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Games of the Year 2019: Mortal Kombat 11 gets under your skin

Gore blimey.

Over the festive break we'll be running through our top 20 picks of the year's best games, leading up to the reveal of Eurogamer's game of the year on New Year's Eve. You can find all the pieces published to date here - and thanks for joining us throughout the year!

Mortal Kombat 11 got under my skin. In the case of D'Vorah's grotesque insect fatality, literally.

NetherRealm's fighting games have always felt janky to me, so much so that I'd never put serious time into learning how they play in the same way I had done with Capcom's ultra fluid Street Fighter. But Mortal Kombat 11 turned a corner for me. I found myself in the lab, fussing over frame data and practising set-ups like a giddy teenager with too much free time.

Certainly Mortal Kombat 11 is NetherRealm's best-feeling fighting game yet. The characters dart about in time to your D-pad presses, and there's a lot less of the physics-defying animation blending previous games from the studio are criticised for. NetherRealm still has some way to go to match the fluidity of animation on offer in the likes of Street Fighter, and I still can't fathom why side-switching is still around, but Mortal Kombat 11 feels as responsive as it does punchy. Given just how punchy this game is (you can actually punch through someone's chest), this is very much a good thing.

With the fundamentals in place, Mortal Kombat 11 is free to shine in other areas. I found myself drawn to characters by design rather than tier placement. Shao Khan, that hulking brute, was an early favourite, his huge hammer a thumping, clunking gong of destruction. Hitting enemy heads so hard they'd come clean off was enormous fun. Four!

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But then Shang Tsung arrived fashionably late to the party as DLC, and finally my main was at my fingertips. The old sorcerer came in a few flavours, but two stood out for me: old man Shang Tsung fans of the first Mortal Kombat will be familiar with, and Shang Tsung based on the likeness and voice of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, who played Shang Tsung in the wonderful '90s Mortal Kombat movie. What fan service!

From the lab, and with Shang Tsung in hand, I ventured into the stressful realm of ranked play and the Kombat League (this is Mortal Kombat so all Cs are Ks, of course). I was instantly hooked. The Kombat League has some serious issues when it comes to ranking points distribution, and, after a while, I got pretty sick of facing off against identikit Scorpion players (that teleport can do one), but I found myself fussing over the Kombat League to the point where I'd prepare for each fight with a mental runthrough of my strategy based on the matchup. I hadn't taken a fighting game this seriously since the glory days of Street Fighter 4.

When I finally hit the demi god rank - the third-highest in the Kombat League - I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment. It had been one hell of a ride, stressful but exhilarating, intense but memorable. For a few months Mortal Kombat 11 was the only game I played, the only game I cared about. And now my deep dive into its gory innards had paid off. Satisfied with my work, I put Mortal Kombat 11 down. Ever since then I've only dipped back in to test new DLC characters. It was a glorious three months, a rekindling of a time in my life from what feels like a lifetime ago. But this Shang Tsung main must now rest, a bellyful of Scorpion souls evidence my work is finally Komplete.

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