Mortal Kombat 1's wince-inducing fatalities are the tip of the iceberg
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Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros.
Have you ever seen a man reduced to a steaming pile of viscera on the floor after being churned to pieces by two magical steel fans? Because I have, and I fear it may have changed me forever.
Mortal Kombat 1 is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most gloriously gory game I have ever seen in my life. In my brief time with the game I saw characters impaled, torn apart, eviscerated, bitten into, immolated, crushed, smushed, smashed, and mashed. It is unashamedly, stupidly violent. There’s a majesty in the way NetherRealm has leveraged the power of new-gen hardware, not to create an open world the size of planet Earth or redefine the fighting game, but to double down on the most wince-inducing deaths possible.
But to simply say that Mortal Kombat 1 is the most impressive display of simulated violence ever created would be to do the game a disservice. It is also just a really excellent fighting game. I know it’s not like NetherRealm ever really misses, but Mortal Kombat 1 is so incredibly polished that I came away from my preview absolutely itching to head right back in and play for the rest of the night.
With Mortal Kombat 1 NetherRealm has wisely opted not to reinvent the wheel. This is still Mortal Kombat as you know and love it, with all the crunchy combat, squelchy finishing moves, and fast-flowing combos you’ve come to expect. But everything has been honed and refined into its ultimate form, offering up a deliciously brutal buffet of death and destruction.
I’ll level you: I am shit at fighting games. Like, properly shocking. But I’ve always loved them, and just like Street Fighter 6, Mortal Kombat 1 can make even the poorest players look like the coolest and most experienced killers in the multiverse. Of course it’s also worth pointing out that if you are actually genuinely good at the game you will be able to create deadly displays and seemingly endless combos so spectacular that you’ll probably want to save and frame every single replay.
While this is a Mortal Kombat at its twisted core, NetherRealm has worked to ensure that the game feels much more open in terms of flow and the moves you can string together. This opens the door for way more experimentation as you get to the grips with the characters and their movesets, many of which take direct inspiration from the classic games while bringing in some incredible new twists. Sub Zero, for example, can leave frozen statues of himself as he leaps around the battlefield to confuse foes. Kitana can create a whirling vortex and follow up with a devastating kick. Liu Kang can send a fiery dragon tearing across the battlefield.
An extra new twist to the combat of Mortal Kombat 1 - and the game’s big new “gimmick” - is the inclusion of Kameo fighters. These are classic characters from Mortal Kombat games of yore who will brawl alongside your main fighter, leaping into the battle at the push of a button with a special move or two.
There’s no getting around the fact some longtime fans of the franchise will be upset that Kameo fighters aren’t main characters this time around. There are undoubtedly those who will have wanted to see Jax and Sonya Blade as complete contenders in their own right, and I get it. As a Smash Bros fan I still remember the exquisite pain of seeing Shovel Knight as an Assist Trophy and realising he would never be what I needed him to be. But in all honesty, this feels like a genius inclusion that really opens up the best of both worlds and allows NetherRealm to include way more characters than they would have otherwise been able to.
While I’d worried that Kameo fighters would make things a little too complicated, they’ve been seamlessly integrated into the action. Tapping R1 and a directional button brings them into the fray to perform a move, although it operates on a cooldown so you can’t just spam their help. It becomes essential, then, to time your calls for help to really maximise on combos or get yourself out of sticky situations. Oh, and if you’re not careful you can actually get caught in the crossfire of some of your allies’ attacks, as I learned when I sent Jax in to perform a powerful ground pound and accidentally knocked myself out.
Like any fighting game, Mortal Kombat 1 will live and die on the strength of its modes and characters. But based on what I’ve played, NetherRealm has created something incredibly special. This is Mortal Kombat in its purest form, and I suspect that we’re going to be talking about it for a very long time.