Mortal Kombat 1 Review | GAME3A

Mortal Kombat 1 Review

Mortal Kombat will turn 31 years old in 2023, and each of the past three decades has been associated with a different approach to the fighting game fr...

Sakshi Venkatraman Sept 16, 2023
Mortal Kombat 1 Review

Mortal Kombat will turn 31 years old in 2023, and each of the past three decades has been associated with a different approach to the fighting game franchise. The 2D arcade gameplay gave way to 3D combat on consoles with MK: Deadly Alliance in 2002, and then it returned to 2D with a rebooted story in 2011. The latest shift comes thanks to Fire God Liu Kang, transitioning from Mortal Kombat 11's apocalyptic ending into a renewed Mortal Kombat 1. The resulting soft reboot doesn't feel as revolutionary as Mortal Kombat (2011), but Mortal Kombat 1 still lays a solid foundation for the franchise's newest era.

The main attractions of an engaging cast and cathartic violence are alive and present in Mortal Kombat 1. As it offers a universal reboot, the game's roster consists exclusively of old characters with altered roles and fighting styles. Some of them, like the playable Ashrah and the cameo fighter Darrius, are notably obscure but are treated with the same respect as the well-established characters of Mortal Kombat. "Familiar yet expanded" describes much of what MK1 does. Both veterans and newcomers should immediately feel at home, even if none of it appears innovative to them.

Mortal Kombat 1 Review

As always, the main component is a cinematic story mode that gives MK1's setting the same treatment. Anyone who has played the recent Mortal Kombat or Injustice games knows what they're getting into here. The plot takes place at the time when the original Mortal Kombat game would occur in Liu Kang's new world and revolves around the Mortal Kombat tournament while a larger mystery unfolds in the background. It's impressive how many fighters are juggled, even though there are moments where a scuffle serves only to give a character some screen time.

Once again, the ongoing storyline of Mortal Kombat remains in an intriguing state that should trigger fan speculation about what will happen next. The way the ending is handled is particularly interesting, albeit difficult to understand. The use of the main cameo fighter roster from MK1 is rare, but several story-exclusive cameos serve as a fair balance. Overall, the story mode of Mortal Kombat 1 is a decent 6-hour journey that will satisfy fans, but future titles may need to deviate from purely cinematic approaches before fatigue sets in.

Mortal Kombat 1

Fortunately, there's still plenty to do after the credits roll in Mortal Kombat 1. The other main attraction for single players is the new Invasion mode, which replaces Mortal Kombat 11's seasonal Living Towers and the 3D adventure version of the Krypt. Many will be disappointed by the loss of the latter, but Invasions offer a more diverse and replayable experience than MK11's endgame. Similar to classic Krypts, Invasions is the place where players unlock a significant amount of content, including costume parts, various currencies, and other items. However, it has much more to offer than one would expect.

Invasions feel like an enhanced version of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's World of Light, complemented by MK's own Test Your Luck mode. Once the storyline of the current season is introduced with a cutscene, players enter one of several tile-based boards reminiscent of MK1 stages, with each tile offering different challenges and rewards. The encounters include opponents spamming specific moves, bizarre combat conditions, attacks from non-playable characters, as well as entire towers and mini-games. Meanwhile, players will gather levels and equipment for their fighters and sometimes discover secret paths. Anyone disappointed by MK1's short story mode should find more fulfillment with Invasions.

Mortal Kombat

After that, the Arcade Towers are available, featuring the usual selection of entertaining non-canonical character endings, along with a comprehensive tutorial mode. Players will continuously collect seasonal credits, koins, and character mastery through fights and completing various rotating quests, all aimed at unlocking even more bonuses and cosmetics outside of Invasions. Although the menus may often appear compact, Mortal Kombat 1 offers plenty of features and unlockable content to try out, and the player will always feel rewarded for their efforts. The three currencies (one of which is premium) and the mastery points may seem daunting, but lessons have been learned from MK11 to make them less intrusive.

When a player has had enough of the offline mode and decides to venture online, they can expect a similarly concise but solid experience. Mortal Kombat 1 provides a solid rollback netcode, matchmaking, and the typical online trio of ranked matches, casual matches, and lobby matches, as well as the possibility of cross-platform play in the future. No attempt has been made to reinvent the online features of Mortal Kombat 1 like some other aspects of the game, but enough is done to ensure that nothing disrupts the gameplay flow.


Mortal Kombat's combat system has always been solid, but the main attraction has been the aesthetic flair of 80s kung fu movies and the ample amount of violence. Both are fully showcased in MK1, and there are plenty of bloody finishing moves thanks to unlockable brutalities and cameo fighter fatalities. However, for more serious players, the cameo fighters themselves will steal the show. They have replaced the variations from MKX and MK11 with a second selection of characters that accompany the playable roster. Cameo fighters are variations shared by the entire roster, and their small contributions add a lot to the identity of MK1. They also play a role in breakers and a revised throw system, so players who don't utilize them properly will definitely feel the loss.

The diversity offered by the cameos is also reflected in the playable characters themselves, all of whom feel stronger than ever thanks to their abilities that are not divided into variations. The fighters' combat styles range from straightforward, such as the simple yet powerful Scorpion and Sub-Zero, to much more technical characters like the aerial-focused Nitara or the cameo-manipulating Sindel. The cameos are similarly balanced, and complementary pairings can be devastating. Optimal team compositions can increase pressure on opponents, and when combined with strong mobility options, this gives MK1 an impressive depth of gameplay.

However, this is a double-edged sword. In the name of competitiveness, the specialized move lists have grown while the number of pre-made combo chains has decreased. The few remaining chains have clearer purposes and actually significantly expand the combo potential of MK1, but casual players will wonder why mashing buttons doesn't generate as many impressive combinations as before. New air chains have also been added to make the combo paths of MK1 appear unique, but again, only advanced players will benefit from them. Mortal Kombat will always look different depending on whether it is played by high-level or low-level players, but the mechanics of Mortal Kombat 1 seem to favor experienced players. Only time will tell if invasions, a continuous unlocking of content, and numerous fatalities will be enough to satisfy both target audiences.

When it comes to catering to different players, the accessibility features of Mortal Kombat 1 are the best in the series. Similar to Street Fighter 6, MK1 offers optional gameplay audio cues, replacing Street Fighter's color commentators with a descriptive menu narrator, helping visually impaired players to engage with the gameplay itself. Advanced options such as disabling "Test Your Might" button sequences or alternative special move inputs are also available if desired.

Presentation always takes center stage in Mortal Kombat, and MK1 is no exception in this regard. The younger-looking cast of Mortal Kombat 1 has been carefully modeled with a lifelike aesthetic approach, and the wide mix of clean and dark settings allows the game to showcase an impressive color palette. The music, often a weak point of Mortal Kombat, is unusually catchy and diverse this time, even though it still can't quite match up to other fighting game franchises. The voice acting is exemplary as always, except for Megan Fox's Nitara, which unfortunately is as disappointing as Ronda Rousey's portrayal of Sonya in MK11. The overall sound design also contributes its part by adding a satisfying impact to the visual and haptic effects of attacks with appropriate audio effects, even if at times it is combined with one of MK's clumsier animations.

All in all, Mortal Kombat 1 is an impressive package that introduces changes while still paying homage to even the most obscure parts of its franchise. With that said, MK1 offers little more than a strict evolution of MK11, both in gameplay and storytelling. Mortal Kombat 1 brings little new to the fighting game genre, while nearby Street Fighter 6 presents a stark contrast by incorporating custom fighters and the open "Konquest" mode that Mortal Kombat has left behind. However, Liu Kang's new timeline promises a lot of potential, and Mortal Kombat 1 should satisfy its community until the next Mortal Kombat begins.

Mortal Kombat 1

The twelfth main installment in Warner Bros' franchise, Mortal Kombat 1, is planned as a soft reboot. In addition to familiar elements such as a single-player campaign and online multiplayer mode, the 2023 game will also introduce what are known as cameo fighters.

Mortal Kombat 1 will be released on September 19th for PC, PS5, Switch, and Xbox Series X/S. Game Rant received a code for the PlayStation 5 version for this review.