clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Mortal Kombat 11 looks amazing thanks to NetherRealm’s new performance capture tech

Just one of the perks of having your own motion capture studio

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

NetherRealm Studios has a lineage that goes all the way back to Midway Games in the 1980s. The team, best known for the Mortal Kombat series as well as the DC universe’s Injustice fighting games, has had its offices on Chicago’s north side for nearly a decade. That sense of permanence has allowed it to refine its animation and art style in ways that other studios can only dream of.

The result, shown in the clip above from the upcoming Mortal Kombat 11, is something extraordinary.

According to producer Shawn Himmerick, one of the biggest assets is NetherRealm’s building. It used to be a bank and, as such, it’s built like a brick shithouse. But it’s also home to a few unusual features. For instance, it’s got a vault with walls several feet thick. So, the team converted it into a one-of-a-kind recording studio. From there they can capture original voice over, or direct actors in recording studios remotely all around the world. In a small room just off the main recording booth, Mortal Kombat 11’s many gruesome sound effects are custom-made in private.

But the building’s secret weapon is actually towards the back, where the bank’s loading dock used to be.

When an armored car would roll up to this particular banking facility, it would actually drive inside the building to unload. That means NetherRealm has a massive cargo bay at its disposal with a huge rolling garage door on one side. So, about seven years ago, it outfitted that space with a state-of-the-art motion capture system. And then it began to tinker with it and upgrade it. The result is a two-story tall cinderblock playground. It looks like Star Trek’s holodeck and smells like a high school gymnasium.

Even further back, in another wing of the facility, is a custom-made room filled with dozens of cameras. Actors sit in the chair in the center of the contraption to create a baseline for facial capture. That, plus a new breed of motion capture rigs that straps directly to a performer’s head, has allowed NetherRealm to achieve an entirely new level of animation. You can see the results in the video above.

Mortal Kombat 11 will be released on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One on April 23.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon