There’s a lot of controversy surrounding this latest outing from NetherRealm / WB Games. MK11 continues the storyline of the previous two MK games from 2011 and 2015, produced by MK co-creator Ed Boon. The realms are still not at peace. This time, Raiden is on a killing spree, taking out all of the threats to Earthrealm before they have a chance to attack (George W. Bush style). Some characters meet their end in the story mode, and events lead up to the mother of time who goes on a mission to take out Raiden. Her motive (wait for it): revenge.
This seems to be the overall theme of everything this year: revenge via time travel. Since the end of Star Trek Voyager, it’s sad to say that no franchise this year, who has entertained the idea of time travel, got any of the temporal mechancis right. That is also a folley in this game as well, but it can be easily excused here.
In this review, I’ll go into three main categories: writing, graphics and gameplay. Needless to say, I won’t have much bad to say about it, but not a whole lot of good either.
Fair warning: this ends the non-spoiler portion. The following is no-holds-barred spoiler-filled madness. If this isn’t something you’re looking for in a review, you can skip to the scores at the very end of this piece.
The writing is divided into two parts: the cinematic story and the pre-fight trash talk.
The writing for the cinematic story is good. Not too great but bearable. There are some moments of so-called “wokeness,” but they are overshadowed by the main story. While the hero may not be Johnny or in the case of MKX Cassie Cage, this outing restores Lieu Kang’s role as champion of the story, making him a god with Raiden and defeating Kronika once and for all. That is, if you beat her at the end.
The ending of the game is tearful, to say the least, finally uniting Lieu and Kitana as the mother and father of time.
The final fight against Kronika goes up to three rounds. Two if you can rock her right off the bat. The story progresses if you take a dive and let her beat you for a round, then if you can take her out for the final bout, you’ll be able to see the rest of the story in its entirety. Taking her down in two is also an option but doesn’t give her a chance to come close if you like drama.
Losing outright gives you an ending where she wins, instead of just a game over screen, which is good. While Kronika is frustrating (see the gameplay spoiler below), the base story is enough to make a repeat play out of.
The pre-fight smack talk in any of the arcade modes (this game has multiple, however) is atrocious. The character who steals the show is Cassie Cage, with her best being a very cute exchange between herself and Scorpion.
The sad thing is, even that exchange is mediocre. MKX had plenty to be entertained over, but MK11 offers little to nothing. The humor is forced and the smack talk isn’t even there. Also, there are major spoilers within the smack, so if you haven’t played through the story mode, some things won’t make sense to you until you do. Once you do, you’ll realize that these are spoilers and you’ll end up pissed off.
MK11 needs to have its writing stepped up for the smack talk. There are plenty of scenes where you will certainly roll your eyes. Luckily, the gameplay makes up for some of it.
I will say that the graphics are great in MK11. The story mode cinematic is good enough to fool you into thinking you’re watching live action FMV sequences, especially in the Black Dragon fight club scene during Sonya’s story. While the blood and gore are disgusting, it’s all comical enough to not be taken seriously. The blood still looks like thick syrup instead of real blood, and there are anime-strength volumes of blood per fighter.
The organs and other gibs still look unrealistic. The fatalities are wonderful, but still comically unrealistic, which is good. They’re not MK3 comical, but close. Even on the Nintendo Switch, the graphics are good enough to enjoy.
MK11 improves on the gameplay mechanics pretty well. Keeping with MK tradition, the learning curve is existent here. Though any casual player can pick up a controller and play, becoming an expert is the only way you’ll be able to go up against anyone online. MK11 merges novice button mashing with skillful codes, the latter of which you’ll need to master if you’re going to get good at this game.
That is MK11’s major downfall: the learning curve. You’d have to attend four years of college to truly master MK11’s mechanics. There is a comprehensive tutorial section, fatality practice and one-player practice rounds you can play in order to get the hang of the game. However, even the advanced tutorials are very difficult to master. Executing the combinations correctly still yield negative results and you’ll be forced to do it over and over until the computer decides you’re good enough to move on.
The final battle against Kronika in story mode is extremely frustrating. I played the game on “very easy” and I still got mine handed to me by the AI. However, after the third attempt, beating Kronika is the most rewarding feeling ever, but only after being so frustrated with the controls that I nearly threw my poor Switch… and it’s not even the console’s fault.
FINAL SCORES – END OF SPOILERS
Writing: Story, 4/5 – Smack, 2/5
Graphics: Story, 5/5 – Arcade, 3/5
Gameplay: Story, 5/5 – Arcade, 4/5 – Learning Curve: 2/5