How do you make the blood-soaked battles of Mortal Kombat even more over the top? The ability to control two fighters at once for even more wild, spine-crunching combos isn’t a bad way to start. Mortal Kombat 1 promises just that, rebooting the iconic fighting game franchise with a fresh, creative approach to combat, stunning visuals and, of course, a whole litany of hilariously disgusting fatalities.
Double the fighters, double the fun
Mortal Kombat 1 is technically the 12th game in the famed fighting series, serving as a reboot of sorts after series star Liu Kang basically became god of the universe and decided to start the whole thing over. This allows for a fresh take on the long-running franchise, one that features younger versions of beloved characters like Sub-Zero and Scorpion and a dynamic combat system that both streamlines the somewhat dense mechanics of Mortal Kombat 11 while also blowing things open with creative new possibilities.
Mortal Kombat 1’s core gameplay will feel familiar to anyone who’s touched the series before, with two punches, two kicks, the trusty block button and powerful special movies that let you freeze, burn and dismember your opponents in all kinds of comically grotesque ways. My version offered series stalwarts Liu Kang, Sub-Zero, Kenshi and Kitana as playable characters, all of whom had most of their signature moves alongside a ton of new attacks and abilities.
MK1 feels a bit faster and more streamlined than Mortal Kombat 11, which is a game I love, but one that was polarizing amongst the competitive community due to its relatively slow gameplay and controversial combo-breaking mechanics. Whereas the last few Mortal Kombat entries offered multiple variations of each fighter that had distinct special moves and play styles, MK1 keeps things simple — Liu Kang is always going to play like Liu Kang. If Mortal Kombat 9 was your main jam, this is especially the game for you.
But just because some things have been simplified doesn’t mean MK1 isn’t brimming with creative combo possibilities. The game’s marquee new feature is the addition of Kameo Fighters, who can pop into battle to assist you à la Marvel vs. Capcom. This blows a typical Mortal Kombat match wide open, as you can use your partner to extend combos, catch your opponent off guard or keep them at a distance with powerful ranged attacks. Your Kameo Fighter will even join you every time you land a tide-turning Fatal Blow attack, resulting in a variety of cool cinematic team-up sequences that show your duo doling out serious damage.
We’ve seen hints of this system before — Mortal Kombat 9 had a tag-team mode, and MKX and MK11 featured assists in certain single-player missions — but now it’s a vital part of how you play the game. The version I played offered franchise favorites Jax, Sonya Blade and Kano as Kameo Fighters (all in their retro MK gear, no less), each of whom could be summoned to do their signature throws and projectiles in unison with my main character. There’s no exact word on which Kameo Fighters will also be playable as main fighters (Sub-Zero would be both, for example), but it would certainly be a bummer if series staples like Sonya and Kano were only part of the supporting cast.
The Kameo system is complemented by a big focus on air combos, as characters can now perform entire attack strings and aerial special moves after launching their opponents upward. This is my single favorite thing about Mortal Kombat 1 so far — as a fan of over-the-top brawlers like the aforementioned Marvel vs. Capcom series, beating up my opponent in midair just felt so good, and opened up a ton of neat options for inventive combos. I was able to come up with some pretty stylish attack sequences with my trusty Sub-Zero by the end of my session, and I was barely scratching the surface of what you can do in this game. NetherRealm says that MK1 is designed to give players plenty of tools to play creatively, and after getting just a taste of what’s possible with Kameo Fighters and air combos, my head is already spinning with possibilities.
The Mortal Kombat series has set the standard for presentation and visuals in fighting games as of late. Mortal Kombat 1 is stunning — characters like Sub-Zero and Liu Kang practically look photorealistic, and it was easy to get distracted by all of the background detail when duking it out in Johnny Cage’s gorgeously rendered Malibu home. Despite its gory gameplay, MK1 has a bright and colorful aesthetic that brings the early arcade games to mind — and is a refreshing change from the dank darkness of the last few installments.
When you pick your fighters in versus mode, they’ll face each other, exchange some dialogue and then seamlessly transition into the actual match. It’s one of the coolest, quickest and most seamless transitions I’ve ever seen between character selection and gameplay in fighting games, getting you right into the action without a single loading screen in sight.
Of course, you can’t talk about Mortal Kombat without talking about the fatalities, and MK1 looks to have some of the series’ most disgusting and ridiculous finishers yet. You’ll see swords drilled down throats, bodies contorted and ripped in half and entire characters churned into a bloody dust by spinning fans — and that’s just based on what we’ve seen so far. Your mileage may vary when it comes to Mortal Kombat gore — I personally find these sequences to be more slapstick than disturbingly realistic, but as with any MK title, this game is not for the squeamish.
Graphics & Sound
Even though Mortal Kombat 1 runs on the same Unreal Engine 4 as its predecessor, and many might question the choice given the new Unreal Engine 5, it’s safe to say that the game brings its charm & vibrance. At the visual end, the game stands independently, and you can notice the upgrade at the forefront. The colors and design of the game are really what separates the game, even with its vibrant yet, at times, dark themes. Fatalities and brutalities remain the talk of all the Mortal Kombat games. And this new installment, too, does no disservice.
The backgrounds are something I have loved about Mortal Kombat since I was a kid and this game did not disappoint - they were more detailed and dynamic than ever. One is a fancy modern penthouse with an awesome cityscape view and another is a traditional style teahouse. I noticed the patrons in the teahouse were especially and appropriately responsive to the fighting happening in front of them. Johnny Cage stands over a knocked down opponent inside of a fancy modern penthouse with city scape view. A giant flamingo floatie floats in the pool..., and there are many other interesting backgrounds for you to explore
The voice actors have delivered a fantastic performance yet again, and the sound score has been positive. Interactions between characters after character selection are interesting in Mortal Kombat 1. The sound design and effects have backed the gameplay and interactions well.
Mortal Kombat 1 will surely be one of the titles to look out for this year. Even while playing selected modes, we would say it is one of those games that will allow players to settle in. Everything whilst enjoying a pace-action combat like its counterpart.
All Confirmed Characters
The Mortal Kombat 1 roster is looking stronger than ever, following the reveal of the first Kombat Pack DLC and more MK1 characters.
Below is a list of all confirmed characters in Mortal Kombat 1 so far. Please note this is a partially completed roster and we'll be updating and adding to it as more characters are confirmed. Feel free to bookmark this page and return to it regularly as more information is revealed.
- General Shao
- Johnny Cage
- Kung Lao
- Li Mei
- Liu Kang
- Quan Chi
- Shang Tsung
All Confirmed Kameos
- Jax Briggs
- Kung Lao
- Sonya Blade
So far, Mortal Kombat 1 has everything you would expect from the franchise. The graphics are smooth, crisp, and vivid which is great for all the flashy additions to combat. Liu Kang’s feet lighting up blue and orange with every swift kick is extremely satisfying. There is no denying it is a beautiful game but between the backgrounds, kameos, and new powers, it tends to get very busy.
The fatalities, as usual, do not disappoint; each one was more creative and shocking than the last. The people at NetherRealm Studios have somehow found an infinite number of ways to dismember a body. Based on this version, I cannot wait to see what else they have up their sleeves.
It was definitely enough to make me even more excited for the next updates! Kudos to everyone working on this game and please keep up the great work!
- OS: Windows 7, 8, 10, 11 64-bit
- Processor: Intel Core i3-6300 / AMD Ryzen 3 3100 or Ryzen 5 2600
- Memory: 4GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 / AMD Radeon RX 470 / Intel Arc A750
- DirectX: Version 12
- OS: Windows 7, 8, 10, 11 64-bit
- Processor: Intel Core i5-6600 / AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
- Memory: 8GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti / AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT / Intel Arc A770
- DirectX: Version 12