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Game Review: ‘Mortal Kombat 1’ Sets a New Standard

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Mortal Kombat 1 is the newest installment in the iconic fighting game series that has delighted the gaming world since the release of Mortal Kombat 9 in 2011. Developed by NetherRealm Studios, written and directed by the legend of this franchise Ed Boon, and published by Warner Bros. Games, this game has set a new standard for the fighting game genre.

Being a reboot of the original gaming franchise, Mortal Kombat 1 had the difficult task of creating a new story while being faithful to what was previously established. Did Mortal Kombat 1 become the best Mortal Kombat game? Can you play it without having played the previous titles? How much time do you have to spend to master every character available in the game so far?

Answers to this and more can be found in my review below.

[Warning: Spoilers below from previous Mortal Kombat games and light spoilers from Mortal Kombat 1!]

New game, new universe, new story

After defeating Kronika in Mortal Kombat 11, Liu Kang is now God of Fire and Thunder who had to restart the universe using the Hourglass. By doing so, he changed the fates of thousands of people, including the iconic characters from the games’ world. As of now, Bi-Han’s/Sub Zero’s younger brother Kuai Liang is Scorpion, Hanzo Hasashi is Takeda, Mileena is a hero and more.

Mortal Kombat 1’s story mode is an amazing cinematic experience that slightly rebuilds the narrative established in previous games. It’s clear that the developers put a lot of effort into crafting an engaging and coherent storyline that unifies the diverse cast of characters. The narrative involves travel between different places, switching between vary characters, and a battle against the evil personas.

God of Fire & Thunder Liu Kang
Liu Kang – God of Fire & Thunder in ‘Mortal Kombat 1’ (NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Games)

The storytelling is supported by exceptional voice acting, which brings the characters to life in a way that fans of the series will truly appreciate. Iconic characters like Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Smoke, Johnny Cage, Mileena, and many others are voiced with depth and emotion, making the player feel more connected to their struggles and triumphs.  Voice acting standouts include Yuri Lowenthal as Smoke, Andrew Morgado as Reptile, Daisuke Tsuji as Kuai Liang/Scorpion, Kari Wahlgren as Kitana & Mileena, Kaiji Tang as Bi-Han/Sub-Zero, Vincent Rodriguez III as Raiden, Matthew Yang King as Liu Kang and Vic Chao as Kenshi

Each character has their own story to tell, and you can connect with them on a deeper level, even when you know their story from previous games. But here’s the catch, it’s a new reality, and a new history, so you never know what will happen to them or what they’ll do.

I really love what they have done with this story. They decided to reintroduce characters from the arcade versions of the game in this one, allowing newcomers to meet these characters and veterans to have fun playing as them again after 30 years. This results in something magical as they connect two different groups of fans this way. And it really, really works, in a good way.

The story mode is also beautifully presented, with high-quality cutscenes that seamlessly transition into gameplay. It’s a visual treat that showcases the game’s stunning graphics and attention to detail. Mortal Kombat 1 is a visual masterpiece.

The game runs on the Unreal Engine 4, and it shows. Character models are incredibly detailed, with lifelike animations and facial expressions. The bloody fatalities and brutalities, for which the series is known, are rendered in exquisite detail, making each finishing move a precious spectacle to behold.

The stages are equally impressive, featuring dynamic environments that react to the ongoing battles. Whether it’s a fighting arena in the middle of a forest or a Johnny Cage’s villa, each stage is meticulously designed and adds depth to the overall experience. The level of detail extends to the characters’ costumes and skins. The game features a vast array of customization options, allowing players to deck out their favorite fighters in various outfits and accessories.

This level of customization enhances the player’s connection to their chosen characters and adds an extra layer of personalization to the game. Especially when it comes to playing as Johnny Cage while using the Jean-Claude Van Damme skin, it’s just perfect and iconic.

Jean Claude Van Damme Johnny Cage
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Johnny Cage in ‘Mortal Kombat 1’ (NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Games)

Mortal Kombat 1 gameplay provides unlimited possibilities

At the heart of any fighting game lies its combat system, and Mortal Kombat 1 is no exception. The developers have redefined and upgraded the series’ iconic gameplay, and delivered a deep and satisfying combat experience. As usual, the gameplay retains the classic 2.5D perspective, allowing players to move freely in a 3D space while still executing attacks on a 2D plane.

One of the most notable additions to Mortal Kombat 1’s gameplay mechanics is the Kameo system. When starting a fight, we either pick or are assigned (in story mode for example) our partner. During the fight, we can summon our ally to stun, attack, or throw our enemy in the air. That gives us multiple new combos that have a different use.

This mechanic adds a layer of strategy to fights, as players must manage their resources and choose the perfect moment to use different combos. Mainly because we can’t spam this option due to the cooldown. What’s very interesting is that during Fatal Blows, Brutalities and Finishers our allies assist us in those “cutscenes” giving us unique scenes.

The core gameplay is as satisfying as ever, with a strong focus on, combo execution, being creative and making your enemy crazy by using different mind games. Each character feels unique, with their own move sets, strengths, and weaknesses. Whether you prefer close-quarters combat, ranged attacks, or a mix of both, there’s a character in Mortal Kombat 1 to suit your playstyle.

Mortal Kombat 1’s audio design is also top-notch. The sound effects are realistic and impactful, enhancing the brutality of the combat. The bone-crunching impacts, and piercing screams all contribute to the immersive experience. The game’s soundtrack is a mix of atmospheric and adrenaline-pumping tunes that perfectly complement the action on screen. Whether you’re in the middle of a heated battle or watching a dramatic cutscene, the music sets the tone effectively.

Roster of characters in Mortal Kombat 1

Mortal Kombat 1 boasts an impressive roster of characters, both old and new, with a variety of fighting styles to choose from. The developers have done an excellent job of maintaining the series’ iconic characters while introducing fresh faces to the mix. The current roster has 23 characters and 15 Kameos.

My favorite combinations of characters so far are Kenshi & Kung Lao, Johnny & Sonya, Smoke & Cyrax, Reptile & Jax, and Scorpion & Frost. Each mix allows you to change your own style of playing to suit you better and allows you to find your own way of playing. Especially when at least for now, in the first weeks of the game, the number of players trying really hard to win every game and spending significant time practicing, isn’t that much.

Mortal Kombat 1 full character rooster
‘Mortal Kombat 1’ full character roster (NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Games)

The DLC characters that will be introduced in the future are Ermac, Homelander, Omni-Man, Takeda, Quan Chi, and Peacemaker. Characters from outside the Mortal Kombat world will look like and have the original voices of the actors who portrayed them in their respective franchises.

New game modes and Mortal Kombat tournament hosting

The new addition to the world of Mortal Kombat is the Invasion mode. It allows you to protect your “world” from various invaders by battling them on a board-like world that rewards you with in-game money, cosmetics, etc. It’s similar to Battle Towers where you have to try different challenges and defeat opponents in order to progress and level up your characters.

And it’s not weird, because Mortal Kombat 1 is packed with content to keep players engaged for hours on end. Even with The Towers mode which offers a wide range of challenges and modifiers that keep the gameplay fresh and challenging. Completing these towers can earn you various rewards, including character skins, gear, and consumable items that can be used in battles.

There’s also an option to create your own Tournament, where you can host your very own version of Mortal Kombat tournament. There you can set your own unified ruleset for the game, to have fun, or challenge yourself in the hardest ways possible. Unlocking everything and mastering every character will surely take some time, but those modes give some diversity to make it more fun.

 

My verdict on Mortal Kombat 1

Mortal Kombat 1 is a triumph in the world of fighting games. It successfully builds upon the series’ storied legacy while introducing new gameplay mechanics, customization options, and an engaging story mode. The character roster is diverse and deep, catering to a wide range of playstyles. In my opinion, it’s the best Mortal Kombat game to date. It may even be right up there in the fight for the Game of the Year title.

But I think the best thing about it is that you can play without knowing what happened in Mortal Kombat 11. It’s a whole new beginning, both for the franchise and for the players.

My rating for this game:

4.5/5

Mortal Kombat 1 is now available on Playstation 5, Xbox Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Have you played it? Are you excited to see what future updates will add to this game? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or The Cosmic Circus Discord.

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Wiktor Reinfuss

Big fan of all sorts of pop culture stuff. I also enjoy ambitious cinema. Games, music and graphics are all within my interests. I have a great fondness for the Arrowverse series, especially The Flash.

Wiktor Reinfuss has 127 posts and counting. See all posts by Wiktor Reinfuss