Mortal Kombat 1 Review: More Remix Than Reboot
For decades, Mortal Kombat has remained a lodestar, guiding the genre with its ruthless finishing moves and cinematic spectacle. The series’ latest iteration, Mortal Kombat 1, aims to etch a new chapter while paying homage to its origins. But does it truly embody the warrior’s spirit, or is it merely a shadow of its former glory?
At first glance, Mortal Kombat 1 appears to be a return to form. It maintains the franchise’s intuitive combat style, offering four straightforward attack buttons that democratize the fighting space. Gone are the days of thumb-twisting half-circles and exasperating combos. In this arena, even a novice can feel like a god—or, in the case of the narrative, actually become one. The developers at NetherRealm Studios have kept their ears to the ground, resulting in combat that’s not only faster but also more fluid than in the somewhat ponderous Mortal Kombat 11. Newcomers and veterans alike will find joy in stringing together their own offensive approaches, unburdened by the limitations of a single-bar meter system that neatly combines both offensive and defensive tactics.
Yet, for all its intuitive design, Mortal Kombat 1 struggles to fully execute its novel ideas. Take the “Kameo Fighters,” for instance, a new tag-team mechanic designed to spice up the fights. The potential for strategic depth in combat is palpable, but it falls short. These auxiliary warriors feel more like ephemeral cameos than meaningful additions, and their limited utility often breaks the rhythmic flow of combat. For a franchise known for its groundbreaking features, the Kameo system feels less like an evolution and more like an underdeveloped concept hastily glued onto an otherwise sleek package.
Compared to contemporaries like Street Fighter 6 or Tekken 8, Mortal Kombat 1 doesn’t bring enough new ingredients to the recipe to warrant top-tier status in the genre. Even King of Fighters XV offers a depth of field in combat mechanics that makes Mortal Kombat 1 seem somewhat archaic. Where it does break the mold is in its narrative delivery and visual splendor. The game offers an engaging story that extends its universe in audacious new directions, giving a fresh spin to iconic characters like Raiden, Liu Kang, and Sub-Zero. Add to this an impressive 60fps visual delivery, and you’ve got a game that eclipses its rivals in terms of pure spectacle, if not depth.
In terms of monetization, Mortal Kombat 1 dances on the line between earnest offerings and blatant cash grabs, serving a cocktail of unlockable cosmetics and premium items. This facet, sadly, has become somewhat of an industry standard, but the implementation here feels particularly conspicuous, especially given the relative paucity of content beyond its main story campaign. Gone are the intricate customization systems that lent Mortal Kombat 11 a grindy yet compelling long-term appeal, replaced here by a less satisfying live service model.
Mortal Kombat 1 is a paradox—a game that manages to be both exhilarating and underwhelming. It opens up the fighting arena to newcomers without alienating its core fanbase, yet falls short of fully realizing its most innovative ideas. Even so, it’s impossible to discount its narrative audacity and visual mastery, facets that continue to make it a compelling entry in the fighting game arena.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5.
Mortal Kombat 1 is available for Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series S/X.