Only a few gaming franchises can safely run the line of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and get away with it.
For example, 'The Sims' was more or less right the first time and subsequent iterations merely improved on it until it became the cultural behemoth of the early '00s. Likewise, 'Command & Conquer' basically wrote the blueprint for real-time strategy games and all that followed in its path built up with it varying degrees of success. When it comes to the beat 'em up genre, there are two stalwarts - 'Street Fighter' and 'Mortal Kombat'.
Sure, you might have 'Tekken' or 'Soul Calibur', or even 'King of Fighters' in there as well, but it's always been those two. It's iOS and Android. Marvel and DC Comics. 'Eastenders' or 'Coronation Street'. They appear the same, but the differences run further underneath the surface that we initially give them credit for. Where 'Street Fighter' is replete with earnest victories and cheerful battles, 'Mortal Kombat' revels in its brutality and laughs with blood-drenched glee.
This was evident all the way back in 1990, and now, 29 years on, how can it continue to impress? How do you reinvent something which was perfected in the '90s? The simple answer is that you don't. 'Mortal Kombat' knows better than any other gaming franchise that reinvention doesn't always lead to success. The lacklustre attempts to adapt to 'Tekken' and its 3D arena format with 'Mortal Kombat 4' forced it to go back to basics with 'Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance' in the next iteration.
'Mortal Kombat 11' picks up right after the events of 'Mortal Kombat X' and while story has always been something to ignore in the franchise, the Story Mode does have enough an intriguing concept to keep you playing it. As well as this, the option to change characters in particular scenes adds a nice touch, as do the nods and references to its own storied past. Where 'Mortal Kombat 11' comes alive, and always has done, is in its multiplayer.
The action does appear to be more slower and deliberate, and while you might not get the same results from mashing buttons as you would have done in, say, 'Mortal Kombat 9' or any other iteration for that matter, it's still enjoyable. The background actions work add an interesting flourish, as does the Fatal Blow system. However, the unlocking / item system adds a layer that feels unnecessary to enjoying the game proper. Moreover, you get the sense it's been brought in to satisfy commercial demands as opposed to enhancing the experience of the game itself.
These issues aside, there's a lot to like about 'Mortal Kombat 11'. The animations are fluid and there's still the same satisfying punch / kick / throw action you get from battling it out against the computer or online. The addition of new and old characters, again coming from the bonkers story surrounding the game, is a welcome excuse to play as the old-style Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade. Likewise, seeing Scorpion and Sub-Zero in their old-school costumes is a blast.
'Mortal Kombat 11' is, when you come right down to it, nothing new. Yet, the detail and the improvements to the basic concepts keep it fresh without being overbearing. The tastefulness - yes, that's a word you can use with 'Mortal Kombat' - with which these improvements have been applied make for an enjoyable, entertaining experience.