Grab your umbrellas and rain boots, cuz the blood that is Mortal Kombat 11 is coming by the bucket. This past weekend was the Closed Beta for anyone who pre-ordered the game prior to March 15th, and yours truly threw down a deposit as soon as they saw the first bits of gameplay. My history with this series is a long one, dating back to grade school me getting their character’s skin ripped off by Sheeva in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 at a local Pizza Hut. If the beta is any indication, the full game, coming later this month, is going to be a truly can’t miss title.
The beta features five characters: the Hapkido hellion Scorpion, the green Edenian guard Jade, the hooksword-wielding Kabal, the Tarkatan nightmare Baraka, and the Blood Priestess Skarlet. Each character has three variations, each with their own set of special moves and aesthetic choices, ranging from Scorpion’s Boon’s Main (a nod to series co-creator Ed Boon) to Baraka’s Hack and Slash to the aptly-named Kaballin’.
In the beta, players can take on a tower featuring the designated five characters, or test their skills in online battles. After taking each character through the Beta Tower once, I can give something of an honest critique of the Kombatants, as well as their new Fatalities. The freeze-frame conclusions to the Fatalities add another step of finality to the ESRB-creating moves, and I’m honestly here for it.
Scorpion - The iconic yellow ninja rises from the Netherrealm to spear, slice, and immolate his way through the roster. His classic Spear and Teleport Punch specials come back, along with devastating sword combos. In his Fire Breather variation, he gets a Flame Breath attack, which can be amplified to add a walk with a purpose towards the opponent and a few extra seconds of fire.
His “You’re Next” fatality almost duplicates his “Who’s Next?” finisher from the previous game, punching through the opponent’s midsection, leaving only the victim's spine. After this physics-defying punch, Scorpion beheads them and spears the head through the mouth.
"Chain Reaction" takes his souped-up Spear over and down, slicing through the opponent with Hellfire-tempered steel. Scorps then emerges from the Netherrealm, slicing the opponent vertically in a truly awesome finish.
Jade - The emerald Edenian makes her return to Kombat with her signature Staff and loads of combo moves. Her Edenian Assassin variation adds several moves with her Staff, on top of her Shadow Kicks and Razorang attacks. I’ve never been a big fan of playing as Jade, but she is a fun character to play when played well.
Her "Bow to Me" Fatality is one of the prettiest Fatalities in a long time. In a graceful few twirls of her staff, she disarms her opponent, removes their legs, then decapitates them, launching the head upwards before a bullseye of a javelin throw through the mouth. It may not be as gut-wrenching as her alternate finisher, but this is certainly the move that is beautiful in its brutality.
"Pole Dance" starts with a knee to the back, before Jade opens up her staff through the opponent’s eye. She then bisects them with a well-placed Razorang slash before making their remaining upper half spin on a pole that will make them holler for more than just a dollar.
Kabal - The Black Dragon leader has previously been known as one of the cheaper characters in the series from the get-go. Here, his smug demeanor and snappy one-liners come with a whole new coat of paint, including his noxious gas in his Gas Master variation. His Hookswords make for a number of fast and loud combos, while his signature Rush attack leaves opponents spinning in place, open to a free hit.
His "Hooked" finisher makes use of the Hookswords, gutting the opponent, then severing their feet from their bodies, before fish-hooking the mouth of the opponent for a gruesome head rip. My only complaint is such: why the hell did it take this many appearances for the hooks to be used like that?
"Road Rash" is equal parts The Flash and time-warping slash, as the Hookswords dig into the opponent. Kabal takes them for a high-speed ride that grinds the face and its flesh clean off, before launching the opponent through the air. A time warp (again) brings Kabal to the other side of the opponent, as a precise Hooksword slash splits the opponent down the middle in one of the most “fuck yeah!”-inducing finishers of the game. It was just enough over-the-top with a very satisfying end, and isn’t that what we all want in a Fatality?
Baraka - The Tarkatan warrior is back, after having met a gruesome fate in Mortal Kombat X’s story mode while not even being a playable character. Fear not, as this arm-bladed badass returns with a vengeance, as well as a very fun Hack and Slash variation. Baraka is one of my all-time favorite characters in the series, and his return to Kombat is very welcome.
"Food for Thought" is up there for the most visceral, disgusting finishers in the franchise, and that’s saying something for a character with a mouth straight out of a B-horror film. He de-faces the opponent, first skin, then cranium, before skewering the brain of the fallen and taking a big bite out of it(!!). Cheap jokes about brain food aside, this Fatality had me cheering in my seat. The brain of the opponent is not an often-used component of Fatalities, and so it’s great to see that the developers used their noggins on this one. *ba dum tss*
"Rock, Paper, Baraka" is a slasher fan’s dream, as Baraka slashes up the sides of his opponent, then uses his arm blades as scissors to decapitate the victim. He then slices the head in two and skewers each half before the freeze frame. All of the skewering… was Baraka a chef before he was a warrior? Could that be a Friendship move, if ever they brought those back? Moving on.
Skarlet - After relegation to a DLC character in the 2011 reboot of the franchise, this blood sorceress makes her first appearance on the roster proper. Created from the blood of fallen warriors at the hands of Shao Kahn, this sadistic sanguine had some incredible fatalities in her first core game appearance. Her Blood Priestess variation adds even more blood-bending and plasma manipulation to this once-rumored colorswap of a character.
"Bloody Mess" delivers on its name, as Skarlet manipulates the blood out of the victim’s body, shaping it into a series of spears which impale the opponent. She then walks up and, because we’re all about that parting shot in this game, forces one spear all the way through the victim’s head, causing the eye to peekaboo out the back. Wince-inducing? Sure? Her best work since the bloodbath in Mortal Kombat? Nope.
"Heart Condition" had me divided at first. Tendrils reach out from Skarlet’s hands and find their way into the veins of the opponent, before a close-up of their heart indicates an overworking. A heart attack Fatality? What kind of Quan Chi in Deadly Alliance BS is this? The victim’s chest then busts open, as a result of a truly explosive cardiac episode, and delivers on the red stuff as a character named Skarlet damn well should.
While I won't break down the Fatal Blow moves like I did the Fatalities, I will say that they are a welcome alternative to the X-Ray moves from the previous two entries. These pseudo-finishers activate when the player's health is 30% is lower, offering a last-ditch save with a successful initial hit. It's definitely better than a domineering fighter pulling off two X-Rays in a single fight, especially when you consider literal ball-busting moves like Cassie Cage's from the last entry.
Mortal Kombat 11 drops on Tuesday, April 23rd for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The pre-order bonus character this time around is the Outworld overlord Shao Kahn. With over 20 characters already confirmed, and a new time-warping storyline promising that any character from the series could come back for one more go, this entry into the infamous Mortal Kombat franchise could be the most ambitious and satisfying yet.