LifeIsXbox’s Mortal Kombat 1 review | We’re really entering a new golden age of fighting games, aren’t we? I had a great time with King of Fighters XIII, I’ve only just finished playing Street Fighter VI, Tekken 8 is looming on the horizon and now Mortal Kombat 1 landed in my lap, the latest entry in perhaps my favourite fighting game franchise of them all.
I have a weird relationship with fighting games: I always want to have one installed on my home Xbox in case a friend comes over and wants to go a few rounds. Killer Instinct has been a personal favourite but until now the automatic pick was usually Mortal Kombat 11 as that’s the only game where I’m able to remember which character has which special moves. And that’s usually the reason why most people play fighting games: to compete against others.
But I always end up playing them more like a single-player experience: Beating the story/campaign and then going for some achievements in whatever other content is available. Mortal Kombat 1 is no exception to this, so don’t be shock if this is still the focus by the end of this review!
|Publisher||Warner Bros. Games|
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X & S | Review code provided by PR, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!
What we Liked!
- Story reboot | The title spoils it a bit, but MK1 is a reboot of the franchise and they’re trying to go back to the roots with this one. In the first few acts of the story, they succeed in this and I couldn’t have been a bigger fan. The entire set-up with Lui Kang finding earthlings to fight the Outworld champions in Mortal Kombat reminded me of the first movie where Raiden does the same. This time the roles are inverted and it’s Lui Kang who collects Raiden, Kung Lao, Kenshi and Johnny Cage to train a friendly, relatively low-stakes competition. You even have to play without any special powers in the first few rounds and it was honestly refreshing!
- Some of the Best Cutscenes Ever | I actually laughed at some of the silly things happening at the beginning of the story. Johnny Cage is hilarious and the game begins with one of the most hilarious moments in Mortal Kombat history. Here, allow me to share:
- Online or local versus | Mortal Kombat is still the reigning champ when it comes to fighting other people, for me at least. But this is a very personal choice as I have most of the attacks hardwired in my brain whereas I have to spend a lot of time training in other games. Here, I can always just default to my favourite fighters and compete, at least with local friends, and have a fair shot at winning. (It’s an entirely different story when I have to face far better opponents online). I do have to say that at the time of writing, I had a lot of lag issues with King of the Hill mode. Watching others fight each other was fine, but as soon as it was my turn to fight, the game turned into a PowerPoint slideshow. The regular online versus was fine though, so it doesn’t seem like a local issue.
- Visually Impressive | Mortal Kombat looks better than ever, not just in-game but also during cutscenes. If you’re playing on Xbox Series X, there are even some optional 4K cutscenes you can download that will just blow your mind with the details that are sparking off the screen. Truly a stunning game to look at.
- Audio & Voice Acting | Hearing the classic theme song never gets old and it’s incorporated a few times in MK1, sometimes in subtle ways. the voice acting is great for the most part, even Jean-Claude Van Damme gets a few lines if you equip his skin on Johnny Cage. But there always has to be a flipside of the Koin and this time that’s Megan Fox as Nitara, a demon character that doesn’t even serve a meaningful purpose in the story.
- Kolourful Arenas | I mentioned how the rebooted world has some fairly low-stakes fights between Earthrealm and Outworld and this really shows in the arenas. Sure, there are the usually haunted forest or bloody krypts-themed arenas, but I’ve never seen so many bright and colourful backgrounds and this is a nice change for the franchise, it’s a nice contrast to all the blood & gore happening on the front.
- A Different Perspective | Thanks to the alternate timeline/universe setting, we get to play as some unlikely characters this time that are now part of the “good” guys. Playing with Baraka and Reptile and seeing them as fleshed-out characters with a family to protect is yet another nice and new take.
- Kama Kama Kameo Leon | The new mechanic introduced in MK1 is how you’re able to bring in some help from an AI partner in most battles. By pressing the RB button you can summon a Kameo character like Goro or Sonya and they each have unique skills that could complement your fighter in several ways. You can use them to add some extra hits, or to stop an opponent from locking you in a combo. You can’t simply spam them and need to charge a small meter first, but Mortal Kombat 1 is pretty generous with how often you can call on them.
- Lots of Kontent | Between the story, the multiplayer, Invasions and Towers, there is a lot of things for you to do. I find it the perfect game to play a few fights, one night per week. I’ll be playing this for years to come!
- Story Kontinuation | I mentioned how I liked the first few acts of the campaign, but my enthusiasm dropped the closer we came to the Finish (him!) line. About halfway through, it’s clear this isn’t a simple reboot and very much Mortal Kombat 12. I would even go as far as saying that the game kind of assumes that you are familiar with its lore and characters because it doesn’t do a very good job of establishing existing rivalries to new players. Where the previous game had us timetravelling, now we’re jumping between alternative realities. This makes for some VERY cool combinations like characters with different powers and glimpses at storylines that could have been, but in the story, it gets rather silly near the end.
- No Arena Engagement | In Mortal Kombat 11 you could use many dangerous traps in the arenas to your advantage, but in MK1 there is no interaction with them whatsoever. It’s not a huge deal, but something I miss nonetheless.
- Big Install Size | Now, this may seem like a weird thing to mention, but as I said: Mortal Kombat is a game I like to keep installed on my hard-drive for when a friend comes over I could play against. The game had a 140gb install size on Xbox Series X which is more than 10% of the total size I have available on the console. Luckily you can uninstall the 4K assets if you don’t want them and you can also uninstall the story content after you’ve beaten it.
What we Disliked
- Quick Time Events | Before I start complaining: you CAN turn these off, luckily. But in the story, you’ll have a few moments where you enter a “Test Your Might!” quick-time event where you have to mash the face buttons to charge a bar, and then press RT in time. It was very frustrating to die 5 times in a row and watch the same failure cutscene, simply because the on-screen inputs lagged behind when there were multiple of these in a row (I recall the scene where Reptile had to bash in a door and cursing at my screen). During the Invasion moments, they are far less frustrating but don’t really add much either.
- No Krypt | MK11 spoiled us with the cool Krypt you could explore and find secrets in. They replaced this with the Invasions mode which is kind of like a Mario Party Board game if Mario Party only had 3 games: Fighting, the QTE mentioned above and some projectile dodging. There aren’t enough secrets to make exploration fun and there is a lot of backtracking if you think you missed some things at a previous crossroads point. I’m not saying Invasions is a bad game mode at all, mind you, but it’s a few steps back from what we had in the previous game.
- Kustomization | Just like in MK11, you can spend a lot of time visually changing your fighter, which is awesome, but you’ll need to have some luck with seasonal content and grinding for enough Kurrency + I really miss being able to customize the moveset of my fighter. In the Invasion mode (and at the very end of the story) you’ll face many chimera fighters that have a witty name and a combination of 2 core fighters from the roster, but you can’t make one yourself to play with? That’s too bad and something that could have really shaken up competitive play too: never knowing what to expect!
How long to beat the story | 5 hours
How long to achieve 1000G | You’ll need to grind some towers, but a very doable 1000G that’ll take you ~30 hours
You’ll love this game if you like these | Mortal Kombat 11, Street Fighter 6
Mortal Kombat 1 positions itself as a franchise reboot but it’s more of a sequel if we’re being honest.
Is that a bad thing? Not at all! It still plays great, tries to shake things up a little and certainly has tons of lasting value!
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Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.