Overall Score - 95%
Mortal Kombat delivers one of the most impressive and exciting storylines I've ever experienced in this genre. The voice acting, the facial animations, everything comes together in near perfect harmony. Fighting is fun, challenging, and rewarding every step of the way. Mortal Kombat 1 is brutally brilliant, and probably the best Mortal Kombat game I've ever played.
The Mortal Kombat universe is one that has excited me for over 30 years. The original game was the talk of the playground, sharing the fatality combos with friends, and watching in awe at the level of brutality and violence. It’s a franchise that has spanned decades, it dominated the arcades, it has enjoyed multiple movie releases, and it has more spin-offs than I can count. To take all that history and start afresh, it’s a bold direction NetherRealm Studios are taking, but does it work?
Mortal Kombat 1 Review
I have been a Mortal Kombat fan for many years, loving the early games, and I still consider the original movie to be one of the best big-screen adaptations of a video game to date. I’ll die on that hill, come at me. That said, I’m a casual beat ’em up fan at best and I’ve only dabbled in the more recent Mortal Kombat releases. So if you’re looking for a competitive multiplayer type drilling of all the new features and mechanics, this review won’t do that. However, if you’re looking to dive into Mortal Kombat for the first time, or return after a long hiatus, that’s very much where I am coming from. And oh boy, is Mortal Kombat 1 the perfect title for just that.
NetherRealm Studios hit the reset button for Mortal Kombat 1, but not in a way that just undoes everything canon before it, that story still very much exists. It’s done in a way that revitalizes and reinvigorates the franchise to deliver a main story that rivals anything I’ve experienced in this genre. It’s technically a continuation of the events from Mortal Kombat 11, but a reset timeline adds alternative paths and outcomes that would have been otherwise impossible.
After taking the mantle as the Keeper of Time, Lui Kang set out to create a singular timeline in which the evil atrocities of past events would not take place. Shao Khan ruling Outworld, Shang Tsung and Quan Chi’s forming of the Deadly Alliance, both major and minor events from throughout the history of the Mortal Kombat franchise are fair game. It’s an alternative timeline that sees both old and unexpected events take form throughout the story.
You see what happens to Havics face, you learn how Kenshi lost his vision, you find out Kung Lao’s inspiration for his razor-rimmed hat, it’s a brilliant blend of old and new that works just as well for seasoned combatants as it does those entering the realm of Mortal Kombat for the very first time. At it’s core, it’s still just fight after fight, but it’s supported by some incredible cut-scene work.
The choreography of each cut-scene battle is straight out of Hollywood, and there are so many. Practically every cut-scene is dominated by two iconic figures battling it out using a mix of martial arts and their otherworldly powers and abilities. There are times I just wanted to watch, I didn’t care much for the fighting elements, but that’s more a credit to the excellent storytelling and cut-scene work than a disservice to the combat system itself.
Accompanying the dark, gritty, and immersive main narrative is the near-perfect execution of just about every storytelling tool you can hope for in a beat ’em up game. The voice acting is of the very highest quality, and the facial animations are among the best we’ve seen in a very long time. Watching Shang Tsung’s plans come to fruition, feeling his arrogance with every line delivered, every lift of the lip, it’s delivered to such a degree that I fell for practically every character, good or bad. Shang Tsung is an evil, smug asshole, and even if you removed every element of audio, the facial expressions alone sell that point.
The fighting itself is a lot of fun, even for an inexperienced layman. I won’t lie, I relied almost exclusively on launching across the screen with Lui Kang’s flying kicks before uppercutting my opponent into submission, but it never gets old. It’s slower and more methodical than other games in the genre but the brutality and gore on display, one of Mortal Kombat’s most iconic elements, is worth the price of admission alone.
The Kameo system, one of the games new features, adds a lot of options on both the defensive and offensive fronts, even for slower players. It allows you to call in an ally to use one of their abilities or aid in one of your combo attacks. With 15 different characters to choose from, I spent several hours in practice trying to find characters that complimented my abilities. I still resorted to just spamming Sub Zero so he could freeze my enemies to stop them blocking Lui Kang’s kick, but it was fun, okay?
Invasion Mode is the new standout game mode of Mortal Kombat 1 and although it’s not quite the Shaolin Monk’s remake I’m looking for, it’s a rewarding adventure for those looking to enjoy MK1 outside of the competitive multiplayer components. Invasion Mode takes place over several different Mesa’s. From the luscious greenery of The Living Forest to the barren wastes of the Tarkatan Colony, each offering players the chance to dive deeper into the areas featured in the main story.
It’s a board-game style approach, multiple pathways lead to different areas of the map as you fight your way through near endless combatants. Each node typically holds a challenge of sorts, including everything from basic fights to the series’ popular Test Your Might, it’s a strong mix of activities but the very core of it, you will be fighting over, and over, and over again. I’d usually find myself suffering some level of fatigue, especially after spending about 6 hours to complete the mode, but the mixing up of environmental effects and enemy types kept it interesting throughout.
Whilst combat is the main attraction for the Invasion Mode, there’s a lot more to love outside of repeatedly uppercutting your victims into oblivions. Most of the maps require some sort of key to progress, which is hidden somewhere in that world, and “klues” block hidden paths with riddles that tie into characters, fatalities, and even the old movie. I really enjoyed trying to solve some of these puzzles, and they served a perfect purpose of breaking up the constant combat.
It’s also a seasonally based event, which is usually something that immediately turns me off, but I had so much fun, I’m excited to know that I can dive in and start afresh – once the next season is released. Despite completing both the story and Invasion modes, I’m still finding a lot of really cool stuff to unlock.
Mortal Kombat 1 delivers one of the most impressive and exciting storylines I’ve ever experienced in this genre. The voice acting, the facial animations, everything comes together in near-perfect harmony. Fighting is fun, challenging, and rewarding every step of the way. Mortal Kombat 1 is brutally brilliant, and probably the best Mortal Kombat game I’ve ever played.
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