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Mortal Kombat 1 Review

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Warner Bros aren’t afraid of a reboot or three. I’ve lost count of how many times the DC Comics have had a facelift or a revamp to bring in new readers. Similar too for the film series, now that they’ve finally got an understanding and a competent leader at the helm. And then there’s Mortal Kombat.

Now on its second iteration of films following the 2021 reboot, the video game franchise is also onto its second reboot as well, following the 2011 facelift. But whilst the term ‘reboot’ is used, innate knowledge of the franchise is still very much a benefit.

Following the events of Mortal Kombat 11, Liu Kang has relinquished control of the Hourglass to Geras, after recreating the universe in a way he deems best for all. The Mortal Kombat tournament still continues between Earthrealm and Outland, but it is now a much more sedate affair, rather than one for control over both realms. 

At least, in theory. There are those that would prefer it to either mean more, or be done with altogether. Needless to say, it isn’t long before Liu Kang’s vision of a re-united world unfolds before everyone’s eyes.

mortal kombat 1 review 1
Another reboot for Mortal Kombat

The story in Mortal Kombat 1 is once again very well told. In between the large number of fights you will need to have, the storytelling is of a high quality. It helps that it is one of the best looking games on consoles ever, but it is very cinematic, well voice-acted and there are some genuinely laugh out loud moments mixed in too. Mortal Kombat, despite all the copious blood and gore, has always been a bit silly, and the story mode leans into that with some very funny moments.

But that should only take you around six to eight hours to complete. From there, Mortal Kombat 1 has a few new tricks up its sleeve, as well as a few that should have been included.

The big new feature for MK1 is found in the Kameo fighters. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean the new roster includes the transformational sprites from the underrated 2005 game Kameo: Elements of Power, but rather having a buddy from past Mortal Kombat entries come in and help you out. Sometimes it is hard to forget the legacy that Mortal Kombat has, so it was a surprise to see the likes of Sektor, Jax, Cyrax and more as Kameo fighters and not main fighters.

With a simple press of RB, you can call a Kameo fighter in for a brief moment, allowing them to dish out some damage. If you use a directional button at the same time, you can mix up the move they perform, with some interesting results.

Mortal Kombat 1 has this time stripped a lot of things back in terms of fighting and gone back to a modern fighting game 101. Gone are the different fighting styles for each combatant as per previous entries, and it has reverted to a juggle combo system similar to Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.

Combat plays out at a decent pace; as visceral as ever. The Fatalities are violent, and no matter how many times you end up seeing certain ones, they never seem to get any more comfortable to watch. Performing a Brutality is also a fabulous way to put an abrupt end to a fight

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Super intense

But the fighting in Mortal Kombat 1 can feel a little bit basic at times. By that I mean it hasn’t really advanced the fighting genre scene like Street Fighter 6 did only a few months ago. It is a reboot that – at times – can struggle with its own identity.

This can be exacerbated by fighter movement. For all the technical advancements on show in the flashy graphics, fighting is still done exclusively on a 2D plane. And a horizontal 2D plane at that; there are no longer any destructible environments like previous entries. The only verticality comes from jumping about like bunnies, trying to land those vertical hits.

But those visuals are that good they need mentioning again. The graphical quality in MK1 is phenomenal.

Also annoyingly removed is the Krypt. Having evolved over previous iterations into this almost first-person puzzle adventure in Mortal Kombat 11, it has since disappeared into non-existence. Its replacement though, is just as much fun.

Invasions is a live-service single-player mode that mixes Mortal Kombat with a table-top board game. In this mode you travel from point-to-point on what looks a lot like a board game, handing out various forms of punishments. Fights in Invasions often have modifiers, and you can use a fighter’s element to make things easier or harder. As you progress, you can also level up your fighters. Some nodes will be fights, others will be Towers. But as this mode essentially replaces the Krypt, it is also full of secrets and minigames too.

It also has a story that complements the main tale, but it takes a back-seat in this mode and lets the gameplay shine through. It is seasonal also, so expect to see it evolve as Mortal Kombat 1 adds to itself over time.

And you can expect to be at it for a while if you want to see everything on offer. Every character and Kameo character has their own Battle Pass style list of unlockables, known as Mastery. Simply put, the more you use them, the further you can progress on the track. These are built-in to the game so there is a separate premium track for seasonal content, but microtransactions are present if you want some more lucrative cosmetic gear.

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Mortal Kombat 1 takes a step back

All the other traditional modes are here, including Klassic Towers, local and online multiplayer – along with a mysteriously titled Warrior Shrine that is simply ‘coming soon’ – tutorials, customisation options and a Kollection for unlocked videos and artwork. However, overall, Mortal Kombat 1 feels a bit lacking. After completing the story mode you will basically be left with Invasions mode or local/online fights. Invasions will keep you busy for a lot longer than the story mode will, but there is still a general sense that there could have been more.

Whilst definitely touted as a reboot in pre-release info, Mortal Kombat 1 has taken a few too many steps back. The fighting feels stripped back from previous editions, reverting to a technique that fighting games were using years ago, rather than evolving. The story is great fun to watch, and Invasions mode definitely has some legs to it, at least when more content is added. But there is a general sense across the board, from the fighting to the different modes, to the roster and new features, that more could have been done with Mortal Kombat 1.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Superb graphics
  • Great new story
  • Invasions mode is fun
  • Kameos can add a lot of strategy
Cons:
  • Content is a little lacking
  • Fighting feels a little bit basic
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Warner Bros
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5 , PC
  • Release date and price - 19 September 2023 | £64.99
Richard Dobson
Richard Dobson
Avid gamer since the days of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Grew up with the PS1 and PS2 but changed allegiances in 2007 with the release of Halo 3.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Superb graphics</li> <li>Great new story</li> <li>Invasions mode is fun</li> <li>Kameos can add a lot of strategy</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Content is a little lacking</li> <li>Fighting feels a little bit basic</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Warner Bros</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5 , PC <li>Release date and price - 19 September 2023 | £64.99</li> </ul>Mortal Kombat 1 Review
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