Mortal Kombat 1 has arrived for the PlayStation 5, and no, we’re not talking about the vintage classic we all remember. This fresh installment reboots the storied MK timeline in a bold new direction. Following the heels of the critically acclaimed Mortal Kombat 11, which garnered widespread applause for its captivating story mode and impressive graphical fidelity, the expectations are undoubtedly high. With such a rich legacy and a recent standout predecessor, the burning question on everyone’s mind is: How does this new iteration of Mortal Kombat 1 measure up after the monumental success of Mortal Kombat 11?
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Mortal Kombat 1 reboots the timelines after the events of Mortal Kombat 11. Kronika was defeated, and Lui-Kang became the God of Fire and Protector of Earthrealm. With this reboot of the franchise story, we are also given a more classic range of fighters. We get the regular ninja fighters (Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Smoke, etc.), and we are also given what are called Kameo fighters. These are fighters you cannot directly control but can call out in a fight with the push of R1 to assist you temporarily. They also interact with you when doing X-Ray attacks and certain other attacks like throws.
Again, We are provided with many game modes in this entry. We get a very high-quality story mode with excellent cutscenes, regular battle modes, a new Konquest mode, a returning towers mode, a Kustomization mode, and online play!
The Krypt sort of returns in Mortal Kombat 1, but this time in the form of Konquest mode. Most unlockable items can be retrieved from this mode. You can also gain Koins (by pretty much playing any mode), which can then be used to get a random unlockable for the cool price of 1,000 Koins. I do think Konquest mode is a more enjoyable approach to unlockables over the Krypts from previous entries.
Mortal Kombat 1 reboots the storyline of the franchise. In Mortal Kombat 11, Lui Kang beat Kronika to become the Fire God and Protector of Earthrealm. Because he beat Kronika he also became the new Keeper of Time. This allowed him to create a new timeline based on peace. A utopian timeline. Lui Kang didn’t choose to erase the common and frequent threats from the previous timelines, such as Shao Khan, Reptile, Shang Tsung, and Mileena, but instead chose to give them a life he believed they would benefit more from.
The story begins showing an old Shang Tsung peddling some wares to a group of villagers. This quickly turns ugly as he is accused of being a fraud and attempting to sell them all snake oil. In an odd turn of events, however, we don’t see Shang Tsung retaliate even when he is thrown to the ground. This is a far cry from the previous Shang Tsungs we know who would have probably turned them into walking obedient skeletons! Later, we see him sitting outside his caravan, bemoaning his luck and wishing for more in his life until what looks to be Kronika, resurrected, approaches him. She offers him a chance to be more and to return to what he is destined for. We then see an excellently animated, high-quality facial expression close-up from Shang Tsung that hammers down the quality you should expect from these cutscenes going forward.
Now we move over to both Raiden and Kung Lao, who are now simple peasants tending a farm in Fengjian village. Kung Lao, similarly to Shang Tsung, wishes for more in his life and wants to be remembered for something other than farming. Raiden is quite content with what he has and has no desire to leave Fengjian village. They soon return to their mentor, Madame Bo, who co-incidentally has also been teaching them both marital arts. Before long, Smoke and Lin Kuei approach Madam Bo in an attempt to extort her with a protection ratchet. Raiden and Kung Lao jump to her defense to take on the Lin Kuei. I want to pipe in here that I was completely taken in by the cutscene and storytelling so far. It was exceptionally well done and managed to convey and portray many emotions that the main cast was feeling. Additionally, many comedic moments landed and made me audibly laugh.
Soon after fighting off Smoke and the Lin Kuei, we are introduced to two more members; Sub-Zero and Scorpion. After engaging in combat with each of them, the Protector of Earthrealm, Liu Kang, himself appears. In historic Mortal Kombat fashion, he informs them that they are destined to be defenders of Earthrealm for the upcoming Mortal Kombat tournament against Outworld and they must journey with him to train for it. It’s here that we feel a distinct difference but yet similar feeling to previous timelines. Previously, Lui Kang and Kung Lao were approached by Thunder God and Protector of Earthrealm, Raiden. Yet now the roles are reversed, and Raiden is a simple farmhand practiced in martial arts.
I won’t spoil the rest of the story, but rest assured, it is highly enjoyable. It’s easily the most enjoyable Mortal Kombat story mode I have experienced alongside Mortal Kombat 9 (which was the Mortal Kombat game that was the definition of fan service).
I also want to briefly mention the difficulty of the story mode. I played on “Medium” and some of the battles (even some early ones) gave me a hard time. The AI can be ruthless with you if you aren’t careful and they aren’t afraid to combo a chunk of health from you. I had almost zero issues with the difficulty in Mortal Kombat 11 and often found it far too easy. It’s a very nice change of pace to have some harder battles, and thankfully, they don’t include cheating AI from previous Mortal Kombat games.
The story mode of Mortal Kombat 1 should take roughly 4-5 hours to complete if you aren’t skipping the cutscenes.
Mortal Kombat 1 retains that classic and fluid Mortal Kombt gameplay. In terms of fighting, it doesn’t feel too different from the previous Mortal Kombat 11. You still have access to the array of special moves and X-Ray attacks, but this time you are also given the Kameo system. This system allows you to choose a partner from a select list of pre-defined Kameo characters. These Kameo fighters change things up significantly during fights. They can come out at the push of R1 to aid you temporarily, they attack alongside you for dual X-Ray attacks, and they even come out for specific moves like throws.
Konquest Mode returns in Mortal Kombat 1! This time around, we are given a type of board similar to a Mario Party board (but much more gorey). You can pick from any of the regular cast of characters to traverse this board, along with picking a Kameo character to accompany you.
The opening board takes place in Johnny Cage’s penthouse and acts as a tutorial to the mode. Most areas on the board involve a fight with a custom character. This part is cool as you aren’t just fighting the original cast of playable characters, but you are fighting custom variations of them instead. These are regular 1-round fights that can also include fight modifiers such as Flying Demons moving across the screen or your opponent having Super Armor.
The game offers some RPG-lite elements in this mode, such as leveling up, enhancing stats, and equipping different relics and medallions. You also get access to a Shop and Forge to purchase items and enhance your gear.
Most of the unlockables in the game will stem directly from this mode. Clearing the opening Johnny Cage tutorial alone will net you a bunch of different unlocks for Johnny Cage, such as new glasses and costumes.
Once you have finished the opening tutorial, you are shown some story-lite cutscenes and introduced to the wider world of Konquest mode. You are presented with eight islands, seven of them locked, which will provide an absolute ton of content should you not get bored of the mode. These eight islands will also update and rotate with the Mortal Kombat 1 season patches.
A moderate range of customization options are available for all fighters in Mortal Kombat 1. Kameo characters can also be Kustomized but to a much lesser extent. For each fighter, you can customize their primary gear and their palette. Kameo characters can only change the palette. At first, I was worried that the palette was a simple color-swap but this also included alternative costumes for the fighters. You unlock most of these gear and palettes as you play through the game and they give a good incentive to try out the various modes such as Konquest mode.
Mini-Modes also make a return in Mortal Kombat 1. You get the classic “Test Your Might” mode which has you attempt to break a block with your bare hands, a Mortal Kombat staple. There are also new “Survive” modes which offer something a little different. This mode presents you with a timer and tasks you with simply surviving until the clock hits 0. In one of the survive modes, you have multiple fireballs coming from each side of the screen at different altitudes that you need to avoid. Certain characters are better at surviving some of these modes than others based on their typing (for example, a Blood type character might take less damage).
The graphics in Mortal Kombat 1 are top-notch. We are getting a high-quality fighter here that is probably the best-looking fighting game this year. Having said that, it’s hard to compare it with the likes of Street Fighter 6. Street Fighter 6 is more of a stylized game, which gives it a lot of charm, while Mortal Kombat is more of a high-fidelity-looking game.
The cutscene quality is insane! They have been improved since Mortal Kombat 11 and are very close to looking photo-realistic. It’s amazing how far we have come with cutscene graphics, and Mortal Kombat 1 is ahead of the game. Facial animations are in full detail during cutscenes and easily allow characters to convey even subtle feelings like annoyance. It’s wonderfully done. I can’t see these cutscenes being overtaken by another fighting game anytime soon, with the possible exception of the upcoming Tekken 8, which is also built on Unreal Engine 5.
The audio quality of Mortal Kombat 1 is generally impressive and pleasing to the ear. While a few tracks might not be particularly memorable, on the whole, the game offers a solid auditory experience. That said, I personally have a soft spot for the OST of Street Fighter 6, which I anticipate enjoying more in my future listening sessions.
Attacks have the typical audio “crunch” to them on connection that can make you squirm and convey the feeling of broken bones. I did find a sound bug when playing through the story; occasionally, the sounds would get garbled or massively out of sync. This only seemed to happen if I paused the game for a minute and then returned to playing. I have only experienced this bug twice so hopefully, it’s not too widespread.
There is a lot to do in Mortal Kombat 1. Firstly, you get a fully fleshed, high-quality story mode that takes roughly 4-5 hours to beat if you aren’t skipping cutscenes. As per mode Mortal Kombat games you are provided with a huge amount of unlockables that will surely take a long time to complete if you are so inclined.
Towers mode provides some classic Mortal Kombat gameplay that is always good for some pickup and play sessions. You can also try your hand at some of the harder Towers if you are a masochist.
Konquest mode is huge and will take quite a long time to complete. It will also continually evolve and change through “Seasons” which will provide more areas to conquer (Konquer?).
Online play is a staple and will keep the game chugging for many years if you are into that competitive aspect of the game.
Mortal Kombat 1 was an enjoyable experience and a very high-quality fighting game. I loved the story mode, and the cutscenes in it genuinely had me enthralled. The Konquest mode was also enjoyable and I preferred it over Mortal Komabt 11s Krypt mode.
We have been eating well this year for fighting games, and Mortal Kombat 1 further solidifies that with this fantastic entry.
- Highly enjoyable story mode
- Excellent cast of characters
- Konquest mode is great
- I wish there were further customization options
- Minor FPS stutter during cutscene transitions
- Some audio glitches