The very nice people at Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment invited me to their offices to spend an hour playing with the Joker, the latest DLC character to be released for the gargantuan hit fighting game Mortal Kombat 11. As a lifelong MK fan, this is easily the greatest thing I’ve ever been asked to do as part of a workday, and I was eager to take the Clown Prince of Crime for a test drive before his release on February 4 (January 28 for everyone who purchased the full Kombat Pack). And after spending roughly 60 minutes beating the brakes off of my opponents with a jaunty metal cane, I can say that the Joker is a ton of fun to play, with an gonzo arsenal of special moves that are as entertaining as they are effective.
Joker is appropriately theatrical in everything he does, and he’s voiced by an admirable Mark Hamill soundalike, which was a nice touch. He dances into each match and continues to mug for the camera even when you aren’t pressing any buttons. The match introductions, during which you’re treated to a brief cinematic of the two characters briefly trading fightin’ words, are especially delightful, as Joker spends every second of them dunking on his opponent with a shit-eating grin.
For those of you who are fans of NetherRealm Studios, the first thing you’ll notice is that Joker plays much differently in MK 11 than he does in the Injustice series. He’s still primarily a zoning character, but MK 11’s Joker is focused on carefully laying traps to extend combos and keep his opponents on their toes with mix-ups. (Excuse the FGC speak.) His moveset revolves around a jack-in-the-box that he can launch high or low, a handgun hidden in a Batman puppet, a bound-and-gagged hostage who hops across the battlefield until you choose to detonate them, a gasoline can that can set the ground on fire, and the aforementioned cane. All of the moves can be meter-burned to extend their range and effectiveness, or change their properties entirely – the Batman puppet fires a slow zoomy rocket on meter burn instead of the standard quick bullet projectile. You can also use the Batman puppet as a counter, which leads to one of the greatest Brutalities in the game if you time it correctly.
The Joker has an interesting mechanic wherein you can hold the last button in a special attack command sequence to move him around the battlefield. For both the high and low jack-in-the-box, holding the button will cause Joker to creep towards his opponent until you release it and launch the projectile. Keeping the button held down during the gasoline can will make Joker move slowly away, covering an increasingly larger area of the battlefield in gas before you release the button and set the trail ablaze. And holding down the final button of the Batman puppet gun will keep the gun aimed ahead until you decide to fire, which is both a good way to trick your opponent and a great way to entertain yourself, as Joker starts doing a ventriloquist routine with the puppet for as long as you keep the button held.
Finally, I took the Joker through a few Klassic Towers to unlock his story ending (which can be viewed in the video below), and without spoiling it I can say that it perfectly fits with his brand of gleeful chaos and features a few surprising deep cut cameos from previous games in the MK series.
All in all, the Joker is a tricky character to master, but immensely satisfying once you learn the timing of his moves and are able to start dealing out insane combos. Check out a supercut of some of the Joker’s special moves, match intros, Brutalities, Fatalities, and his story ending below. Joker releases in Early Access for Kombat Pack owners January 28th and for everyone else on February 4th, along with a truly awesome pack of D.C. Comics-inspired skins including one that turns my main man Baraka into Killer Croc.