Mortal Kombat 1 Review (PS5) – NetherRealm Studios has once again rebooted the Mortal Kombat universe, but this time to an unprecedented extent, opening the door to changes, not only to the characters and lore, but also to the gameplay.
Mortal Kombat 11 offered a deeply customisable fighting game, with a lot of mechanics that weren’t always met with appreciation from the fighting game community.
Charting a new course, Mortal Kombat 1 takes a step back on multiple fronts, which works both for and against it, so let’s get into it.
Mortal Kombat 1 Review (PS5) – Distilled Kombat But Light on Kontent
Focused Gameplay And New Mechanics
In rebooting Mortal Kombat, NetherRealm has largely kept the same gameplay experience that you’ve come to expect from the storied fighting franchise, albeit more streamlined and focused. It plays much like all Mortal Kombat games have played since the 9th iteration.
The window for error in timing inputs feels slightly stricter than before, and they’ve rolled back the variety of get up maneuvers you can perform, whilst also utilising only one special meter bar this time around, which is functionally attached to alternating special moves, jump cancels, and combo breakers.
The fatal blow system remains, however, it is more balanced in Mortal Kombat 1. They won’t steamroll through your attacks anymore, so you can avoid the devastating attack with offensive inputs rather than just simply blocking.
Krushing Blows, on the other hand, are completely gone. Which despite how cinematic and entertaining they were, is probably for the best when it comes to balancing, especially given Mortal Kombat 1’s biggest new feature, Kameos.
With the inclusion of Kameos, comes the exclusion of character builds, but the trade off is worth it. Kameos are the single most refreshing aspect of the gameplay in Mortal Kombat 1, but they’ll certainly take some getting use to.
Of course, brutalities and fatalities remain.
The new Kameo system is the biggest differential in Mortal Kombat 1. This new system essentially allows for gameplay mix ups, that characters wouldn’t have otherwise been capable of, on their own.
You select a character from a separate select screen, who all offers different mechanics, which in turn allow you to approach fights in different ways without selecting a different combatant. Combining the various kameo characters with your base fighter offers a ton of creativity for the player.
It would be smart to select a character who’s strengths make up for your characters weakness. If you lack anti-air moves for example, then Sonya would be a good choice as one of her moves see’s her horizontally dash across the upper screen.
Each Kameo character has 3 different moves. Figuring out which characters have the best chemistry and which ones suit your play style is a welcomed added layer of player expression to the Mortal Kombat formula.
On top of that, the Kameo character can extend combos, and will also operate as a combo breaker, which is tied to your only meter, so spend it wisely. There’s a real sense of balance with these mechanics. It all comes together to make for a truly streamlined and distilled Mortal Kombat gameplay experience.
Light On Kontent
Beyond the gameplay, there is only three distinct single player modes to speak of. Starting with Klassic Towers, as it is known, is the mainstay in the Mortal Kombat series. Most fans will know exactly what this mode is.
Work your way up the towers, fighting off various Kombatants, until you beat the boss, and see a short cutscene, providing an end and some closure to your selected fighter’s story.
Invasion mode essentially replaces the krypt, when it comes to unlocking concept art, music, and cosmetics for the characters. This time there’s an added gameplay experience where you travel across various maps in a board game like fashion, moving one space at a time.
Each space will likely require you to fight, sometimes with gameplay modifiers to keep it interesting, other times you may need to Test Your Might, or there might even be a mini tower for you to work your way up. So far I’ve mostly found this mode to be lackluster.
Offering multiple different currencies as rewards, in which the gold currency goes towards randomised rewards, where you could get a legendary cosmetic, or one frame of concept art, for the same price, is notably disappointing.
As aesthetically cool as the board game like maps appear, this mode unfortunately feels like a grind. There is a reward track for levelling up characters, but perhaps if I had the ability to unlock things for my character of choice with the currency I’ve earned, it would feel more rewarding.
High Quality Story Mode
Mortal Kombat 1’s story mode offers a big budget, high quality, engaging experience. Blockbuster visuals, with some truly impressive cinematography at times, complemented with mostly top notch voice acting. Rebooting the series makes for great moments, that (as a fan) you will know are coming, but deliver nonetheless.
This new timeline sees Liu Kang as Earth Realm’s protector, and the creator of all things. His new role as the Fire God has him reshape the Mortal Kombat universe in his own vision. There is an array of superb redesigns for its cast of characters as a result.
Notably Reptile, who can now take on both human and reptile forms as a shapeshifter not only works incredibly well from a story standpoint, but also a gameplay one too.
Bi-Han is back as Sub-Zero having never died in this timeline. His brother; Kuai Liang, who was the Sub-Zero most know, is now Scorpion. Raiden is now simply a Shaolin Monk in training, and that’s just some of the differences.
Many series mainstays such as Jax and Sonya step out of the spotlight, and we get a chance to see other characters such as Kenshi and Baraka take up major roles in the events of Mortal Kombat 1. Johnny Cage remains front and centre with some great comedic moments.
With the multiverse angles being prevalent in pop culture right now, I feel the clashing of time lines that we see in Mortal Kombat 1 is one of the best. Despite some minor pacing issues at the beginning and end, it ranks amongst the best of story modes that NetherRealm Studios has crafted.
Stunning Visuals And Visceral Audio
Mortal Kombat 1’s visuals are often jaw dropping. Having various times of day available for certain arenas allows for NetherRealm to flex their muscles bit more when it comes to visual fidelity.
The backgrounds, such as the sunset as the backdrop in Johnny Cage’s apartment, or the cherry blossom tree in the Hang Gardens are truly a sight to behold.
The character models are the best they’ve ever been. With some classic attires worn by the kameo characters, and the more streamlined approach to its gear system, combine for the most aesthetically pleasing iteration of the legendary fighting game yet.
NetherRealm’s East Asian inspired soundtrack is also excellent. Mortal Kombat’s grand intro music is epic, and sets the stage for what’s to come. Not to mention, there’s a handful of catchy tracks for the individual stages themselves.
Each punch, kick, broken bone, or severed limb, is visceral at the sound of impact. The sound design is always key in any Mortal Kombat game to really drive home its over the top gore, that the series is so famous for, and as ever, NetherRealm have absolutely nailed it.
A Promising New Era For Mortal Kombat
There is some input issues plaguing the game right, which essentially sees some inconsistencies in the button presses. If you hit any button twice and then attempt a special, it’ll register the input that you hit twice. However, I fully expect this to be patched.
Beyond that, I have not experienced any crashes, or other issues. There is also a patch available as of the time you’re reading this, which hopefully addresses the input bug.
Though there is a lack of game modes available, Mortal Kombat 1 is sure to be a platform on which NetherRealm build, so its entirely possible more are added in the future. Along with the two Kombat packs that are planned, containing new characters, and kameo characters, another game mode or two could go a long way.
Mortal Kombat 1 has charted a new course with its soft reboot, which sets up the future of the series nicely. NetherRealm have created a game for both fans of the franchise, and newcomers as a jumping in point.
The Kameo system and changes made to Mortal Kombat formula make for a refreshing, streamlined iteration of the beloved series, that offers a different yet familiar approach.
Mortal Kombat 1 is available now on PS5.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.