NetherRealm Studios recently published and launched the “newest” game from its series. No, it’s not a new sequel, it’s a re-release of the classic: Mortal Kombat 1.
This is the game that started it all. How do things look in the new guise? What makes the game stand out, and what are its not-so-positive sides? Is this a “Flawless Victory” for NetherRealms Studios or far from it? You’ll find out the answer to these questions in the continuation of this exhaustive review!
The New Mortal Kombat Retains Most of the Traditional Gameplay Elements
NetherRealm Studios decided it was time to reboot the Mortal Kombat franchise with the release of Mortal Kombat 1. But this latest iteration doesn’t just reset the number to one. So far, the story of the series has been a bit convoluted and full of inconsistencies. Mortal Kombat 1 retains most of the traditional gameplay and story elements the franchise is known for, with some novelties.
What’s the gameplay of MK1 like? If you’re good at these kinds of games, you’ll expect more or less the same, and not much will surprise you. But what if you’re a beginner or if you entered the world of Mortal Kombat with the knowledge and skills of Tekken? How will it work?
First of all, it should be said that especially if you’re a beginner, it will take you a long time to get used to Mortal Kombat 1. Like when you go to learn to drive a car. But the difference is that here when they hit you, it won’t cause you any damage: neither material nor emotional, which can happen when we play brawls and lose to the CPU. Overall, the combat feels a bit slower than, say, Street Fighter 6 or even recent MK titles like Mortal Kombat 11. But not too slow; the game uses just the right pace that gives me enough time to actually understand what’s going on and learn the moves. After a few hours, we started doing some more complicated combos and felt like someone who’s been playing this game for months, which isn’t really the case with many other fighting games.
Gameplay and Characters
As for the gameplay itself, NetherRealm Studios hasn’t done too much to change the formula from Mortal Kombat 11. It’s still a 2D brawler with 3D fighters, which in our opinion is the best formula for the series. Each button performs a selected attack, and the combination allows for a combo or special move. When the player’s health drops below a certain level, they can perform a fatal blow, which can get them out of tight situations.
In terms of characters, Mortal Kombat 1 doesn’t have the same roster as the previous title, but we imagine more will be added later in the form of DLCs. Some of the characters like Sonya Blade and Jax aren’t present. We hope it will be very soon. But there’s something new… which isn’t that new.
A big new change is the introduction of the Kameo system. This basically gives players a teammate they can call on at any time to help them out. This includes some interesting names such as Sonya Blade, Cyrax, and even Striker and Motaro. They can join the attack or help you in a situation that isn’t going in your favor. They also help when performing Fatal Blow. Cameo characters can be summoned up to two times in quick succession, but then the meter will need to be refilled. Fortunately, this happens quite quickly.
A New-Old Visit to OutWorld
NetherRealm brought a lot of good things with Story Mode in Mortal Kombat 1. Although the game marks a reboot in the series, it actually picks up where MK 11 left off. After defeating Kronika and taking control of Hourglass in the previous game, “The God of Fire” Liu Kang reshaped the world. The empires are at relative peace. The Mortal Kombat tournament is still held, but not to the death. Liu Kang is now the protector of Earthrealm and his job is to train its champions for the tournament, where you meet the other characters. Nothing too dangerous. There’s no such Shang-Tsung, no such Shao-Khan, and other bad guys (or maybe…).
The main story is told quite well and you won’t need much to fully immerse yourself in it. And we realized that we were quite invested in it. We also get to see characters like Mileena, Baraka, and Reptile without being so evil. Even Shao Khan (General Shao) and Shang Tsung are no longer evil for the sake of being evil. They’re just mean. But not very much.
In and of itself, the way Story Mode works is pretty much the same as any other brawl created by NeatherRealm Studios. It puts you in the shoes of certain characters for a few rounds before changing your focus. Each battle is punctuated by a cutscene. This can take quite a while and could give Hideo Kojima’s cutscenes a run for their money. The way forward is simple: beat your opponent to move forward. Story Mode consists of 15 chapters, which are divided into four acts, with each chapter focusing on a specific iconic MK character. You’ll go through each chapter as that character, experiencing a few cutscenes along the way and a few fights. You’ll typically challenge a total of four opponents, progressing through the story as you learn that character’s moves. By the end of Story Mode, you’ll have a pretty good understanding of the game.
The presentation of the story is quite good in my opinion. Mixed with a lot of “over the top” scenes that scream “Mortaaaal Kombaaat!”, the game felt a little more like a Mortal Kombat movie than a game, but with more content. MK1 doesn’t rush to tell the story, and along the way brings interesting twists and turns. My only gripe with the story is how quickly it ended. In total, the campaign took me about five hours. While we’re aware that Story Mode can’t be 10+ hours, we’re sad it wasn’t a bit longer.
An Invasion That Isn’t Quite That
One thing that we believe a lot of players will be looking forward to is Invasion Mode. This gameplay was touted as a feature that would keep those who completed the game’s short campaign playing for a while longer. In essence, Invasion Mode allows players to play Mario Party-style, completing challenges, meeting opponents, and unlocking rewards in the process. A handful of rewards are permanent cosmetics, such as gear, extra attacks, “finishers” and more. But some of the rewards are specific to Invasion mode, such as talismans, which give combat enhancements.
There are also skill points to increase your character’s health, damage, and other characteristics. In theory, it adds some RPG mechanics. But honestly, the mod seems kind of half-done and like it’s missing something. Often, we didn’t even notice the effect of talismans or other “boosts”. Honestly, Invasion Mode is more like a mobile version of the full game. The way forward was often linear, and the way, in general, was just repetitive and monotonous. In the end, everything looked like one big grind, that is, a lot of effort and time that you need to invest to unlock the rewards, with the fact that this form of “grinding” wasn’t very fun.
A Brutally Beautiful Game
In terms of the sights and sounds of Mortal Kombat, NetherRealm’s focus on the current generation of consoles has paid off big. There’s no other way to put it, Mortal Kombat 1 looks gorgeous. The characters are extremely detailed and look amazing. Especially in Story mode scenes. We also like how the characters show injuries. They are of course only visual, as health is replenished before each fight, but this is also a handy addition. After the match, your character will be bloody. Nice little detail.
All in all, MK1 is graphically and sonically a grade 10 game, which you’ll feel especially if you have a more powerful computer and if you put it on high or maximum settings. Characters like Mileena and Baraka have always looked more fantastical than realistic, but here they look more real than ever. The levels are detailed and impressive. It’s great to see how Story Mode transitions from cutscenes to combat, rendered virtually flawlessly due to the high level of detail in each level.
Furthermore, the move combos in MK1 are great. The iconic X-rayed fatal shots are back, which is definitely a good thing. Speaking of which, MK1 has some of the most brutal, yet fun, Brutality and Fatality we’ve seen so far. Overall, the game as such feels extremely fluid and we’re looking forward to trying out some more characters and seeing what the story is like with them and what their moves are like.
We haven’t spent a lot of time trying out the online play modes, but we haven’t encountered any lag or de-sync in any matches. So far there don’t seem to be many online modes, just ranked, random, and private rooms. We guess it’s most important for those who dive deep into competitive online play, but we’d like to see a little more variety.
Although the MK1 Is Excellent, It Isn’t Flawless
While most of our experiences with the MK1 have been positive, there are definitely some issues. Most importantly, we think the lack of meaningful or fun mods keeps MK1 from reaching its full potential. For example, we’re disappointed that Invasion Mode wasn’t polished more, we feel like the developers could’ve gotten more out of this mode. But that isn’t the biggest problem. Not even close. For us, the biggest problem is the micro-transactions.
We know this has become normal and common lately for an increasing number and genre of games, but we still don’t like it and will continue to express our displeasure every time we come across this. First of all, the game itself is quite expensive: if you plan to buy it through Steam it will cost you 70 euros. Alternative sites like Kinguin, G2A, CDKeys, and the like offer some discounts, but not huge ones, since the game is new (launched in September) and it’s a AAA title. While playing the game itself, you’ll earn credits and coins. Credits reset each season and are used specifically for cosmetics for that season.
Coins, on the other hand, exist and are used to unlock rewards and cosmetics through the Shrine. However, there’s a third currency called Dragon Krystals. Although this is a very valuable currency, you’ll get it in very small amounts through playing the game or so-called grinding. If you want to get more of this currency you’ll have to give money for it. Real money. Of course, the coolest cosmetics are obtained through Dragon Krystals. We’re just not fans of this. We can handle DLC extras, but we don’t like these mechanics through micro-transactions. We especially don’t like it when some cool stuff is hidden behind micro-transactions.
The New Mortal Kombat Had a Spectacular Entrance to the eSports Scene
The goal of the eSports circuit, run by the gaming and esports business RTS, is to create a global fighting game ecosystem.
The Mortal Kombat 1 Pro Kompetition, which began on October 20th and will end with the Final Kombat World Championship event in June 2024, has a $255,000 total prize fund. There will be four live events that make up the Mortal Kombat 1 Pro Kompetition: Stamford (Connecticut, USA), Paris (France); São Paulo (Brazil), and Schaumburg (Illinois, USA). Competing players will have a chance to earn a spot in the season-ending championship which will held during the Combo Breaker 2024 gaming festival.
In addition to the contests, 256 players will participate in a last-chance qualifier format for a chance to play at the Final Kombat World Championship. The event’s exact location was not made public.
The Mortal Kombat 1 Pro Kompetition will have three regional leagues with three qualifiers and a regional final in addition to the sponsored events. North America, Liga Latina (South and Latin America), and Interkontintental Kombat (Europe, Oceania, and Middle East) are the regions.
The Mortal Kombat eSports circuit has been running for a while. The Mortal Kombat 11 Pro Kompetition reappeared in December 2020, preceding the Mortal Kombat 1 Pro Kompetition. Mortal Kombat 1 made an appearance at EVO 2023 more recently. Comparing this to 2022, the overall number of contestants across all titles increased by 81%. Despite being a rather smaller eSports compared to some other fighting games, such as Tekken or Street Fighter V, Mortal Kombat 11 is nonetheless available for betting on several websites, some of which are betting sites in Liechtenstein. Unlike MK11, the new Mortal Kombat is yet to establish its presence both on the eSports scene and gambling market.
Although Mortal Kombat 1 isn’t “Flawless Victory”, it still feels like a big step forward for the franchise in many ways. The game experience is very good, maybe the best so far, and we think that the gameplay is one of the most important things for any game, especially fighting. As a game, MK1 is a very good title for newcomers to both the series and the fighting game genre. But the game also contains a very large number of novelties and things that will require even more experienced players enough time to catch all the little things and secrets.
Story Mode is presented as the ultimate cinematic Mortal Kombat, which is a worthwhile adventure in itself for those interested in the story. Although relatively short, the game’s story is interesting enough and beautifully demonstrates that it has the potential to appeal to anyone, even those players who are new to MK. There are a few mods, and we hope that this will be improved through some DLC, but it should be said that these existing mods aren’t to be thrown away. The only major gripe has to do with micro-transactions.
Everything else is more or less very good. We got another very good MK title, which will “eat up” a lot of hours. Whether you’re a seasoned player or a beginner, we think Mortal Kombat 1 should be in your gaming library.
Game name: Mortal Kombat 1
- Genre: Fighting
- Producer: NetherRealm Studios
- Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox Series X/S
- Price for the Steam version: 70 euros
- Release date: September 14, 2023 (on sale)
What makes the game stand out?
- Additionally refined combat system
- Creative Kameo game system
- Visually it looks fantastic
- Pretty good online gaming capabilities
Things that aren’t very good
- Micro-transaction system
- Absence of some game modes from previous titles
All in all, Mortal Kombat 1 is a very entertaining brawler, presented excellently, with the only major downside being the introduction of micro-transactions.