Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate is the follow-up re-release of the latest entry in the Mortal Kombat series, which hit store shelves back in April 2019. The original quickly established itself as a visceral and gruesome fighting game that was best known for its comprehensive and entertaining story mode. The Ultimate version comes packed with all of the DLC content available for the original as well as graphical upgrades for the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S.
Included in Ultimate are both Kombat Packs, which adds returning favorites like Shang Tsung, Nightwolf, Rain, and Mileena as well as crossover characters like Terminator T-800, the Joker, Spawn, and Rambo to the roster. The Aftermath pack, which extends the main story by two to three hours, adds three additional fighters i.e. Sheeva, Fujin, and RoboCop, taking the playable roster from a total of 25 Kombatants at launch all the way up to 37. Some characters do share certain similarities, but they’re largely unique in terms of moves and combos.
In terms of visuals, developer NetherRealm brings the PS5 and Xbox Series X versions more in-line with the PC release. Characters, as well as environments, pack greater detail, and the lighting and shadows boast more clarity. The exaggerated gore and violence are more spectacular than ever before and every blow conveys audiovisual impact as no other fighting game does. The extravagant realism has given the series its unique identity since its inception, and the latest iteration takes things one step further, delivering a more visceral and cinematic fighting game experience that’s realized even better in pristine image quality on PS5 and Xbox Series X.
The Mortal Kombat saga popularized storytelling in fighting games with the masses and demonstrated the value of rich single-player content. Mortal Kombat 11’s story is the culmination of the years of lore that the series has established thus far. This eventful journey on Earth and in the Underworld is aimed as much towards diehard fans as it is at those new to the series. By using time travel as a plot device, the writers have mixed and mashed the most significant events in the series history to deliver a tribute to the Mortal Kombat saga. There’s a lot of fan service here, and it shows in every aspect of the game’s narrative.
Despite the opportunity to choose between multiple characters to play some chapters as there’s nothing to differentiate in terms of outcome. This is a linear experience through and through, but one that’s at odds with the choice given in the aforementioned scenarios. A bit of a wasted opportunity, then, as having meaningful implications to choice could’ve given the story mode some much-needed replay value. As it stands, the story mode is strung together by a controlled but tightly paced sequence of cutscenes and scenarios.
Read More: Godfall Review – Loot, Grind, Rinse, Repeat
The new additions to the combat system give it some much needed tactical headroom. You’re now able to dash back and forth to widen or shorten the gap between you and your opponent. It gives you some added mobility and broadens your options for range. The EX system has been overhauled in favor of a split gauge, with one half reserved for attack and the other for defense. These make it possible to strengthen an attack by increasing its power, prolonging it, or by using the environment to defend yourself. The X-Ray mechanic from previous games has been axed in favor of the Fatal Blow. This maneuver bears no association with the EX gauges, and can only be used once per match once you’ve lost 2/3rd of your health gauge. This serves as a comeback mechanic and adds a degree of thrill and unpredictability to fights. Fatalities are creative and more gruesome than ever, with detailed and comically exaggerated violence that plays out in style as you watch your opponent get decimated.
In terms of game modes, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate offers the usual slew of offline and online versus modes. Crossplay support between PlayStation and Xbox players is also available, which should give the online mode longer legs across both platforms. NetherRealm has also incorporated a penalty system for ‘rage quitters’ that taunts them with a ‘Quitality’ message. Towers essentially boil down to a series of clashes with various conditions and modifiers, during which consumables can be used to facilitate progression. Unlike the Klassic Towers, which are worth engaging with to unlock the epilogues for characters in Story Mode, the Towers of Time are refreshed regularly. Much like many of the game’s activities, the latter is ultimately about obtaining some valuable loot. It gets stale fast, however, and thus isn’t worth pursuing for anyone outside of series purists. Daily challenges suffer from the same issue of having to collect resources to unlock valuable items. These items are obtained via chests located in the Krypt, which is home to many treasures provided you have the necessary items needed to get to them. Certain items that need to be forged via recipes before they can be used can also be discovered here.
Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate offers in-depth character customizations that aren’t just limited to cosmetics. You’re also allowed to modify your moves and tune your character’s fighting style to your liking. Additional customizations, such as skins, character intros, provocations, and icons can be purchased from the store using the in-game currency. These items get replaced periodically, so you’re encouraged to grind through the game’s modes until you have enough to get what you want. Alternatively, you’re also given the option to purchase items using real money. Other collectibles, such as audio tracks, concept art, equipment, costumes, and fatalities fare even worse, as they require resources, such as souls, hearts of blood, etc., in addition to the in-game currency. The economy in the game is in better shape compared to the crippled state it was in when the original hit store shelves last year, but it still feels like a lot of time needs to be invested to unlock some worthwhile items. It’s also unnecessarily complicated, which really shouldn’t be the case.
Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate offers a staggering amount of content, though parts of it are shackled by its grindy economy system. The story mode is a nostalgic trip through the history of the series that should entice newcomers and diehard fans alike. The combat boasts a violent spectacle that emphasizes the use of special gauges, flashy combos, and a comeback mechanic to keep things unpredictable and exciting. While not quite as deep fundamentally compared to some of the popular Japanese fighters on the market, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate is a joy and thrill to play for players of all skill levels.