Eleven games in, and Mortal Kombat is still ticking all of its boxes: a colorful cast of characters, a rich lore, and its most defining feature, intense violence. And it’s doing it in fresh ways. The new Mortal Kombat 11 gets back to simpler times, seamlessly blending the darker nature of Mortal Kombat with the pure ’90s camp the game was born in—feeling far more lively than the still-stellar Mortal Kombat X from 2015. It’s a celebration of the gaming goliath and its role in the industry for the past 26 years.
Mortal Kombat 11 is a gift that keeps on giving. There is so much to do, and hallelujah, none of it is locked in paid loot boxes. It contains a massive number of game modes, including Story mode, Towers of Time, Klassic Towers, the Krypt, and a variety of online and local player/AI battles. It also offers a ton of different rewards through character skins, gear, concept art, icons, and koins. In short, you are well compensated for your time.
The gameplay packs a punch. Every hit has the perfect amount of slowdown and impact effect to make for extremely satisfying combat. The interface and combos are easier to grasp than ever, while still leaving the most violent, fatal moves behind skilled button inputs. It’s not an easy game to master by any means, but due to extensive customization and different difficulty options, there’s something here for all, whether you’re a pro player or new to fighting games.
The “kustomization” aspect of Mortal Kombat 11 is a blast. I was surprised by the sheer number of skins and gear for each fighter. For example, Johnny Cage has a new-age military look, as well as skins that throw it back to his ’90s movie star day in many colors—along with some Ninja Mime cameos. Beyond the skins, you can change Cage’s sunglasses, gloves, and belt buckle; it’s that same level of variety for each character, and all are represented in their klassic forms, rendered in MK11‘s beautiful polish. Players can also customize move sets, allowing for some really individualized game play.
Those fatalities, brutalities, and fatal moves are disgustingly creative, per usual, and each character now has several to choose from. None are phoned in. From Noob Saibot splitting victims in half to Cage using them as puppets, there’s a lot to look forward to. In fact, the special moves are so exciting to watch, I found they soothed my anger whenever it was my head being bashed in my Jax’s metal heat hands. And a new Fatal Blow move makes for a dynamic comeback system. The move can be activated when a player has under 30 percent of their health left and is pretty easy to land. You can only use it once per match, but if it doesn’t land, you don’t lose it. And if your ass is being handed to you, you can completely change the battle with it and a few well-placed combos.
As for the story, read up on your lore. Mortal Kombat 11 has an exciting, somewhat cheesy plot, but in the best way. Shockingly, it cleverly hits somber and emotional notes. Without any spoilers, the old and new versions of all our beloved characters come together to participate on one epic battle, and the plot uses time paradoxes to give us some wonderful moments between the grown-ups and their young, naive counterparts. Seeing the cocky Johnny Cage and the vengeful Scorpion with the matured, noble versions of themselves is loads of fun, and a nostalgia trip. These remnants of Mortal Kombats past make you appreciate the series as a whole; you’ll see what I mean when you play through yourself.
Graphically, the game is absolutely stunning. The character movements and facial expressions are some of the best I’ve seen yet. The story effortlessly moves from cutscenes to fights with no load or lag, creating an immersive experience. (The graphics and story also prove we need another Mortal Kombat movie.)
Mortal Kombat 11 utilizes the current generation of hardware to create graphic and gameplay marvels, feeling less like a sequel to Mortal Kombat X and more like an anniversary celebrating everything that’s ever made Mortal Kombat so good. And there’s still plenty to look forward to with Shang Tsung on the way, along with more unannounced DLC fighters coming soon. Mortal Kombat 11 launches April 23 for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.