Most of us know of and have played Mortal Kombat in our lifetime, even those of us who wouldn't necessarily look towards a fighting game for entertainment. The arcade classic managed to brutalise itself into popular culture long ago and somehow the name of the game and its characters became household mainstays that everyone from arcade gamers in metal band merch to their conservative mothers talked about, for different reasons of course.
The bloody, brutal nature of the game hadn't really been seen before and such violence had definitely not been as wide-spread. This combined with the fact that the mechanics were and always have been impeccable put the series on the map. Mortal Kombat 11 is upon us, waiting around the corner to strike us with that fatal blow on April 23 and we got to visit Netherrealm Studios in Chicago to check out what goes on behind the scenes at the developer as well as play the game for a couple of hours and, of course, we have some stuff that we've been dying to share with you.
Whether you're a professional fighting player or a button mashing kombatant hoping for the best, Mortal Kombat 11 brings something new for you to enjoy and we got to go through exactly how the team and the game's actors make that happen at the studio's headquarters. While we'd love to tell you that the Goro's Lair cafeteria arcade with the only Injustice arcade machine kept within, the secret and well-hidden meeting room, the many statues and figurines, as well as the insane amount of Mortal Kombat memorabilia, make the magic happen, but we'd be lying. The truth, however, is even more impressive. Netherrealm Studios does most of the work on Mortal Kombat in-house, and we're not just talking the base of development here either, we're talking facial animation scanning and implementation, audio recording, animations using accurately weighted props for the best in-game results, and the time they put into bringing Mortal Kombat 11 to life - and it all shows in the final product.
Earlier this year, we got a ton of information regarding the upcoming title and while those of you who follow the game's development closely know some of the following, we're going to catch you up on what's new in Mortal Kombat 11.
Immediately after starting the game up during our hands-on session with the game, we couldn't get over the fact that Mortal Kombat 11 looks incredible. The facial animations have been greatly improved upon and the characters' expressions this time around look hauntingly lifelike. This paired with the fact that the movement and weight of every character clearly mirror the movements of an actor in the Netherrealm motion capture studio makes you feel like you're brutalising an actual person, no matter the outlandish origins of the character you're playing against. Every character feels different to play, not only because of the different playstyles but because of the care put into the animations and the motion capture with accurately weighted prop weapons placed in the hands of the actors.
As for the playstyles, the skill gap between players, and customisation, Mortal Kombat 11 brings plenty of new content to the table. The most obvious addition and major game changer is the "Fatal Blow". This attack requires no meter build-up to execute and instead lets players use the powerful, slow motion blow when their health bar drops to 30 or below. It's a simple two-button press prompt and can turn the tide in a major way. The attack not only makes matches interesting for more adept players as they will have to take the fatal blow prompt on the enemies health bar into consideration when executing a move, but it also potentially makes the matches more even fun for beginners playing against their higher tier friends - the latter being a scenario we've experienced a lot over the years.
For the former group however, either as the player with the prompt glowing or as their opponent (both of the parties have to play defensively, after all, since one has a sliver of health left and the other potentially being the future victim of a potentially lethal attack) there's the possibility to perform a "Flawless Block", giving whomever performs it the chance to stun and beat them beyond death.
Apart from this offensive attack, the offensive and defensive actions (used through the filling of the gauge/meter and then choosing which of the two outcomes to attempt when depleting it) have been split into two sections. This negates the choice part of the equation and gives the player a more free hand when it comes to playstyles.
In our gameplay video, which you can check out below, we showed off everything we were allowed to, one included feature being the heavy customisation options, both cosmetic-, playstyle- and perk-centred. In the customisation tab on the main menu, you can tweak every character to fit your playstyle. Don't like a weapon? Switch it. Hate the main outfit? Change it. Despise the look of that one fatality, taunt or victory cinematic? Go for a different one. All of these changes can be saved for a more personalised experience. This is, of course, simple, non-game-altering stuff but this is where the augments come in. These consumable augments, that make some attacks deal more damage for example, most definitely alter the coming match but not enough to make Mortal Kombat 11 impossible to balance. Netherrealm seems adamant about keeping the game fair, both regarding the aforementioned new feature and the online ranking system, and we've heard in the past that not all stats changes will be apparent during online play.
Now to what makes the fans' excited: the characters and their fatalities. During our time with the game at the event, we got to play as and against ten different characters. Some of these were unannounced when we played them and some were not and not all announced characters were playable. The ten characters were Kano, Sonya, Johnny Cage, Cassie Cage, Geras, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Baraka, Raiden and Skarlet and all of them felt entirely different to play, of course. We particularly enjoyed playing as the charismatic movie mogul Johnny Cage as his move-set made us laugh out loud in the packed hall of equally excited journalists.
We sent stunt-doubles to stun our opponents, threw our shades in their faces (picking a new pair up out of our pocket every time), stabbed them with our Oscar-statuettes and used our favourite Fatality on poor Skarlet. In the Fatality animation, Cage punched her jaw off as a "Cut!" could be heard as a clapperboard appeared on the screen. The scene was retaken and once again a clapperboard appeared with Cage acting more and more irritated with each take until he punched Skarlet's whole head off, throwing it at the cameraman. Now, of course, this Fatality features a great amount of blood and gore like any other, but it caught us off guard and had us laughing through the end of the match and over to the character select screen.
Of course, the ten characters are just one section of the full roster with plenty of other characters already having been revealed, such as Jade, Kung Lao, Liu Kang and what seems to be the main chaotic good antagonist Kronica, who does whatever they deem necessary regardless of the fallout. Apart from our big ten, we had three stages to fight on; Shang Tsung's Island Ruins, Special Forces Desert Command, and Black Dragon Fight Klub, all with the iconic fighting sequences happening between the two (AI-controlled) characters chosen while the venue was chosen ahead of the impending bloodshed.
Sadly, we were unable to capture any footage of the game's Konquer mode (which is the story mode, by the way) since there were secrets the developers weren't ready to share with the world just yet, but just know that more is coming. For the impatient among you, there's a Mortal Kombat 11 beta on its way to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as well, starting on March 28 for those who pre-order the game. Doing so will also net you the bonus fighter Shao Khan to kick some ass with. The rest of you will have to wait until the official launch on April 23, when the game will release for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.