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Mortal Kombat 11 hates skeletons and brains but likes trailers

Mankind's last hope in the Skeleton War

Mortal Kombat 11 is looking every bit as blood-drenched as ever, but perhaps a little smarter than usual, systems-wise. Unveiled today during a big-budget live event, NetherRealm's next in the ridiculously over-the-top fighting series looks to be doing things a bit differently. Heavy-hitting moves and fatalities are still gory fun, but winning looks like it'll require a bit more consideration, juggling new offensive and defensive special gauges. See how it all works in the massive trailer-dump below, including a bunch of fighting and a peek at the new story mode.

The theme of Mortal Kombat 11 seems to be 'use it or lose it'. You start the match with a full Offence gauge (used for weapon/super attacks), and a full Defence gauge (used for dodge-rolls and combo breakers), and they recharge after use. Similarly, once you're low on health you unlock your Fatal Blow attack - absurd, skeleton-crushing beatdowns, but you're only allowed one of them per match. It's an interesting reversal of the usual fighting game mentality - you're not trying to stock up on things to spend on the enemy, but are encouraged to use everything you've got.

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Story-wise, it picks up after Mortal Kombat 10. Fans will remember that everything went very badly wrong last time, most of the cast died, and thunder-god Raiden was ready to take his frustrations out on the universe. Ordinarily this would probably leave us with about five playable characters, but fortunately there's a pair of new time-travelling villains to ensure that we've still got a full cast, even if the timeline suffers.

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Here's one of those new time-bending baddies, Geras. He also does stuff with sand, because I guess hourglasses are a thing. He also has a neat trick where he punches the back of your head so hard your face pops off and your entire, fully-intact brain just cartoonishly shoots out of your skull. Nine out of ten doctors agree; "Ouch." The tenth's brain is currently flying across the room. He's also the right-clock-hand-man of Kronika, goddess of time, who'll be the new final boss.

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Most of the old favourites look to be returning, of course. It wouldn't be a Mortal Kombat game without Sonya Blade, this time voiced by wrestler and MMA punch-lady Ronda Rousey. It looks like there's going to be 24 characters at launch, although this is a Warner Bros-published game, and at least six more as DLC coming. You've probably spotted the lady in red in the trailers - Skarlet. Returning from Mortal Kombat 9, she's a blood mage. Her deal is, unsurprisingly, blood. Her own, yours, anyone that just happens to be passing by. Blood spears, blood scythes, blood everything.

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And because some of you are just shameless gore-hounds, here's a showcase of some of the absurdly hyper-violent fatalities. Easy to understand why they're being so... thorough, at least. If your opponent gets back up after punching them so hard their entire skeleton explodes, and they're still up for a fight after losing 200 pints of blood, this is how you get them to stay down. They really got their bone rendering (and shattering) game worked out for Mortal Kombat 10, but the flavour of the week (literally, in Baraka's case) seems to be bright pink, gooey brains this time.

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This 'behind-the-scenes' trailer gives us a peek at some of the underlying animation tech behind the game, and a few more clips of the game in action. They also talk a bit about the character customisation system. As with NetherRealm's Injustice 2, you can collect costume pieces, which can either be used to dress up characters for the online catwalk, or to boost their stats for use in special, less balanced modes. Character customisation also lets you swap around some special moves.

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And lastly, you can watch the whole reveal stream here, including a competitive showcase later on. The developers go into more detail on the combat system changes here, and it's clear that they've switched up the pacing of the game somewhat. While I've yet to get my blood-soaked mitts on the game, it feels it's borrowing a lot of ideas from Injustice 2, and cranking up the aggression.

Skip to 34:47 if it doesn't automatically.

Whew. And that's it for now. While I've not time to compare at length, I feel that Mortal Kombat 11's character animation is better than ever. It feels that like they're not trying to imitate the movement of the old arcade character sprites anymore, and they're leaving the legacy of those old digitised actors and palette-swapped ninjas behind. It all feels like a big step forward for Mortal Kombat, and an interesting rework of its systems. Somehow, it's looking dumber and smarter than ever - I guess that's why it's so mean to brains.

Mortal Kombat 11 launches on April 23rd, although pre-order beta starts on March 28th. Pre-ordering folks also get original beefy boi Shao Kahn as a bonus character. You can find it on Steam here at £50/€60/$60 for the regular version, and £70/€90/$100 for the Premium edition, including DLC. The game is published by Warner Bros Interactive.

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