Mortal Kombat resembles gory 1v1 combats, fatalities, and the famous uppercuts that can behead fighters or throw them off a bridge to land on deadly spikes. After the successful release of MK11 in 2020, the NetherRealm Studios is back with yet another Mortal Kombat game to renew this bloody experience once more. However, the expectations are high for Mortal Kombat 1 to deliver a fresh start, and the game mostly does so. The story of MK1 is well-written and unpredictable, the gameplay adds new mechanics to the series framework, and it’s a fun experience that’ll keep the fans happy overall. However, there are certain flaws here and there that stop Mortal Kombat 1 from being the ultimate reboot of the series. Here’s our review of Mortal Kombat 1.
Mortal Kombat 1 Review: It Has Begun!
Mortal Kombat 1 starts with Liu Kang describing how he has managed to create a new timeline where every being can find peace. His vision for greatness comes with new paths for every single Mortal Kombat character, and this results in seeing a returning roster from the previous MK games, but with a different sense. These characters are all distinct from what they were, and even Liu Kang is not exactly the same as we saw in MK11.
Story: A Master Reboot
The idea of this reboot by Ed Boon and the developers is well respected by our Mortal Kombat 1 review. They’ve not introduced a single new character like they did in MKX, and yet this new era feels as fresh as it should be. Some characters are totally redesigned for the better, and some others feel so new, as we only saw them in one or two 3D-era Mortal Kombat titles.
Take Ashrah and Reptile as examples. Ashrah is a NetherRealm demon that we only got to see in Mortal Kombat: Deception and Armageddon. This returning character very well fits the storyline and has a fresh new design with callbacks to her outfit in old MK titles. For Reptile, however, he has the best look and set of combos he could ever have in a Mortal Kombat title. His cloaking ability and custom as a shapeshifting Zaterran is a great way of recreating this character. That aside, Reptile’s backstory is now much more detailed, like the ones with Reiko, General Shao, and Shang Tsung.
Overall, Mortal Kombat 1‘s story is one of the best in the series. It would be so hard to retell a narrative after 30 years and still make it look fresh and amazing for fans and the new players. Once again, champions of Earthrealm are gathered by its protector, but this time, their stories are different. Raiden is chosen as the new champion, and Johnny Cage doesn’t mock everything as he did before. However, even this new path of events still makes characters like Kenshi and Bi Han, AKA Sub-Zero, become who they were known to be.
Nonetheless, there are so many nods, easter eggs, and hidden details in Mortal Kombat 1 that reference the MK universe. For example, the Kameo fighters like Cyrax and Sektor are taken right from the original Mortal Kombat trilogy in the 90s with their classic costumes.
Gameplay: Innovation Meets Deficiency
Speaking of the Kameo fighters, these characters make a lot of difference when you use them in Mortal Kombat 1. You can choose them after your main character and summon them by pressing a key. However, this key works the same as you do your main moves, which means you can do different types of attacks with each Kameo. For example, you can be Liu Kang and still be able to freeze your opponents thanks to Frost Kameo. You can also mix in the Kameo fighters’ moves with your main characters’ combos, opening doors for creativity in combat.
Other than that, the addition of Kameos has also given this opportunity for the developers to bring back some familiar faces without the need to explain their new story. Take Shujinko, an old fighter who was the main character in Mortal Kombat: Deception. Adding Shujinko in the main story of a reboot that restarts Mortal Kombat from the beginning may raise some eyebrows without a well-written origin explanation. But as a Kameo, Ed Boon can even add the Dragon King Onaga to the game!
Now, all the positivity aside, if there’s one thing we expect from a Mortal Kombat game, it’s the addition of different game modes. Yet, this element is missing in Mortal Kombat 1. After the story mode, the only things left to do are competing in online matches or going through the Invasion mode. The Invasion continues the main story, where you can learn more about Liu Kang’s new era. This mode offers RPG-like elements to the game, delivering fantastic gameplay with so many hidden details and easter eggs to discover. After the Invasion mode, however, there’s nothing else to explore.
After the story and Invasion, you can only play online matches with friends or on a ranked level, and this is where Mortal Kombat 1 fails to become the best. In fact, Mortal Kombat games nearly always offer different game modes and playstyles. Maybe Motor Kombat and MK Chess are the best examples from the 3D era in this regard. Mysteries and Unlockable are also the bread and butter for Mortal Kombat games, and MK1 falls behind many of the previous games in these respects. As an example, there are no Krypts to find unlockable rewards and no Konquest mode to explore. In fact, MK11 did better in merging these two game elements by letting players wander around on Shang Tsung’s island. The lack of different game modes is one of the negative points here in our Mortal Kombat 1 review.
Graphics & Audio: Mortals Kombat!
One of the most important aspects of the Mortal Kombat 1 is its visuals and graphic design. Surely, this game does not have a world-changing difference with MK11 in terms of graphics. But as soon as you get to the character selection screen, you’ll realize the freshness of it. Noteworthy to say, Mortal Kombat 1 has only been released on 9th-generation consoles and Nintendo Switch, meaning that PlayStation 4 and Xbox One players won’t be experiencing this new title. The effects and X-ray skull crushes are as gory and Kombatish style as they were in the previous entries. And the map’s design is much more detailed, as it should be. There’s one thing missing from the stages, however: the interactable items that players could throw and use during the match.
From the audio perspective, the voice actors on this project have done an amazing job of making the story and even the fights more fascinating. However, if you pay close attention, you will realize that some characters, like Nitara, have different voice actors during cutscenes and combat. Megan Fox voices this character for dialogues for sure, but her voice doesn’t match the one you hear when Nitara is hit in matches. In fact, this is the same issue we had with MK11‘s Sonya Blade, voiced over by Ronda Rousey, making the character’s emotions seem a bit dull in the cutscenes.
Conclusion: Mortal Kombat Restart is A Success
Overall, Mortal Kombat 1 is a fantastic reboot that reintroduces the fan-favorite MK characters and paints a fresh color on their story and design. The unpredictable narrative keeps Mortal Kombat alive with more mysteries to discover in the future, and the gameplay has gone through an overhaul with a new Kameo system and aerial combat. However, there are only a few game modes to play at launch, which costs the replayability of MK1 at some capacity. We also experienced some bugs and missing features almost make the game feel rushed.
*Review copy provided by the publisher; title reviewed on PS5*