NetherRealm has supported its last four games with a healthy amount of premium and free DLC. From stages to characters to finishers, each has had a healthy flow of content over the years. But the Mortal Kombat 11 Aftermath expansion marks a new era for the team, as it adds in story-based DLC in addition to those aforementioned standbys. And while it’s familiar and rooted within what the base game already did, it manages to be well done enough to justify its existence.
Given how neatly Mortal Kombat 11’s story ended, that’s quite an accomplishment. Warping back to the beginning of time was a clean break and beautifully set the stage for NetherRealm to canonically reboot the series. Any DLC could jeopardize that sanctity and even though it may not be an essential story, Aftermath doesn’t feel completely superfluous because of the team’s storytelling craft.
Your soul crown is mine!
Aftermath sees Shang Tsung, Fujin, and Nightwolf warp to Fire God Liu Kang and his hourglass just as he attempts to break in his time manipulation powers. The evil sorcerer warns the newly appointed time god that he cannot kickstart a new age without Kronika’s crown and offers to go back in time to retrieve it.
Forging a fragile alliance with the original Mortal Kombat villain is an uneasy proposition. No one pretends that it is a good idea and many are outright hostile about it; both of which are sources of tension that lie at the core of Aftermath.
The game is also well aware of your skepticism and doesn’t hide from it; it embraces that to tell a story that literally retreads through the same areas without actually retreading through the same beats. It’s like Back to the Future Part 2 but with more satisfying descents into downright evil behavior that go far past rigging sports bets. Aftermath refreshingly revels in its malevolence, which isn’t something NetherRealm has welcomed in its other titles.
Every frame a (bloody) painting
Many of Aftermath’s successes, however, are straight from the studio’s other titles. The body and facial animations are spectacular, selling the nuances of each furrowed brow, embracing touch, and look of disdain more than words can. The words themselves are performed well, too, with Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s Shang Tsung (soul) stealing the show. Cutscenes are also immaculately shot and ensure that the camera captures the most interesting angles and lighting that best fit the moment.
This is particularly true of the fighting choreography since there is no shaky cam to hide poor action and lets you focus on how impressive each brawl is. They’re creative, visually engaging, and weighty, which aren’t attributes even the best Hollywood blockbusters can claim to have. Pacing is also blazing fast thanks to the seamless transitions and lack of load screens. Both stealthily serve the game’s previously mentioned narrative prowess and allow NetherRealm’s underappreciated cinematic storytelling talents to take center stage without annoying distractions.
A worthwhile edition of worthwhile additions
The story is only part of Aftermath as Fujin, Sheeva, and RoboCop are also included as playable characters. Fujin is flashy like few others in the cast are as NetherRealm uses his airbending as a means for extravagant strings and combos. Sheeva is a grappler, mix-up-heavy beast and fits the Shokan-shaped hole that Goro left after his death. And even though RoboCop initially seems like an uninspired pick like Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, he straddles the line between a Cyrax or Sektor-like robo-ninja and a faithful representation of his film likeness. Given RoboCop’s respectful adaptation and how Sheeva and Fujin are better than they’ve ever been, these three fighters fit right into the growing roster.
It’s impossible to divorce the premium Aftermath content with the free stuff in the accompanying update. The four stages are all solid additions and three of them thoughtfully utilize the series’ past and meaningfully build upon it. Friendships incorporate the signature Mortal Kombat goofs without the gore. Stage Fatalities do incorporate that gore back in and layer on yet another type of finisher, even if only three stages have them at this point.
All of these additions help round out the game as a whole yet so it’s even more discouraging that the same patch fails to address its fundamental flaws. Online continues to be mostly lag free, but you still can’t filter out the Wi-Fi Warrior Scorpion mains. Toxicity is still rampant and NetherRealm has done nothing to curb bad behavior and encourage sportsmanship. And while the most recent balance patch had noteworthy changes, many of the tournament variations are useless or underpowered and undercut the tough decisions the variation system is meant to evoke. Future updates can easily remedy these (and other) shortcomings but seeing these issues persist a year later is disappointing, especially since this is supposed to mark a new era for the game.
Mortal Kombat 11’s blemishes have carried over to Aftermath yet they are far outweighed by the accompanying strengths that have also made the jump. NetherRealm’s extraordinary cinematic techniques are on full display in Aftermath’s three-hour campaign and provide an appreciated touch of darkness to the game’s overall narrative. RoboCop, Sheeva, and Fujin also all earn their place on the character select screen even if none of them were topping out anyone’s most-wanted list. Aftermath’s premium additions, in conjunction with the free content, demonstrate that Mortal Kombat 11 is more than capable and deserving to survive far into the future; a true but welcome irony for a game famous for its gruesome depictions of death and dismemberment.
GameRevolution reviewed Mortal Kombat 11 Aftermath on PS4. It is also available on Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch. Code provided by the publisher.