NetherRealm Studios embarked on a significant endeavor with Mortal Kombat 1. Positioned as the franchise’s second lore reset in just 12 years, this new installment aimed to breathe fresh life into Mortal Kombat’s storyline while maintaining the high quality expected by its loyal fanbase over three decades. While Mortal Kombat 1 successfully introduces exciting new mechanics and a plot full of twists, it falls short of achieving the depth needed to make it a masterpiece.
Mortal Kombat 1 continues the narrative from where MK11 Aftermath concluded, with Liu Kang ascending to godhood as the Keeper of Time. His newfound powers allow him to craft a new universe, leading to intriguing transformations for familiar characters. Raiden, once the formidable Thunder God, becomes a humble farmer in a small village. Every character undergoes some form of significant change, although some of these alterations are more subtle than others.
The game’s playable roster exclusively comprises returning characters from the series’ history, without any entirely new fighters. However, thanks to the game’s narrative focus, each character feels reimagined or enriched, fostering a sense of discovery akin to brand-new additions. Mortal Kombat 1 takes established names and breathes new life into them, a concept that succeeds for the majority of the characters, even though a few feel less revolutionary than they could have been.
For instance, Reptile’s transformation is a prime example of an enhanced character. While he retains his iconic green ninja appearance and abilities like acid spit and invisibility, he now emphasizes his Zaterran shape-shifting powers, resulting in visually stunning animations as he seamlessly transitions between forms. Conversely, Reiko, a character with limited prior appearances, is portrayed as a formidable soldier type with grapple moves. Although his fighting style is effective, it lacks the novelty seen in other cast members.
Mortal Kombat 1 introduces exciting gameplay mechanics, with aerial combos being a standout addition. These combos not only look spectacular but also inject a fresh layer of excitement into the game, a facet previously missing in recent MK titles. Some characters can string together multiple aerial combos, delivering substantial damage while exuding a cool factor. This mechanic encourages players to refine their timing, as executing these combos is not just effective but also immensely satisfying.
The hallmark of the franchise, Fatalities, returns in all its gory glory. These finishing moves, characterized by creative brutality and realistic sound effects, remain as gruesome as ever. Some Fatalities may even shock those accustomed to graphic content. Additionally, Brutalities make a comeback, functioning similarly to their previous iterations, providing bloody exclamation points to conclude matches. Mortal Kombat 1 preserves the series’ classic brutality impeccably.
One of the most significant additions to Mortal Kombat 1’s combat system is the Kameo assist mechanic. After selecting one of the 23 playable characters, players can choose from a separate roster of fighters who serve as assist characters. These Kameos grant three additional attacks that can be summoned at any time but operate on cooldowns, ensuring a tactical approach to their utilization. This innovation ingeniously introduces characters who wouldn’t have made the playable roster, offering both strategic depth and fan service.
Voice acting in Mortal Kombat 1 generally impresses, with most characters exuding personality, toughness, and grit in their dialogue. However, there is a notable exception in the form of Megan Fox, whose voice work as Nitara feels out of place and lacks the depth found in the rest of the cast. While her performance is passable in battles, it disrupts immersion during the campaign. The inclusion of a high-profile actress in a video game is appreciated, but it would have benefited from a voiceover that better aligned with the overall cast.
The storyline of Mortal Kombat 1 is a fun and unpredictable journey, culminating in some of the franchise’s most astonishing moments. It seamlessly blends iconic Mortal Kombat lore with fresh, chaotic twists, creating a thrilling narrative experience. The character development, explored through interactions and transformations, adds depth and emotional weight to the fantastical storyline.
However, the campaign isn’t flawless. Some decisions, like those involving Ermac, leave a lingering dissatisfaction, disrupting the impact of affected characters rather than enhancing them. Despite these minor hiccups, the story’s overall quality compensates for its imperfections.
One drawback of the campaign is its linear nature, offering little replayability once completed. While the final chapter introduces a degree of variety by allowing players to choose their fighter, it remains the sole choice provided throughout the campaign. Despite these limitations, the engaging narrative largely offsets these shortcomings.
Mortal Kombat 1 provides other gameplay modes outside the campaign, but they don’t offer the same level of engaging gameplay.
Online modes, including ranked, casual, and private rooms with a “winner stays on” format called King Of The Hill, deliver relatively smooth online matches, thanks to rollback netcode. However, the absence of a spectator mode in private rooms is a notable drawback compared to other fighting games.
Single-player modes, such as the traditional Arcade Towers and the new Invasion mode, offer mixed experiences. Arcade Towers provide the classic Mortal Kombat feel, complete with individual character endings that add interesting lore elements. Invasion mode, while nostalgic, often devolves into short, one-round fights that lack challenge, especially with powerful abilities and modifiers. It fails to match the depth and excitement of Mortal Kombat 11’s offerings.
In conclusion, Mortal Kombat 1 ushers in a promising new era for NetherRealm’s iconic fighting game franchise. It successfully reimagines characters and introduces compelling new gameplay elements, particularly through air combos and the Kameo assist mechanic. While some game modes may fall short of expectations, the captivating campaign and fresh take on the Mortal Kombat lore make this installment a notable step forward. As we anticipate the future of Mortal Kombat, we hope for even more depth and innovation in the next chapter.