Mortal Kombat 11 Review (Switch)
As a massive Mortal Kombat fan in the 1990s, the early games were a huge part of my formative years. I loved playing it in the arcade, at home and even with those average Game Boy games. At some point I stopped playing Mortal Kombat. I’m not sure why – it wasn’t because they stopped coming to Nintendo systems as I never really played on it (green blood wasn’t cool) but after the Dreamcast I kind of just lost interest. Mortal Kombat 11 is the first game in the series to grace a Nintendo console since Mortal Kombat: Armageddon all the way back in 2006 on the Wii. So having not played the series in a while, jumping straight into Mortal Kombat 11 was not only a bit of a nostalgia rush, but also a chance to see how the old gang was doing – and yep, they’re still murdering each other.
The Switch version of Mortal Kombat 11 is both similar and dissimilar to its console and PC counterparts. It’s essentially the same core experience, but its technical downgrade from a visuals perspective makes Mortal Kombat 11 look completely different. This review will examine the game from two perspectives; the overall Mortal Kombat 11 experience, and how the Switch version differs to other platforms.
11 takes on everything Netherealm has learned from MK9, Mortal Kombat X and even the Injustice Games and made one of the purest forms of Mortal Kombat in a long time. The fights are now slower, more methodical. Everything you do, from special moves through to Kombos has to be more calculated. You can’t spam and win – precision is key. Fatal Blows also change the dynamics of combat; they’re similar to the Krushing Blows the last two games had in that they slow down, create an X-Ray effect, and deal massive damage. But Fatal Blows only trigger once per match and only when you’re low on health. The same goes for your enemy; it’s up to you to pick the right time to pull yours off or avoid the enemy’s one with some distance. The same finishers like Fatalities and Brutalities returns as well. Most of these are locked and need to be unlocked, but they can be all used via the simpler control input known as “Simple Fatalities” if you wish.
Where some fighting games just chuck a bunch of fighters onto a character select screen and only have a small story to go with them, Mortal Kombat has always been different and 11 is no change. The game has a huge story mode that took me around 10 hours to get through. The lore of Mortal Kombat has long been confusing, and if you’re not totally up to speed you might miss some things, but longtime fans will be able to pick up on all this. Even someone like me who hasn’t been following the series for a while got kick out of the story, especially when the time-converging aspect kicked in and older, evil versions of older characters got mixed in. These characters play off each other terrifically, fighting with their old selves, wondering how they ended up with certain people. It’s all very funny.
While the story mode is a draw, there’s plenty more to do once you’ve worked your way through that. Naturally, you’ve got local multiplayer options, online multiplayer options (more on that later) but also the Classic Towers (like the old arcade versions), but the new Towers of Time are where Netherealm hope you’ll be spending the next few years. These towers change all the time and provide different levels of challenges. They take normal fights and mix it up with modifiers and different setups. The Towers at the moment, however, can be insanely hard in the Nintendo Switch version of the game – they’ve just patched the game to make it easier by lowering how much health enemies have in the tower, but they’re also going to tweak the AI later to make it easier that way.
The Towers (and all modes in the game) earn you currencies to spend in the Krypt. The Krypt has been around for a while – first making an appearance in Deadly Alliance – it’s a third person mode where you walk around said Krypt, and open chests to unlock things. At the moment all the items in the Krypt (at least in the Switch version) are super expensive and you’ll need to grind tonnes to get anywhere. The fact you could unlock just some concept art and not something like a new fatality or some cool item to customize your character also sucks, but that’s how it works and until that patch comes that fixes prices. Long story short, take your time in the story in the meantime.
So, what about the Switch version? Well, there’s no sugar coating it, there’s no way it’s ever going to look as good as the other consoles – so just forget about that now. The game is below native resolution in both handheld and docked modes, which means there’s that blurriness you get with lower resolutions. However, the developers have managed to not only make the game look acceptable, but more importantly running at a framerate on par with the other versions.
Mortal Kombat 11’s Switch version barely, if ever, drops before 60fps. It’s silky smooth which is super important for a fighting game. Yeah, there’s detail missing from the background in stages, low-resolution textures, and there are not as many lighting effects, but the game runs slickly – you’re still getting Mortal Kombat. Just never put it side-by-side with the other consoles, as you’ll never be able to unsee the difference. Actually, scratch that. You’ll notice right away when the game stutters from pre-recorded clips to in-game.
There’s one place where things don’t look as good, and that’s the Krypt. On the other consoles, it’s a beautiful explorable area with a dazzling light box, a bright moon and a volcano. On the Switch, it’s got terrible fog, doesn’t look as good as even the rest of the game on Switch. It’s a bummer for sure, but you can tell they’ve put all their effort into making the fighting work the best.
Sometimes when a big AAA game comes to the Switch, you’ll get a cut down version of a game, or one with reduced features. Here, I’m happy to report that the Switch has complete feature parity (after a patch) with the other versions. The issue is that it’s perhaps too similar to the other home console versions, as a lot of the game either require the internet to be connected or you’ll need to connect at points to get all your rewards in sync. This isn’t a problem if you’re playing at home, but the game forgets it’s on a handheld on this regard and just expects the internet to be there all the time.
It’s annoying and it would be great if there was some way to cache all these events to sync later and still be able to enjoy all the modes. The whole online system just demands you to be connected to the internet or you’ll get booted off and disconnected – and rebooting the game was the quickest way to get back on. Maybe it’ll never get fixed, but let’s hope they do.
We’ve had the game a couple of weeks now and in that time we’ve played only a handful of online sessions over a dozen fights. What we did play when it worked, it worked well, but the number of times it quit before we got into a match was frustrating. We’ll keep an eye on the online play and, hopefully, with the game now in stores, many more people will be picking it up.
Mortal Kombat has always continued to evolve over its 25-year history and 11 is no different. Despite the weaker hardware, you’ve still got the Mortal Kombat experience – it just doesn’t look as good as what you’re getting elsewhere. If you can put that aside and forgive the game online pain for forgetting it’s on a handheld, you’ve got a terrific Mortal Kombat game in the palm of your hands. I don’t know why I ever stopped playing these games.
Rating: 4 out of 5
- Silky smooth 60fps
- Kontent Complete
- The terrific cheesy story
- Expects the internet to be there all the time
- The grind is really painful
- Lower resolutions makes some UI impossible to read