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Shang Tsung’s devilish smirk alone is almost worth the price of ‘Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath’

All of this adds up to some pretty good value at $ 40, but your mileage will vary. It’s too bad that the story and characters can’t be sold separately, as they serve two different types of players. Fortunately, what’s here is fun, and unexpectedly hilarious.

In a critically acclaimed (and ludicrous) campaign, “Mortal Kombat 11” ended with hero Liu Kang becoming the literal god of fire and thunder, prepared to reset all of existence with an all-powerful hourglass that controls time. But despite his power, he still can’t command time and space. He needs a crown, a Macguffin worn by the original game’s villain, Kronika.

In comes series villain Shang Tsung, literally from out of the void, with an answer. No one has seen this guy for years, and suddenly he pops in to ask all the heroes of the universe to trust his plan. Uh huh, sure.

Then, that smile. That damn smile. And that’s where the trouble begins.

It isn’t a spoiler to say that Shang Tsung has a trick up his sleeve. His crap-eating smirk gives away his whole game, yet all-powerful gods like Raiden and his brother Fujin — returning to the series in “Aftermath” after 14 years away — go along with him anyway. Shang Tsung is played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, the Hawaii-born actor who played the role in the seminal 1995 Mortal Kombat action movie.

Tagawa has considerably more to say than Weller’s RoboCop, or Terminator from last year, performed by Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. Tagawa basically reprises and updates his Shang Tsung portrayal for 2020, sneering and slithering through the proceedings, waiting for the perfect chance to strike. As the player, you never believe him, but it’s a delight to see him twist and spin his words to convince the gullible goofs of Earth realm that he’s got it all figured out.

It’s also fun to see it all go down. The writers at NetherRealm Studios seem to delight in playing with expectations and type when it comes to classic characters. Shang Tsung was always one of the series’ most distinctive, memorable characters. Tagawa gave the most memorable performance of the movie. It makes all the sense in the world, and kudos to them for pulling it off.

It probably wasn’t cheap either, and neither is this DLC pack. The previous “Kombat Pack” of six characters cost as much. So in lieu of three more characters, we have a campaign that could last up to three hours. It’s entertaining from beginning to end, animated beautifully with some convincing facial animation. Whether this is worth missing three extra characters is up to you.

For what it’s worth, Fujin and Sheeva are great fun to play. Sheeva in particular was missed, as she’s a speedy, powerful bruiser in ways most other characters aren’t. Fujin is the most unique of the bunch, and probably boasts the coolest moves of all the downloadable roster. As the god of wind, he floats and dashes around the screen like he’s straight out of a Capcom fighter, not a “Mortal Kombat” game.

RoboCop is probably the worst of the three, and it’s mostly due to who he is. RoboCop is predictably slow and clunky, and much of his moveset seems to be borrowed from the cyborg ninjas (a la Sektor, et al), along with other gun-toting characters. But still, it’s RoboCop, and he’s an especially fun matchup against Schwarzenegger’s Terminator. It’s all blood, clanking metal and cheesy one liners. And that’s what the “Mortal Kombat” series is. Its story is basically a classic Fox ’90s Saturday morning superhero cartoon with X-rated violence. “Aftermath” simply provides more reasons to indulge in it.

Anyone who never got “Mortal Kombat 11” in the first place is in for a good deal. You can get the original game and all the DLC for its original price of $ 60. If you missed out on the original $ 40 Kombat Pack with six characters (including the Joker and Spawn), you can buy “Aftermath” along with it for $ 50 total.

Anyone who’s kept up to date buying these packs is essentially punished with the premium price of $ 40. For what it’s worth, “Aftermath” is still a pretty good deal for anyone invested in “Mortal Kombat 11.” And it’s likely those same people bought the pack anyway.

Like “Smash,” it doesn’t look like these character packs will end. And the past pricing structure of this game’s downloadable content has already proven that good deals come to those who wait.

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