Mortal Kombat 1 — out now on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC — is part of a pure and chaotic fighting franchise that has been running for a total of 30 years now. But with the numerical change, there comes a small twist. The skull-crushing and bone-crunching game is going through a reboot that includes a timeline reset across all the realms.
Mortal Kombat 1Rs 4,799
NetherRealm Studio manages this quite seamlessly by continuing the storyline from Mortal Kombat 11 so that loyal fans of the franchise can still be connected while luring in new audiences. While I could only spend a limited time during my first interaction with the game, this time around I spent a considerable time on it. There are a lot of aspects to unfold in the new edition of the game, let’s get right into it.
We played Mortal Kombat 1 on the PlayStation 5.
Gameplay and combat
NetherRealm Studios made sure not to mess around with the game’s essence. In fact, it feels very similar — something I stated in my first impressions as well. That’s a very good thing, after all — if it isn’t broken, why fix it? No matter how many beautiful cutscenes are thrown at you, fights still take place in a side-scrolling arcade scene. And, that works very well for Mortal Kombat. It has a certain recall value, which a lot of old-timers will love. You can choose to drive straight into the story mode or maybe test your fighting skills with the towers, a local versus mode, multiplayer modes or the newly introduced Invasion. This is essentially an RPG-like game mode which has some interesting easter eggs, challenges, quests, rewards, and whatnot.
The character roster is not as vast as its predecessor (yet), but options are plenty with everyone portraying a different style of fighting. As of writing this review, it has a total of 38 characters, both fighters and Kameos. This includes both new and returning fighters for the series. Besides that, a DLC which is set to arrive in Spring 2024 is likely to introduce more fighters into the mix. This is said to include Homelander from The Boys, Omni-Man, Peacemaker, and more. Some old-timers might be a bit disappointed seeing Jax, and Sonya Blade missing from the original roster, but worry not — they are included (in some way or another).
The biggest change in the game has to be Kameos. It’s a simpler way of calling for help when stuck in a mucky situation. The roster for Kamoes includes Cyrax, Darrius, Kano, Jax, Sonya, Goro, and more. Like I said in my first impressions, the Kameo system feels limiting, yet refreshing. The Kameo character can jump onto the battlefield when called upon for some extra assistance. This works for attacks as well as for defence. The Kameo characters love to join in on the combo moves, adding a bit more flair and damage to the opponents. What’s more joyful to watch is the timed block.
When performed correctly, the Kameo character helps you get away from that situation in a very cinematic manner, giving you space to breathe and plan your next move. The Kameos also team up with you during the Fatal Blow, this cutscene looks absolutely amazing.
The Kameo character can be called up by just pressing R1 for a quick blow, or L1 for a grapple and special attack. They can be called in multiple times throughout the game, as long as the meter is filled. But, besides this — Mortal Kombat 1’s combat scene feels very much like any of its previous editions.
Speaking of combat, NetherRealm Studios has nailed it in every manner possible there’s no doubt about that. The Mortal Kombat franchise has the best and most satisfying fighting scenes ever, and no one comes close to it. Uppercutting an opponent, kicking them in the face, swooping right under their feet, or just straight-up sucker-punching them with oh-so-satisfying sound cues — gives you a sense of satisfaction after smashing the buttons for quite some time.
Mortal Kombat 1 does not shy away from Fatal Blow — a neat way of levelling the playing field when a character is low on health. It includes a series of blows, skull-crushing, bone-crunching, flailing arms, and more that can completely change the final result. After all, the gore scenes and blood dripping from an opponent’s face is part of the Mortal Kombat’s legacy.
But, as I mentioned before, if you are a newbie in the fighting game scenarios, it will take you some time to adapt. This could have been made easier with a modern control system such as the one on Street Fighter 6 but seems like Mortal Kombat would rather stick to its traditions. I found playing with the D-Pad a bit jarring, initially, but after spending north of 12 hours on the game, I mostly got accustomed to it. Every button in the game has a purpose, and it fulfils it very well. Performing combos or just straight-up smacking some in the face is a fun affair when the input works as intended.
Story mode and graphics
It just took me two sittings to complete the entire story mode of Mortal Kombat 1 — that’s how invested I was in it. The reset in the timeline performed by the Fire God and Keeper of Time, Liu Kang brought peace to the realms. Tournaments between the Earthrealm and Outworld still happen, in a more peaceful manner, just as he intended. But, as you might have guessed, things don’t always go as planned, thanks to a foreign invader who messed around with the timeline.
The main story is perfectly executed with beautiful cutscenes — that might run a bit long but sets up the proper context. The best part about the story is that it introduces you to all the playable characters. Not just that, you get to play as them, so now you are very well accustomed to their moves and this makes choosing your fighter in normal modes easier. Moreover, it also sets up a kind of curiosity which you always crave in story modes.
It gives you a proper deep dive into the character’s past and why they choose the life they live. The character development and the chemistry between the Earthrealm fighters have all been well put together. Although, I wouldn’t say it’s completely perfect as some parts of the story leave you questioning the turnaround. Regardless, it’s absolutely worth playing the campaign as there are not a lot of other innovative other modes that can gauge your interest this much.
Evil characters such as Shang Tsung, and General Shao are also given a purpose, which unfolds throughout the story and does not feel forced. Every character is further made more realistic by amazing voice-overs that give them each a proper personality that fits the story.
The story mode also brings along Test Your Might which is a mini-game that first appeared in the original Mortal Kombat game. This again proves that the nostalgic factor is here to stay. And trust me, it surely tests your might and your controller’s will to live.
Mortal Kombat 1 looks absolutely stunning in each and every aspect of the game. The cutscenes are gorgeous, the fight scenes are immaculate, and boy, don’t even get me started on the sheer brilliance of the seamless transitions. The character models and fight stages are very detailed and the lighting helps the entire scene look beautiful, yet deadly. The attention to detail can be spotted during or after the fight when there’s blood dripping from the combatants or when their faces are covered in scars. The fatalities and X-ray graphics are just as gory, gross, and yucky — now with better lighting and more detail.
NetherRealm Studios has done a fantastic job at resetting the story mode while keeping the essence of the game intact. It looks and plays very well. While it’s good to see that the developers are trying something new by including Invasions, it’s something that did not grasp my attention as much as the other modes did. Especially, the story mode which can have you spend hours on the couch.
The gameplay is pretty much the same as previous Mortal Kombat editions — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing If there’s a forced change, the chances of things falling apart are high. And, the developers are well-aware of that, which is why minor inclusions, such as Kameos have been introduced. This could pave the way for future changes. It’s perfect as it does not alter the game’s essence and the 30-year legacy.
Rest, the controls can be a bit overwhelming for new-age button smashers, which is when I was reminded of Street Fighter 6’s modern control system. Something of a similar sort could help with the combat, at least initially. Regardless, Mortal Kombat 1 is a worthwhile game to spend your money on — be it for a newcomer or an old-timer. I just hope there are no more timeline reset or reboots.
The review code for Mortal Kombat 1 was provided to us by Warner Bros. Games