Also On: Xbox Series X, PC, Switch
Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
I never thought we’d see the day, where a franchise of 30 years would be able to reinvent what they once pioneered in a way that revitalizes a game that maybe didn’t even need it. Being a Mortal Kombat player for 3/4th of my life, I’ve played most of what Ed Boon and his team have offered throughout the years. Through the many years of MK’s existence, there has always been room for evolution, change and refresh.
This is not the first “reboot” the series has seen as it was previously seen with Mortal Kombat 9, which is still one of my favorites of the more current games in the series. One of the differences with Mortal Kombat 1 vs it’s predecessor’s is the continued story from Mortal Kombat 11 where the timeline was completely started over with the new Fire God Liu Kang.
I know casual players don’t necessarily play MK for its story as it’s a fighting game at its core, but the years have blessed the series with countless hours of depth in the lore and has built a solid fanbase on this foundation which is being favorably highlighted in MK1. While this review will not go into Story and spoiler territory, I will encourage spending your initial hours playing through the main story before exploring the plentiful options that NetherRealm is known to provide.
Something that truly struck me during my time with the story was how fresh yet familiar many of the characters were and how much you actually watch several of them grow as characters in more ways than one during the many chapters. As you can see in the trailers, some very familiar characters have had substantial changes in their look, backstory and even in some cases overall abilities. This is one of my favorite portions of the game, because not only is the story refreshed, you get a feeling of experiencing some of it for the first time, and as a veteran player of the series, it was an outstanding feeling of joy.
The overall story, which starts strong, gets a bit quirky at the end but rest assured the fan service is in full effect more than I’ve seen in quite some time. The story is a great way to get a feel for a majority of the game’s roster as well to help decide who you will main, especially since even familiar characters like Sub-Zero and Scorpion, have a fresh coat of paint and movesets.
One of the game’s biggest additions is the Kameo Fighter system. This is a new and unique way to have a sort of tag team player which is mostly made up of Klassic versions of characters from games in the series history. Each Kameo fighter brings their signature style they have been known for but in combination to their moves and the potential main you choose, the combinations are endless and will bring for insane combos to come. Especially come Tournament time.
It looks like the Kameo fighters have taken over the previous environmental portions of the levels where you can damage enemies with items in the background using the same button. There is much more to the Kameo beyond simply support as well, as you can even have these characters perform Fatalities which adds to the already gory spectacle you would expect from your main character.
Along with the Kameo fighters, is the return of the character customization which can be done for the main roster as well as the Kameos. The one downside I see so far is in the previous titles, you can set up a couple of custom character looks to choose from when selecting your player, but unless I missed something, once I choose one design, when I select the character that’s what I get.
This includes palette swaps which we have been shown at least one which is for Johnny Cage and makes him look and sound like Jean Claude Van Dam. To not have this option in the main fighting screen seems counterproductive, but I hope I’m just missing something. Most of the items you will have to unlock from the main story and other modes available.
Which brings me to the Invasion Mode. This replaces the previous Krypt mode. This time around it’s like a board game of sorts and will have various maps which will change seasonally like the Towers in previous games. You start off in Johnny Cage’s mansion and go through a variety of matches and in many cases with modifiers you can adjust and upgrade throughout.
There are some story components here and expand on some of the main story concepts. It can get repetitive fairly quickly, but this is where you will need to play with a variety of the characters if you want to unlock more fatalities, cosmetics and more. As you explore the maps, you can also gain in game currency which can be used for power ups, and more unlockables. I’m still spending time unlocking items but find myself favorable with one character so it will take time to evolve the rest of the roster.
With that said, sometimes you just want to play MK for its core fighting game mechanics. This is where the Towers are best suited for those players. With several options starting with six matches all the way to an option of getting as far as you can without your health replenishing, there is a lot of room to practice and evolve as an MK fighter. I’m unsure if these will change like the previous game, but NetherRealm is traditionally reliable with constant content updates, especially with the planned DLC and Seasons in place for Invasion mode.
There are hours and hours to be spent playing MK1 and this is a fantastic entry in the series for newcomers and returning fans alike. The story does the lore justice in many ways and the team truly listened to the fans and brought together a roster that melds almost every main game and beyond in one package. This is the modern day MK Trilogy and I’m all for it.
If there is one thing MK is truly known for, it’s gore. As always, there’s plenty of blood and guts to go around between the memorable Fatal blows which include the limited use of X-Rays, which I think is for the better. It begs the question, how can so many ways to kill your enemy still be created 30 years in? Bravo to NetherRealm Studios for quenching the fan’s thirst for traditional Fatalities which look to be the main focus again. While options like brutalities are still in place, at the time of my review, I’m unsure if we will get friendships again.
I plan on discussing the game in more depth via a Spoilercast in the coming weeks post release on Pressed for Time (Eds. Note: See that episode, here). There is so much I want to discuss story wise and I can’t wait for everyone to get a chance to experience MK 1 for the first time. Many of my regular readers know my love of comic books and Marvel, and there is some stuff, fans like me will truly enjoy!
Overall, Mortal Kombat 1 is a polished, beautiful work of art that is a remarkably innovative entry into the long running franchise. You can feel the love and care that went into recrafting existing characters in a way I never knew I would love.
Note: Warner Bros. Games provided us with a Mortal Kombat 1 PS5 code for review purposes.