Developer: NetherRealm Studios, Shiver Entertainment, QLOC, Saber Interactive
Publisher: Warner Bros Games
Reviewed on: PS5
Also available on: Xbox Series X & S, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: 14th September 2023
Mortal Kombat 1 (MK1) successfully revitalizes the legendary franchise, breathing new life into the iconic series while staying true to its brutal roots. NetherRealm studios have yet again proved why they are at the forefront of fighting games, with MK1 easily proving that the franchise still has plenty of life left to give.
The first noticeable aspect of MK1 is its jaw-dropping visuals. The game boasts incredibly detailed character models and environments on next-gen consoles. There has been meticulous attention to detail in each fighter's design choice and is a testament to the dedication of the development team. From Scorpion's fiery “get over here” to Sub-Zero's icy upper cut, the game captures the essence of these characters and more in breathtaking detail. Gameplay is a superbly smooth 60fps, with no lagging or tearing, despite a hell of a lot happening on the screen at any one time. Frankly, this is one of the best performing games I have played on PS5.
In terms of gameplay, MK1 strikes a fine balance between nostalgia and modernity. A major change from MK11 is a new feature called “Kameos”. The mechanic provides an assistant fighter, which can be called upon several times per match to help sway the battle in your favour. The signature, bone-crushing fatalities and spine-tingling brutalities remain, delivering the kind of visceral, over-the-top combat that fans have come to expect. Newcomers and veterans alike will appreciate the intuitive controls, which allow for accessible yet satisfying combos.
The character roster is a mix of classic favourites and fresh faces. Original characters maintain their distinctive fighting styles, while more modern additions bring their unique flair to the arena. The diverse cast ensures that players can find a fighter that suits their preferred playstyle. The roster is well balanced, and everyone will find a character that suits their play style. I personally think this is one of the best rosters in a while, albeit missing a couple MK stalwarts, and could always do with more fighters (this is an eternal discussion for any fighting game fans!)
The story mode is well done, with solid cinematic presentation and engaging narrative. It weaves together the tales of the various kombatants, providing a deeper understanding of their motivations and rivalries. There is also the classic Towers mode, familiar to every iteration of MK, and Invasion mode, which is a linear board game style game mode where the player moves between plots encountering various battles and challenges. They are all fun and rewarding, and it gives you plenty of gameplay to keep occupied.
While MK1 excels in many areas, it's not without its minor flaws. The game is still a bit grindy to unlock Koins, which really asks you to slog through a heap of fights just to unlock some new gear, some of which is quite expensive. The game isn’t essentially play-to-win, but as with most modern games it doesn’t shy away from wanting you to spend your hard-earned real life coin on in-game currency to upgrade various aesthetic items.
Overall, MK1 is a triumphant return to the franchise's roots, offering a modern reimagining of the original game that launched a cultural phenomenon. With stunning visuals, satisfying combat, and compelling game modes, it's a must-play for both die-hard fans and newcomers looking to experience the thrill of the tournament. This reboot stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Mortal Kombat, proving that, even after decades, its bloody battles continue to captivate and entertain.
Nb. This was reviewed on the PS5 – we understand the Nintendo switch version is a sub-par port that has been poorly received by critics – this review does not reflect the switch copy of MK1.