Mortal Kombat 11: Accessibility Review

Disclaimer

The products and items discussed in this review were supplied by Warner Bros. at no cost to the reviewer. I'd like to thank Warner Bros. for providing me with this opportunity to review a game early to provide the below impressions and experiences, though note that the contents of this review may change over time and information may differ from the game at launch.

Introduction

Given the amount of time I spent in Mortal Kombat X and how close I came to earning all the achievements on the Xbox One version of the game, relatively speaking, I was very interested to see what the studio who has helmed the franchise for over 25 years would come up with for the next instalment.

Watching the trailer from the game awards had me anticipating great things and, being fortunate enough to attend the London reveal event and playing a couple of matches, I knew that at the very least the sound design and scoring would be worth the wait.

After getting to spend significant time in the beta playing online matches with random players, as well as even finding a fellow Jade player who would be interested in fighting me at launch, I had more of an idea what I was in for in the final game and I couldn't wait to get playing with the full product.

Fortunately, thanks to Warner Bros. I had the opportunity to get my hands on the game before release and test out, essentially, whatever I could.

So with that out of the way, here's my experiences with the latest Mortal Kombat game, the 11th main-line entry and the 22nd in the series overall.

First-time setup

Much like in the beta, when you launch the game, the only indication you know everything's worked is when the main theme comes in, rather softly I might add, along with a tap sound that indicates the interface has appeared, telling you to press A to start.

After doing this, the license agreement appears and, unlike in certain games that force you to scroll through nearly a minute's worth of text before being able to agree and back out, you can simply press A to agree and progress.

Next, gamma settings, along with Screen Adjustment and HDR Output settings are available, but can be skipped by pressing up then A to "Kontinue" should you not want to adjust them.

On the next screen, you are able to choose the type of audio experience you want. This is a left/right menu and you can press down and A to "Kontinue" to the next screen if you want to leave it on the default setting.

The screen after that showed the following as taken from Optical Character Recognition (OCR):

LINK TO MORTAL KOMBAT MOBILE Unlock the Kronika Announcer voice and receive daily login rewards by linking to Mortal Kornbat Mobile. Download the app and get your code from the settings menu. You can enter the code at any tirne in the Options menu on console. A NOTNOW ENTERCODE
As you can see, the font is relatively readable with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) using the Xbox App on Windows 10. However, the app needed to get the code is not accessible at all without sighted assistance.

Pressing A allowed me to skip this prompt and do it later should I so wish, though when I tried to, before the lifting of the review embargo, I couldn't find any such code, which was a real shame as I hoped to capture footage of this new announcer to have it up as soon as possible.

Update (Release Day)

As of the game's launch day, you can now unlock the announcer, as follows, still requiring sighted assistance:

Hopefully more announcers are added in the future, as well as audio-centric skins as opposed to just visual costumes.

Activating Accessibility Options

Now that you're in the main menu, should you want to jump straight in and activate the narrated menus and interactive object cues that you might've heard in beta footage, here's what you need to do:

Tutorial

Whilst installing the game which was around 39 GB in size, I wondered whether I would be able to start it before it had completed as it was possible to do with the previous game in the series. If so, I was also interested to see how much content the game would allow access to given that Mortal Kombat X had only two characters available in that state, with more adding as their content became available.

The game told me it was ready to start at around the 29% mark, and though I did think to just leave the game to install as I've heard of some rough experiences with older games on various platforms , I thought I'd give it a go. Unfortunately this did interrupt my download speed significantly, so I wouldn't recommend trying this when installing for yourself.

Once I'd gone through the setup procedure as described above, the first thing I went for was actually the tutorial and, to my surprise, the basic tutorial up to the section discussing adding directional buttons to your attacks to add a wider variety was accessible without sight. I completed that section but only via trial and error which, again, is not ideal.

If you're stuck, you can press the view button on the Xbox One controller to view a demo of what you're meant to do, which can be helpful on trying to figure out how to progress.

The vast majority of the instructions do read well with OCR. However, there might be issues with timing certain elements (throw escapes for example) as the windows are really only viable visually. Maybe NRS could adjust this later down the line to allow a greater range of disabled players, not just gamers without sight, to access these mechanics and unlock their full potential.

Once you get to the combos section though, as a gamer without sight, it becomes a process of viewing the demo and trying to understand what the attacks are just from the audio cues, which I found to be impossible and unworkable. This is a real shame considering how far I could get with OCR and no sighted assistance in the first place and that the text on previous screens read relatively well. I hope this, like the other accessibility issues encountered throughout this review can be resolved in future patches.

Story Mode

Starting up story for the first time starts a new game, allowing you to, first of all, customise story difficulty starting on medium. Going left twice puts you on very easy and, once set, going down and right once puts your subtitles on as well should you want those.

These selectors both wrap unfortunately, but it's great to see the options are there right at the start and easy to adjust with OCR. Who knows, maybe a boundary could be placed at either edge to create a non-wrapping menu?

Once you press A, the story mode begins, presenting the high quality version of the cutscene shown off at the reveal event.

The production quality is certainly up to if not exceeding the standards set by its predecessor. Unfortunately though, there are sequences where gamers without sight will have no idea what's going on precisely, though hopefully this can be reduced or eliminated via a transcript down the line, community driven or otherwise.

A lack of an accessible in-game move list also makes the fights feel rather frustrating, as the AI, even on the difficulty I had it set to, which OCR stated was very easy, certainly didn't feel like it at points. I did manage to play through the entire experience without sighted assistance though, even in spite of an accessibility issue covered later.

The cuts between fights and cutscenes are smooth for the most partand the voice acting is solid, even if the sound effects accompanying said solid voice acting seem overly compressed in a deliberately cinematic fashion much like NRS previous title, Injustice 2.After a while of listening to the sound design though, it wasn't as much of an issue in terms of imersion, though I do prefer a little more grit in a series like Mortal Kombat.

There will be no spoilers here but suffice it to say that the opening minutes certainly raise the stakes to unforeseen levels and the sheer amount that happens during this story is brilliantly suited to the gravity of the setup.

Unlike Injustice 2, even though points of the story might seem a little predictable, none of the writing seemed "flat" for want of a better word and I was definitely satisfied with the outcome when the credits roled.

After exiting the story midway through to see what would happen, going back into it from the main menu, once started, reveals the surprising fact that even the chapter number and titles are spoken by the menu narrator. For reference and in case you weren't aware, the menu narration just so happens to be provided by Jamieson Price, the voice of the in-game announcer, but without the announcer filter. This is the first time I've seen an accessibility implementation that attempts to not break imersion with a feature like this and, to be honest, after a while of playing, I really don't mind it other than the fact that less content reads than I would like, likely due to the need for VO to be recorded for pretty much everything if NRS wanted it to seamlessly fit together. I would not, however, object to dynamic items being read by text to speech, as that would then save on costs and allow for additional elements to read in the future as they're added to the game.

Minor story Spoilers Ahead

There is, as with Injustice 2, a choice system in the story mode. However, choosing between characters is hampered by a complete lack of cues as to who you're able to choose from, as well as what buttons to press to access them. If there are achievements for playing through with specific characters or through all possible battles, they will be harder to obtain simply because of a lack of sight. not being able to tell whether I've completed paths easily is also an issue, with this exact problem being a frustrating barrier to an achievement in Injustice 2, requiring sighted assistance to resolve. Hopefully the same is not true here in terms of ahicevement requirements, though I'll update this review once the achievements are released, as they weren't available during the reviewing period.

The Krypt

Pressing A on the option for the krypt shows a cutscene and, after that is finished, unfortunately, you are presented with an intirely 3d open-world scenario which it appears won't be navigable without sighted assistance. The environment of the Krypt has no distinct audio cues for navigation to chests or other items of use and it allows access to new consumables for Towers Of Time that otherwise would not be attainable. This is unfortunate as, were I able to play this mode myself, I would likely spend a while in it at the very least. Should NRS patch accessibility features into the krypt, then this area will be updated with the relevant information as to how to access those features.

Pratcie Mode

practice mode works pretty much as you'd expect, with seleciton of two characters coming first in the process. When it comes to picking your stage however, as a gamer without sight, there is no way to pick a specific stage without using OCR to see what stage is currently highlighted as th point where the selector puts you is completely random. This is such a shame as this is a holdover from previous games where it also caused problems for me and others in a similar situation to myself. Hopefully it can, like the other issues in this review, be resolved in a future patch.

Online Modes

All the online modes in the menu are announced when scrolling through the grid of elements, meaning that it's easy enough to jump into a ranked, casual or private game. Due to the lack of players pre-release, I was unable to test everything, but I'll document all my tests here in what detail I can.

Ranked Sets

I won my first ranked set, starting as Liu Kang against a Johnny Cage player, switching to Jade when I realised their strategies (involving large amounts of jumping) were unfortunately getting the best of me in spite of my best efforts to prevent them from jumping, similar to pretty much any other NRS game regardless of how long the game has been available.

After enduring a frustrating loss to a second Cage player (due to seemingly the same combo over and over again), my third ranked set was against a Scorpion player and, after a while of struggling as Liu Kang, I switched to Jade against this jumping player and managed to eventually win it back as a result.

My fourth ranked set brought me up against yet another scorpion player (insert reference to Mortal Kombat X's online scene early in the game's launch window). I won only after switching to Jade and utilising her strong uppercut and keeping my opponent cornered, which is difficult when they have a teleport.

My fifth and final ranked set again proved that when fighting scorpion, Jade was the best bet for me especially when they jump far too much, a common problem in this early stage of the game's lifecycle. Once the player switched to Kitana however, things became a lot more interesting, given that both characters had projectiles but only one, Jade, could counter them viably. Winning with fatalities was even more satisfying given the relatively intense nature of these matches.

This set of games proved that the systems of MK11 really do reward patience for the most part, but unfortunately, with fatal blows not having armour at startup, they can become near useless in the majority of scenarios where they could otherwise be a match winner.

If, for example, an opponent jumps in to attack you, you cannot use your fatal blow as part of reading that attack and countering it. Instead, without an accessible move list and an easy way to lab anti-airs (as the practice menus arne't narrated, you are limited to just blocking the punch or using an uppercut, which are mostly hit and miss on the majority of characters.

Having a replay feature would've also been brilliant even pre-release, as the matches I had definitely showed my growth as a player in terms of strategy VS random opponents. However, given this feature didn't appear to exist and I wasn't recording at the time those matches happened, I was unable to get any footage of some of the more interesting moments.

Towers Of Time (TOT)

Taking arguably too many cues from Injustice 2, though for relatively understandable reasons given the popularity of the modes it's emulating, NRS have elected to add consumables to the classic tower formula to create the Towers Of Time (TOT) mode. Unfortunately, this in itself appears to creat the first of a few accessibility issues, in that there is no narrated menu system for this mode and OCR will only read the item names in such a way that you can't really tell what you can choose from and there's no information on how to progress, meaning that you're stuck without sighted assistance.

That's what I thought, initially at least, the first time I tried to access the mode. However, to progress, if you have all your consumables chosen via OCR and equipped successfully, holding X then confirms your selection.

Once in, the tutorials are fairly straightforward, though OCR is, again, required to view the informational hints. The hints also use images to convey what buttons to press, so you might find yourself feeling underpowered due to a lack of knowledge of how exactly you're meant to move the analogue stick to activate various consumables and assists.

After completing the tutorials, I went into one of the towers and, though I could beat the first 3 or 4 opponents with relative ease, when I came up against Liu Kang in a mirror match, the AI proved to be too much for me. Spending around an hour on this one battle, though I wouldn't normally do such a thing, was certainly evidence enough that the computer, in its current state, is, at times, far too good to make for an enjoyable experience. It appears to, in certain scenarios, use exactly the right moves as it can still, as in the arcade days, read your inputs to know what moves you've used and precisely when to block them.

However, that wasn't the only thing I discovered. Digging a little deeper, I found that pressing X during the loading sequence (a relatively short windo of time) allowed me to pick a consumable to use through the various fights. This has no audio prompt and was only apparent to me with OCR. Though I couldn't retry my earlier fight with Liu Kang, I did understand that could've been why I was losing so badly, as I couldn't see what modifiers my opponent had available to them, making me unable to pick a workable counterpick.

Whilst playing classic towers again, I discovered that the consumables can also be used in the traditional arcade experience, though not at the final stage. This was rather a surprise to me as I understood that they could only be used in towers of time matches and, as long as they are easily earned in the final launch build of the game, could allow casuals to have far less of a frustrating time with the AI. One fight I went through as part of a TOT run had me facing, if memory serves, Noob Saibot and the only way I could win was by summoning Shao Khan as an assist. I don't have any footage of this, but it did somewhat cheapen the feeling of the match, making me feel like I had only won because the assist was there.

That assist, as it turns out, was not available when I went to use it in a different fight and, unless I can unlock a recipe from the krypt to craft it myself (as I think you could potentially do), I'm not sure whether I'll be able to capture any footage of that style of fight in action, which is a shame really.

As a side note, when selecting to use an AI fighter on the variation select screen for your chosen character, there is currently no way via audio to tell whether the option to use an AI has been turned on or off. However, this should theoretically be relatively straightforward to resolve in a patch down the line.

In all, TOT is definitely in need of some balancing and it would be great if the menus read without needing a (technically) third-party solution, but the idea from what I played works relatively well.

Multiplayer Towers

It appears there are tag towers (i.e. towers that can be completed with more than one player) but, unfortunately (though a single player option seemed to be available, I couldn't figure out how to access it. I'll update this review with the end result of any testing I do with such a tower in the future, including whether it's possible to invite friends etc.

King Of The Hill

I don't play King Of The Hill (KOTH), or rather I haven't due to accessibility issues with knowing what buttons/stick motions to use for giving the correct amount of respect etc. However, I definitely want to get into it for Mortal Kombat 11. With accessibility being much higher than previous installments in terms of menus reading and the like, I thought I'd give it a look pre-release and see if anything had changed.

Unfortunately, there weren't any players in the mode to test with, so I'll update this section post-release if I find any positives/negatives in terms of accessibility.

Private 1v1

Private 1v1 matches haven't been the easiest thing to set up in previous NRS titles due to the complexity of the menu structure and lack of narrated menus.

With that latter hurdle somewhat overcome by the existing pre-launch accessibility efforts, the process is much simplified in the sense that you press A and are instantly taken to the Xbox guide to invite a friend. What happens beyond that, not knowing anyone else I could test the game with early, I don't know, but I'll update this area with information after I've tried it out.

Customising Characters

Customisation items are unlocked through not only playing TOT, but also through the Krypt which, as previously mentioned, is not accessible without sighted assistance. This applies not only to things like masks, buckles etc, but also to intros, outros and brutalities from what I've seen.

As for how the process works, it appears to work pretty much the same as in the beta, with OCR being the only way to actually achieve anything. With unlockables only being available via TOT and The Krypt and me having very little to test the system with, I'll update this review if, or hopefully when, this scenario changes.

Kollector's Edition

The £280/$300 Kollector's edition of the game (KE for short hereafter) not only includes the game in a steelbook case, but also a collectable magnet with the Mortal Kombat logo and, arguably most impressive, a 1:1 Scorpion mask on a stand.

I had the opportunity to actually see one of these up close at the London reveal, given that the individuals at said event were gracious enough to let me have a brief literal hands-on look at the item, seeing that they wer indeed definitely detailed pieces that would likely be of interest to fans of the series.

Though I wasn't necessarily expecting to be able to add this to my review, thanks again to the generous folks over at Warner Bros., I can now talk about the unboxing process for the game in this premium form.

Unboxing

Gently look for the oblong tab at the top of the box, currently folded inwards to keep it closed. Place a finger either side between the outer edge of the box and the top flap, then carefully push inwards from either side at the bottom of the tab and pull towards you. If done correctly, you should be able to slide it free so that the top flap can then be lifted up and away from you by placing a finger each side of it and moving it from there.

Once done, part of the contents of the box is revealed, packaged in foam holders. The top right-hand item is the first of two steelbooks, with the second being a case with the embossed Mortal Kombat logo on the front of it (which I'd seen in person at the London reveal event).

These can be easily removed using the finger holes at the sides to lift them up and out of the box.

In fact, on closer inspection, I discovered the entire top tray (containing both steelbooks and a certificate of authenticity) could be removed, leaving the final and arguably main item still to be taken from the packaging.

Extracting Scorpion's Mask

Fortunately, there are two handholds, one at either side of the large polystyreen enclosure, allowing it to be easily lifted free from the exterior box.

Once you've lifted it free, however, you'll have to carefully cut through the tape that's all the way round keeping everything secure. Once you've done this, lift the mask gently from its plastic bag and enjoy.

I know I haven't covered what's in the premium edition steelbook, but since I already had the digital version of the premium edition, I saw no reason to open it.

The mask is a great tactile piece and, though it isn't of course made from cloth etc and is not wearable, it's definitely one that, as a gamer without sight, you can appreciate. As for the steelbooks, the MK Day one is great as a collector's item with the embossed logo and the commemorative coin which feels different on both sides.

All in all, if you want interesting physical pieces for your MK collection, this edition is certinaly a good bet, though some may consider it to be highly priced for what it contains.

Summary

Pros

Cons

Conclusions

Though NRS have again created a solid product for the average sighted consumer, I cannot confidently recommend it to a gamer without sight in its present state due to the inaccessibility of so much of the core single player experience. Whilst the online modes and story are relatively accessible (if you discount the fact that any sighted opponent will have an easier time with the game online due to an ease of seeing what their opponents are doing in terms of blocking etc), the krypt and towers of time, arguably two pillars of the end product, do not have a high enough level of accessibility to be user friendly to all but the most hard core of tech savi individuals.

However, the story mode is definitely worth investing in and the online experience (or what I participated in before release) was solid. Should it stay that way post-launch, this game will definitely be enjoyable to those who choose to jump in.

It was interesting to note that, even up to the game's release, there was definitely an emphasis on the designs for characters, culminating in this PlayStation article about costumes saying that they wanted to make the characters easier to read during gameplay even though, in audio, there is no equivalent at present to being easier to read. I'm interested to see if NRS improves on this during the game's support as potential there are solutions to issues such as being able to tel if an opponent is blocking high or low which can be key to landing certain attacks.

Regardless of the above issues, I look forward to seeing where the accessibility team at WB take this game, given that they are seemingly taking feedback on board in other areas such as the button combinations for amplification/enhancement. Who knows, if they add in additional features to improve the krypt, along with Towers Of Time, other currently non-narrated menus and the story mode experience, it is possible that we'll see this game become completely accessible without sighted assistance.

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