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Mortal Kombat 1

Mortal Kombat 1

Written by Nathan Carter on 10/2/2023 for PS5  
More On: Mortal Kombat 1

The Mortal Kombat series has been going strong for over 30 years now. Released back in 1992 the blood soaked series grew into an absolute juggernaut that hasn't been stopped to this day. Now in 202, NetherRealm Studios finally hit the reset button (theoretically) and released Mortal Kombat 1. The "1" representing how this game has gone back to the drawing board and has started the story from scratch, serving as an origin story for how a lot of our favorite characters came to be. While the game seems like a full reboot of the series, it also feels like NetherRealm really can't decide what they want this series to be and Mortal Kombat 1 ends up feeling like the same old thing once again. 

The good thing about Mortal Kombat 1 is that this is the heavy hitting, blood splattering gore fest you have come to know and love over the years, with a diverse roster of classic characters like Kitana, Johnny Cage, Scorpion, and Sub Zero, and some characters we haven't seen in a few games like Smoke and Reptile. Also making an appearance are some characters we haven't seen in over 15 years like Li Mei, Reiko, Nitara, and Ashrah. Anyone should be able to pick up the game, find a character and get right into the action.

The big addition to this game is the Kameo system. After you select your main character you have a second roster of characters to choose from. These are Kameos that will help you out by assisting you in battle. The roster here features some characters that are also on the main roster like Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Kung Lao, favorites like Sonya, Kano and Jax, and also features some obscure characters people may not remember like Darrius and Sareena. By hitting R1 and a direction during battle your Kameo will come out to perform different moves. These moves can either help set up combos or even extend combos. Some of them have defensive abilities as well - like Motoro throwing up a shield in front of you, or Scorpion using his spear to pull you away from your opponent. This feature is awesome and adds a lot of depth to each fight and character, as different Kameos will open up different combos for different main roster characters. The Kameos can also perform Fatalities and Brutalities, which makes the game really feel like a tag team fighting game of sorts. 

Mortal Kombat 1 has a beautiful atmosphere that goes back to the roots of the original 1992 arcade game. Since this is a new era filled with peace and tranquility (at first), you get a lot of Asian inspired backgrounds like the Wu Shi Academy, Fire Temple, and one of the most beautiful stages I have ever seen in one of these games, featuring a fireworks festival at nighttime, where colors just burst off the screen like the blood coming out of opponents during a fight. You also get some darker mythical stages as well, especially some from Outworld including the Corrupted Forest and Shang Tsung's dungeon. The music in the game also takes inspiration from the Asian setting. While I do think it still sounds like "action movie soundtrack" type music, it's a huge step up from the last two games.

Story mode returns in Mortal Kombat 1. Continuing from Mortal Kombat 11, Liu Kang has created his own timeline filled with peace and tranquility, but didn't alter the fates of the characters that much as he wants them to make their own choices. The villains however were a different story. With characters like Shang Tsung and General Khan, Liu Kang gave them boring, meaningless lives in the hopes that they wouldn't rise up and become the villains they were before. A mysterious character meets with Shang Tsung and tells him that with their help Shang can be the evil sorcerer that he was before. Meanwhile Liu Kang is gathering fights for the upcoming Mortal Kombat tournament in Outworld. This time however the Mortal Kombat tournament isn't a fight to the death to determine the fate of the realms. It's a friendly competition to bolster unity between realms. Since this is a new timeline, this game acts as an origin story for a lot of the characters in this universe. For instance, in this timeline Scorpion is Kuai Liang, the Sub-Zero we have been playing as from Mortal Kombat 2 onwards. Kitana and Mileena are now officially twin sisters with Mileena being the heir to the throne in Outworld. Story mode also does wonders for old favorites like Baraka and Reptile, who are given character development and time to shine. I loved seeing old characters we haven't seen in years like Ashrah and Li Mei return in this new setting. 

I was really enjoying story mode, and then Chapter 8 rolls around and this is when the story goes completely off the rails. Even more chapters progress and the story becomes a complete mess. I won't give it away, but it feels like NetherRealm can't decide what it wants this series to be. Do they want this to be an origin story in a new timeline? A reboot? A continuation? Or do they want this to be a DC Universe property? Apter a point, the story feels incredibly rushed, like they didn't get it finished completely in time. The story builds it's new world nicely and then it just goes into absolute speedrun mode to the finish line like it was doing 70 MPH on the highway and then flooring it to 120MPH for the rest of the ride because they are late. It's a shame really because I was loving what they were doing with the story, but by the time the credits rolled I was rolling my eyes and strongly disliking what I just witnessed. It started off as something new, something fresh, but by the end it's the same old thing once again and ends on an anti climatic note to build for either story DLC or the next game. Also as a side note, much like Mortal Kombat 11 with Ronda Rousey playing Sonya Blade, Megan Fox plays Nitara in this game and she is just as bad. All of her dialogue is just so deadpan and sounds like she's just talking into a mic. There is hardly any voice "acting" so I have no idea why WB keeps doing this because this doesn't do the character any justice. 

In terms of other modes in the game, you have Survival mode and Arcade Towers, where you can view your characters' arcade endings. But the big mode this time around is Invasions. Gone is the Krypt, and is replaced with a brand new mode that has lots of 1v1 gameplay to go along with it. Invasions mode is post-game content in which evil versions of characters from different timelines come in and start messing everything up and you have to stop them. Invasions can be played with any character and any Kameo, and be changed whenever you want. The game plays out almost like a board game where you move from node to node and engage in fights in order to progress. A lot of the fights will have a special challenge or modifier to them, like the floor being on fire, the game getting darker if you get near an opponent, or opponents being infused with different elemental attacks. Thankfully the fights only last a single round so you can get through these pretty quick. You can also earn consumables to help you during fights, like giving you boosts of damage and Talismans you can equip that can activate certain special attacks. Winning fights levels up your characters to make them more powerful to progress through the mode. This is the mode where you can collect special seasonal items and special seasonal koins to unlock items in the store. 

The thing about the mode is that you can get through it pretty quickly. The enemies don't scale properly with yours, so it got to the point where I had a level 30 character in the final area of the game going up against level 20 opponents that I was just decimating the whole time. This kinda takes away from the challenge and makes the mode a slog to get through. Worse is that this mode takes the seasonal approach to it. Each season is around 50 days, and the fact that you are gonna blow through this mode so quickly means you are gonna be waiting for some time before you can play through it again to unlock new content. I finished the mode in less than a week and there are still 40 days left until the next season begins. 

This game honestly feels like it was released too early. Aside from the messy story mode I mentioned, this game has other issues as well. First off some inputs for fatalities are wrong, along with the distance markers for them. For instance, it may say you need to be "close" to perform a fatality when you really need to be "mid" distance. Some brutalities just don't work as well. There also seems to be a bug with button inputs; one of Li Mei's combo trials can't be completed. The combo wants you perform her down, back, triangle to bring out the lantern but it performs her down, back, X special move instead. These are things that can be fixed with patches down the line but for a fighting game, especially with e-sports tournaments coming up, these things really should have been fixed before launch. There are also balance issues, with people being able to perform 80 hit combos with certain combinations of characters and Kameos.

There are also some really gross DLC practices here such a single skin for Scorpion being available in the store that can only be bought with real money for $10. That's more than the DLC characters are going to cost. I'm sorry, but this is not a free to play game. This costs $70 just for the base edition. $110 if you got the digital deluxe edition. These prices are something you would see in a free to play game. Not only that, but there are rotating gear, skins, and even announcer packs in the store so if you add all this up that's gonna cost you a ridiculous amount of money to get all that stuff. You can earn Dragon Krystals in game, but there is a cap so it's not like you can save up to buy all this stuff with earned currency. 

This game is also extremely grindy. Each character in the game has their own mastery system which looks like a free battle pass of 35 levels, where playing the game levels up that character. Each level will earn you skins, brutalities, profile pictures, gear, and more. The thing here is that it takes forever to level up. You are going to be grinding for a long time if you want to unlock everything for every character. This game is a also huge step down from Mortal Kombat 11 in terms of customization. It seems like compared to Mortal Kombat 11 there aren't nearly as many skins as that game had to offer. In fact, we can't even see how many skins are available for each character. In MK11 you could see every skin, every piece of gear and how to unlock it for each character. Here there is nothing, go to customization and just see blank boxes with no indication of what there is to unlock or how to unlock them. 

Mortal Kombat 1 has the actual gameplay part down for the most part, but the rest of the game is seriously lacking in both content and polish. The story mode is good at first but then becomes a rushed mess that completely goes off the rails. Invasions is fun at first but then the mode gets old and turns into grind fest. There are so many quality of life things from Mortal Kombat 11 that are just missing here, which makes the game really tedious to play in certain parts. It's unfortunately, as the 1v1 fighting is fun and I'm sure after some updates this game will be great. But as of now I would say this game falls into the "wait for a sale" category. 

Mortal Kombat 1 gets the gameplay part right but I can't shake the feeling that this game was released way too early. While you do get a full story mode and Invasions mode there are so many small problems that really take away from what should be the best game NetherRealm has made yet. 

Rating: 7 Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I have been playing video games for as long as I can remember. My earliest gaming memories come from playing Lady Bug and Snafu on my fathers Colecovision and Intellivision respectively.  It wasnt until I was 6 years old and played a Mortal Kombat 2 arcade machine in a game room at a hotel that I truly fell in love with a videogame. I have so many wonderful memories of my dad and I playing Mortal Kombat on SNES every night after dinner. Throughout my childhood NES, SNES, Gameboy and Sega Genesis were the loves of my life. Here I am 35 years old and still as much in love with videogames as I ever was. 

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