Mortal Kombat 1 review: klassic kombat

For some weird reason, I never got the chance to play any Mortal Kombat game during my initial gaming years. The reason this is weird is because I was playing pretty much every other fighting game, including Street Fighter, Virtua Fighter, TMNT: Tournament Fighter and even War Gods. However, things changed when my neighbour got a Sega Genesis with Mortal Kombat. This, combined with the movie, made me quite an ardent fan. However, by the time I could afford to buy my own games, the series was in a bit of a slump and I had moved on. Things changed with Mortal Kombat X and I became a ‘born again’ fanboy.

I always said that Mortal Kombat 11 was the best game in the series. And when it was announced that the series would be rebooted with Mortal Kombat 1, I was sceptical. By now the series has been rebooted more times than Batman and like Caped Crusader’s adventures, can either be great for the series, or it can spiral out of control. So which one is it? Let’s find out.

Table of Contents

Gameplay

Gameplay-wise, NetherRealm Studios hasn’t really done too much to change the formula from Mortal Kombat 11. You still get fights on a 2D plane, which in my opinion, is the best formula for the series. Each face button performs a select attack and a combination allows for a combo move or a special move. Once a player’s health drops below a certain level, they can perform a Fatal Blow, which is a super powerful move that can end a round or at least level the playing field. Overall, it is pretty much the same as MK 11.

As far as characters go, Mortal Kombat 1 does not have the same roster size as the previous tile, but I assume more will be added later in the form of DLCs. Do note that series mainstays such as Sonya Blade and Jax are not present. Well, not directly anyway. Speaking of which…

The big new change is the introduction of the Kameo system. This basically gives players a teammate that they can call upon at any time to help them out. These include some interesting names such as Sonya Blade, Cyrax and even Striker and Motaro. They can pitch in for an attack, or help you break out of a combo. They also help out during the Fatal Blow attacks. The Kameo characters can be called up to two times in quick succession, but then the meter will need to fill back up. Thankfully, this happens pretty quickly.

Do note that Kameo characters are AI-controlled, and cannot be controlled by the players. So this is not like Marvel vs Capcom or the Tekken Tag Tournament series where players could swap characters at any time.

Speaking of Marvel vs Capcom, it should be noted that the Kameo system is basically a more advanced version of the ‘Special Partner’ system that was introduced in Marvel vs Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes. In the words of Iron Man in The Avengers, “Thought we wouldn’t notice, But we did.”

I also feel that NetherRealm played it a little too safe with Mortal Kombat 1’s gameplay. Aside from the Kameo system, the game feels pretty much the same as Mortal Kombat 11.

Story

As mentioned earlier, Mortal Kombat 1 is a reboot but continues from where MK 11 ended. After defeating Kronika and taking control of the Hourglass in the previous game, Fire God Liu Kang has reshaped the world. The realms are at relative peace. The Mortal Kombat tournament still happens, but it’s not to the death. Liu Kang is now Earthrealm’s protector and it’s his job to train its champions for the tournament, which is where we meet the rest of the characters.

The story mode is pretty much the same as all other NeatherRealm Studios’ fighting games. It puts you in the shoes of certain characters for a few rounds before shifting focus. Each battle is punctuated with a cutscene. These can go on for quite a while and might give Hideo Kojima‘s cutscenes a run for their money. The way forward is simple – beat the opponent to move forward. Nothing too tricky.

The main story is quite nice and I found myself quite invested in it. We also get to see characters such as Mileena, Baraka and Reptile in a more forgiving light. Even Shao Khan (General Shao) and Shang Tsung are more rounded as villains instead of being evil for the sake of being evil.

Aside from the main story mode, you get Invasion mode and Tower mode. The Tower is a fighting game standard. Pick a character, and fight through a set number of matches to unlock the character’s ending. Invasion mode is more interesting. It is like a mix of a board game, RPG and a fighting game. Move forward to a tile, fight a quick battle, and then unlock items and upgrade your character.

Graphics

There is no other way of saying it, Mortal Kombat 1 looks gorgeous. The characters are extremely detailed and look incredible. Especially in the Story mode cutscenes. I also love the fact that characters take damage over time (visual only). After a match, your character will have blood on them. A nice little detail. Fatalities and X-Ray attacks are extremely gory, as they should be. This is a Mortal Kombat game after all.

However, it is the stages that take the cake for me as fast as graphics are concerned. The stages are gorgeous and colourful and the best I have seen in the series. The lighting is awesome, things fall over and react as you would expect. Even the gory levels look disgusting and bloody.

One thing I did notice was the game didn’t seem to have interactive environments anymore. I don’t know why the developers did this, but it feels like a step back in my opinion.

Verdict

Mortal Kombat 1 is a stellar game that looks wonderful and plays great. The Story mode is very interesting, and Invasion is an interesting addition. The Kameo system is very interesting and can change the flow of the round at times. However, the gameplay is pretty much the same as Mortal Kombat 11 and the removal of interactive stages is a bit of a step back. Nevertheless, Mortal Kombat 1 is a worthy entry in the series, especially for long-time fans and those who appreciate top-notch graphics and storytelling in their fighting games.

Rating: 8/10

Pros

  • Stunning graphics
  • Kameo system adds a layer of strategy
  • Engaging Story mode

Cons

  • Lacks gameplay innovation
  • No more interactive environments

More info
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch and PC
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X

We played a review copy of Mortal Kombat 1 provided by Warner Bros. Games

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