Mortal Kombat 1 is the latest installment in a fighting series that has let players rip each other’s spines for over 30 years. Is it a worthy heir to the franchise’s legacy? Read our MK1 review and decide if it’s the game you’ve been waiting for.
- Lore changes
- Game modes
- Kameo Fighters
- Graphics and sound
The official release date of Mortal Kombat 1 is September 19. However, players who bought the Premium Edition were granted a 5-day early access. As a result, they started playing the full version of the long-awaited game on September 14. The game is available for PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S|X, and Nintendo Switch. We tested the Windows port of the most anticipated fighting game of 2023.
Some players find the Mortal Kombat 1 title a little confusing. There are already two games named Mortal Kombat: the original 1992 release and the 2011 reboot. Thankfully, Netherrealm added the number “1”; hence, there are no three identically titled releases. We should look at the game’s story to understand the motives behind naming the new game MK1. It continues the events of MK11 but also marks a new beginning; thus, it’s a sequel and a reboot at the same time. The story is set in a new timeline created by Liu Kang, who, as the keeper of time, has altered the destiny of most characters.
For instance, neither Hanzo Hasashi nor the Shirai Ryu clan exist in this universe. Instead, Scorpion is a pseudonym taken by Kuai Liang, the younger brother of Bi Han, the original Sub-Zero. Consequently, two bitter rivals whose hatred towards one another had blazed in most MK installments are now brothers. Another notable change is that the Tarkatans are not a separate species but people of Outward suffering from the Tartak disease. As a result, Mileena is not an evil clone of Kitana. She’s her loving sister, facing a fatal illness. Shao is another interesting example. The final boss of MK II and MK III is an ambitious general under the command of Sindel. The backgrounds of other characters have been modified in a similar manner.
Discovering the new personalities of well-known characters is a refreshing experience, particularly in the case of traditionally evil and treacherous warriors. While playing, we were never sure whether the change was permanent or if they were planning to show their true colors at the least expected moment.
Mortal Kombat 1 features three main solo game modes: Story Mode, Invasions, and Towers.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe was the first game where Ed Boon and company implemented a cinematic story mode. MK1 follows this proven path. Hence, you watch elaborated cut scenes intertwined with fights you must win to progress in the story. We really enjoyed some elements from the 3D era (MK Deadly Alliance, MK Deception, MK Armageddon) cleverly incorporated into the new tale. The plot is captivating, but we can’t help feeling that earlier chapters are more interesting than the climax of the story. Some characters’ story arcs are very compelling. We particularly like the Johnny Cage’s, Kenshi’s, and Scorpion’s chapters. Unfortunately, some warriors (e.g., Nitara, Reiko) serve only as punching bags without intriguing backgrounds.
The new Netherrealm fighting game features an all-new mode called Invasions. It’s a successor to the fan-favorite Krypt. Hence, you can explore the map, level up your character, and play mini-games (including Test Your Might and Survive). Playing Invasions lets you unlock new skins and gear. Each season, new Invasions’ challenges will wait for the players. We hope they will be exciting because the map resembles a mobile game, and playing it may become boring after a few hours.
It’s the classic Mortal Kombat mode players know and love. As usual, finishing them unlocks the chosen character’s uncanonical ending. There are five types of towers in MK1.
- Novice – 6 opponents,
- Warrior – 8 opponents,
- Champion – 10 opponents,
- Endless – Limitless number of opponents. You have to defeat as many adversaries as you can before losing your first fight,
- Survivor – It’s similar to the Endless Tower, but you have only one health bar.
Like its predecessor, the new Mortal Kombat lets you test your skills against other players online. You can choose the King of the Hill and Versus modes. If you want to play ranked matches, you will appreciate the return of the seasonal Kombat League. When it comes to multiplayer, it’s worth mentioning that MK1 doesn’t support cross-play at launch. Nonetheless, Netherrealm promised to add this feature in the future.
For the first time in Mortal Kombat history, the game doesn’t introduce any new characters. However, Mortal Kombat 1 brings back some warriors who have been absent for a long time, such as Ashrah, Reiko, Havik, and Nitara. Their return makes us think that someone at Netherrelm read our list of MK characters that deserve a second chance. There are 23 playable characters at launch:
- General Shao
- Johnny Cage
- Kung Lao
- Li Mei
- Liu Kang
- Shang Tsung (pre-order bonus)
- Sub Zero
At the start, you can use only 22 or 21 of them because you have to unlock Havik by completing the Story Mode, whereas Shang Tsung is a DLC character serving as a pre-order bonus. As a result, the roster is slightly slimmer than the one in Mortal Kombat 11, which consisted of 24 playable warriors, or 25 if you count Shao Kahn (a pre-order bonus). However, it’s still more than in Street Fighter 6, which offered the initial cast of 18 characters.
The roster will be enhanced in the future. The first pack of DLC characters will consist of six characters:
- Homelander (The Boys)
- Omni-Man (Invincible)
- Peacemaker (The Suicide Squad, Peacemaker)
- Quan Chi
The first one to debut is Omni-Man, voiced by J.K. Simmons.
If you like the traditional MK 2D gameplay, you will feel at home playing MK1. Interestingly, some aspects resemble more of the Mortal Kombat X than the previous installment in the franchise. For instance, there’s only one Super Meter for both offensive and defensive moves. Furthermore, the Krushing Blow move introduced in MK11 does not return in its successor. There are also no interactive elements of the arenas that you may use to attack your adversary or jump from one place to another.
Instead, Mortal Kombat 1 presents aerial combos that let players connect a series of hits after sending an enemy into the air, which looks astonishing. All those changes force MK11 veterans to break some habits. Nonetheless, the most significant new feature is the introduction of Kamo fighters.
After choosing your main warrior, you go to another selection screen where you can pick a character that will assist you. Each Kameo Fighter has a set of unique special moves that may be used to prolong your combo, keep a safe distance, or break an opponent’s attack. One summoning of a Kameo Fighter uses half the Kameo Meter, so you can’t spam with Kame Fighter special moves.
At first, you may select among 10 Kameo Fighters:
You can unlock additional characters by leveling your profile.
- Scorpion (profile level 5),
- Sub-Zero (profile level 10),
- Kung Lao (profile level 15),
- Shujinko (profile level 20),
- Motaro (profile level 25).
Mortal Kombat is known for Fatalities. Consequently, this bloody way of bidding your opponent farewell couldn’t be missing from the latest installment in the franchise. Mortal Kombat 1 offers two finishing moves: Fatality and Brutality. Each fighter has two Fatalities and numerous Brutalities, but only one move of each kind is initially unlocked. You will get more by playing the game. The best part is that both finishers can be performed by your main character or a Kameo Fighter that assists you.
In Mortal Kombat X and Mortal Kombat 11, additional finishing moves (Friendship, Stage Fatality) were added after the premiere. Hence, we hope that Mortal Kombat 1’s catalog of ways to end the fight with a splash will grow over time.
Graphics and sound
Without a doubt, it’s the brightest and most colorful installment in MK history. It stems from the fact that it is mostly set in the optimistic timeline created by Liu Kang. Overall, the game looks respectable. Particularly, cut scenes in the story mode demonstrate that we’re dealing with an AAA title. The fights also look very good with detailed and vivid backgrounds. However, we don’t understand the 30 FPS cap on animations (e.g., menu, finishing moves, and Fatal Blows). One of the patches removed this limitation in MK11; hence, we’re surprised that it returns in Mortal Kombat 1.
Voice actors, as usual, are exceptional. However, Megan Fox, who portrays Nitara, sounds much more bland and unconvincing than the other characters. That’s probably due to the fact that the Transformers star is not a professional voice actress.