If there’s one thing that can be said about the Mortal Kombat series, it’s that the franchise continues to be one of the pillars of the fighting game genre. Not only has Mortal Kombat reinvented itself multiple times over the decades, but continues to remain relevant among many kinds of gamers. The latest entry of the series on PlayStation 5, Mortal Kombat 1, once again reboots what we know about Mortal Kombat. The game gives a fresh take on familiar ideas and characters that we have loved watching battle it out since the beginning. But while the majority of Mortal Kombat 1 is successful, there are a few stumbles that prevent it from becoming a flawless new entry in the legendary series.
The plot of Mortal Kombat 1 picks up right after the events of Mortal Kombat 11. Fire God Liu Kang has restarted the universe, bringing about a brand new timeline that is different than before, but has some parallels to what we know from previous games. As we see various fighters we know come together for a great tournament, things are very noticeably altered and unfold in new and exciting ways. But something dark lurks behind questionable events that will force Liu Kang and the rest of his champions to face a greater threat. One that may bring about Armageddon to more than just Earthrealm and Outworld.
Again, NetherRealm Studios proves that they know how to put together a narrative for a fighting game very well. Not only is the story of MK1 interesting, but it manages to incorporate the entire roster of fighters into its plot. Every character gets some time to shine coming face-to-face with rivals, great threats, and playing their part in the much larger story related to Fire God Liu Kang and the timelines. Luckily, not much background knowledge about the previous game or the rest of the Mortal Kombat series is necessary to follow along, but anyone who has played the series up to now will get so much more out of this story. There are many echoes and nods to aspects of the 3D Mortal Kombat games from the PS2/Xbox era. This includes big references to games like Deadly Alliance, MK Deception, and Armageddon.
But does the gameplay as well as its predecessors? Mortal Kombat 1 definitely has many of the same aspects that MK11 had with its gameplay. The roster is pretty big with 23 playable fighters. Everyone has an assortment of special moves, combos, and spectacular finishing moves. It will take time to learn how to play a character well offline and online, mainly because a lot of the tools many characters had in the previous game have been tweaked or altered in various ways. But the roster of playable fighters is complimented by a new layer to the fighting in Mortal Kombat, and that’s the addition of Kameo fighters.
There are 15 Kameo fighters you can pick from, which act like an assist character that can help you out during a match. Depending on the direction you hit and button press, you can call in a Kameo fighter and they’ll do a different move against your opponent. What’s neat is that Kameo fighters get their own finishers as well, including both Fatalities and Brutalities. They are a really clever way of mixing up the flow of combat in a different way that previous MK games have yet to approach. Some will be quick to compare this to games like Marvel vs. Capcom or Street Fighter X Tekken, but Mortal Kombat 1 manages to make Kameo fighters feel different.
There’s no tagging them in to take over, nor are they able to be overly used in a fight. The balance that Kameo fighters have will allow you to experiment with combos and break away from bad situations, while also still keeping the focus on traditional 1 vs. 1 style battles. The variety of Kameo fighters is also pulled from throughout the series, ranging from the original three arcade games through the 3D era. Mirror matches between characters will never feel the same each time depending on the Kameo fighters selected between both combatants.
The fighting in any Mortal Kombat often ends up being fun and exciting, but the series has also been known to have interesting game modes and extras outside of the traditional fights. For Mortal Kombat 1, players can go through Story Mode and Arcade Towers to get all of the details about this new era in the MK universe. Finishing any of the Towers opens up a character ending which is not always canon to the main story, while Story Mode itself gives you the full plot for what is happening in Mortal Kombat 1. You’ll definitely want to play through Story Mode first before anything else, mainly because you’ll get the most out of it more than any other mode. Not to mention some of the goodies you’ll unlock just for completing it.
Speaking of goodies, MK1 also has a new Invasion Mode. This lets you play through a game board-like series of maps full of challenges, where you can unlock new cosmetics for fighters and more. Unfortunately, Invasion can be very repetitive for most people and will take a while to complete. Although it will get updated with new seasonal content that changes up rewards and challenges, most people will not enjoy how routine it will become. There are some light story elements in it that are not canon to the game’s main Story Mode, but it’s a nice touch to string you along. It would’ve been better however if there was an entirely original story that offered more than the quick art cutscenes from time to time.
Playing Invasion mode can let you unlock gear and cosmetics for everyone on the roster, including Kameo fighters. This level of customization is not as deep or vast as what was in Mortal Kombat 11 but still has enough layers to make fighters look unique. Much of the deep tinkering with special moves and more from MK11 is gone in favor of more simple equipment and color schemes. You can still unlock new finishers like Fatalities and Brutalities, but there are multiple ways to do so now.
Every character has a Fighter Mastery level that goes up the more you play matches with them, with each level yielding a new reward. It is very similar to a battle pass found in other games but is only focused on how much you use a character in any mode. The more you play with a given character or Kameo fighter, the more XP you’ll gain to their Fighter Mastery. Unfortunately, it takes a while to get to higher levels and unlock alternate finishers and cosmetics, which can mildly be made faster with some items within Invasion Mode. But if you want everything for a character, you’re going to need to grind.
One other aspect that Mortal Kombat 1 stumbles on is its Practice Mode. While there are multiple trials that help teach you the basic and advanced aspects of gameplay, the mode itself is missing some features. Helpful things like pinning a specific move on the screen to view while in Practice Mode are not available. You also cannot have matchmaking working in the background for online play while you’re in training mode, which is something that more and more new fighting games are adding. Other quality-of-life features that would make things easier also appear to missing at launch, such as spending more than 1,000 koins in the game’s Shrine area to purchase unlockables. Things like these can be addressed in updates and future patches, but they should’ve definitely been considered from the start.
But what about the online modes? Are they good enough to hop online and battle against others? Mortal Kombat 1 does have casual and ranked matchmaking online, which can open up other rewards the more you play. Getting into a matchup is easy and can work out well depending on your internet connection. However, some players may experience a few bugs and hiccups while in matchmaking.
You can get stuck matching up to the same player multiple times despite finishing a set with them, which will require you to wait a bit before starting up matchmaking again. At the same time, a black screen bug can happen after trying to do a rematch with someone. When this happens, you’ll have to restart your console and enter matching again, which can be very annoying. Again, stuff like this can be addressed with patches as they pop up spontaneously, but they are still an issue for those who want to spend a lot of time playing online.
Mortal Kombat 1 is a solid new entry in the series that continues the legacy of the franchise into new territory. While not a flawless sequel because of the issues that pop up, it still manages to be a lot of fun to play. If you’re someone who has been with the series since the beginning, there is a ton to love that will reward how much you’ve seen from Mortal Kombat throughout the ages. But even if you’re a newcomer to the series, the fighting and universe is definitely welcoming enough to get you into this new era of a legendary franchise. Scrapes and all, Mortal Kombat still manages to show why is still one of the biggest franchises in the genre.
What do you think of Mortal Kombat 1? Are you playing the game on any specific platform? Who is your main in any Mortal Kombat game? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Mortal Kombat 1
This game has a great presentation with it’s gorgeous visuals and sounds. The gameplay is fun offline, and can be as well online. There are some bugs with the online matchmaking that may be an issue for some. The Story Mode is interesting with it’s plot and implementation of the whole roster, while the Invasion Mode will take a lot of time and feel repetitive. There are many unlockables to get through nearly every mode, which will keep anyone busy for a long time.
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