Mortal Kombat 1 is the most intriguing entry in the series for some time, not only because it looks to reset the lore and timeline following the previous game, but also because it introduces a fresh gameplay mechanic that genuinely changes how it feels to play. Has this transition to a new take on the formula been a success? Absolutely, with Mortal Kombat 1 somehow exceeding the high standard that the series has set over the last generation of consoles with its fresh yet familiar gameplay.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Mortal Kombat 1 continues the narrative from the previous game, with Liu Kang resetting the timeline after becoming the Keeper of Time. This brings with it a more peaceful period where the realms are no longer at each other’s throats, especially since the more treacherous villains of the series have been given a more menial existence where their devious capabilities aren’t able to shine through. At least, that’s what was SUPPOSED to happen, but when a shady figure gives these villains a nudge towards their old powers, it doesn’t take long before a deadly disturbance erupts amongst the realms once more.

I loved the story of the game, with it striking that perfect balance between new and old as familiar faces are given a fresh backstory and realigned personalities to fit in with this re-telling of the Mortal Kombat universe. Players are given a whole new perspective on some fan favourites (such as Raiden and Kung Lao working as farmhands to begin with or Shang Tsung acting as a conniving con-artist), whilst the trajectory of the brewing conflict between the realms feels refreshing when compared to the last few entries in the series. There are plenty of twists-and-turns as each plot thread unfolds, but it keeps players completely drawn into the experience as they see Mortal Kombat 1 puts its own spin on the established formula. It’s really, really cool, and certainly helps give the game a unique vibe that carries over to its gameplay.

Of course, you can’t have a Mortal Kombat game without slick and gruesome fighting mechanics, and Mortal Kombat 1 certainly delivers on that front. A lot feels the same, with players able to inflict a variety of combos or special attacks by utilising simple button combinations, whilst a momentum meter also builds that can be spent to add a bit of extra oomph to certain attacks. And if you find your health low in battle? You’re able to dish out a Fatal Blow, which will deal some REAL damage to foes and showcase some truly violent attacks as you get an x-ray view of the effect of your strikes. Combat is fast-paced, intuitive, and brutal, with Mortal Kombat 1 offering some of the best fighting seen in the series.

“I loved the story of the game, with it striking that perfect balance between new and old as familiar faces are given a fresh backstory and realigned personalities to fit in with this re-telling of the Mortal Kombat universe.”

The big change to gameplay comes with the Kameo system, which allows players to bring in a support character that can be called upon to help out in combat, whether that’s by simply halting your opponent’s attacks by dishing out some damage or by extending a combo you’re performing (they even show up in your Fatal Blows, which I loved). Best of all, these Kameo characters come from specific Mortal Kombat titles from across the series, which is evident quite quickly when you see Kano wearing his outfit from the very first game. Each Kameo offers two main moves, which will be performed by either pressing RB or RB and a directional button – these moves may damage your opponent up close, send out a ranged attack, or even offer players some protection depending on who you’ve chosen as your Kameo fighter, so there’s an element of strategy involved that allows players to get support that complements their character’s fighting style. Personally? I went for Goro because he’s my favourite Mortal Kombat character, but the likes of Stryker, Motaro, or Sonya Blade all proved effective in battle. Admittedly, the Kameo system can take getting used to – especially since it can slow down the pace of your attacks when you call an assist in – but it stands out as one of the more dynamic and worthwhile additions made to the fighting over the last few entries.

It also feels like it builds upon the roster, with the game’s fifteen Kameo fighters complementing the twenty-two main fighters for the base game. There’s an impressive amount of variety offered here too, with favourites such as Liu Kang, Raiden, Sub Zero, Scorpion, Johnny Cage, and Kitana making a consistent return, but also joined by a few faces that haven’t been playable for a while, such as Nitara, Ashrah, Li Mei, and Reiko. Each character feels like they have been refreshed to play that little bit differently, and whilst returning players will see some familiarity within their move sets, the learning curve will kick in once again as you begin to figure out their combos, what situations are best suited for special attacks, and, of course, the button combinations for Fatalities. I won’t spoil any of the Fatalities here, but they’re f*****g awesome and certainly live up to the high standards of creativity and gore seen across the series over the last thirty years.

The whole roster just feels very diverse and caters to different playstyles, whilst, much like the theme of the game, it takes a little something from across the Mortal Kombat series as a whole and spices it up in its own little way. My only gripe is that there weren’t any NEW characters introduced – especially since the minds at NetherRealm studios have come up with some wonderful creations over the years. It’s a small issue, especially since the roster is impressively robust to begin with, but it’s always cool to see a whole new character in a Mortal Kombat game that brings with it plenty of surprises.

Check out some screenshots down below:

When it comes to game modes, Mortal Kombat 1 offers another fantastic Story Mode to play through that shuffles players across a good selection of the main cast, whilst the Towers return to offer players challenges of varying length that will put their skills to the test (whilst also allowing you to unlock an ending cinematic for each character). However, it’s the Invasion Mode that most caught my attention, with players working through a boardgame-style setup as they complete varying combat challenges or mini-games to earn experience points and currency to purchase new goodies. There’s an emphasis placed on player progression too, with players levelling up, improving the gear they have equipped to offer buffs, and granting new capabilities to their fighter. The battles in this mode can be outrageous in design too, with them bringing some extraordinary stipulations to ensure players have to deal with unconventional threats from their enemies. It offers plenty of replayability, and with a ton of goodies to unlock throughout, it’s something I’ve found myself really hooked into over the last week. You also have your standard selection of multiplayer options too, with players able to duke it out both locally or online – I’ve had a fair bit of success against my online opponents so far and the network performance has been sound, so there’s plenty to keep players engaged for years to come.

There are some omissions that are a little disappointing though, such as the lack of a Krypt to unlock goodies. Whilst Invasion Mode does make up for this in some ways, the element of exploration and discovery offered in the Krypt was ALWAYS a massive highlight for me, so its absence felt especially notable. The lack of interactivity in levels was a shame too, especially since it’s been a staple of the last few entries of the series. It’s not a game-breaker, sure, but it always gave players that one extra trick up their sleeve where they could use what might otherwise be an unfavourable position to their advantage.

I can’t end this review without mentioning how gorgeous the game is, with the focus on current-gen consoles ensuring this is the best that the series has ever looked (we’ll ignore some images or videos you might have seen of the Nintendo Switch version for now). The series has been a visual marvel for a long-time anyway, but the added depth and detail to characters and environments (as well as the more fluid animations) ensure that Mortal Kombat 1 truly does break new ground. Who would’ve thought that seeing bodies parts blasted everywhere and blood and guts splatter the screen could be so damn beautiful?

Mortal Kombat 1 Review

Mortal Kombat 1 is a glorious fighting experience that offers some of the best combat and storytelling seen across the series. The new Kameo system offers a whole new way to approach battles with your foes, whilst the way that the game leans into both the new and old with its overall theming ensures that it manages to feel both fresh and familiar at the same time. The Story Mode remains as excellent as expected, whilst the Invasion mode gives players a creative way to experience the game’s brutal action.

There are some disappointing omissions, such as the lack of the Krypt, interactive environments, and new characters, but they don’t stop Mortal Kombat 1 from offering some of the most exciting (and gory) thrills that the series has ever seen.

Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platform(s): PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PC