Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Mortal Kombat 1, the latest reboot of the beloved fighting game franchise from NetherRealm Studios.
Mortal Kombat 1 Review Transcript
Mortal Kombat 1 is the latest in the gory fighting game series from NetherRealm Studios which reboots the franchise’s intricate plot once again, after the partial reboot of Mortal Kombat 9.
The story picks up after the events of MK 11’s Aftermath DLC, where Liu Kang becomes the keeper of time itself and strategically remakes the universe into a more peaceful one, before giving up those powers to become the demi god of fire and protector of Earthrealm. But despite his efforts, an unknown entity begins pulling strings to instigate a war between Earthrealm and Outworld. The history rewrite allows for brand new personalities and scenarios to unfold amongst characters that you’re otherwise familiar with. For example, Scorpion and Sub-Zero are now blood brothers, Raiden is a human, and Baraka and Mileena are afflicted with a disease called Tarkat instead of being Tarkatan, a race of people. These changes have rippling effects on the events that you once knew and make space for, honestly more sensical ones.
I really enjoyed watching what was essentially a mass retcon unfold over the roughly 6 hour story campaign. Its high quality cinematic cutscenes are packed with martial arts action and nerdy deep cut fan service, but I wouldn’t judge anyone unfamiliar with the franchise’s elaborate lore from getting nothing out of it. Its plot serves up a large amount of references and nods to events that you just have to remember, and despite having a 1 in its title, it’s still very much the 12th game in a series.
For all of its narrative updating, Mortal Kombat’s gameplay remains largely unchanged from its 2011 iteration. Fighters still have a dedicated block button, you manage a meter for enhanced specials, and devastating Fatal Blow attacks can turn the tide of a losing fight. The brutal system is still great fun, but the new Kameo feature that pairs every fighter with a selectable assist partner feels underwhelming. Kameo fighters are an entirely separate roster of characters and there is no mode that excludes them, so this is the big new change for MK1’s fighting system. But its inclusion just feels like more blatant fanservice spilled over from the story mode.
Aside from the campaign and Online modes there are the classic arcade towers, combo tutorials, and a new seasonal single-player mode called Invasions. Invasions has you navigate what looks like a game board with various challenge fights that make use of stage hazards, special items, or other modified properties. Winning will unlock cosmetic items, like masks, arm bands, and color palette swaps for characters as well as full alternate costumes, but I found the mini games and modified fights pretty bland and repetitive. I did however love all the fun and intricate details packed into the design of the game board, at least the first tutorial board set at Johnny Cage’s Mansion. I do hope for more like that versus the uneventful countryside of others like the board set in Fengjian Village.
Mortal Kombat 1’s cinematics are gorgeous, but they’re clearly pre-rendered videos cutting back and forth between gameplay. The in-game character models, animations, and effects are amazing in their own right, but it’s not always the smoothest of transitions. It’s not a big hang up, especially since I’ve had no technical issues in my time spent with the game on PC, and have generally had good quality online matches as well.
Mortal Kombat 1 talks a big game about a fresh start but it’s a relatively safe entry in the now 6th iteration of Netherrealm’s modern fighting game formula, if you include Injustice 1 and 2. The nostalgia-soaked story campaign is a great deal of fun if you’re already in love with this world and its characters, but the rest of the game’s modes and core fighting just didn’t hold my attention for long. The game is available now for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S as well as a terrible switch port apparently.