- Price: $69.99/£64.99
- Developer: NetherRealm Studios
- Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
- Release Date: September 19, 2023
- Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch & PC
- Played On: PS5
- Time Played: 16 Hours
The highly anticipated Mortal Kombat 1 has finally been released in early access after a four-year wait since the release of Mortal Kombat 11.
It was announced four months ago and is the first game in the NetherRealm Studios era to bring back 3D-era characters as playable characters instead of just NPCs, as was the case in Mortal Kombat X where we saw the likes of Li Mei and Sareena.
This game boasts a cinematic story, similar to its predecessors, and brings back towers, the Kombat League where players can rank up in online fights, and a new single-player mode called Invasions.
All of these features combined make this the best fighting game to be released this year.
The story modes in Mortal Kombat have received mixed reviews from fans over the years.
Some love it, like with MK9, while others hate it, like with MK11. My personal opinion falls somewhere in between. I really enjoyed the story in MK9, didn’t like the story in MKX, and found MK11’s story to be decent.
With Liu Kang now the God of Fire, NetherRealm has the opportunity to start fresh and really make this one count. One of the first things you’ll notice in the story mode is that the dynamics of every character have changed.
Scorpion is no longer Hanzo Hasashi, he’s now Kuai Liang, the brother of Bi-Han, who is once again Sub-Zero. Mileena is now Kitana’s biological sister and she’s infected with the Tarkat disease, which all Tarkatans carry. Even Raiden is just a young mortal man.
These changes make the storyline and character arcs so refreshing to experience. This game features four acts and takes approximately 5-6 hours to complete. The story is structured around character-based chapters, similar to previous games such as Injustice.
The first three acts move at a steady pace, allowing for a deeper exploration of each character’s story while maintaining a looming threat in the background. This approach helps to ground the Mortal Kombat story, providing a refreshing break from the time-based complications of previous games.
NetherRealm gives us the time to watch this beautiful story play out with the best CG graphics I’ve seen in a fighting game, at times I forgot I was even playing a fighting game and got lost in the cutscenes, wishing I got a movie or a short film with this look.
The voice acting in Mortal Kombat games is impressive, especially in the latest one. Even in mirror matches, the same character’s tone changes completely, showing great attention to detail.
However, some voice acting falls short of expectations. For instance, Megan Fox’s portrayal of Nitara in Mortal Kombat 1 is not quite up to par.
Her flat delivery makes her voice lines laughable compared to the other characters, which can make scenes featuring her character difficult to watch.
While the first three acts are amazing and make for almost the perfect Mortal Kombat story, the final act starts to go in a direction that is ridiculous and while may be expected by some, it was unexpected for me, especially with how the final chapter plays out.
This part of the game is confusing to play through because while it is cool, it is surprisingly the easiest part of the game when the final chapters in Mortal Kombat are normally challenging. This chapter almost ruined everything that came before.
Fortunately, it managed to end on a really good note, leaving me wanting more in this timeline. I can only hope that there are no more time shenanigans in the future, but the post-credit scene raises some questions. Only time will tell.
While the story is a sight to see, most people playing this game are going to avoid it and jump straight online and start fighting. This game is tremendously faster than its predecessor, with the addition of air combos, it makes matches really go by fast.
There are some differences such as the timing of a meter burn. In Mortal Kombat 11, there was a slight delay in pressing the button but now, it seems to have reverted to how it was in MK9 and MKX, which will take some getting used to if you spent 100+ hours on MK11 just like me.
The online mode does bring back previous recognisable modes. You still have the option to play kasually or in ranked mode which is still known as the Kombat League where you can unlock exclusive rewards depending on the rank you are.
Kombat League also seems to follow the same season as what Invasions is currently on, so expect to see Kombat League rewards make a return.
I did attempt at the Kombat League to try to complete one of the daily challenges you can get in the game but I needed way more practice than I thought.
King of the Hill is also back and I was able to try it out in a private lobby with some friends and it felt exactly like MK11, being able to give respect after a match.
A new addition to this game is Kameos.
Think of Kameos as a tag team partner, you can select between 15 Kameo fighters and call them out at any time to help you during the fight.
They’re a great help at extending some combos or even stopping your enemy from attacking you by using them as a break.
It’s taking quite a while for me to get used to the idea of Kameos and using them frequently but with more hours added to the game, I’m sure it’ll become muscle memory.
Though the Kameos act as just a tag team partner, they feel like a fighter in every way by having their own throw animations, their own brutalities and even their own fatalities, some of which are callbacks to the older games like Cyrax’s fatality annihilation.
Kameos are also a great way (excuse) for Ed Boon to add in characters people would love to see without actually making them part of the main roster and I’m not complaining.
While I would love to be able to play as my MK11 main Sonya, it’s still cool to see her there beside me when I win a match.
The graphics in this game are insanely good and while it’s obvious in the character designs, I think it stands out most when taking a deeper look at the stages.
Each stage has a night or day variant which you can unlock, I’ve not understood the clear way to unlock these but it may either be through profile leveling or playing their new mode Invasions.
Each stage looks unique and is vibrant with its colours, even the darker-looking stages which still manage to use the colour green in a very creative way. Alongside the beautiful character designs and stages, there’s also the customisation which has returned from the previous Mortal Kombat games and once again it has changed.
Unlike Mortal Kombat 11 where there were several pieces of gear you could change on a character/skin, you can now only change one unique peace on each character/skin.
I prefer this to the last game as it makes unlocking gear way easier and there’s no real hassle, the only thing that I don’t like about the customisation is there is no option to use any palette with any skin, they’re all locked to the skin that they come with which I think is a real shame and deprives the game of unlocking its full customisation abilities.
Towers x AI
You can now use towers to practice against AI or obtain character arcade endings, similar to previous games.
I chose to play as two characters and was pleasantly surprised by the result. NetherRealm has ensured that character-specific endings are integrated with the game’s overall ending, eliminating non-canon and unbelievable endings.
Instead, we get to see where our beloved characters are now after all the chaos. This approach is much more effective than creating an ending with no significance.
The latest addition to Mortal Kombat 1 is the single-player mode called Invasions, and it has quickly become my favourite part of the game. Think of it like a free battle pass in the form of a board game. Invasions are seasonal events where a new threat invades Liu Kang’s timeline, and your mission is to stop them.
The first season, called “The Spectre,” features Hanzo Hahashi, who is invading because he wants to be reunited with his wife and children who keep dying in every timeline except this one.
But when he enters Liu Kang’s timeline, he discovers that Harumi is now married to Kuai Liang, which infuriates him, and he vows to destroy the timeline so that no one can be with her except him.
This concept is fascinating and will keep me coming back to the game every season. Each season has an opening cutscene and an ending one, which adds to the lore of the game.
The Invasions mode features areas called “Mesas,” where you fight enemies, take on towers, unlock chests, and face enemies with special conditions. It’s a lot of content. This mode is an improvement over the previous Krypt mode in every aspect.
After completing the tutorial Mesa called “Cage’s Mansion,” you unlock three additional Mesas. The “Gateway Mesa” is where you take on hourly, daily, and weekly towers.
The “Training Mesa” allows you to test your load-outs and respec your stat points, while the “Fengjian Village” is where you’ll continue your mission to stop Hanzo Hasashi.
I’ve only made my way to the Mesa after Fengjian Village and can’t wait to continue on this journey.
Mortal Kombat 1 is refreshing and revitalising in every way NetherRealm intended it to be.
Though it has a story that starts to slightly fall apart towards the end, it holds itself up for the most part by being able to introduce characters we know so well in such a unique and different way, keeping the story and plot twists interesting at all times.
Mortal Kombat 1 introduces new modes such as Invasion which improves on the Krypt in every way possible and is going to be forever changing.
This is a game that’s going to have way more content than its predecessor and I can see it lasting longer than Mortal Kombat 11.
This Mortal Kombat reboot is definitely worth your time, whether you’re a long-time fan or a newcomer. It’s been designed to appeal to everyone, with something for everyone to enjoy in this stunning game.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5