By Adele Chapline Smith
NEW YORK (CNS) — The formation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board regulatory body in the 1990s was partly brought about by the notorious reputation of the first title in the “Mortal Kombat” fighting-game franchise. A quarter century later, the latest installment in that long series, “Mortal Kombat 11” (WB Games) arrives with a renewed storyline and outstanding visual graphics but with gory mayhem little diminished.
In this chapter of the mythology-laden saga, “elder god” Raiden (voice of Richard Epcar) decides to kill off all the enemies of Earthrealm (the game’s stand-in for plain old Earth). Embittered by past battles, he decides this is the only course of action open to him. Kronika (voice of Jennifer Hale), the architect of time, however, believes that Raiden’s plan would upset the balance between good and evil.
Kronika therefore sets out to eliminate Raiden’s very existence by rewriting history. To help her accomplish this goal, she pulls iconic characters from past “Mortal Kombat” games into the present through her power to manipulate time.
One such character is Raiden himself. Past Raiden, horrified at what his present self has done, seeks both to stop Kronika and to prevent the mistakes he will make in the future. Raiden recognizes that Kronika’s efforts are just as wrong as the actions his present self has undertaken.
Kronika, like the present-day Raiden, believes that the ends justify the means. Removing Raiden will restore moral equilibrium, no matter how many lives may be lost in the process. She cares for stability and nothing more. Gamers of faith will recognize this as misguided. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention” (CCC 1759).
Enemies and allies from the past and present alike must come face-to-face with Kronika’s immoral behavior and choose a side once and for all. The displays of sacrifice and redemption within the storyline mitigate the game’s violent aspects.
The plot moves along through the use of cutscenes, interspersed with platform battles controlled by the player. The fighting mechanics adjust based on game difficulty, but they can be a challenge for gamers new to the genre even on the easiest level. Combos must be executed to achieve victory.
Battles are one-on-one and involve brawling as well as the use of guns, elemental powers and swords to weaken the health of opponents. Deadly finishing moves, called “fatalities,” trigger intensely violent cutscenes depicting characters being decapitated, dismembered and otherwise mutilated.
Cooperative online playing is available for players to engage in battles with friends or in matchmaking.
Playable on Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
The game contains intense bloody violence and frequent coarse language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, material whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is M — Mature.
Smith reviews video games for Catholic News Service.