Since its inception over three decades ago, Mortal Kombat continues to be one of the most reliable fighting game genre mainstays. While the franchise began its life as a gore-fest arcade brawler, fighting game standards have increasingly risen over time. From Mortal Kombat X’s iconic console-generation bending budget, through to the introduction of surprisingly relatable characters, NetherRealm continues to push the boundaries of their genre defining franchise. This notion is once again proven true with Mortal Kombat 1, a fresh ‘reboot’ of sorts for the franchise.
Mortal Kombat 1 follows directly from the events of Mortal Kombat 11’s Aftermath expansion, where Fire God Liu Kang has created a new timeline. This time-bending change effectively ‘reboots’ the wrongs wrought by the past decade of realm fighting. As is always the case, the newfound peace and freedom in all of the realms comes at the cost of brand new conflicts and other grand designs. There are also new players entering the game whilst established icons are reinvented to better fit the all new circumstances they have been dealt. However, as with all kinds of time travel and resets, so, too, are new enemies and dangers borne.
Liu Kang, having seen glimpses of what this new timeline holds within its future, takes it upon himself to seek and train fighters from across the realms. Mortal Kombat 1 is an interesting take on what iconic characters from the past three decades would be like, had their circumstances dramatically been altered. This reset allows NetherRealm a whole new breadth of freedom, and writing a literal reboot into the main canon of the franchise signals heck of a lot of courage and faith in a fanbase three-decades in the making. As a long time fan, it is both refreshing and freeing.
The story is, simply put, the focus with Mortal Kombat 1. While NetherRealm only really began focussing on narratives in the previous title, the new beginning of the refreshed game comes with a sigh of relief as every character gets their well deserved dues. In this way, each fighter has their own chapter, where their backstory matters and it showcases how they deal with things that come to light. From experiencing Kenshi Takahashi’s constant tragedy, through to how Kung Lao and Raiden grow as frenemies, and even seeing Mileena’s internal anguish come forth, is all quite the treat. Seeing every one of these iconic characters in new light is also very cool and a major step up (not to mention quite different) from what players have seen from previous entries in the franchise.
Apart from a renewed emphasis on story and narrative, Mortal Kombat 1 features a new game mode called Invasion. In this mode, players take part in small challenges as they move through areas in a boardgame-style overview. Fights feature whacky and/or challenging modifiers that can be countered with equipped items collected throughout the game. Players ultimately have to escape the board without dying or risk starting over. Mini games are also scattered throughout the board, while activities such as “Test Your Might” from previous entries make a return.
Progressing through the board will eventually result in levelling up, as well as earning some coins. The most important part, however, is how Mortal Kombat 1 will shower players with items and equipment, making the grind to max level worth the cost of entry and time. Invasion also features seasons updated every six weeks, and every new season so far has delivered new challenges and rewards. The mode also adds a new form of replayability to a game where the story can only truly be experienced once, and where replayability traditionally relies on mulitplayer and arena kombat.
Beyond Invasion, there are the usual multiplayer modes, a great training mode, and the ever-returning Towers mode, where players are given five levels of challenge. Upon completing Towers, players will experience more of their chosen fighters’ backstory and lore in an epic finale.
As great as the game is, it is not without fault. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of about Mortal Kombat 1 is its definitive focus on keeping whatever made the previous title good, and simply reworking it – If it ain’t broke…? By playing it safe, the game feels and plays almost exactly like its predecessor. However, while gameplay really is just “more Mortal Kombat”, there are a few key additions worthy of mentioning.
The foremost and biggest addition to gameplay comes by way of the new Kameo system, a Dragon Ball FighterZ-style assist mode where players have to select an assist character before matches. At a press of a button, this character will literally feature as a “kameo” in the fight and unleash their most iconic attack. Kameos also join in during fatal blows, combining all the forces involved to be more visceral and gory than ever before in a Mortal Kombat title. It must also be noted how fatalities also change depending on the chosen fighter and chosen kameo, meaning there are many new combinations. A direct improvement of this is how many players will never see the same fatal blow twice if they keep changing fighters and kameos! A slight gripe with this system is how there are kameo characters who are not available as main fighters. At least Dragon Ball FighterZ lets players choose from any member of the roster to fill both roles.
Like Mortal Kombat 11 before it, Mortal Kombat 1 features a hefty tutorial. Whether one is new to the franchise or picking up the game after years of enjoying the previous entries, players will quickly get the hang of things thanks to NetherRealm’s dedication to tutorials. Learning how to play becomes a breeze, a wonderful and amazingly gory one.
Mortal Kombat 1 continues the tradition of making the game as realistically gory as possible. Environments feature depth and details fighting games tend to be too scared to feature, while particle effects and special effects help bring levels to life. All of this to further accentuate the incredible levels of R-rated murder happening on-screen; and just as tradition dictates, this is all done while the game refuses to dip below its promised 30 frames per second in fidelity mode or 60 frames in performance mode [and it loads quicker than the two-minute noodles in the microwave]!
Mortal Kombat 1 ultimately serves as an outstanding soft reboot of an iconic franchise, bringing a fresh perspective while still honouring its rich, three-decade-long history. This instalment also places a pronounced emphasis on storytelling, providing depth and context to the characters’ backstories. Invasion mode increases replayability, whereas the all new Kameo system opens new avenues of play; whilst the thorough tutorial systems keep new players from feeling overwhelmed. Despite feeling somewhat similar to previous entries in the franchise, Mortal Kombat 1 stands out for its commitment to delivering an engaging narrative, consistent performance, and visceral, detailed graphics. Overall, it serves as both a nod to long-time fans and a refreshing take on the classic fighting game.
|Invasion is surprisingly addictive||Some kameo characters deserve more limelight|
|Everything feels new and refreshing||Some hardcore fans may not like the new versions of their favourite characters|
Title reviewed on Xbox Series X with code supplied by Warner Bros. Games
Junior Editor at Vamers. From Superman to Ironman; Bill Rizer to Sam Fisher and everything in-between, Edward loves it all. He is a Bachelor of Arts student and English Major specialising in Language and Literature. He is an avid writer and casual social networker with a flare for all things tech related.