When I initially reviewed the base game of Mortal Kombat 11, I gave it a hell of a thrashing. Though I praised the gameplay and the exceptionally goofy-yet-brilliant narrative, I had to lambast the grindy unlock mechanics and downright malevolent in-game currency systems.
Fast forward a week later, and the game had been patched to fix all of those things, leaving my low review score hanging in the air like a bad fart. And I just had to marinate in it. MK11 went on to become my most played title of 2019, hoovering up hours of my life with scarcely a concern on my part – it had easily become one of the most accessible fighting game titles I had ever experienced.
Yet I was forever on record as saying ‘The game is fantastic, but I can’t possibly recommend it.’
Hey man, social distancing is still necessary in Outworld
Thankfully Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath is here to serve as a second chance to review the title, and maybe clear the air (get it? Because of the fart I mentioned before? Oh forget it…).
Aftermath is far more than DLC, it is a fully fleshed-out expansion to the base game. Previously Mortal Kombat X got a similar title upgrade when it was changed to ‘Mortal Kombat XL’, but that served more as a collecting of all DLC to release the game as a complete package. Instead, Aftermath offers a slew of new kontent – ranging from cosmetics for existing characters, to new gameplay content, brand new character additions and even a set of new story chapters to continue the narrative. While the price tag associated with the release could be considered steep, it’s hard to fault the amount of bang you will likely get out of your kombat buck.
Can anyone else hear that? …no? Just me?
It’s a timely thing too, with 12 months under its ninja belt Mortal Kombat 11 is in a position to welcome a stimulus of attention to slingshot it back to the forefront of being relevant for a while longer. So how does it stack up?
Perhaps the most exciting portion of Aftermath is actually included as a completely free of charge update to the game. Incredible new stages have been added – including some gorgeous updates to retro favourites – as well as huge balance changes to give a leg up to some long suffering characters. Did I mention that Friendships are back? Because they are, and they are available for every playable character on the roster. And they are every bit as insane and absurd as you could expect – I went out of my way to remain unspoiled, and can genuinely say that a fair number of them had me laughing out loud.
Show no mercy – Give ’em the ol’ RAZZLE DAZZLE
This does mean that the paid-for portion of Aftermath squarely includes the three new characters, and the additional story content – so this is where your mileage may vary. While the story is every bit as fun as you’d expect (more on that later) the question has to be asked, do you care enough about the new characters to shell out the hefty $59.95 price tag to experience them? Because as of this moment, they are not available separately.
When it was time to throw down, I felt super amped to throw my own punches
For many, Sheeva, Fujin and Robocop may be a mixed bag. I personally love all three of them, with Sheeva and Fujin seeing a welcome return to the Mortal Kombat beatdown and Robocop further cementing the series as having the greatest array of 80s action/horror film guests ever devised. Gameplay-wise they all have their unique strengths; Fujin utilises a hefty amount of unconventional movement options to strike you in unexpected ways, Sheeva is a powerhouse bruiser that feels positively monstrous to play – and Robocop is a slow, methodical zoner that plays like you are re-enacting the 1987 film. He is even voiced/performed by the OG cyborg himself, Peter Weller, from the first two films. This easily elevated Robocop to a full-blown S-tier in my books, because the flavour was just so overpowering I couldn’t help but buy into it.
The story content is mercifully not presented as a useless B-plot – I find that so often titles will offer ‘Story DLC’ that is aggressively designed to be sanitised beyond belief, existing in a vacuum and having no real stakes alongside the initial plot. The Aftermath campaign however, picks up directly after the moment where Mortal Kombat 11 ended – taking us on a madcap epilogue story that allows the player an opportunity to play as all the returning Mortal Kombat DLC characters.
RoboCop and Friends
The show stealer of this entire experience is by far Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung – his intensely smug demeanour as the soul-stealing sorcerer elevates an already fun caper into a total joyride, his smarmy smile appearing in every scene he can possibly cram it in. Many hero characters have their chance to question why we would ever work with the long-time villain of the franchise, and the guy happily shoots them his best shit-eating grin as they list the atrocities he has committed in the past. BUT – he is their best chance at saving the day, so the story marches ever towards them cursing his sudden but inevitable betrayal.
Shang Tsung – his powers include shapeshifting, sorcery and smarm
Beyond the usual amazing character work, the choreography in the fight scenes is a level beyond. I actually found the kung fu spectacle to be a great deal more involved than the initial MK11 campaign, with action scenes capturing my undivided attention. When it was time to throw down, I felt super amped to throw my own punches – thanks in part to the scene building up to the player’s eventual involvement.
While the story only really clocks in at around three hours, the pacing feels on-point and focused. It does not carry the heft of the initial storyline, but serves as a punchier post-ending with similar stakes and different faces to mix it up. It was a joy interacting with the Kombatants again, and having the outsiders finally appear in the big-screen narrative made the experience feel more complete. A real concern I found nagging at the edge of my subconscious was asking what NetherRealm could do with the title from here – they did promise more post-launch support for MK11 than any of their previous titles, but I can’t help but question if Aftermath is it.
Marty, we have to go back
Aftermath is an exceptionally polished collection of content, expanding the base MK11 product in a fulfilling and interesting way. However, when you stack up the freely offered portion of the content beside the $59.95 price tag, you may find yourself weighing up how much of the paid portion appeals to you. But with a full year of MK11 behind us, many may find the cost an acceptable price to reinvigorate this title for the foreseeable future.
Reviewed on Playstation 4 | Review code supplied by publisher