For me, the Mortal Kombat series has always been the definitive fighting experience. It’s the series to jump into if you want pure, unadulterated violence pitched in front of an amazing narrative. Although I have played each and every mainline Mortal Kombat game, I’ve spent more time with Mortal Kombat 9 and X. That being said, I have spent a huge number of hours on Mortal Kombat 11, but that’s mostly due to piggybacking off friends and playing split-screen with them. I’ve exhausted the content on MK11, played through the storyline (not the Aftermath Expansion, however), and racked up tons of wins (and losses) online. So, when Warner Bros. Games released the latest edition for MK11, I was intrigued.
So, let’s preface this review with an overview of Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate. Since its March 2019 release date, NetherRealm Studios has been hard at work on keeping MK11 fresh and providing post-launch content in the form of “Kombat Packs” and the Aftermath Expansion. In order to entice players, NetherRealm Studios have included the newly released Kombat Pack 2, which includes playable fighters Mileena, Rain, and Rambo. Those who have played Mortal Kombat before will recognize Mileena and Rain, while the 80s action movie buffs will enjoy the inclusion of John Rambo. The Aftermath Expansion is the series’ first story expansion, continuing the story of the main game. This expansion also includes three playable characters; Fujin, Sheeva, and RoboCop. Further alongside all of this is that MK11 Ultimate is Smart Delivery Enabled for the Xbox Series X|S, as well as provides a free PS5 upgrade for owners of the PS4 version — which includes 4K dynamic resolution, better visuals, and improved load times. Plus, players on both consoles can play via the games’ “Krossplay” support (boy, does NetherRealm Studios love the letter ‘K’)
Phew, that’s enough of an overview and a marketing pitch, let me share my initial thoughts on the Ultimate edition. Jumping into a practice match, I can already see those improved load times in action. It’s kind of nuts how far the technology has come, and how much effort NetherRealm Studios has put into optimizing MK11 for the PS5. It definitely ran great on the PS4, and the visuals were insane. But on the PS5, it runs amazingly and looks incredible. It really takes only a couple of seconds to jump into a match (and even less time selecting if you select a mode via the PS Home pop-up screen), and you can spend the rest of that time you made up taking in all those juicy visuals.
While juicy visuals and great load times are… great, what about the actual content you’ll be playing? Well, since the story, the Aftermath DLC, and the Kombat Pack 1 have been out for a while I’ll be putting those aside to address the characters in the Kombat Pack 2. Are they good? Are they fun? Without a doubt, they’re amazing.
Let’s start with the one and only Mileena. She’s been in the MK series since MK II in 1993, and since then she’s developed a huge array of skills and abilities. For example, Mileena can teleport onto the opponent and launch a High attack, drop down into the splits like Johnny Cage and throw her twin sai, as well as launch a roll attack that pushes the opponent into the air to set up a juggle combo. As for her cosmetics, I’ll preface that she has the best out of the three new characters. Players can unlock and customize her mask, gauntlet (which also changes her claws), or twin sai, and every single one of these looks amazing. Especially the mask, Mileena can opt for just about anything you could dream up for her (including, like other masked characters, going maskless), and each one of these will definitely intimidate whomever you’ll be versing. She’s also got four sets of costumes and three different, each of which is just as intimidating as the other.
Rain has been in the MK series since Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 in 1995. If I was to explain it to you in any way, I’d say he’s Mortal Kombat’s resident water bender. For example, Rain can turn himself into water and avoid damage from projectiles, launch a small wave to trip his opponents, as well as turning into a bubble a fly into his opponent to push them back (think Raiden with his flying electric move). As for his cosmetics, players can alter the look of his mask, weapon, and… er… shoulder pads. In all honesty, being able to change the shoulder pads are a bit redundant, as you might not notice them in both the fights and any cutscenes. As for the masks and weapons, they’re all amazing in their own right. Couple them with some of the best costumes out of all the other characters, and you’ve got one badass looking water bender.
Rambo is… pretty average. His move set is alright, like being able to launch a swinging trap out of nowhere, shooting his bow or machine gun, and being able to go prone to avoid attacks and launch a grab attack. But, they’re still just average. None of his moves stands out compared to the other playable movie characters. If anything, he plays like a really dumbed down Johnny Cage, just without the nut shots and supernatural abilities. For his cosmetics, they’re just as average. His headbands are all hidden by his hair, his knives (bar a couple) are standard hunting knives, and his bows are some variation of taped or not taped (again, bar a couple). It’s really just his finishers that are amazing, and make reference to certain scenes in his movie franchise.
Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate is fantastic, and I only really have one complaint to share, and that comes by way of the DualSense controller. The biggest downside to the PS5 version of this game is the fact that it doesn’t make much use of the new controller. In reality, it’s only the haptic feedback that needs tweaking. Playing a match, the only haptics you can feel is what side the character is taking damage — so, if they’re facing the left side and get hit in the front, you’ll feel the haptics only on the left side of the controller. I’d have welcomed NetherRealm Studios to have dived deep into the capabilities of this controller, and made it so you could really feel the damage you’re taking or giving. If you were to play Rain, you wouldn’t feel the water rushing out of your hands. If you were to play Mileena, you wouldn’t feel like you’re scratching someone’s organs out. I don’t mind that they didn’t make use of the adaptive triggers, since you only use them to block, and you really don’t need feedback on that. But, ignoring the other capabilities of the DualSense controller is a bit of a disappointment.
So, the question remains; is it really worth the upgrade? Well, it’s definitely not worth it if you already own the Kombat Pack 1 and Aftermath Expansion, and are really only after the Kombat Pack 2. This is reinforced by the fact that owners of MK11 on PS4 or Xbox One can get a free upgrade to the next-gen version, so you shouldn’t be buying it for the upgrade. But for new players, it’s the definitive edition to own. If anything it’s easier because you’ll receive instant access to all the post-launch content. If you’re not a new player, but already own MK11, you can purchase the Ultimate edition as an add-on bundle at $50. Otherwise, the new content coming by way of the Kombat Pack 2 can be purchased for $15.
Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate
Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate is the definitive edition to own if you don’t already own the game and post-launch content. However, running off a PS5, the improved load times and graphical enhancements are amazing and necessary. It’s a highly optimized game that feels like it was made for the new generation of consoles. The ability to launch within seconds from the main menu into a match is a technical marvel of itself. It’s definitely the Mortal Kombat 11 version to purchase if you want to own all the post-launch content from the get-go.