Mortal Kombat 1 review - a safe but gloriously gory delight
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Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros. Games
After a four-year hiatus, the next entry in the iconic fighting series is here from NetherRealm Studios and it promises to be the most brutal, silly and packed Mortal Kombat game ever, but can it live up to that promise?
The latest Mortal Kombat has a unique perspective in terms of direction being both a sequel to Mortal Kombat 11 (2019) and a reboot of the series. Unlike more traditional reboots that wipe the slate clean, Mortal Kombat 1 acknowledges the events of the previous game while still dawning a new era. As such, it makes for a perfect starting point for new fans of the series, as well as veterans who are familiar with its gruesome and wacky universe.
Check out the Mortal Kombat 1 trailer below!
Without giving too many spoilers away, following the events of Mortal Kombat 11, Liu Kang gains possession of the Hourglass after defeating Shang Tsung and Kronika, and by harnessing its power, Kang recreates the universe in his vision to form a unity with the Earth Realm and Outworld. Unfortunately, not everything goes to plan and Kang is forced to call upon his heroes once more to save the realms from annihilation.
Mortal Kombat 1 has three main modes, Story, Invasion and Towers. Firstly, the story does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a campaign that tells the story of good versus evil and all the chaos in between. It’s as cheesy as a low-budget 90s action flick with senseless gore, and we wouldn't want it any other way. There is also local vs. play including tournaments and if you ever want to be humbled, you can choose to take the fight online with its ranked Kombat League.
Going back to its story mode, once more the developers at NetherRealm Studios have continued with its epic cinematic storytelling that was introduced with Mortal Kombat in 2011, and later in its Injustice series. NetherRealm Studios set the standard all those years ago when it came to single-player story campaigns in the fighting genre and if nothing else, it’s an advantage that it continues to hold over Capcom’s Street Fighter series.
Aside from its wonderfully cheesy and well-written campaign and the sublime soundtrack, the vast majority of the voice actors in Mortal Kombat 1 portray their respective characters with passion and conviction, well, at least for the most part. You may have seen pre-released trailers announcing that Hollywood star Megan Fox voices Nitara, a character first seen in 2002’s Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. I’m not usually one to single out a performance, but when Fox’s delivery comes across as very uninspired, especially alongside the other passionate voice actors of Mortal Kombat 1, her unenthusiastic delivery is hard to ignore. A sentiment sadly shared by others.
As for Invasions, this is a new mode introduced in Mortal Kombat 1. If I was going to give this mode a quick summary, it would be a violent, single player version of Mario Party (as strange as that sounds). In this mode, you choose your character and your Kameo (more on Kameo’s later), and you navigate your way through multiple stages step-by-step on its board game-inspired map taking on various challenges and stipulations.
Some Invasion challenges can be straight-up fights, but most have some form of gameplay modifier such as projectiles. You might even have to test your strength in a button-bashing mini-game and utilise your best dodging skills to avoid oncoming objects and survive until a timer expires. For the most part, Invasions is fun and a great way to unlock bonus items such as cosmetics and currency. It’s also the fastest way to level up main characters and Kameos which will unlock even more extras. Sadly, this mode may soon become tiresome and you may only return to grind out some character XP.
Next up we have the returning Towers mode. To put it simply, this is like a modern version of a classic arcade mode. In Towers, you will be required to defeat a gauntlet of enemies varying in difficulty, duration and stipulations. By completing Towers you will also unlock additional goodies and like the Invasions mode, Towers will evolve and mix things up with each new season of content. Upon completion, you will be treated to an end-of-game cinematic (mostly presented in art stills) that differs with each character, just like the arcade gauntlets of yesteryear.
In terms of gameplay, fans of Mortal Kombat 11 will feel right at home with the latest instalment because other than a few minor tweaks here and there, the gameplay in Mortal Kombat 1 is largely the same, and I welcome that. After all, if it isn't broken, then don't fix it. The most notable change in the gameplay is the introduction of the aforementioned Kameos. As the name suggests, a Kameo character is not playable but instead will be there to support your playable character with additional attacks.
Kameo’s are similar to the fighters that you can tag in the likes of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 or Tekken Tag Tournament. However, Kameo characters in Mortal Kombat 1 will briefly appear, before disappearing until summoned once more. You can only use the Kameo characters for as long as their recharging metre will allow and they can be summoned by pressing the L1/LB shoulder button on consoles. What’s more, by pressing up, down, left or right with the shoulder button, your Kameo will perform a different attack. I also found the Kameo characters to be handy when attempting to extend a combo.
Kameo fighters will also appear during Fatal Blows (formerly known as X-Ray attacks), and they even have their own Fatalities and Brutalities, alongside the main cast of 22 characters at launch. Interestingly, each of the characters in Mortal Kombat 1 has elemental powers. So by pairing up a fighter with a suitable Kameo, you can deal extra damage to an opponent, such as Scorpion (fire) dealing more damage to Sub-Zero (ice) or Reptile (poison) dealing more damage to Raiden (electric) and so forth. This adds an extra layer of strategy, one that we’re sure Pokémon fans will appreciate.
Mortal Kombat 1 doesn't do a lot to push its boundaries and largely plays it safe, but it’s still amongst the best entries in this series. Its campaign continues to set the standard once more for its genre, it looks absolutely gorgeous on Xbox Series X|S and it’s packed full of content that will keep fans entertained for years to come. We’ve already been blessed with the amazing Street Fighter 6 this year and with Mortal Kombat 1 joining the ranks as one of the best fighting games in years, it’s certainly a great time for fans of the genre.
Pros: Wonderfully cheesy single player campaign, fun modes and customisation, looks gorgeous
Cons: Plays it a bit safe
For fans of: fighting games
Mortal Kombat 1 is out now on PC, PlayStation, Xbox Series X|S (version tested) and Nintendo Switch. Review code provided by Warner Bros. Games. Read a guide to our review scores here.