Mortal Kombat 1 is here. Obviously, it is not the first game in the 31-year-old franchise, but instead, it is a soft reboot of the story. This is in no way a bad thing because, in recent years, the story has become quite convoluted and hard to follow.
In much the same way as the Marvel Universe has almost ruined itself with reliance on time shifts and alternate timelines, Mortal Kombat was following that path. A nice simple reboot of the story is welcome.
MK1 doesn’t ignore its past, but it has simplified it to an extent. This makes it accessible for newer gamers but also has plenty of nods to its past to reward people familiar with the lore.
Choose Your Destiny
The plot takes up from after the events of MK11 and sees the Fire God Liu Kang training fighters as representatives of Earthrealm for the Mortal Kombat tournament. Liu Kang, with some “time-glass” chicanery, has changed the origin stories of almost all of the characters and we are introduced to familiar faces in a slightly different guise.
To avoid going into spoiler territory, I will just say the story is exceptionally engaging and well-written, without being too hard to follow. Without a doubt, the story mode is the standout aspect of Mortal Kombat 1. When you are introduced to the different characters, their new personas are well spelt out and feel natural. It’s also nice to see a few characters being more fleshed out than they have been in previous titles. Mortal Kombat 1 also has exceptional voice acting (with the notable exception of Nitara voiced by Megan Fox). This is vital because, during the story mode, there are a lot of cut scenes, but because of good writing and great acting, they are never a chore to sit through.
What really makes or breaks a fighting game is its mechanics. This year, the most notable addition is the Kameo system. This allows you to pick a second fighter from an auxiliary roster of fighters, which you can summon with a press of a button who will assist you. This allows you to break up attacks, add to a combo or just add a different dimension to the fight. It adds an element of experimentation, encouraging you to mix up your style to complement your fighter’s ability to mesh with your Kameo fighter.
Get Over Here!
While I love fighting games, I am not in any way good at them. A man of my vintage doesn’t want to have to learn complex combo inputs. Mortal Kombat 1 feels just right though. The difficulty levels are balanced perfectly to enable button mashers and nimble-fingered experts to enjoy the fights equally. It is the epitome of a game that is easy to play, but hard to master. There is no steep learning curve, but it is also never too easy. The tutorial mode is also there and is very thorough and helpful ensuring that you can get the most from your fighters
Another new addition is the Invasion mode. A mode which sees you traverse different maps, fighting against the computer in various different challenges. The variation could be a fight where your opponent has super armour, a fight where you or your opponent is poisoned, an old-school ‘Test Your Might’ challenge or just a simple tower. Each match is slightly different and has different modifiers applied to mix it up a little. The more you progress, the more you unlock in-game currency to unlock different skins and rewards.
This is where there is some controversy. Personally, I have really enjoyed it so far, but it can become a little bit of a grind. It is seasonally based, which has become standard across all genres of games. As enjoyable as most of the fights are, they can become a little repetitious. I think with a few tweaks in upcoming seasons adding more diversity to the fights, it could be a winner. It’s early days yet so I am willing to hold off on judgement for now.
Visually, Mortal Kombat 1 is stunning, with beautifully rendered character models and cut scenes that blend seamlessly into the action. Although the backgrounds aren’t interactive, they do change somewhat depending on what happens during the fight. The sound also adds another layer to the visceral brutality, allowing you to hear every bone shatter and muscle tear.
And of course, how can we talk about Mortal Kombat without speaking of its original selling point; The Fatalities. They are here and they are as disgustingly gorgeous as ever. I would love to be a fly on the wall when the creators are thinking up the different ways to dismember a fighter. There is an absence of Babalities and Friendships, but the absurdity of the Fatalities and Brutalities more than makeup for those. Another glaring omission is the removal of stage-specific fatalities. It would have been nice to have seen them make a return.
It is good to see the roster so stacked with familiar faces such as Sub Zero, Scorpion etc. The addition of Kameo characters also throws in a couple of nostalgic treats like Jax, Sonja and Stryker. It is a little frustrating that they aren’t selectable as main fighters. I can only assume that NetherRealm Studios will add them as DLC in the coming months.
Overall, this is a successful soft reboot of a great franchise. Is it perfect? No. It has its flaws and outside of the story, the Invasion mode could do with a polish. I’m sure that. people will be frustrated by the reliance on micro-transactions and repetition as it stands. It’s early days and I think that as the seasons go on, it will be improved with updates.
Mortal Kombat 1 is an easy recommendation for any fan of the series or simply of fighting games in general. Not quite a flawless victory, but damn close.