After a surprising and literally head-exploding reveal at the Game Awards a month prior, NetherRealm Studios finally unveiled Mortal Kombat 11 in full late last week. As every Mortal Kombat fan knows, the most important thing about every new entry is the Fatalities, finishing moves that typically require a precise series of button presses to trigger, and this game doesn’t look like it’ll disappoint.
The trailer in December at the very least promised Scorpion being able to burn open stomachs and throw his spear into mouths, but that was one of the more tame Fatalities on display. Enemies can be shot into helicopter blades, have their brains eaten or get impaled by spears of their own blood. The gorier, the better, and that was only showcasing finishing moves from seven characters in a roster of 25, each of them with their own Fatalities that can be tweaked.
Mortal Kombat has always been a strange franchise in the fighting game community because of said gore. Super Smash Bros. has the seemingly endless roster of Nintendo and vintage video game characters. Soul Calibur includes weapons. Mortal Kombat’s bread and butter will forever lie in its gruesome kills.
It’s one thing to watch your opponent’s character fall to their knees after their health has been depleted, but it's another thing entirely to freeze their head solid while they're in a downed state, then punch it into so many bloody shards with your bare fists. Looking at YouTube and the hour-long montages of Fatalities throughout the franchise's history, it’s no wonder the Entertainment Software Rating Board was created as a response to the original game.
Violent as they are, they’ve also become unashamedly goofy. The ninth game in the series brought with it X-Ray moves, allowing for the camera to zoom in and provide a view of the player’s bones breaking and organs rupturing. It’s a proper companion to the Fatalities of old, and even works surprisingly well outside of the franchise that birthed it.
Mortal Kombat may play itself largely straight with its story mode, but the crew at NetherRealm absolutely know to appeal to their audience while still shocking them. 2015's Mortal Kombat X kept that shock by having several of the new characters be the children of classic mainstays, such as Johnny Cage and Kenshi. It's both very jarring and darkly funny to see Johnny reference The Shining in between his daughter Cassie’s newly opened stomach, just as it is to see her take a selfie with her dad and his dislocated jaw.
Maybe this was the route that Mortal Kombat was meant to take all along. After nearly 30 years, it was never going to tone down the violence. If anything, the existence of 4K resolutions and modern consoles may work in the Mortal Kombat 11's favor. Now they can be more comically disgusting than ever before. Some things are just going to flip between being gross and funny, such as ripping off someone’s face with your bare hands or punching them so hard their face and brain fly out of their head.
Mortal Kombat has grown up by changing how its woman characters look and having a more focused storyline, but it’ll never grow up in the way that truly matters. Nobody does stylish violence quite like this franchise and it should stay that way, because seeing these deaths is just too funny.