- Absolutely stunning stages
- Story Mode is great...
- Fatalities are always goriffic
- Invasion Mode is fun
- Good customization options
- A little light on online modes
- Character animations still a bit stiff
- Story Mode finish seemed rushed
- Invasion Mode does get tedious
Mortal Kombat is a series that has a rich history, not just because of the quality of their games, but also because it is steeped in controversy. The ESRB wouldn’t exist today, if it weren’t for the very first Mortal Kombat game. After many years of creating games, the series received a reboot with Mortal Kombat in 2011 (dubbed Mortal Kombat 9). This sparked renewed interest in the series, with it spawning two more sequels and critical acclaim. It is now 12 years later that the Mortal Kombat franchise received another reboot, called Mortal Kombat 1.
One of the more important things with fighting games in today’s climate is them offering an array of different modes, allowing the player to choose how they want to play. Mortal Kombat 1 will have the more well-known modes, like Online, Versus, and the Towers (arcade mode), but it offers a few other things. While story modes are nothing entirely new to fighting games, NetherRealm Studios have certainly gone all out in attempting to create a full-blown narrative in their recent games, starting from Mortal Kombat 9. Mortal Kombat 1 features another story mode that delves deeper into the tales told by the previous games.
Liu Kang is now the God of Fire and the protector of the Earthrealm, having secured that status after the end of the story of Mortal Kombat 11. So yes, this game’s story is a sequel to that, while also being a reboot. The Story Mode still follows the same structure from the previous games, where you have the various chapters and each one will feature a character you play as during it. One could say that the Story Mode is more of a feature to ease you into the game, as you play as various characters and get used to the mechanics of the game, but the story is actually well thought out and provides a chance for the characters to display their personalities. One of the few problems with the story is that it kind of falls off towards the end, as if they were rushing to just finish it.
Before we dive into the other big game mode, let’s talk about the visuals of Mortal Kombat 1. There’s really nothing to say about the graphics, as they are extremely beautiful. The character models look the best they’ve ever been, although some of the females tend to have a lot of similarities to one another, especially in the face. One of the biggest highlights, though, is the stages. They look phenomenal, largely because there is a good number of vibrant stages, mixed into the dark and gritty ones. In past Mortal Kombat games, most of the stages were always dark and dungeon-like in some manner, so the change to these gorgeous backgrounds make for a nice change.
The stages look phenomenal, thanks to the good number of bright and vibrant backgrounds.
If there’s one thing to nitpick about the graphical side of things, it’s that the animations for the characters can still feel a bit stiff sometimes. This has been a problem for NetherRealm Studios for a long time, especially when you see the animations of the characters for other high-profile fighting games, like Street Fighter 6 or Tekken 8. They are a lot better in Mortal Kombat 1, though, so they’re not completely stiff like previous games. However, you still can’t help but notice the animations from time to time.
Outside of the main modes that almost all fighting games should have, Mortal Kombat 1 has a special mode that is unique to it. This is called Invasions and it kind of plays out like a Tabletop RPG. You have a slightly overhead view of the playing field and you move your fighter of choice from one node to another. These nodes will usually have you fighting a battle, after which, you will gain a small amount of experience. Get enough experience and your Invasions Level will increase, which increases your stats and give you stat points to allocate; yes, you actually have stats in this mode, giving it that more RPG-like feeling.
To add on to that, there are actually two different item slots for you to equip things, with those items just offering some passive stats and abilities to your character. Of course, while doing this mode, you will come across various fights that have modifiers, like a buzzsaw that periodically appears to attack you, or your opponent. These can keep things fresh for you in this mode, though, but some of them can be quite annoying. You will also encounter the familiar Test Your Might during these Invasions, as well as survival nodes that have you dodging obstacles. It is a fun game mode, but it does seem to get a little repetitive after playing for a while.
Throughout the entire game, including the Invasions mode, as well as all other modes, you will be unlocking new cosmetics for your characters. These usually come in the form of different costumes, as well as palette swaps and even alternate equipment, although those are just one piece of gear on the characters. For example, you will unlock variations of Sub-Zero’s mask, or maybe slight variations of Baraka’s blades. There will be three different forms of currencies you collect, one of which is usable in the Shrine, a little thing that unlocks a random cosmetic. There’s also a currency for Seasonal content, which will change as time passes. Of course, there is also a premium currency that you can purchase with real money, although it seems you only buy more cosmetics with it.
Of course, characters are the main attraction with fighting games, and Mortal Kombat 1 has 22 characters for its full launch roster. You have the mainstays like Sub-Zero, Scorpion and Liu Kang, as well as some characters who haven’t actually been playable for a while, like Ashrah (MK Deception) and Nitara (last playable was Deadly Alliance). It’s a pretty varied roster and each character is their own, with them playing differently. While the roster is great, it is kind of a downer that some staples are relegated to Kameo Fighters, like Sonya Blade and Cyrax, which are Mortal Kombat 1’s idea of assist characters.
It’s a pretty varied roster and each character is their own, with them playing differently.
You can press a button during fights that calls in the Kameo Fighter, where they usually do some kind of offensive move. These Kameos offer a great boost to mixing up the combat some, as they can be used to extend combos. Each Kameo has a few moves they can do, too, some of which are defensive in nature. There are even a few characters that function as both playable characters and Kameo Fighters, like Sub-Zero and Scorpion. All of the playable characters are unlocked from the start, but some of the Kameos are actually locked, so you need to play the game to be able to choose them. Yes, the Kameos even participate in the X-Ray attacks, and they even have their own Brutalities and Fatalities, some of which are the classic ones you know and love.
NetherRealm should really be proud of the tutorial system in the game, as it’s pretty in-depth and helps those new to Mortal Kombat, or even fighting games altogether, learn from the ground up. It’s pretty extensive and you even get to learn some about frame data, an important thing for those that might get into the more competitive side of things. You can then bring that knowledge of basics into the Practice Mode to try and string together some combos. Of course, players can spend a good chunk of time with just the single player side of things, but any fighter worth its lot will need a well-done online mode.
The one thing that is lacking, though, is the fact that you don’t get much options that dive into a character more. You have some combos for each character, in the Tutorial section, and that’s about it. Compare this with the recently released Street Fighter 6, which goes over a character in more depth, so you have the opportunity to learn a little bit more. If you wish to choose a character, you don’t really get that chance to learn more about them, other than those combos. If they had given a detailed tutorial for each character, where they showcased their pros and cons, the whole tutorial system would have been perfect, as the basics are fantastic.
Mortal Kombat 1 offers rollback netcode (what should now be the standard when it comes to online for fighting games) and it works very well here, from the little bit played online. You have Kombat League, which allows you to basically rank up and unlock goodies as you get better. The rewards will change, too, as each season comes to pass. In addition to this, King of the Hill has returned, which isn’t a bad mode, although you might be bored watching others play before your turn finally comes around. The great netcode and mechanics of the game really help things along here, despite the basics of online modes.
If you enjoy fighting games, or even just Mortal Kombat, you will have plenty of fun with this game.
Overall, Mortal Kombat 1 is a great entry in the series and definitely a fine addition to a year that is filled with many great releases. The brighter colors being present gives it a breath of fresh air, which is something that the series needed, despite its over the top violence, especially with the Brutalities and Fatalities, which are still present in this game. There is a plethora of single player content to keep you busy, and when you’re ready, you can simply hop online to continue playing the amazing game. There could have been a few more online modes offered to the players, though, and the game isn’t without its faults, either. The nagging character animations seem to always be plaguing NetherRealm, though. However, if you enjoy fighting games, or even just Mortal Kombat, you will have plenty of fun with this game.
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Mortal Kombat 1 is another great fighting game that released in 2023. While it exhibits some of the same faults previous entries did, the Kameo system adds a new depth to the main mechanics.