Mortal Kombat, a legendary and infamous arcade fighter that’s been shocking the world since its debut in 1992, comes from the creative minds of Ed Boon and John Tobias. The series has seen its highs and lows across various media, but it has always been a pop culture icon in its 30-plus-year history.
After the closure of Midway and the MK franchise being picked up by Warner Bros., NetherRealm Studios was born to carry on the legacy by rebooting the series, bringing it back to its roots, and leading to newfound success. The 12th game takes the series through its second reboot in the form of Mortal Kombat 1, now finally unleashed on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Taking place after the events of Mortal Kombat 11, the new God of Fire, Lord Liu Kang, with control of the Hourglass, creates a new timeline in hopes of neutralizing the threats and dangers that had come before. Of course, things are never that simple, as a threat from the past still lingers and endangers the new timeline.
It feels odd that Mortal Kombat is going through a second reboot, but on both occasions, these were done in ways that acknowledge the past, and the new story has a lot of interesting twists and turns, bringing back fan favourite characters from past games and shedding new light on their stories. With the way MK11 ended, starting over again does seem to be the best way to go, and the unusual title of Mortal Kombat 1 instead of Mortal Kombat 12 makes sense as well. When it comes to fighting games, Mortal Kombat has, so far, been the best storyteller.
The overall gameplay feels very much like the past three games but with a lot of differences and additions. The kombat mechanics feel like the best they’ve ever been, and it seems to be bringing back all the best elements from past games that fans have been requesting.
Unfortunately, certain moves have been changed or replaced completely, such as Liu Kang’s Bicycle Kick being replaced with Dragon Dance, which works similarly but is a big change from the iconic move he’s had since the second game.
Each Mortal Kombat game since Deadly Alliance in 2002 has a habit of changing the overall moveset of the returning characters while keeping their famous moves, and Mortal Kombat 1 changes it up yet again. Having to relearn your favourite character can be annoying, considering most other fighting games don’t make big changes to their character’s movesets. Fortunately though, even with the changes, every character still has a fun moveset to play around with and achieve big kombos, especially when paired with a Kameo fighter.
The Kameos is the newest gameplay element unique to Mortal Kombat 1, working similarly to the tag system from 2009’s Mortal Kombat, as well as the Assists in Marvel vs. Capcom, which was the first to introduce the feature. The Kameos add a whole new dynamic to the kombat mechanics by extending kombos and keeping the opponent guessing, and it’s a lot of fun to experiment with different main characters and Kameo pairings.
So far, there are 23 playable characters and 15 Kameos available, with even more on the way via DLC in Kombat Pack 1. Mortal Kombat 1 has been digging through its huge library of characters, bringing back some long-forgotten and highly requested fan favourites as part of the main kast and Kameos. The returning characters from Mortal Kombat 1 include Liu Kang, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Johnny Cage, Raiden, Kung Lao, Kitana, Mileena, Sindel, General Shao (formerly Shao Kahn), Baraka, Geras, Kenshi, Rain, and Shang Tsung. Reptile and Tanya return from MKX, Smoke returns from MK9 and finally making their long-awaited returns since 2006’s Mortal Kombat: Armageddon are Reiko, Nitara, Ashrah, Li Mei, and Havik.
The Kameos include Sonya, Jax, Kano, Stryker, Goro, Cyrax, Sektor, Darrius, Sareena, Shujinko, Frost, and Motaro, plus Sub-Zero, Scorpion and Kung Lao, who also double as main fighters.
Kombat Pack 1, due out sometime later, will have Ermac, Takeda, and Quan Chi returning, plus guest characters Omni-Man, from Invincible, Homelander, from The Boys, and Peacemaker, from DC Comics, who seems to be modelled after John Cena’s portrayal of him in 2021’s The Suicide Squad. More Kameos are also on the way, so it’ll be interesting to see them all in action in the future. Hopefully, even more characters will return as well, as a lot of fan favourites, especially a playable Kano, are missing in action.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Mortal Kombat game without Fatalities. Not only can the main kast of characters perform their own unique Fatalities, but the Kameos can as well. The Fatalities in Mortal Kombat 1 will no doubt shock anyone watching, seeing all the creative ways each fighter dismembers their opponent. The Kameo Fatalities are throwbacks to the klassics from earlier MK games, which will no doubt bring back a ton of nostalgia.
Brutalities also return and work just like they did in the previous two games. It was first introduced way back in MK3 but was redesigned in MKX and fans have loved the newer version ever since. Rather than just being an alternative to Fatalities, they can happen in an instant when the opponent’s health is low enough and end the match just like that. Some are simple like uppercutting the opponent’s head off, while others require certain conditions to achieve. Everyone starts with off with the simple uppercut Brutality, but more can be unlocked. Pulling off any of the Brutalities feels incredibly satisfying seeing the shocking end to a match and admittedly, it also feels good to just flex your Kombat skills. Each character has a wide variety of unique Brutalities to discover and brutalise their victims with.
The single-player modes feature a ton of content. Story Mode continues the story from the previous game but with a fresh start. Players will take control of various characters over 15 chapters that take about 6 hours to complete. The rebooted story is a really interesting take on the MK lore, but it does change quite a lot, and this may upset diehard fans. Seeing the origins of Kung Lao’s bladed hat, how Kenshi became blind, and how Bi Han and Kuai Kiang interact, which has actually never been seen before, is definitely interesting.
Other things, mainly Scorpion now being part of the Lin Kuei, and how the Shirai Ryu was formed, is a big departure from how longtime fans grew up with the MK games, but there are also a lot of big moments that will satisfy them too. After completing the story, there is a bizarre mid-credits scene that sets up either a sequel or a second Story Mode that could be a future DLC like MK11 did.
Towers has the traditional arcade ladders with an ending movie for every character, plus Endless and Survivor for players to really test their mettle. Invasions is the newest addition to MK, and it’s a mix of Konquest, Krypt, and Towers of Time all in one, adding even more to the Mortal Kombat 1 lore. Players will move around a map that represents the stages and play in matches with unique conditions, forcing players to alter their strategy on the spot and keeping them on their toes.
Each map also includes a ton of Easter eggs that fans will appreciate, and some even reference other classic Midway games. The are plenty of kollectibles to unlock as well, such as concept and official art of everything in the game, plus various gear for every character, which can also be unlocked in other modes. Invasions takes about 5 hours total to complete and new challenges will be coming each season.
With Mortal Kombat 1 being exclusive to the latest generation of each console, the graphics are looking the best they’ve ever been. Everything from the texture of everyone’s skin, the fabric of their clothing, the strands of hair, plus all the effects of energy blasts, ice, fire, and of course, the blood and guts, look amazing on screen.
There’s a total of 19 stages available that can be played during the day or night, and while stage interactions aren’t included this time, there is still a lot happening, like items falling off the shelves and other debris rolling around while the fights unfold. The stages have a nice mix of friendly-looking, dark, and grim, and one in particular that will really make your skin crawl upon first sight. Every stage is breathtaking to look at, with an incredible amount of details across Earthrealm and Outworld, and certain stages even have some nice throwbacks to older games.
The overall presentation seems to be going for slightly brighter colours, but it never forgets its dark evil undertone. This time, each match in versus or online starts with both fighters facing off before exchanging some words, and each matchup has a unique dialogue between them.
This is always fun to see, and there is plenty to be discovered. The voice actors all put in an incredible performance throughout the entire game, allowing players to really feel the emotion of every character, all except Megan Fox as Nitara.
Her performance as the highly requested vampire kombatant who finally makes her return is sadly the weakest out of the entire kast, and it becomes even more obvious in the Story Mode cutscenes where everyone outshines her. While everyone else put in a lot of emotion, Megan just feels like she’s reading off a script. Her delivery is just flat and uninspiring. Her movie roles aren’t much better either, so her kasting just feels like a waste, even after the trailer hyping up her involvement.
The overall soundtrack sticks to that authentic MK style, with dark and grim orchestral sounds. The music throughout the game and across all the stages flows really well with the kombatants duking it out, and the sound effects for every punch, kick, and slam, the bones breaking, blood spilling, and bodies being dismembered all sound real and uncomfortably painful, adding to the authenticity.
In my personal experience, the online matches for the most part have been excellent thanks to its rollback netcode. Most matches played incredibly well without much issue, though a few did struggle with lag, which could be due to them playing with a Wi-Fi connection instead of wired or being located too far away. Even with a few laggy matches, the online experience has been nothing but fun, and the krossplay that’s soon to be added in a future update will open it up to even more players to match up with and create even more bloodshed.
Mortal Kombat 1 is jam-packed with kontent. More than can be covered in a single review. Even with the odd decision to reboot the series again, there is so much for MK loyalists to look forward to, with its single-player modes, intense matches, achieving big kombos, experimenting with Kameos, taking the fights online, and even more kontent on the way. It’s a new beginning and a fresh start that also honours its rich history. MK fans, both new and old, as well as fans of other fighting games, will find a lot to enjoy in the latest entry by NetherRealm Studios. Mortal Kombat 1 is now unleashed to the world, and it’s ready for you to Choose Your Destiny!
- Fun, violent, bone crunching gameplay
- Fan favourite characters finally returning
- Kameos are fun to experiment with
- Fatalities are as gruesome as ever
- Jam packed with kontent with Single Player modes and kollectibles
- Excellent online play with rollback netcode
- Other fan favourite characters missing in action
- New story elements may upset fans
- Having to relearn a favourite character’s moveset
- Megan Fox’s underwhelming voice performance