Mortal Kombat 11 Review

Editor’s note: In November 2020, NetherRealm patched Mortal Kombat 11, adding next-gen optimized technical upgrades for the Xbox Series X, Series S, and PlayStation 5. Below are our impressions of how the game runs on Series X and PlayStation 5, written by Mike Epstein. Continue after the break for the original Mortal Kombat 11 review.

Mortal Kombat 11 is a snappier, sharper-looking game on next-gen consoles. On both Xbox Series X and PS5, the incredibly (and sometimes disturbingly) detailed fighter has received a minor technical facelift and one or two new features that will ultimately make the game better for everyone. Though NetherRealm released a new version of the game, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, to coincide with the next-gen launches, all MK11 players receive access to the next-gen versions of the game and their benefits. On Xbox Series X/S, you simply need to download the game. On PS5, you will need to download the separate PS5 version of MK11, which you can grab free of charge if you own the PS4 version. (This means that you need to have a PS5 with a disc drive to get the upgrade if you bought a physical copy on PS4.)

MK11 sees similar improvements on both platforms. The next-gen versions run at a “dynamic 4K resolution,” which means it runs in 4K under ideal circumstances but will change resolutions on the fly to maintain smooth performance. According to NetherRealm, it’s also received a general tune-up, visually. As with most last-gen games, the next-gen consoles cut down MK11’s load times dramatically. The menus, which once took 5-10 seconds to load on Xbox One and PS4, load almost instantly on the Series X and PS5.

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Fuser Review

I’ve never really been a musician. When I was in middle school, I took the trumpet. In high school, I took guitar lessons. But I was never dedicated enough to the craft and I dropped both after a couple of years. Making music, even just for fun, was a prospect I left behind a long time ago. So I’m surprised by how inspired I was by Fuser, Harmonix’ new musical mash-up making game. While it has a score-based story mode similar to the studio’s past games, Fuser actually empowers you to be creative and make music from parts of songs you may already know. The core mechanic, switching tracks in and out to make music, is easy to use and wonderful to play with. The game Harmonix built on top of that core idea, however, doesn’t always take advantage of it effectively. As a result, Fuser is better at spurring you to be creative than it is at challenging you. That may sound like a daunting, niche experience, but no game’s made it easier to feel good about getting creative.

Fuser rides a vanishing line between music game and music-making toolkit. As a mash-up DJ, you create music by blending (or fusing) parts of songs together to make a new and often dancier version of your own. Each of the 80-plus songs in the base game’s library, plus a growing supplemental library of DLC songs, is broken down into four color-coded instrumental tracks, which you can switch in and out on the fly, changing the song as you go. You can play the drums from “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against The Machine, the guitar from “Jolene” by Dolly Parton, the trumpets from “Bring ‘Em Out” by T.I., and the lyrics of Sean Paul’s “Temperature,” and they’ll all cohere into one brand new sample. Your set is an evolving compilation of combinations.

The music you use spans decades and genres far beyond what you might expect from a game about DJing at a music festival. The tracklist spans pop, rock, country, dance, hip-hop, R&B, and Latin/Caribbe music from the 1960s through 2020. As with Rock Band, there’s a nostalgia that draws you in, but you quickly cultivate a new and surprisingly deep relationship with specific tracks that you may not have had before. I found myself growing to enjoy songs I knew but didn’t really love before, and staying away from some songs I like, but don’t fit in with the songs I like using most. Everybody I know Guitar Hero or Rock Band has a song they know and like from playing those games. The same thing happens here.

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Hyrule Warriors: Age Of Calamity Review

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity occasionally lets you take control of a Divine Beast. It’s a moment that should carry some weight for Zelda fans. The Beasts are colossal machines crucial to the events of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and while they’re cumbersome to control, the levels in which you play as them effectively communicate their destructive power. If you’ve played Breath of the Wild, these moments take on a portentous air; the power fantasy of using lasers, bursts of lightning, and volleys of magma to level mountains and rack up thousands of Bokoblin, Moblin, and Lizalfos kills is undercut when you remember how the people who’re using them can’t fully control them, and that these tools of destruction will turn on their masters when they’re needed most and destroy them.

That sense of impending doom is what I came to Age of Calamity for, but that’s where it blunders hardest. It constantly encourages you to set aside that feeling of dread, avoid coming to terms with the consequences of its apocalyptic premise, and instead just kill a bunch of baddies and think the Divine Beasts are cool. Doing that is fun for a while, but it couldn’t stop me from being enormously let down by that choice.

Age of Calamity’s narrative failure is especially frustrating because the disappointing turns it takes to get there seem so clear, and because it does so much right until then. The campaign begins with a small, white Guardian-like robot seeing the Calamity caused by Ganon in Breath of the Wild and traveling back in time to before it ever happened, when Link is still a royal knight and Zelda is working to unlock her potential and stop the Calamity from happening.

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Ori And The Will Of The Wisps Xbox Series X Review

Eight months after its initial release, Ori and the Will of the Wisps received some impressive technical upgrades on the Xbox Series X and Series S. The optimized version of the game hits an ultra-smooth 60-120 frames per second on both next-gen consoles at varying resolutions. It’s a huge comeback for a game that was initially subject to wonky technical issues. In the next generation, Ori sheds its graphical hangups and becomes more impressive for it.

Both consoles have frame rate-prioritizing “performance” and visually minded “fidelity” modes, but neither one feels like a compromise. On the Series S, you get to choose between 1080p with HDR at 120fps, or an upscaled 4K at 60fps. On the Series X, you can choose to play the game in 4K with HDR at a performance-focused 120fps, or goose the graphics in a supersampled 6K resolution, running at 60fps with HDR. Regardless of your settings, Will of the Wisps also benefits from enhanced load times and improved audio fidelity.

Supersampling, for anyone perplexed by the idea of playing an Xbox One-era game in 6K, processes an image at a higher resolution, then compresses it down to your TV or monitor’s resolution. You know how a screenshot gets blurry when you make it ten times larger? It’s kind of like the opposite of that… But happening in real-time because it’s a video game and not a static image. The thing you need to know is, when using 6K mode in Will of the Wisps, you aren’t actually playing in 6K, but what you are playing does get a nice visual boost over the standard 4K setting.

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Godfall Review

Godfall makes a good first impression. Even if you’re playing on a moderately powerful PC, as I did, it’s clear from the opening moments that developer Counterplay Games has endeavored to show off advancements in visual fidelity, no doubt in light of new hardware such as the PlayStation 5. From the way sparks fly to the myriad particles that coat every inch of its action and the reflectiveness of its gaudy gold and marble halls, Godfall wants you to know that next gen is here. Beyond the visual spectacle, however, lies a game that’s immediately familiar and over-reliant on an amalgamation of loot-driven games from the past eight years or so.

Godfall’s mixture of loot progression and third-person melee combat has been described by Counterplay Games as a new type of genre: the looter-slasher. The name holds up insofar as you loot and slash things, but there’s nothing about Godfall that feels intrinsically new. Diablo, Monster Hunter, and Warframe make up a portion of its overt inspirations, but it manages to avoid feeling completely derivative by pulling from so many different influences at once. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, especially since it mixes in a few of its own ideas as well. The issues Godfall faces occur outside of combat, where its structure and gameplay loop are decidedly uninspired.

The whole game takes place across three distinct realms: Earth, Water, and Air. Upon entering each biome, you’re given a brief tour of the area before being tasked with finding some kind of door that’s locked by a specific number of MacGuffins. From here, you have to return to previously visited locations and defeat a number of mid-bosses–some of which are unique, but most of which are repeats of fights you’ve already had. Once you’ve slain each of these enemies and acquired the requisite amount of MacGuffins, you can open the door and fight that realm’s boss. Then you simply ascend an elevator and repeat the whole process again in the next realm.

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