Mortal Kombat is a household name. Whether you grew up with the game in early 90s arcades, the legendary Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis (ABACABB) ports of the original title, or the more recent revitalization of the franchise, everyone who claims to be a gamer or considers themselves even remotely aware of pop culture knows about Mortal Kombat. Our Mortal Kombat 11 review will delve into the heart of the latest entry in the series, taking a look at how well it appeals to casual players, as well as the competitive appeal, and how the series has evolved. This is an MK11 review from someone who isn’t just a passing fighting game player.

Let’s get all of the ancillary information out of the way. Mortal Kombat 11 is available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. For our MK11 review, we focused on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. Mortal Kombat has reinvented itself a number of times over its vast 27 year history. As the 11th mainline entry in the series, and the second to grace the current generation of consoles, Mortal Kombat 11 continues that tradition with a game that’s both familiar, yet fresh and new.

NetherRealm Studios has not only built upon past MK releases, but also the Injustice series of fighting games. Mortal Kombat 11 features an evolved version of the gear system from Injustice 2, allowing players to customize each character with a specialized move load out, gear augmentation that alters stats (in certain modes of play) and offers cosmetic changes to make that character your own in a multitude of ways.

Mortal Kombat 11 Scorpion

There’s plenty of single player content in Mortal Kombat 11. In addition to creating custom load outs for your characters, you can form an AI team to compete against other player’s AI teams, go through a story mode that will take most players five to seven hours to complete, participate in the Towers of Time to earn in-game currency, gear and konsumables to power up your character, Klassic Towers that are like the old arcade ladders, and a massive Krypt were you can unlock a ton of in-game content.

Taking a deeper look at the story mode, while up to seven hours of play time isn’t a lot compared to some other games, that’s a good size for a fighting game. While it still has some classic Mortal Kombat cheese, the story is actually fairly compelling. Much of the story deals with time travel, which will have younger versions of characters interacting with their older counterparts, which results in a lot of entertainment value. The fights are easy enough that using the characters available in each chapter doesn’t feel like a chore, but challenging enough that you can’t just mash mindlessly (at the Medium difficulty setting). It’s definitely a step up from the story mode in MKX.

It’s been a long time since fighting games were the pinnacle of console graphics, but Mortal Kombat 11 is bringing sexy back. It’s easy to make the argument that MK11 is the best looking fighting game ever, but it’s not a stretch to take that one step further and say the game is one of the best looking titles this generation. The character models and facial animations are a step above almost any other game on the market, and animation has improved considerably when compared to previous efforts from NetherRealm Studios. There are some slight issues (what happened to Liu Kang’s nose?!), but even on a base PlayStation 4, this game looks phenomenal.

Boasting 25 playable characters at launch, with at least six more coming in the first Kombat Pack DLC, there’s something here for everyone. Each character has two default variations, similar to the variations found in Mortal Kombat X. They offer drastically different fighting styles for each character, with the ability to mix and match special moves in your own custom variations. There may only be 25 boxes on the character select screen, but the variation system makes it feel like a lot more.

While many other fighting games are simply building on previous titles, MK11 feels fresh and new. Classic characters may retain some of their trademark special moves, but almost all of their combos are new or drastically changed from previous games. In addition, very few characters can be played the same way they were in MKX or MK9. Some may have similar variations and special moves, but their basic attacks have been changed up to make them feel familiar, but still very unique.

Mortal Kombat 11 Shao Kahn

From a competitive standpoint, there’s a lot to love here. The new meter system works well for beginners, but offers a ton of depth for more competitive players. With two stocks of meter for offensive abilities and two stocks of meter for defensive abilities, meter management takes on a whole new level of strategy compared to almost any other fighting games. You start each round with full meter, which slowly recharges after every use. You can use offensive meter to amplify some special moves, perform specific wakeup attacks and more. Defensively, you c an drop out of combos, tech roll off the ground and use other defensive techniques. There’s so much to take in here, but it’s also very intuitive and easy to pick up for novice players.

The new super move mechanic (now called Fatal Blows) offer gruesome fatality-like special attacks. Once again, NetherRealm changes the game by not tying these super moves to the meter system. Instead, you can only land them once per match when your health is below a certain point. If it’s blocked, you can’t use it again for a few seconds, giving an opponent time to retaliate. Just another technique that’s easy for novice players to pick up, but adds a ton of strategic value for competitive players. Anyone else noticing a trend here?

Mortal Kombat 11 has everything you could possibly want in a new MK title except for maybe a Shaolin Monks-style mini-game. There’s plenty of single player content to enjoy, great online multiplayer with some of the nest netcode we’ve seen in modern fighting games, a large and varied character roster, and the best graphics in a fighting game this console generational. It will be very difficult for NetherRealm to top what they have here.

Score: 9/10