Tag Archives: Nether Realm

Mortal Kombat 11 (Switch) Review

MK11Title

A few days ago the highly anticipated Mortal Kombat 11 came out, and has mostly gotten praise. But the Nintendo Switch version is often left out of the conversation. Like many people I was curious about how the game was going to work out on the console. So I picked it up after work on its launch, and I’ve been playing it after hours since. This is what I’ve found about the game on Switch, and the game in general. Much of this will likely apply to the other three versions out there as well.

PROS: Everything in the other versions is here. Plays great.

CONS: The visuals are downgraded. Crashes. Issues with the Krypt, and Towers.

WB: Still pulling pre-order shenanigans with Mortal Kombat.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room right away. The graphics. Between the trailer we saw at the Game Awards 2017, and subsequent footage, everybody was wowed. NetherRealm studios did a terrific job building some of the most beautiful backdrops, and character designs in a Mortal Kombat game yet. They didn’t do this alone though. The level of graphics, and animation work in this game is staggering. So it should be no surprise upon seeing the end credits you’ll notice over 20 software developers, and animation studios were paid to help the game along. You can tell a lot of hard work went into the visual aspect of the game alone.

MK11Cinema

So how does the Nintendo Switch version of this massive, illustrious fighting game fare? A small developer out of Miami, Florida called Shiver was contracted to port the game to Nintendo’s gaming tablet, and they did a fantastic job. While none of the consoles have bleeding edge tech in them at this point, there is a gap between a Tegra II tablet chip, and the AMD processors, and graphics chips in the Microsoft, and Sony boxes. As such there wasn’t much of a question that Unreal Engine 4 (the software that powers the game) would work well on those. It was possible to use on tablets, but how well was in question for the average player.

MK11Graphics1

Shiver has gotten the game running insanely well on the Nintendo Switch. It has all of the content the other versions have, and it looks pretty good too. It even runs at a high frame rate like the other versions. It just comes unsurprisingly, at a price. The best way I can describe it, is that fights look like you’re playing the PC version on just above the lowest settings. Which tells me that Shiver had the option to either make the game look like the other versions, but have a lower frame rate. Or they could have gone the route they did. And if I’m right about that, frankly, everyone should be happy they took that route. Mortal Kombat 11, much like previous games, requires very fast movement in order to pull off some of its best combos, and other moves. Frame rate doesn’t just effect what your eyes are seeing. It can often make a game feel more responsive. Something you need to have in order for a fighting game to work. Especially at a high level of play.

MK11Graphics2

And the end result still doesn’t look bad. You’ll notice the game changes visual quality at times too. During the pre fight banter the game looks like it runs at the lowest settings possible, and then ticks up to the lower, or medium settings when the fights begin, and stays there during them. The most noticeable downgrade is that the UE4 lighting effects have mostly been toned down or turned off. You won’t see a lot of reflections, or sheen on costumes, or metal objects in most of the game. Antialiasing effects are lowered, or off so you’ll see “Jaggies” as we used to know them. Most of the textures are still rendered at the standards of the other versions. But some of the background objects aren’t so they won’t look as crisp. Rather they’ll have a slightly blurred quality to them.

MK11Graphics3

And on some stages very little of these downgrades are that noticeable right away. It’s only going to be the absolute worst nitpickers among us who this will be a problem for. And at that level one could begin to nitpick the other versions too. Mortal Kombat 11 on the Switch may not look as nice as it does on the PS4 or XB1. But it doesn’t look bad either. If I had any issues with the graphics its that during the story mode it can be a little jarring to have the cut scenes running at their higher settings, then going to the lower settings for fights, and back to higher settings for more cinematic story.

MK11Kronika

That said, Mortal Kombat 11 has a lot of content in it. As I’ve said before, the Switch version has everything the other versions have. The main single player mode on display is the Story mode, which has been an expected feature since Mortal Kombat 9. I didn’t play the tenth game, so I can’t really compare the story in this one to that game’s. But I did play through MK9, and I can say it is a substantially better storyline here. I don’t want to go too in depth here as a lot of folks still have yet to experience it. But the game introduces a new villain. A Goddess known as Kronika. She looks suspiciously like Sinead O’Connor, and can control time, and space with a magic hourglass. She sets up a plan to wipe out the realms, and so our heroes, and villains in the roster set out to stop or help her. There are plenty of moments that will make you laugh, surprise you, and the story even tries to make you cry a few times. It doesn’t really earn that much from you, but you will be entertained. Thanks to some terrific voice acting performances, top-notch animation, and pretty good writing it does feel like one of the old 80’s action movies that inspired a lot of the classic Mortal Kombat games.

MK11Graphics4

Like I said before, the Switch version can feel a little jarring as you go through it, because the game switches graphics settings on the fly between fights, and cinematics. There was a rare moment in my playthrough where the game hiccupped doing this near the final chapter. It didn’t effect the game or story, but goes to show there’s a glitch or two that may require a bug fix in the near future. Beyond that though, I enjoyed playing through the story mode. It held my attention, and a few times in it, you’ll get the option to control one character or another. So you do get some replay value by going back, and playing with different characters.

MK11Graphics5

Beyond the story mode, there is the classic arcade ladder mode you can play. Doing this more or less is what you’d expect. You play a gauntlet of opponents the way you have since the original Mortal Kombat. As has been the case since Mortal Kombat 3, you can choose longer, and more difficult arcade ladders as well. Clearing these with each character gets you those classic arcade style endings. Each told from the perspective of the character had they been the canon protagonist.

MK11Store1

Spinning off of the arcade ladder is something called Towers Of Time, where you play a similar series of arcade ladders. But the difference is the fact that each match has conditions in them. Such as “Don’t touch acid, or your opponent gets health back.”. These can be a lot of fun, and can even help you get better at avoiding certain attacks. The mode is also tied to the game’s returning Krypt mode. Winning in these towers, will give you a lot of the green coins, and other currency you’ll need to spend in the Krypt. It can be fun to go in to these fights to grind for money. But there’s one major problem with it. It takes forever. The rewards you gain, for some of these brutal fights can be miniscule. Plus on top of the main currency, hearts are another currency. Hearts are needed in the Krypt to unlock some of the biggest stuff in the game. And you can only get those by getting fatalities, and brutalities while playing.

MK11Store2

And before you spout off about Warner Bros. doing to Mortal Kombat 11 what they’ve done in their other games by closing stuff off with microtransactions, that isn’t the case here. Yes, there is a store. Yes, you can pay for easy fatalities. Yes you can pay to unlock Frost instead of just playing the story mode, and using her for free. You can spend money on a virtual currency it calls Time Crystals. But aside from a few skins, and one button fatalities for each character there isn’t much you can buy that would affect gameplay. So when it comes to the stuff in the Krypt, you really can’t. You can pretty much skip the store in this one. The one thing you can levy at WB is the fact that Shao Kahn was hidden behind a six dollar pay wall in order to encourage people to buy the game before it came out, or at least pre order it. If you didn’t put your trust in the game before having picked it up, it costs you another six bucks to play as the character. He isn’t in the DLC bundle pack either. So that is the one blemish here as far as microtransactions go.

MK11Store3

Be that as it may, grinding away the coins, green gems, and hearts for the Krypt can take a long, long time. Supposedly NetherRealm has addressed this on a recent video update, and will be putting out a patch soon as of this writing. This should make things feel a bit more manageable for players who don’t want to devote all of their game time to Mortal Kombat 11.

As for the Krypt itself, it feels somewhere between the ones in Deadly Alliance, and Deception. It isn’t a simple grid done in a graveyard style. But it isn’t a full-fledged adventure game involving NPCs either. You go around Shang Tsung’s island finding boxes. But there are some hidden walls you can break open to get to new areas, as well as puzzles to solve to gain access to certain chests. There are even a few booby traps. You can die in the Krypt.

MK11Card

Opening the chests gets you anything from concept art to stuff you can use in the game. There are a few extra costumes, second fatalities, and augmentation parts you can use to enhance how your characters will play. This is a system that has been carried over from Injustice 2, and refined for this game. It’s a neat system because it adds an RPG like element to the fighting genre. One that might entice someone whom may not play many fighting games to give it a look. Of course, when it comes to the game’s online play there are modes where you can or can’t use them. Once you eventually open everything in the Krypt there is a building early on, with a round lever on it. If you have enough coins you can press it to close all of the chests in the Krypt, and fill them with different things. The other interesting thing about the Krypt is that every player will have a different experience. Because while everyone will have the same key items, the chests they are in, are in different locations. So you can’t simply try to look at a walkthrough on YouTube. The skin they found in a particular chest, may be in that chest. But in your playthrough that chest will be in a different place.

MK11Gear2

The Augmentation system also ties many of the modes together by requiring you to play everything the game has on offer. If you want a certain hat for Raiden for example, you’ll have to unlock it by going to a certain mode, or completing a certain challenge. Some of these items will be in the Krypt of course, but many will not. So you’ll have to go down the list, read the description, and then try to unlock it by playing that mode. You can also create custom move lists here too. You may want to use a version of Liu Kang where you use a different attack in lieu of the bicycle kick for instance. You can have different profiles of each character with different move sets, different gear to buff said move sets, and an overall customized look. It’s honestly pretty cool. But again, when talking about the competitive side of fighting games, you’ll want to play without these things, as these things can affect the balance of the game.

MK11Gear1

The game also gives you a Kombat Kard which gives you your stats, as well as a custom banner when playing online. It’s pretty much in line with other modern fighters like Street Fighter V, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle, and others. It’s nice that you can personalize your online avatar somewhat, and it makes it easy to look at your Win/Loss record, most used characters, and other information.

So the fighting is fast, and responsive on the TV against a friend, but what about online? Honestly, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the game’s net code on the Switch. You can choose to display the ping while playing which is going to give you a good indication of how well it’s going to hold up in a match. If you see an opponent in the 100ms – 150ms range, as I’ve had most of the time, it’s pretty solid. I haven’t felt like too many button presses haven’t registered or that there’s been a notable amount of lag. Somebody who is a contender at EVO or other tournaments may have a different opinion, but I think for most people it is pretty good. Obviously, if you connect to an opponent with a 300ms time you’ll want to decline the fight to avoid warping, moves not working as intended, and the other signs of a lag ridden match.

MK11Graphics6

That is one feature I really appreciate. It’s not one you see outside of multiplayer PC games very often, and it can give players a much better idea of how the experience is going to be than the usual red, yellow, or green bars found in many other online fighters. There are also a few ways you can play online too. You can do casual matches with other people. Here you can choose to play with or without the augmentations on. They’ll force the competitive move sets, and options the developers intended to be set on. You can play matches, enter a king of the hill mini tournament, or have A.I. characters battle it out.

If you choose to play the competitive mode the augments never come into play. Also the competition is fierce. As good as you may be, this is the place where people who love fighting games will be found most of the time. But it’s also the best way to learn the game. Really. If you’re new or lapsed the prospect of losing a lot may sound scary, but it’s where you’re going to learn the nuances much better. Yes there is a training mode in the game, and it will get you set up with the basics, as well as let you practice the game’s combos. But going up against other people is where you’re going to really learn things like zoning, looking for openings, and how to get around something you might initially find insurmountable. Even if you’re not looking to be the best in the world, it is a great way to pick up some new things to take with you against your local friends, and family. Rounding out the online mode, are areas where you can do private matches, and lobbies. So if you just want to play with friends online, or a place where your groups can meet up, it’s convenient.

MK11Kronika2

All in all I really like Mortal Kombat 11, and the Switch version is a very viable version. If you’re somebody who only has a Switch it is very easy to recommend in general. I can also say if you’re someone who has multiple consoles, and already bought it for your PS4, you might at some point want it on the Switch for the portability factor. The graphics downgrade is less noticeable on the smaller screen, and the fact you’re getting something that plays just as well is something to marvel at. Shiver should really be commended on what they’ve accomplished. One small thing to note however is that also like every other version this one does have some infrequent crashes. You’ll be going along, playing a ladder or going through the story, or exploring the Krypt, and see an error message that will be burned into your brain. It hasn’t been a frequent occurrence for me. But it is something I hope they’ll be able to figure out soon. Also the game does play better with a Pro Controller, or equivalent or Arcade stick on Switch. The C buttons just don’t feel as familiar as a true D-pad does.

Still, with the refined fighting system, wealth of content, solid net code, and a meaty story mode, the good outweighs the bad.  If you have a Switch, Mortal Kombat 11 is definitely worth looking into. It’s an experience that will raise eyebrows at the local Starbucks, as well as play exceptionally well on the big screen. The downgrade in visuals isn’t enough to make the game any less fun, and they still bring the buckets of blood, and guts you would expect from the series. I didn’t even talk about just how over-the-top, yet somehow unsettling some of this iteration’s finishing moves can really be. Whether you’re a long time fan or newcomer, MK11 will impress you on any of the platforms it has landed on.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Advertisements

The E3 game announcements that impressed me this year.

E3 has come, and gone. The conferences, and bombshells have all been dropped. So there isn’t much to do but wait to see what these new games, and products are like when they finally hit store shelves. So here are the ten titles I watched along with the rest of you. These are the ten that I found the most impressive. I may not get to buy, and  review them all. But they impressed me anyway. If you have the platform they’re on, I do hope you’ll keep an eye on them.

10. Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One)

For awhile people have complained about Microsoft relying too much on third-party games. So this year they answered the criticism with a number of first-party announcements. The biggest one in my opinion is Sunset Overdrive. This game looks really cool, appearing to mix elements of Dead Rising, and Tony Hawk Pro Skater. The animated designs of the characters are quite nice, and the Punk motif fits nicely. It looks brisk, and a lot of fun.

 

9. No Man’s Sky (PlayStation 4)

Hello Games showed off their game during the Sony conference, and colored me intrigued. No Man’s Sky is one of the nicer independent games I’ve seen in a while. Being able to pilot a ship, and explore the universe is cool enough, but the procedural generated worlds means it will be a different experience every play through. At least in the sense that the same parts won’t appear in the exact same order.  Even still, the game’s distinct aesthetics, space battles, and involvement with other players look impressive.

 

8. Rainbow Six: Siege (XB1/PS4/PC)

Ubisoft showed off a number of things between the Sony, Microsoft, and their own conference. Not the least of which was FarCry 4. But Rainbow Six: Siege hit it out of the park for me. R6:S is a return to form for the series. When Red Storm Entertainment originally started this series it was a real, unadulterated, tactical shooter. R6 games meant that players would get their friends together, look at a map, and plot a way into the property. It was about taking down the terrorists holding innocent people hostage. It was tough as nails too because one or two hits killed you. It wasn’t perfect, sometimes inconsistent A.I. could make a mission difficulty fluctuate. But on the whole, there was little else like it. So it was disappointing to many players when the series went into the linear, cover shooter route. With Siege, Rainbow Six, seems to be Rainbow Six again. Plotting out strategies, going in, and rescuing people in high risk missions.

 

7. Witcher 3 (XB1/PS4/PC)

I must admit I never got into the series. I know, I know. Blasphemy right? Well the footage, and news about this title will likely change that. Witcher 3 is supposed to be an even larger open world than some of the biggest sandbox games. More impressive is that it supposedly has no loading screens in the process. You’ll also be tasked with hunting monsters. There are over 100 hours of missions between the main storyline, and any side quests you might choose to do. Add in the fact that Valve already has a bundle up giving buyers all three games (When the game comes out), and you have more incentive. If the reputation from the first two games are any indication, this too, will excite fans of RPGs everywhere.

 

6. Super Smash Bros. (Wii-U/3DS)

What can I say? It’s Smash Brothers. It’s going to have Mega Man, and Pac-Man, as guest characters. A bunch of new characters. Miis aren’t going to be lame decoration fodder. They’ll actually be viable, and work as a Create A Character mode. It’s going to work with those spiffy looking Nintendo toys, so you can buff your characters. It will have online matches again. On Wii-U It will support an adapter you can plug Gamecube controllers into. It’s looking to be one of the most fun versions of Smash Bros. yet.

 

5. Scalebound (Xbox One)

All we saw so far was a trailer. I know that I’ll get heat for having in this spot. But Platinum Games has yet to truly disappoint me. Keeping the difficult, but rewarding action game genres going is their bread, and butter. A difficult, but rewarding action game with dragons? I think it’s going to be worth looking into if you have an Xbox One.

 

4. Bayonetta 2 (Wii-U)

Bayonetta was by most accounts awesome. It ran brisk, had colorful, fast action, and was hard. While the 360 version did perform better than the PS3 port, plenty of people enjoyed it on both of those systems. Last year, many fans were shocked to see that Nintendo had saved the sequel from development hell, by securing an exclusivity deal. This year they shocked us again. Because now, not only are we going to see Bayonetta 2 on the Wii-U, we will also be seeing Bayonetta 1 bundled with it at no extra charge. Plus fancy Nintendo themed costumes. The latest trailer showed off more exciting  game footage.

 

3. Grim Fandango (PS4/PSVita)

“Hey! Grim Fandango isn’t NEW!” Some of you will shout. But this is actually a pretty big deal. A lot of folks missed out on this gem. Some because they didn’t play those classic Lucasarts adventure games on PC. Others because they weren’t alive yet. But Grim Fandango getting a re-release AT ALL was a shocking enough announcement. The fact that it was secured by Sony helping Tim Schafer work out a deal with Disney was another. I’m sure some folks will bemoan this news the way others did when Nintendo secured Bayonetta 2.  But the only way you’re getting the PC game now is second-hand. So if you do have one of these Sony platforms you really should see what all of the hoopla is about.

 

2. Mortal Kombat X (PC/XB1/PS4/360/PS3)

I’ve always enjoyed Mortal Kombat games. Even the middling ones we saw on the PS2/Xbox/GCN were fun to play despite not hanging with the likes of Tekken. But I haven’t been excited for a Mortal Kombat since Mortal Kombat Trilogy promised me I could use every character. Then broke that promise when I found out it meant the PC version. Anyway, the last Mortal Kombat game, took me by surprise. Nether Realm learned from Capcom that people loved Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat for their 2D mechanics. So Mortal Kombat 9 took Street Fighter IV’s approach, and was a spectacular game for it. Mortal Kombat X  is continuing that trend, and trying to expand its lore. MK9 pulled a JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, rebooting things in an alternate time line. A lot of characters died, or were altered. In MKX we will see new characters, and the continuation of the Shinnok story arc.  Hopefully, MKX delivers another home run.

 

1. Splatoon (Wii-U)

A lot of you will call me crazy with this one. But Splatoon looks really fun. Also different. All of the time on forums everywhere we see people decry the lack of innovation in shooters. Leave it to Nintendo of all developers to shake it up. It isn’t a super gritty war shooter. It isn’t a bloody gore fest. It isn’t a paintball simulation either. Instead it’s a game that does something unconventional. Shooting the environment is the goal. Oh sure, you will have to shoot at the opposing team too. But the goal is to paint the landscape your team color. When the other team tries to stop you, that is when you dispatch them. There is also a cool mechanic in which you can turn into a squid, and travel through your own ink quickly. Or hide in it to stealth attack enemies. Or any other number of strategies. I for one hope it turns out well, and really takes off.

 

Don’t worry, I know there’s a lot of other stuff they showed this year. You might think I’m nuts for getting more psyched about some of these than some of those. In any case, it looks like next year there will be some great stuff to play.