Mortal Kombat 1 is another great fighting game, but in our opinion it’s a step backwards from its predecessor. For several reasons.
If it’s raining tons of brain fragments, bone splinters, burst testicles and eyeballs, either bratwurst is being made somewhere in the UK right now or Netherrealm has released a new Mortal Kombat. After the events in the predecessor Mortal Kombat 11, Liu Kang became a god, so to speak.
For the story in the brand new Mortal Kombat 1, he also mutates into Pippi Longstocking and makes the world widdewiddhow he likes it. Sounds strange, but it’s true: Liu Kang has recreated the universe according to his ideas and made everything much more peaceful. Martial arts tournaments between Earthrealm and Outworld still take place, but are now totally colorful and peaceful and happy, and no one gets killed in the process.
Naturally, there’s no good story without conflict, and because Liu Kang’s new superpowers did nothing to his brain, he thinks it’s a good idea to let bad fingers like Shao (without Kahn this time) or Shen Tsung exist in his new universe as well. As a safety precaution, he plans an insignificant existence for Shen Tsung, which is exactly as successful as you imagine it to be.
If all of this is so not telling you anything now, all you need to know is: Mortal Kombat 1 starts off peacefully, but again culminates in the exact bloody carnage for which the series is so popular. There’s fighting, killing, beheading, this time with a roster of 23 playable characters, grind, gambling, and a dusty multiplayer where noobs don’t see the sun.
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You’ll get the most out of the plot if you’re somewhat familiar with the series and already know its playable characters. The plot is fun even without these references, but you will of course miss out on the many allusions and gags.
The main story is quite easy on the preset medium difficulty level, and you’ll have completed it after six to eight hours. This is an adequately extensive reason to buy the game, even if you don’t fancy multiplayer duels with friends or ranked randoms on the Internet.
Mortal Kombat 1’s story starts off unusually grounded with a Kung Lao without a circular saw hat brim and a Raiden without electricity. Without their hats, you probably wouldn’t even recognize them based on their understated new character designs.
That’s why there are no brutal decapitations, severed body parts and bloody fatalities in the first battles, for which Mortal Kombat is so notorious. Characters that you usually know as villains in the series appear in a friendly way, new, unusual alliances are formed, and characters like Reptile or Baraka, who otherwise appear more as side characters, get their big moments with more personality. Most of the voice actors do an excellent job as well. Very cool!
Not stupid enough
The story of its predecessor, Mortal Kombat 11, was almost certainly the dumbest piece of entertainment I’ve ever experienced in my 41 years on this planet. It was so indescribably moronic, hilariously funny, so hair-raisingly bizarre that I enjoyed absolutely every second of it. Mortal Kombat 1 never achieves this noble trash factor.
The presentation is great, and there’s a completely over-the-top ending, but the explanation for why everyone ends up killing each other again endlessly is boring and hackneyed, and the after-credits sequence, which quite clearly announces a story DLC, is more annoying than fun. At least: Casuals aren’t as crudely tortured here in the final battle as they were in the predecessor at Kronika.
In addition, only the fights in the game run at 60 frames per second (and no more, because competitive fighting game), all other content in the game, including the countless cutscenes and even fatalitys, only at 30 FPS. Many users complain about the hiccups in the frame rate during the many quick switches from cutscene to gameplay and vice versa.
monotony and grind
If you’re done with the story or aren’t the type of gamer who wants to do a quick fight between two 15-minute cutscenes, Mortal Kombat 1 of course offers other modes as well. You can fight six, eight, ten or an infinite number of AI opponents in the Towers – that’s all, this mode has been slimmed down considerably compared to the predecessor. On top of that, there is the new Invasion mode. This one isn’t even that good.
Invasions sends you to seasonally changing game boards, which you experience from a bird’s eye view and then have to play small challenges like the “Test Your Might!” mini-game against mostly completely brain-dead AI. button-mashing mini-game.
From time to time, an AI enemy with excessive health or extra armor will pop up, or you’ll fight some elemental effects with talismans that primarily clutter up your inventory and add nothing to the fun of the game. As a reward, you get small amounts of experience points and in-game currency.
For level increases you get new color palettes, masks and cosmetic stuff for your played character. Coins can be sacrificed in the shrine for completely random and often lame rewards like some artwork. It’s all joyless grind as a replacement for the Krypt from the predecessor.
Thrilling for pros
Mortal Kombat 1 plays a bit stiff like its predecessor, and the combo windows feel quite unforgiving at first. The gimmick to the combat system this time around is in the so-called cameos. A cameo is a partner you choose before the fight starts, who will then stand by your side in a battle at the press of a button and attack your opponent for you.
The fellow has no life bar of his own, you don’t play him actively, but call him to your side every now and then with a certain cooldown, where with the right timing he’ll take a bit of a swing at your opponent.
Unless you’re terribly familiar with Mortal Kombat’s combat system, this plays as moderately interesting as it reads. Experienced players, however, can use their cameo partners to pull a few new tricks out of their fighters that weren’t possible before.
For example, you can weave in a cameo attack between two combos and keep the attack chain going longer, or add overhead to a combo that wouldn’t be possible without cameo to disrupt your opponent’s defense. It’s a cool system, provided you have the skill for it.
Welcome to Hell
Speaking of skill, if at the end of the solo campaign you convince yourself that you’re somehow good at Mortal Kombat, there’s of course the multiplayer mode, either Ranked or “Kasual”, because this universe despises the letter C. If you start the quest for a ranked opponent, you sit idle for a while and are not allowed to start a training session or warm-up in the meantime.
If you join an ongoing King of the Hill match, you’ll also stare at a boring progress screen until the current match ends. In Ranked Matches, you should be able to play the game with some confidence, otherwise you’ll find yourself bombarded with endless combos and never touching the arena floor.
I didn’t have any connection problems worth mentioning during the test phase, the netcode is great, just like its predecessor. Note, however, that there is no cross-platform play at the moment, and experience shows that player numbers will drop after release, until the very hard core remains.
By the way, I don’t mean this in a judgmental way: As long as you’re fit in the genre and don’t shy away from learning and training, Mortal Kombat 1 is absolutely fun online. Less experienced players, however, will have to be very frustrated. The matches are on average harder than in Street Fighter 6, for example, even in the lowest tiers. Also because Mortal Kombat 1 does without simplifications like the Modern Controls of an SF 6.
On a related note, Mortal Kombat only comes with a handful of tutorials, which don’t do enough to prepare casual players and newcomers for the multiplayer portion of the game. Here you’ll first learn the basics like proper blocking, anti-air, overheads, and all the cool terminology you’ll use to impress people at parties.
In addition, there are seven combo trials for each playable character, in which you try to replay a button sequence that appears in order to master your fighter’s combo attacks. There are no in-depth tutorials or any video demonstrations for the characters. Have fun on YouTube!
Less of everything
Mortal Kombat 1 has a spectacular presentation and features some unusually bright and colorful environments for the series, in addition to the obligatory dungeons and haunted forests. Unlike certain other titles in the genre, Ultrawide resolutions are supported, but everything outside of the 60 FPS battles is capped at 30 frames per second.
The roster of 23 playable characters is fun, but aside from some character design changes, none of them are new to the series. Tower mode has been slimmed down considerably, invasions are boring, repetitive grind.
The story is less over-the-top and less spectacular than in the predecessor, but is still worthwhile for lovers of this mode. Experienced players get the most out of the multiplayer and the new cameo system. Inexperienced fighters have a hard time catching up to better players due to the lack of in-depth tutorials.
In addition to the Fatalitys, Fatal Blows are also back, allowing you to use a super-powerful attack to turn things around when your life bar is low. Unfortunately, they wear out quickly this time, because they always involve your cameo partner and constantly play out the same way.
Compared to Mortal Kombat 11, you pay more money for less gameplay. If you urgently need a refill: sure! Otherwise, I would advise you to buy a Complete Edition. Then you don’t have to pay extra for any Kombat Packs all the time.
As long as it’s not Pay2Win, we won’t devalue for nasty pricing policy, but in the opinion box I may at least climb on my soapbox for a moment and grumble about it. Mortal Kombat 1 is now the next AAA game that punishes users with a delayed release, if they “only” pay 70 Euros for the standard edition, instead of paying 95 Öcken for the premium version, which lets you get into the game five days earlier.
The first (and certainly not last) Kombat Pack costs a hefty 40 Euros this time, after all there are six additional figures and a few cameos in it. One of them, Ermac, already exists in the story, but no matter, it still costs extra. Add to that paid cosmetics and (completely pointless) Easy Fatalities for real money, and I’m throwing up in circles around the house.
Apart from that, it’s still Mortal Kombat. The story is a bit weaker than in the predecessor, but still good. The roster is a bit smaller but definitely interesting, the cameo system appeals mostly to players with high skill levels.
In multiplayer, it would be totally nice to be able to play other modes while waiting for ranked opponents, crossplay from release would have been great too. Netherrealms can keep Invasions for all I care, it’s a brainless and pointless grind that is cognitively only one step above some idle clickers. Singleplayer fans will get it for the cool presented story, multiplayer fans will be happy about solid netcode and a (still) large pool of worthy opponents.