We’re just a few weeks out from Mortal Kombat 11’s official launch, and NetherRealm has deigned to give us a little early taste of the game before then. After a weekend checking out the beta on PS4, this is shaping up to be a very worthy follow-up to 2015’s very excellent Mortal Kombat X.
Right off the bat, I can safely say that the netcode for online play feels pretty stable. The number one killer for most fighting games is the unstable online play and dropped inputs that can make matches feel frustrating, but during my time with the Mortal Kombat 11 beta and across 20-odd matches, things felt smooth.
There’s definitely still some noticeable lag during online matches, and you can feel the two or three-frame input delay that kicks in every now and then, even with a wired connection on my PS4. It’s annoying when it happens, but honestly, for the most part, I was thoroughly impressed with how fluid the online matches felt. Deaths and punishes felt fair, and rarely like the result of major lag or severe input drops.
This is still just a beta of course, but if it’s any indication of how things are gonna work out in the final product, I remain optimistic.
At its core, the Mortal Kombat series has always been slightly slower-paced than most other fighters, but that element feels even more pronounced in Mortal Kombat 11. This is an issue that the community’s already brought up, but at the time of writing, movement feels slow and weightier, regardless of which character you’re playing as.
My fighters of choice for this beta session were Baraka and Jade, and their dash speeds felt noticeably slower. I totally understand the focus on grounding your characters and making the combat more about the footsie game than anything else, but it’s just a tad ridiculous when a character’s walking speed is faster than dash movement.
Ed Boon and NetherRealm have already confirmed that the dash speeds will be looked into in time for the final product, but it remains to be seen just how well adjusted they’ll be when Mortal Kombat 11 is officially out.
Another big change in Mortal Kombat 11 comes in the form of the new Fatal Blows, which are replacing the gruesome X-Ray attacks. Instead of building up combos to charge up a Fatal Blow though, this is a move that becomes available to your character once your health has dropped low enough.
Here’s the interesting part: if you happen to miss or whiff the Fatal Blow, the move will be on a cooldown timer, but you don’t lose it. You’ll just have to wait a while before you get another chance to use it again. I’m not too sure how I feel about this change compared to the X-Ray attacks just yet, simply because it doesn’t feel like you’re really getting punished for missing the attack.
The game does try to make up for that imbalance by only giving you access to the Fatal Blow once you’re below 30% HP, but we’ll have to get more playtime to see how this shakes out.
The other big changes include two separate meters for both offensive and defensive moves, along with the implementation of a perfect guard where you can essentially parry a move and counterattack quickly.
Both changes immediately make Mortal Kombat 11 feel a little more geared towards veteran fighting game players, as there’s definitely a higher barrier of entry here for newcomers or players who might not be very familiar with the genre. It’s not so much a matter of learning how to execute combos, as it is learning how to read your opponents’ movements and trying to juggle your meters, all the while knowing which attacks to block, and so on and so forth.
Over this past weekend, it became very clear that Mortal Kombat 11 is not going to be as casual-friendly as Mortal Kombat X was, and this may or may not be a deal-breaker for you. With enough time spent in the campaign and ladder modes, casual players will definitely get a hang of the game eventually and get to grips with its mechanical depth over time, but just be warned that the competitive scene is likely going to get rough.
Getting past all of the gameplay stuff, though, let’s just talk about how gorgeous this game is for a second. Mortal Kombat 11 is every bit as gory and violent as you’d expect from the long-running series, and the stages and characters looked completely stunning on the PS4 Pro. Fatalities and Fatal Blows are punchy and bloody, and it’s definitely nice to see MK11 continuing to embrace the gory beauty of the series.
As it stands, I still have concerns about how the casual crowd is going to approach online play in Mortal Kombat 11, especially with the steep learning curve that comes with the game. If you’re just in it for the action-packed blockbuster story, however, Mortal Kombat 11 is looking beautifully brutal so far.