Over the last few years it has felt like the older beat ‘em ups were on their way out; Tekken has changed everything that was once good about the series, and the latest Street Fighter never even launched on Xbox. Mortal Kombat was bucking this trend for the forefathers of beat ‘em ups, and the 11th main entry for the series reminded people that there is still life in this old dog. Now, with the Ultimate Edition, it once again reminds you of this by impaling your decapitated head to the wall, tearing your eyelids off and forcing you to see nothing else but Mortal Kombat 11 in all its visceral – and vicious – glory.
This Ultimate Edition rolls up many of Mortal Kombat 11’s separate purchases into the one package: the base game, Aftermath expansion, Kombat Pack 1 and 2 – that includes the likes of The Joker, Rambo, Mileena and Shang Tsung – and more Skin Packs than you will likely ever need. It did contain everything released for Mortal Kombat 11, until the Klassic MK Movie Skin Pack was released a week after this definitive edition.
All in all though, this version contains a huge 37-character roster, all fatalities, brutalities and friendships, plus free upgrades for those playing on Xbox Series X|S.
And those upgrades really do show off Mortal Kombat 11 at its absolute best. The cutscenes in both the Story mode and Aftermath expansion look absolutely stunning before then transitioning to the actual action, and the 60 frames per second just feels spot on for a fighting game.
Other improvements come in the form of extremely quick loading times. This makes it so much easier to jump in to the Krypt and spend those hard-earned Koins. There is also cross-platform and cross-gen capabilities, but that just meant for me that there were more people to annihilate me online.
Combat itself is perhaps the best I’ve ever encountered in a fighting game. It is so fluid that you feel almost every attack can be chained with another attack, and yet doesn’t punish you for not being able to master more complex combos. In more recent years, fighting games have relied on juggling and chaining ridiculous combos together to beat opponents, yet Mortal Kombat remains true to its root – punching and kicking every drop of blood out of your opponents.
In the Story mode, the entire tale is split into two distinct sections: the main story introduces new antagonist Kronika, who seeks to reset the timeline after Raiden defeats Shinnock during Mortal Kombat X. Shinnock is Kronika’s daughter, so seeks to create uneasy alliances with many of the undesirables from Mortal Kombat history. And as she is the keeper of time, it doesn’t matter if they are dead or alive. Not that death was ever really permanent in the world of MK.
Then, in the Aftermath expansion, Shang Tsung returns, accompanied by Fujin and Nightwolf, to warn that the Hourglass left by Kronika cannot be utilised properly without the now destroyed Crown of Souls. This prompts an extended epilogue that feels very much like Back to the Future Part II, as Shang Tsung, Fujin and Nightwolf travel back through events of the main Mortal Kombat 11 story to ensure the Crown of Souls never gets destroyed.
However, even after the series reboot in 2011, it is a very convoluted and confusing plot to anyone that doesn’t consider themselves a die-hard fan. For those with a passing interest it is still enjoyable however, but for different reasons such as seeing the likes of Raiden, Sub-Zero, Scorpion and, of course, Johnny Cage making appearances.
The Story is a small part of the, quite frankly, huge package available in the Ultimate Edition. Klassic Towers return, along with a whole host of Towers with various rulesets also making a comeback. A robust training mode that helps introduce you to some of the newer features is present, alongside a full online multiplayer and, of course, the Krypt.
First introduced in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, the Krypt has gone through various guises, from a series of coffins arranged in a grid, to a first person horror-lite explorable area. In MK 11, it again switches, this time to a third-person open space. Thankfully, perhaps these jump scares are toned down a bit in this Krypt iteration. It does feature a lot to unlock and explore, with whole sections underground or hidden away; it takes a while to explore, and even longer to unlock everything it has to offer. The sense of unlocking crates and seeing what spoils are given never, ever gets old, and will appeal to hoarders everywhere.
Away from the Story mode, Towers are Mortal Kombat’s bread and butter. Standard Towers pit you 1v1 against a series of opponents, without modifiers, for true Mortal Kombat. New Towers – the Towers of Time – are an ever-changing rotation of Towers with huge amounts of variation and replayability. These don’t stay active for long though, so if you want the rewards available for achieving the highest scores, you best be quick.
Character customisation has taken on a new level in Mortal Kombat 11 as well. We’re still not talking Tekken 7 grades of fine tuning, but each character now has unique items that can be customised: items such as Scorpion’s Spears, Johnny Cage’s Shades, Jax’s Bionic Arms, and even the guest characters have unique items that can be modified in the same way.
I have also done the maths, so you don’t have to. Even away from these unique Gear items, there are over 2,300 different skins across all 37 characters. Even the likes of Robocop and The Terminator have 40 different skins apiece. Simply put, you won’t get bored with the Kustomisation options in MK11.
Having already established itself as one of the best fighting games of the previous generation, in its upgraded form Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate on Xbox looks set to wear that crown into the new generation of consoles. The combat is some of the best in the genre, and you can make your favourite character – from the generous offering of 37 – completely your own with the amount of customisation options. The story itself isn’t the most accessible, but with the amount of Towers on constant rotation it can be avoided by new players should they wish. Mortal Kombat 11 remains as bloody and gory as ever, and all that gore looks even more macabre in 4K.