PAX East 2019: Mortal Kombat 11 runs well on Nintendo Switch... at a cost

Ever since the announcement that Mortal Kombat 11 is coming to Switch, so many questions have lingered in my head. How will it run on less powerful hardware? What kind of compromises will there be? What will Waluigi’s Fatality look like when he’s inevitably added as DLC? Okay, that third one is a stretch, but one can dream.

Speaking of which, expecting the Switch port of MK11 to run identically to the PS4, Xbox One, and PC version is just that — a dream. But that doesn’t mean it can’t run well.

Mobile game developer Shiver Studios is working on Mortal Kombat 11 for Switch at the same time that NetherRealm Studios is developing for the other platforms. They are essentially taking the assets NetherRealm presents to them and making them all run efficiently on Nintendo’s console. After getting some hands-on time at PAX East 2019, it’s abundantly clear that performance is the focus over visuals. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Fatal exceptions

There were a couple of noticeable examples of this graphical downgrading. When choosing your variation in the character select screen, the character model normally loads up. The Switch port does not do this, instead presenting a static, up-close image of the fighter’s face. During combat, Fatal Blows make it obvious to the discerning eye that the background gets fuzzier and less detailed. It’s nothing that negatively impacts the gameplay, but rather an example of how Shiver cuts corners to keep gameplay running smoothly. Considering that frame rate held steady at 30-60 frames per second, I’d say they’re succeeding so far.

A Nintendo booth representative at PAX East mentioned to me that this was an alpha build. There were also no pictures or video recording allowed — the only title at the booth with this rule. It’s understandable given the game’s early state, but it is still interesting how Nintendo and/or NetherRealm are protecting this port from potential scrutiny. Given what’s being shown and with proper context, I’d say this is an impressive feat so far. Will Mortal Kombat 11 for Switch wow graphics snobs? Not especially, but that’s the price you pay to rip off heads on the go.

Mortal Kombat 11 is scheduled for release on April 23.

David Giltinan
David has been involved in games media since 2012 running his own blog, YouTube channel, being a founding member of RETRO Magazine, and now as host/producer of ARGcast - Another Retro Gaming Podcast. He also dabbles in voiceover and is occasionally a stunt double for Jude Law.

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