Soon, it’s time for morality guards to be again on their toes when Mortal Kombat will be back to spread its brand of ultra-violence. No brain, spine or internal organ is safe when the fighters rip each other apart into bloody bits in a showmanship-style with their bare hands or an assortment of cruel weapons. Mortal Kombat 11 will be out on April 23, but before that, I entered the ring in a closed online beta.
In fact, it was quite far-reached to call it online beta as there were only casual (or kasual, as the game likes to rephrase them) matches available. It was hard to get into online games. Often, opponents declined the fight request or there was an instant disconnection before the match even started. When I actually got into fights, terrible lag rendered them into a slideshow. Apparently, there were no Mortal Kombat enthusiasts out and about in my area participating in the closed beta. Eventually, I got a couple of good games in but still, if it wasn’t for a Klassic Tower, an offline contest of five fights that was open sporadically, much couldn’t have been said about the new gameplay.
I can tell you this; the nature of the game is a whole different than it was in Mortal Kombat X. There, the gameplay was so fast-paced it worked like a thought. You had to be mobile, zoning and jumping all over the place trying to get leverage on your opponent. In Mortal Kombat 11, however, the camera is closer to the fighters who tower close to the screen edges, rendering movement and especially jumping redundant. It’s just two combatants changing blows until one of them falls without any finesse of reading your placement. Also, the game tempo is considerably slower. Maybe it’s the price for new, even more impressive graphics that just can’t be moved as fast as before. As it is, the responsiveness of Mortal Kombat X has been traded for a slugfest more reminiscent of Injustice 2. Again, it’s a shame that Mortal Kombat still remains strictly 2D with only minor zooming in and out whereas Japanese fighting games have a much more dynamic view of the action around the arena.
That’s not to say that the fighting isn’t satisfying. In fact, it felt like I could stand my ground better without nervously zooming around to get an upper hand, and trading meaty punches, kicks, swings and whatnot was satisfactory (I can’t get used to the defend button in Mortal Kombat, I just attack relentlessly!). There’s no special meter anymore to burn for special attacks. In its place is a Fatal Blow that you can pull off when in a low health. A series of brutal stabbings, it can turn a close match in your favor but it can just as easily be guarded against or avoided with a backstep. I was disappointed that each character in the beta had almost identical set of Fatal Blows with only slight variation in their brutality.
Now that Mortal Kombat 11 is closer to photorealistic graphics than ever before in the franchise, I expected the notorious fatalities to be stomach churning. In fact, no matter how much blood was shed or organs removed, I was more amused than shocked by them. There was just that certain sense of black humor to the fatalities that removed them from the grim reality. Or maybe the worst of them has been seen in the past already. After all, considering the series’ long history, it must be quite a stretch to come up with something even remotely original.
The closed beta featured five characters: Scorpion, Baraka, Kabal, Jade and Skarlet. On the whole, character models looked fine: realistic people with credible features and proportions (excluding Baraka, of course, with his horribly teethy mouth). Not too realistic, but closer to a comic book realism. There has been some debate over how female characters look “too mundane” or are not scantily-clad enough. NetherRealm Studios has appealed to realistic or artistic choices. “You wouldn’t fight in a bikini”, they claim. However, shouldn’t that also apply to male fighters, too, who can fight with their upper bodies exposed? Anyway, any notion of realism really shouldn’t be given as an excuse in something as outrageous as Mortal Kombat. After all, these characters can get ripped apart in a middle of fight and the next second, they’re whole again. It’s more of matter pleasing shareholders who are keen to cater for every democracy. Whichever way, I’m fine with the design choices as long as a long-time franchise character like Jade is reformatted to modern needs in a such exquisite manner like here. It’s as if someone has probed my brain to see what I like and there, you don’t need any exaggeration or bare skin, just characteristic and sensual features to make her sizzling hot in my books.
The beta offered a brief glimpse into the character customization. Thankfully, it’s clearer than it was in Injustice 2. Clothing, intros and outros can be changed, as well as some of the character’s abilities. The changes didn’t get saved between sessions in the beta, though, but I can imagine that with a larger set of customization parts, it’s fun to come up with unique takes on the roster. Also, there’s a lot to tinker in the gameplay options, catering for a wide range of players with such features as adjusting input windows for special attacks and fatalities.
Even though the gameplay felt different than it did in the previous game, Mortal Kombat 11 seems like it will deliver its promise of a solid and brutal fighting game. The series’ gameplay has never been as sophisticated as in its Japanese cousins and Mortal Kombat 11 won’t change that fact. However, the game makes up for it with a ridiculous amount of single player content which, of course, was locked in the closed beta. Even though the teaser offered so very little, it whetted my appetite for the full product in two week’s time. Mortal Kombat has never looked better and although it seems it has matured on some aspects, it hasn’t lost its boyish whimsicality.
Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.