Mortal Kombat 11 has been revealed! On a rainy Thursday, in an industrial building on the edge of the Koreatown neighborhood in Los Angeles, Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon lifted the veil of secrecy from the latest chapter in the long-running fighting game series.
The story of Mortal Kombat 11 (we’ll call it MK 11 from here on out) picks up right where the last game left off. Shinnok is defeated, and Raiden has been corrupted into Dark Raiden. More importantly, there are new systems and a character customization adapted from the gear system in Injustice 2. And, naturally, there are hundreds of bone-crunching, blood splattering moves, all visualized with animations that might be the best in the series.
I got hands on time with MK 11 and came away with some detailed impressions about how the game is taking Mortal Kombat into the future.
A Roster of Old Favorites and New Fighters.
The character select screen in MK 11 has twenty-five slots. Seven characters were visible in our demo: Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Sonya Blade, Baraka (who was in MK 9 but sat out MK X), Skarlet (finally a default selectable!), Dark Raiden, and the new guy, Geras.
We’ll get to Geras in a minute, when we talk about story. Ed Boon suggested that we’ll see young and old versions of characters, but neither he nor other developers would elaborate. Nor would the devs I spoke to say that the 25-character roster was the upper limit on the lineup.
A Fatal Blow Might Save You
The most significant new mechanic is the Fatal Blow system, which offers a special move when any fighter’s health drops below thirty percent. These moves behave in a pretty different way from the X-ray moves introduced in 2011’s Mortal Kombat. (But the close-up X-ray visual effects remain, with many of them incorporated into the flow of gameplay.)
Launch a Fatal Blow and gameplay goes into a set of slow-mo closeups that shove spears through chests and blades through faces. It’s not quite a fatality, but if you’re losing a round the Fatal Blow offers a chance to knock a big chunk of health off your opponent. The attack doesn’t land automatically, but in my play session it was fairly easy to pull it off. There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to use it every time — we’ll see how NetherRealms refines the mechanic as the game gets towards release — but if you’re getting beat down the Fatal Blow will probably be a good back-pocket move to rely on. I couldn’t tell in play sessions if there’s any downside to using it.
As expected, there’s a significant character customization system in MK 11. The system is certainly inspired by the one from Injustice 2, but there are a lot of differences. The most crucial thing to know is that you can create, name, and save at least three variants of any character.
Each fighter has a host of different customizable options. “Kosmetics” encompass Intros, Victories, Taunts, Brutalities, and Fatalities. (Each of the characters I could tinker with today had two Fatality options, most of which were not viewable.)
Then there’s the actual gear. Unlockable gear options are also primarily cosmetic, and, broadly speaking, they cover masks, weapons, and special attacks. But each piece of gear has a set of Augmentation slots — typically three. Those Augmentations also have to be unlocked and/or collected, and that’s where your bonuses come in. You might be able to add punches or slashes to a specific move, get a damage buff as your health is whittled down, or increase the duration of some effects. That’s just a sample; there are dozens of options.
Other customization options include skins, with options of 20 per character; abilities, which let you swap special moves in and out of an active set; and AI attributes, which give you a set of points that can be allocated to six different broad tactical categories which define how that character will behave under AI control.
Gore Never Looked So Pretty
You’ve probably already watched the first gameplay footage, so you’ve seen it: this is a brutal, gory, gnarly game. Baraka puts his teeth to work biting legs, heads, and, in one fatality, brains. Faces are torn off in successive layers. Bodies are broken into pieces by every conceivable weapon, from hammers and stone to blades and even blades made out of blood. (Hello, Skarlet!)
And it all looks incredible. MK 11 is more fluid than ever, with impressive lighting effects that really come into play when Scorpion is seen as a fighting, burning skeleton, or Raiden electrifies an opponent with red lightning. The liquid modeling has also been improved, which results in a pretty significant visual upgrade, given how much blood flows in the game.
So What’s the Story?
Let’s circle back to the new character, Geras. He’s the enforcer for Kronica, who we saw in the game’s first teaser, putting hands on a giant hour glass at the end of the trailer. Ed Boon said today that Kronica has been pulling the strings from behind the scenes going all the way back to the original Mortal Kombat. (Or at least the original as revised in 2011.) Kronica didn’t think Shinnok would be defeated by Raiden, and now wants to set the timeline right. That’s how we’ll see different versions of some characters — she’s going to do something with time, we just don’t know what. Kronica will also be the game’s big boss, and so will probably be playable in some form.
As Kronica’s henchman, Geras also uses time-based attacks. Most of his attacks relate to time, and sand, but he can mold that sand into bludgeons and hammers — his moves are some of the most crushing and brutal in a game that already pushes the limits of violence.
A Few Other Details and Observations
An Xbox One beta has been announced for March 28, which will function more or less like NetherRealm’s previous betas. (Short version: you’ll have to pre-order.) Players can get a taste of a limited roster with the major game mechanics all intact, but we don’t know any more beta details yet.
There are three meters now: health, which powers the Fatal Blow as it decreases, and defense and offense, which fill over time, and power special moves.
Ronda Rousey voices Sonya Blade, a character she says has been an inspiration since she first played Mortal Kombat as a pre-teen. Since Rousey is the biggest new talent announced for the game, does that mean Sonya will be particularly important to the story?
What about Babalities and/or Friendships? While Babalities made a comeback in MK X, we don’t know if they’re an option in MK 11. And there’s no indication that Friendship is an option… but NetherRealm hasn’t yet said they’re out, either.
Mortal Kombat 11 arrives on Xbox One April 22 and is available for pre-order today on the Microsoft Store. Prepare for battle today by playing Mortal Kombat X with Xbox Game Pass.
See the rest of the story on Xbox Wire