I’ve been a Mortal Kombat fan from day one. I played the first game on the SNES and fell in love with it right away. MK2, also on SNES, was even better in every regard and became my favourite fighting game for a very long time. It actually held on to that throne all the way until the series’ reboot came to the PS3 generation in 2011.
In my opinion the games inbetween weren’t quite as good. MK3 was okay, but the more modern stage settings weren’t as stylish and the new characters didn’t do much for me. Then came the time during which many established franchises of pretty much all genres had the same problem: the shift from 2D to 3D graphics wasn’t favourable for them. They looked crappier, felt clunkier, had camera problems and often didn’t run as smoothly as their 2D predecessors. Additionally many of those MK titles were relatively complex mechanically, with different fighting styles to switch between during battles, weapons and stuff like that. That wasn’t what MK had always been about.
The reboot, just titled Mortal Kombat (sometimes called MK9 by fans), was a return to old strenghts gameplaywise and looked pretty amazing to boot. All of my favourite characters were there, it had a good story mode and loads of stuff to unlock. I had a lot of fun with it.
Despite that I didn’t really keep a close eye on what Netherrealm Studios were up to afterwards. I can’t even say why, I guess I just had my hands full with the MMOs I was playing. I took note of Mortal Kombat X’s release, but didn’t buy it and pretty much forgot it existed right away.
Then, some time in December of last year, I watched Angry Joe and his crew react to a surprise reveal at the Video Game Awards:
To say that this got me fired up to play a Mortal Kombat title again would be an understatement. I especially appreciated the short timespan between reveal and release of the game. I don’t know about you, but I can’t hold my excitement for an upcoming game on a high level for, like, two years or more. If you want me to get excited and stay excited up until launch, dear game developers and publishers, this is how you do it.
During the few month’s wait more and more info became available. Previews looked very promising and Ed Boon and co. don’t have a reputation for delivering half-assed games or ripping off their playerbase, so I decided to buy it at my local GameStop as soon as they had it.
Minor spoilers ahead.
I jumped into the story mode right away, and I gotta say it’s awesome. The story itself is typical Mortal Kombat stuff, so don’t expect too much, but I quite liked it. They use a plot device to bring some fan favourite characters who had died and basically become zombies during the past few games back in their living state. It’s especially nice to see Liu Kang, the game’s original main hero and winner of the first two tournaments, alive and kicking again.
The cutscenes are extensive and very well done, the transitions into and out of the fights you actively play are pretty seamless. During some chapters you can even choose between two fighters, which is great. One aspect of MK9’s story mode I didn’t like was that I had to win too many fights with heroes I don’t like to play very much, and this is a cool way to reduce that.
It’s not really that hard to get into the groove with different fighters though, which in my opinion has always been one of Mortal Kombat’s strenghts.
You see, I’m not a hardcore fighting game buff. I don’t want to study and practice a single character for months so I can hold my ground against the best of the best. I just want to play some fun matches every now and then. When playing against the CPU I choose the medium difficulty setting at most. I also like to be able to pick up the controller and just play even after a longer break.
Mortal Kombat is perfect in that regard. The basic attacks are the same for every character and pretty much haven’t changed at all over the last 27 years. When I pick up any MK game and choose any fighter I always know that I need to use Down + Triangle for an uppercut and Back + Circle for a sweep, for example. Coming back or transitioning from one title to the next couldn’t be easier. It’s the casual gamer’s dream, really.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun here if you like your fighting games to be complex though, far from it. Learning all those special moves, blocks, counters, combo-breakers and stand-up moves definitely takes a while, becoming proficient in reading your opponent and executing the best moves in the exact right moment is a science in itself.
This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way when I tried to play some Towers of Time. These are beefed up versions of the series’ staple single player mode and have fixed difficulties and various modifications to make them more challenging. Since the game’s release many players have already reported them to be too hard and frustrating, and unfortunately I have to agree. Getting repeatedly shot at with unblockable missiles or attacked by a second enemy whom you can’t hit back is really not much fun. There’s been a patch already though, with more on the way. Netherrealm studios seem to take our feedback to heart.
Which is a good thing, because the biggest gripe players have right now has to do with the game’s microtransactions. Gee, what a shocker. And here I had promised not to talk about that stuff anymore for a while.
The gist of the complaints is that unlocking costumes and stuff in the Crypt is now completely random, and it takes too long to earn the multiple currencies needed for those unlocks. There’s no question that this is supposed to encourage us to spend additional money in the cash shop, so I’m glad that they have promised to shift the balance to the players’ benefit somewhat.
Personally I’m not affected all that much to be honest. While it’s very important to me that my MMORPG characters look exactly the way I want them to look, in a game like this I care much less about that. My current main character, Baraka, looks perfectly fine from the start, and I wouldn’t notice his blades looking differently or his tunic having a different colour while fighting anyway. Still, it feels much more motivating and rewarding to get shiny new stuff regularly of course, so I’m looking forward to the changes.
Even in its current state MK 11 is the best Mortal Kombat yet. It plays great, it looks awesome and to me the story mode alone was worth the purchase. If you liked any of its predecessors you won’t be disappointed.