is amazing to see, the compelling lore truly makes MK now one of the greats of world-building, and playing as a whole host of famous fighting heroes is truly a remarkable feat. My issues with both MK 9 and MK 10 were that they felt a little long, drawing out certain fights and confrontations in order to make the game feel sustainable. But MK 11 does an excellent job at keeping a good sense of flow and pacing, never drawing out certain sections of the story, covering enough environments, events, and fighters to keep you invested and entertained. I loved seeing the interactions between certain characters, the classic moments being the team-ups been Scorpion and Sub-Zero and seeing old Johhny Cage and his younger self working together but having older Cage try and convince his younger self that there is more to life than good looks and fame. Something I'm sure everyone would be telling their younger selves if they met them.
MK 11 is extremely well written, thoughtful with its character developments, and has some immense and fun set pieces. The Aftermath expansion is a nice addition, while not entirely needed and a short affair compared to the main game, it's still plenty of fun and offers new characters, set pieces, and story moments which leave the door open to interesting ventures in a possible MK sequel. Thems fighting words .... and moves!
Okay! So let's get into the fighting.
Pretty much every aspect of Mortal Kombat has evolved over the years from the story to the combat. Fighting has been refined in each entry to add more complexity to its combos, for high risk, high reward payoffs, but allowing newcomers to come in, ease them in and allow them to master a couple of moves while making sure they have a fair chance against someone face more experienced. Now, this is not always the case, but more on that in a bit.
In terms of fighting, there is a vast selection of fighters to choose from and plenty of variations and fighting styles to accustom yourself to. You have your Zoners, Set-uppers, Footsies, Grabbers and Rushers who all have advantages and disadvantages, bringing a fair and balanced playing field when mix and matching or even having two of the same types fighting. The Footsies or all-rounders like Scorpion, Spindell, Kitana are great for newcomers, as they quick, have simple basic combos, and some neat tricks up their sleeves for when you want to be more advanced. The Rusher or heavies are those like Spawn, Jaxx, and Kotal khan who move a little slower than normal but have great grabbling attacks and devastating heavy attacks that when executed at the right time, will leave a devastating impact. Zoners focus on ranged attacks but can also have some decent closeup maneuvers, this includes the likes of Cassie Cage and Sub-Zero is decent as a Zoner. Finally, you have Grabbers such as Kollector, Kano, and Jaxx (as well) who master complex combos for ultimate takedowns and then set-uppers, such as Erron Black and Frost, who love setting up traps and ambushes for a hard-hitting blow.
So as you can see there, there's plenty of choices when it comes to personal style and even having some characters cross multiple thresholds with different styles. I'm fairly experienced with fighting games, but not a master at all. Still I can hold my own. So my favorites would be the footsies or Rushers/Grabbers as they can be fast with simple maneuvers or have powerful blows that when timed right can be a godsend! But I'm also keen on interacting with the environment, using it to my advantage, and throwing the odd crate here and there for a pucker-punch kind of move.
What I'm saying is that no matter who you are, even a complete noob, you can enjoy and ease yourself into the latest Mortal Kombat. There are plenty of ways to give yourself an edge in combat, whether it's through picking the right type of character for you, using the environment to land some damage, or through the vast amount of training exercises and practice modes you can play before embarking on the epic journey.
Mortal Kombat 11 is pretty much the most user-friendly experience there can be, but offers highly refined fighting which is responsive and impactful. There is a huge roster of characters to pick from and enough combo variations to learn in order to up your game. What is interesting is the removal of running, which is totally fine. Players can still dash and jump their way out of a tricky situation, but it allows a few seconds to plan your attack and intended combo. Running in a fighting game is just weird anyway. Plus, those who struggle at first will be happy to know you'll have a backup. The Fatal Blow is a devastating move reserved for players who reach 30% health on their character, making it possible to wipe out about 40% health on their opponent. This can also be the make-or-break move if both players are low on health. Pretty intense to say the least.
Players can also attach augments to their gear in order to gain certain perks and bonuses. Such as more life, resistance to fire or Magic, or simply earn more money from fights. Small factors that can help you in a fight or in the Towers of Time.
So when it comes to a complete noob pulling off the same complex moves and chaining together basic attacks for ultimate damage, then MK 11 allows this to happen too. Me and my partner had played a few games and she is not one for fighting games (more of a JRPG lady) but does enjoy them from time to time. Well, the first time she picked up the controller for MK 11 and button-bashed it nearly to death, she got the upper hand on me in quite a few instances. This was due to her quick inputs and even using the environment. She had fun, was able to pick up MK 11 pretty quickly, and had a good chance against me. But me knowing certain tactics, could avoid any prolonged tedium with cheap moves. Believe me, there are a couple, including Joker's basic stick attack which has insane range and Rambo's hidden MG can be abused for sure (maybe this could be tweaked in a later patch), but each character and fighter can learn and master all the moves they need for a fair shot at glory. Pick your fighter!
So MK 11 boasts an impressive roster of characters, ranging from old to new and special appearances including some movie heavyweights. When MK 11 first came out last year, there were many who were disappointed in the lack of returning characters. There are still a couple missing such as Reptile and Smoke, but what we have now is extremely impressive for any fighting game. We have the return of Spindell, Rain, Frost and Shang Tsung, who have some great voice acting, combos, and of course, some gruesome fatalities. We also have the likes of Spawn, Rambo, Nightwolf, and... The Joker, to finalise the roster.
So, there's enough to choose from and plus, there is an immense amount of unlockable costumes and gear for each character. I feel this is an impressive roster and for the most part, compared to previous games, has the best special appearances.
My only gripes with the roster are minor but still noticeable. First, progression for unlocking new gear and costumes can be a bit grindy at times. There is indeed enough chances to earn new costumes and gear through the towers (but I'll go into this later in the review) but if you look at the complete collection of Costumes and gear for each character, there are some pretty naff ones and of course, they're there for filler. Rambo, Joker, and Jacquie Briggs are some who have the weakest assortment of costumes but are the most fun to play as. Then we have costumes which completely change the character together. For example, Scorpion has a few nice costumes which look absolutely dope! But, he has quite a few which completely change his look, making him seem completely different. So players have the chance to make Scorpion and a few other iconic characters look completely different? Why?
I get the developers or WB want to have an immense selection of costumes and that's great, but why so many of the same in different colours? Why not half the amount and create some incredible designs that still represent the original character but make them look cooler? They pull this off with Raiden, Kitana, and Spawn, but so many other costumes look naff or just a bit lazy.
Still, I admire the amount of customisation and praise the artists who did make some epic looking gear and costumes.
But on another note (personal note), what did they do to Frost?! Oh wow was I shocked at most of her costumes and redesign overall. I get it's a story thing but I was hoping to see included her original outfit or something. Maybe it'll be DLC ... Great. But what I'm also a little disappointed about (and you may have guessed from earlier) that Joker is a character. Now, I like Joker, who doesn't. He is pretty cool. But man, would it have been great to have a version of Batman that was a killer? I understand this would be really pushing it with the fanbase, but it would have been epic. Or even have another villain like Hush even? Imagine his gear just being the faces of other MK characters> In fact, why not have Joker do that? He has in the comics.
While there is definitely some amazing talent behind most costumes and gear, there were some areas and characters who needed more. Presentation
MK 11 runs a heavily modified version of the Unreal engine and wow, this is definitely one of the best looking games on last-gen and even on next-gen. Now if you have the chance to play this on PS5 (I'm not sure if anyone does with all the scalpers buying them up), you will notice a slight improvement overplaying this on a PS4 Pro. Shadows are a tat softer and the colour/saturation seems much clearer/brighter. But this was already an impressive looking game, so not much can be seen in quality, but load times are a big plus here. So WB and Netherrealm have just made a perfectly optimised game even more optimised, even in some small ways. Towers, upon towers upon towers! Oh ... and the Kyrpt
Now let's discuss what was a pretty controversial topic upon the release of MK 11 back in 2019. The Towers of Time are random sets of challenges where you'll fight a series of fighters or "Bosses" in order to gain rewards. You can choose from your characters, with either augment attached or simply select a number of consumable items to help out, whether they're shooting a massive beam at your opponent or freezing them for a few seconds.
But this meant that before the Towers of the time were unbalanced, poorly put together, and just a pain to play at times. Thankfully Netherrealms have fine-tuned the Towers to offer more balancing and less BS challenges/match modifiers. There is of course some great variety in challenges, with Ko-op Towers, Gauntlets, Bosses, and even Character towers and those you can summon with key items. But sadly there are no Test of Might or Luck to be seen anywhere.
The Towers offer riches such as costumes, gear, currency ... and consumables. Basically, you fight, you win and you get loot. There are plenty of moments to get what you want in the Towers of Time. Where you don't is in the Kyrpt which sadly is a mixed experience.
The design and general setup for the Kyrpt is amazing, feeling like a mini-action adventure game with puzzles, deathtraps, and story elements thrown into the environment. There's plenty of character chests to unlock for character-related loot and hidden challenges to beat. It's something that clearly is a massive step up from previous incarnations, beating even the excellent Kyrpt in MK 10. But then you have loot boxes.
Now you can't buy the boxes or even the currency to unlock them, which is a relief. But wow, once you've opened all the boxes for the first time around, they're useless. Unless you fancy getting the same old consumables or materials for crafting consumables. It's just overwhelming the amount of useless junk you can get once you've gone through the Kyrpt once over. You do have certain things to keep it interesting and offer some good loot, like the Shrine and Kollector, but mostly, it's a loot box haven of utter crap at times. Overall?
Despite some annoying features which clearly need to be changed or updated, i.e the Kyrpt and Towers of Time, MK 11 Ultimate Edition is an incredible game, to say the least. The campaigns are very enjoyable and immensely written, the selection of characters is incredible considering the amount of customisation and above all, it's totally user friendly for old pros and newcomers. This is definitely the ultimate version of an already great game and if you don't have it or just the base version, this is definitely worth picking up and owning.
++ Awesome Campaing
++ Epic selection of characters
+ Looks and sounds amazing
+ Very friendly to new comers
- Tower of Time needs more types of challenges
- The Kyrpt needs an update!
A PS5 review copy of Mortal Kombat 11: Ultimate Edition was provided by WB Games for the purpose of this review.