NetherRealm Studios faced a major challenge with Mortal Kombat 1. The game was presented as the second reboot of the saga in 12 years, and the team had to find ways to make this new era of Mortal Kombat as fresh and exciting as the narrative demanded, while maintaining the high quality that the fan base has become accustomed to over the 30 years of the series. 

Mortal Kombat 1 largely achieves this through fun mechanics and an unpredictable plot, but the overall package lacks the depth needed to be considered a masterpiece.

Mortal Kombat 1 Game Review

Mortal Kombat 1 begins exactly where Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath left off, with Liu Kang ascending to godhood. As Guardian of Time, he can create a new universe at will, and his creation puts familiar faces on new and interesting paths. Raiden, for example, is no longer the all-powerful God of Thunder; instead, he's a simple farmer from a small village. Each character undergoes some fundamental change, although some are less noticeable than others.

This results in a playable cast made up only of returning characters from the series' past; there isn't a single completely new fighter in sight. However, due to the game's narrative focus, each character seems new - or at least has some new elements to their style - which creates the sense of discovery usually reserved for new faces. Mortal Kombat 1 takes familiar names and reinvents them, and it's an innovative idea that works very well for most of the characters, although some don't seem as revolutionary as they could be.


Reptile is a perfect example of a character who has changed for the better. He's still a green-clad ninja with acid spit and the ability to camouflage himself, but here he focuses much more on his Zaterran metamorphosis abilities. The result is a marvel of animation, as he quickly transforms between the two forms without interruption. 

On the other hand, Reiko - who has only appeared twice before - is simply a strong soldier with grabs built into her move set. It's not a bad choice, and his moves serve him well, but there aren't enough changes to his character to make him as interesting as other cast members.

With the changes to the story come new and exciting gameplay mechanics, with aerial combos being one of the cleverest. Not only do the combos look more impressive in the air, but the variety of options resulting from this addition offers a kind of excitement that recent MK games have lacked. Some characters have ways of stringing together various aerial combos, resulting in massive damage and incredible visuals. It's the kind of mechanic that encourages players to hone their timing, as executing one of these combos is not only effective, but also looks incredible.

A major highlight that returns are the bloody and violent landmarks of the franchise: the Fatalities. The signature finishing moves are as disgusting as ever, thanks to a combination of creative kills and very realistic sound effects. Some of them shocked me, and I have a higher tolerance than most for gory stuff like this. 


Brutalities also return and work in exactly the same way as before, serving as surprise exclamation marks at the end of the match, covered in blood. This may be a new beginning for Mortal Kombat, but it still executes the classics in a brilliant and bloody way.

The biggest addition to MK1's combat is the Kameo assist mechanic. After selecting one of the 23 playable characters, I can choose from a separate cast of fighters who simply act as additional assist characters. Most of them are characters that don't appear in the playable cast, although some are alternative versions of playable fighters.

Once a Kameo is selected, I have three additional attacks at my disposal that I can summon at any time. Kameos can help extend combos, counter enemy attacks or provide extra mobility in tight situations.

Unlike normal skills or combos, Kameos operate on a cooldown. This ensures that each Kameo activation feels important and a real tactical consideration; considering how versatile some of these attacks are, unlimited access to them would break the game. Motaro, for example, can create a shield to block attacks and also teleport a character around the stage. Spamming any of these attacks would make fighting him impossible, but thanks to the recharge time, this isn't a problem.


The Kameos are an ingenious way of including characters in the game who wouldn't otherwise have been included. Seeing faces like Sareena on screen, even in this limited capacity, is very nice, as she has a legion of fans who have been asking to see her again for years. Although it's not a fully realized character, it's an acknowledgement of her existence, and it gives me hope that more unrecognized heroes and villains will see the light of day again. 

I also love seeing Kameos being old versions of playable characters, with Sub-Zero and Scorpion being prime examples. The Kameos add a fun layer of strategy to the fighting mechanics, while providing first-class fan service with long-forgotten characters.

Almost all the characters in the game - playable or Kameos - are backed up by incredible voice work, with most of the chosen talents oozing personality, determination and grit in every word they speak. One major exception, unfortunately, is the game's most famous actress: Megan Fox.

See also: Discover the best free mobile games

October 17th, 2023