While the Mortal Kombat games have always favored those who’d prefer to fight with friends, there are many fans of this fighting game series who’d rather to go it alone. It is for this latter group — of which I am a proud member — that I present the following review of Mortal Kombat 11 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Switch) as a single-player game.
For those who don’t play well with others, the main attraction of Mortal Kombat 11 is the “Story” part of the “Konquer” mode. Like the corresponding modes in Mortal Kombat X and Injustice 2 — which, like this, were made by NetherRealm Studios — the one in Mortal Kombat 11 has you engaging in a series of fist fights against a wide variety of enemies. Including, on occasion, someone you just fought.
Now, the story being told by the “Story” mode in Mortal Kombat 11 is not a particularly interesting one. Like the one that drove 2015’s Mortal Kombat X (of which this is a continuation) and 2011’s Mortal Kombat, it’s a bloody tale that’s, well, kind of like if Snake Eyes, Lady Jaye, and the rest of G.I. Joe went to the Hell of the Doom games to stop Skeletor, Mumm-Ra, and Baron Unterbheit from invading Earthrealm.
But as thin and Robot Chicken-y as the story in Mortal Kombat 11 may be, it is structured in a way that make this compelling, varied, and challenging. You never play as any one character for too many fights, though you do get to be them for a bunch before switching to someone else. Your opponents are also diverse in their fighting styles, so you’re never, say, taking on three kick-happy enemies in a row. Or, for that matter, three enemies in a row who can easily be kicked to death.
Similarly, the strength of your enemies in Mortal Kombat 11‘s “Story” mode also fluctuates, albeit only slightly. You never feel, for instance, like someone switched the difficulty from “Easy” to “Very Hard” when you weren’t looking. Instead, while the game gets progressively tougher overall, the skill levels of your enemies vary from fighter to fighter. When playing as Kotal Kahn, for instance, I was able to defeat Baraka on my first attempt, only to then struggle against Skarlet. Once I took her down, though, I made quick work of Erron Black only to then be evenly matched with Shao Kahn.
It also helps that you get into a lot of fights in Mortal Kombat 11. Unlike some games we could mention, the “Story” mode is clearly not an afterthought or just a training program for multiplayer (I’m looking at you, Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4) and will take you a good amount of time to complete, even if you skip past the story parts (which I’ll get to in a moment).
Mortal Kombat 11 also adds a bit of replayability (though only a bit) by occasionally letting you choose between two fighters. In the first, for instance, you have a few seconds to decide if you want to face Scorpion as Kung Lao or Liu Kang. You even get to switch if, say, Jade kicks your ass at Kung Lao and you think you might do better against her as Liu Kang (I did).
People who play Mortal Kombat 11 on their own will also appreciate that this mode has five difficulty options that range from “Very Hard” to “Very Easy.” More importantly, “Very Hard” actually does make this very hard, while “Very Easy” is notably easier, though it does still provide some challenge.
The result of all this variety, coupled with its length, is that the “Story” mode in Mortal Kombat 11 never gets redundant, even though it is just a series of fist fights.
That said, the “Story” mode of Mortal Kombat 11 is not flawless, though, admittedly, most of its issues are just minor annoyances.
For starters, if you’re in one of the parts where you have to choose your fighter, and there happens to be an enemy other than the one you’re facing hanging round, the game doesn’t follow the fight you’ve chosen with one where the person you didn’t pick goes up against the other enemy. For instance, when Kung Lao and Liu Kang run into evil versions of themselves, you only get to pick who fights bad Kung Lao, and if you chose good Kung Lao, this existential fight isn’t followed by a playable brawl between good Liu Kang and bad Liu Kang.
Mortal Kombat 11 also gives you the option to skip the cinematics if you’d rather just jump from one fight to the next. The problem being that these cutscenes are also when the game loads, so you can’t actually jump right away. You also have to go into the “pause” menu, and then click down to skip a scene, which feels like one step too many. Though having said that, this system does work better than some movie-skipping mechanics we’ve seen in other games, if only because the extra step makes it impossible to trigger it by accident.
It’s also slightly annoying that, if you lose and have to restart a fight, it takes more than a few seconds to reload. And that there are times, when illustrating a particularly brutal attack, the game’s visuals switch to a more cinematic approach, as opposed to using the same style as the rest of the game. But, again, these are minor inconveniences, and nothing that will prompt you to toss your controller in frustration like, say, getting your ass handed to you by Sub-Zero…again.
Now, along with the “Story” section, Mortal Kombat 11 also offers two versions of the “Tower” mode, in which you chose a fighter and have them take on a series of increasingly more difficult opponents. Along with “Klassic Towers,” which has you taking on a specific series of enemies, this also has “Towers Of Time,” in which the towers are randomly generated.
As with similar challenge-style modes in other games, the “Towers” modes in Mortal Kombat 11 are not without their appeal, but there’s not enough to them to warrant buying the game just to play them. And the same can be said for the “Local” mode, where you engage in one-off fights alone or against a friend, with solo players choosing their champion, challenger, the latter’s skill level, and where the battle will be held. Which is fun for a while, but only a while, and eventually feel like it’s just a training program for the multiplayer modes.
In the end, while while neither “Towers” (individually or collective) nor “Local” have enough to them to warrant buying Mortal Kombat 11 on their own, the depth, length, and variety of the “Story” mode does. Well, assuming you enjoy beating the crap out of cartoonish bad guys in violent martial arts battles for reasons that are flimsy at best. Sure, you’ll get more out of this if you play against friends, but thanks to the “Story,” those who prefer to go it alone will have a bloody good time (sorry) with Mortal Kombat 11.