PLATFORM: PC, PS5, SWITCH, XBOX SERIES (REVIEWED) | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Continuing the current trend of “not quite a prequel, not quite a reboot” franchise entries that are all the rage in Hollywood and the gaming industry right now, NetherRealm Studios and Warner Bros’ latest Mortal Kombat game has just hit store shelves. With some rather large shoes to fill, can Mortal Kombat 1 live up the lofty expectations put upon it by the previous three, extremely highly rated NetherRealm MK offerings, or is it just a pile of old plop? Only one way to find out!
MK1 is technically the second reboot in the series after 2011’s imaginatively-titled Mortal Kombat (often referred to as MK9), and takes us back to the early origins of many of the franchise’s most recognisable characters in reimagined form. We get 22 of these violent kombatants to choose from in the base roster, with another 6 planned to follow in the form of future DLC. Perhaps the biggest new addition to the game is the Kameo feature, which sees buddy characters being available for on-screen support, similar to what you would see in many of the early Marvel vs… fighting games. Some of these Kameos are redesigns of selectable characters (such as Scorpion and Sub Zero), while others like Kano and Sonya Blade are currently only available as buddy supports. What makes this system even more interesting is the amount of gameplay options it provides, such as team-up throws, double Brutalities and guest Fatalities. Wonderfully gruesome stuff!
The other big innovation, that seems like it may be MK1’s biggest selling point, is the introduction of Invasions mode, which is basically a cross between a fighting game, an RPG and a Mario Party-style board game. That description may sound preposterous and utterly bewildering, but it all sort of somehow makes sense and works well when you actually play the thing. Invasions is likely to be the part of the game that takes up most of your time, unlocking new finishing moves and hundreds of cosmetics for each of the game’s characters. It looks like Invasions will have some serious extra longevity as apparently multiple seasons are planned, which could easily add weeks or even months of fresh gameplay time, making MK1 something of a frugal purchase.
Although we did encounter some very occasional performance issues on Xbox Series X such as sound dropping out during fights and losses of connection, it certainly wasn’t anything egregious or game-breaking, and the visuals are simply stunning. Featuring unbelievably lifelike animations and vibrant backgrounds that are absolutely bursting with life, MK1 is easily one of the prettiest fighting games ever made. Presentation in general is outstanding across the board, which is quite frankly what we’ve come to expect from this series now. Although it could be argued that the core gameplay has altered very little since 2015’s Mortal Kombat X, it could also be argued that it’s best not to try to fix what is in no way broken. The last three Mortal Kombat games have been exceptional, and MK1 is very much in that same category. There’s enough innovation and progression here to keep anything from getting stale, but enough familiarity to keep fans blissfully happy. NetherRealm may be a bit inkonsistent with their use of the letter k, but they sure know how to make a great fighting game.