Mortal Kombat 1 PlayStation 5 Review

The start of a new era, new stories, and bigger ambitions, but some evils never truly die.

By R3GR3T, Posted 02 Oct 2023

For those who are in the know, you might get a little excited when you hear about Midway Games, and the same can be said about NetherRealm Studios. The reason why involves a lot of satisfying gore and brutal fighting… That’s right, the one and only Mortal Kombat series. We all grew up with Midway’s original masterpiece in arcades and at home until the torn-off head was passed to NetherRealm Studios to carry on with an ancient and bloody legacy. Founded in 2010 by the well-known game industry veteran and co-creator of Mortal Kombat, Ed Boon, this studio set out to keep an old flame alive through gaming, and they more than succeeded at it.

Mortal Kombat 1, Review, Screenshots, Fighting, Arcade, Adventure, NoobFeed

NetherRealm Studio’s first release was definitely a bloodbath of note with the release of Mortal Kombat 9 in 2011; this release also garnered them quite a cult following since they expanded the platform availability as well. Things just kept going at full speed for them with the release of Injustice: Gods Among Us in 2013 and Injustice 2 in 2017; you can already see the trend of brutal fighter games that can appeal to anybody. Now, things just became bloodier than ever when you consider the fact that NetherRealm Studios also developed Mortal Kombat 10 (Aka – Mortal Kombat X) and Mortal Kombat 11, and the struggle between the realms was finally resolved, right? Nope, evil doesn’t just die, and there are new battles to fight as we get to see how the restart of history unfolds in Mortal Kombat 1, released on 14 September.

As for the new universe of Mortal Kombat 1, you better grab some popcorn and buckle up; it’s going to be a wild ride. After the events of Mortal Kombat 11, Kronika (The Keeper Of Time) and several other Titans were defeated, and Liu Kang became the new Keeper Of Time. He couldn’t do much to save those who fell while aiding him, but he could use his new power to restart the universe and hopefully change things for the better. Sadly, nothing ever quite goes to plan, and this becomes very apparent when we see the no longer sorcerer, Shang Tsung, sell a cure-all potion that does nothing to unwitting villagers in Outworld. This backfires very quickly as one villager who fell for his lie makes a massive scene and exposes him as a liar, saying there’s no magic or cure in his potions.

Sadly, we don’t get to see Shan Tsung get a much-deserved beatdown as the scene shifts to him taking off his disguise later that same day, revealing a much younger version of himself. This does make things clear right from the start that the characters we knew from Mortal Kombat 11 are now a lot younger since it is a new universe and all, but this does change the perspective and opens it up to old and new players of the series. As Shang Tsung removes the last of his disguise, he’s greeted by none other than Kronika – The Ex Keeper Of Time; she’s come to offer him enough power to make him the sorcerer he could be. Just like before, you’ll have to take the story of Mortal Kombat from the perspectives of just about every character to see if all unfolds as this new evil rises in power. Some bad guys are like weeds; they just keep coming back, right?

Mortal Kombat 1, Review, Screenshots, Fighting, Arcade, Adventure, NoobFeed

Now, it wouldn’t be Mortal Kombat if there wasn’t some form of fighting, gore, endless combo move sets to string together, and just some chaos. Aside from your usual combo list or just button mashing to attack, you’ll still need to, at the very least, have a rough idea of some of the combos to deal maximum damage. Sorry button mashers, Mortal Kombat has come a long way, and that hasn’t worked in over a decade. Carrying on, Mortal Kombat 1 definitely sets itself apart from its predecessor in the combat system from the start, with it being a lot smoother and faster than before. However, there’s a lot more that has changed.

The most important change is that there are no longer multiple charge bars for special attacks and breaker moves; this has all been condensed into a single bar, but you might not even need it. Right off the bat, fighters already do a lot more damage, crushing blows have been removed, and air combos now play a huge part in the chaos. Air Combos might bring back some old frustrations for those who remember because you’d know just how much this can be abused to make a fight an absolute cakewalk. Air Combos and keeping your opponent in the air gives you a free chance to get some extra damage in or just absolutely destroy them by throwing them around. Granted, this mostly only applies if you’re new to Mortal Kombat, and there are ways around this if you ever need to even the playing field.

Wiping the floor with your opponent isn’t all there is to Mortal Kombat, though you’ll also be able to block, which is a usual must-have. You’d normally have to use a Breaker charge to break your opponent’s constant block or to make an opening; with the loss of those charges, life became a lot more interesting in Mortal Kombat 1 with the introduction of crouching jabs and other variations of it. You can run, but you can’t hide behind a block anymore, and this gives any match in Mortal Kombat 1 a lot more fire to work with.

Mortal Kombat 1, Review, Screenshots, Fighting, Arcade, Adventure, NoobFeed

One of the bigger things that really stands out in Mortal Kombat 1 is the Kameo system. It is essentially a Tag Team system with extra perks; while you don’t have direct control of your Kameo partner, your partner will show up to extend your combos where needed and dish out some extra damage when you call them in. This is a bit of a game changer because it adds some extra flare to a fight, though you’ll need to keep in mind that your opponents get the same benefits too. Naturally, there needs to be a balance in all things, even in fights. However, the Kameo system isn’t free to abuse, and it does come with its own charge bar, though you can get away with two Kameo appearances for a full charge, which works quite well.

The Kameo System isn’t quite as straightforward, though, as some appearances, like Goro’s Stomp Assist, will instead use the whole bar instead of just half, but who doesn’t like a well-timed and unblockable stomp from above to open your opponent for an extra flurry of attacks. Delving a bit deeper, every Kameo comes with at least three different assist moves, which adds a fun spin on Mortal Kombat 1. Choosing your Kameo partner does take a bit of strategy, though, since all the fighters have their unique strengths and attack styles, it’s recommended to choose a Kameo that can fill in the gaps or one that will complement your chosen fighter’s moveset.

Mortal Kombat 1 does have a bit more going on behind the scenes with the Kameos, such as Talismans, Relics, and more, that give your Kameos useful boosts or even change up their attacks. This does make things a little overcomplicated, even more so when Kameos come with their own elemental damage types. It does come off as a bit rushed from the looks of it because of how complex it can make the planning stages are.

Mortal Kombat 1, Review, Screenshots, Fighting, Arcade, Adventure, NoobFeed

While this one is pretty obvious, Mortal Kombat, in general, is known for having a lengthy move list for each fighter, and Mortal Kombat 1 is no exception to this. Luckily, you’ll still always have access to the handy-dandy Move List in your pause menu. It’s not mandatory to learn the button combos, but it can make a tedious fight a lot more interesting with a helpful splash of gore on the side. If you’re into that, there’s always an overabundance of Special Moves to choose from. You’ll likely also need to give the Kameo Moves a quick glance to make the most of the Kameo system too. However, if you just want a quick idea of what to do, there’s also the Quick Reference for a few quick and easy moves to use and abuse.

Aside from Story Mode and the ever-popular Versus Mode, Mortal Kombat 1 features a new mode if you’re after an interesting change of pace; this mode is called Invasions. This is basically a weird mix of environments from the Krypt, a few elements from previously seen Conquest Modes, and quick battles as seen from the Tower of Time. Life in Mortal Kombat 1 doesn’t have to be as overly serious all the time, and this is a nice touch if you want to earn a few new cosmetics and get a taste of something different all wrapped up in what looks like an old gameboard as seen in much older games. Unfortunately, the Invasions can also be a bit of a grind and seem a little silly or just unnecessary. This is one of those mods that has a mixed appeal and might not impress everybody, though it becomes a matter of perspective and who likes what.

Mortal Kombat 1 also seems to revisit an old but gold game mode, Tower Mode. In short, it’s the Challenge Tower. However, it does change up with every new release of Mortal Kombat, while the fights or other random challenge mini-games can start off easy, they become much more difficult as you climb the tower with each victory. As usual, you’ll have to keep an eye out for the various modifiers and how they change up the fights; this will definitely have you thinking on your toes. Defeat, on the other hand, does mean you start right back at the bottom again, in typical Challenge Tower fashion. To this day, The Tower still remains an interesting challenge if you’re looking to take a break or just earn some extra coins on the side to buy cosmetics.

Mortal Kombat 1, Review, Screenshots, Fighting, Arcade, Adventure, NoobFeed

Speaking of cosmetics, each fighter has a range of cosmetics to choose from, provided you can unlock them. Getting your hands on the seemingly endless cosmetics is actually pretty easy, though; everything from Story Mode to Invasions will reward you with cosmetics, and in turn, you’ll get to customize your fighter to your liking. However, it’s not just cosmetics; you’ll also be able to unlock different Taunts, Brutalities, and Fatalities.

If you’re still looking for a challenge, worry not because Mortal Kombat 1 will also let you go online versus other players to really give you a run for your money. You’ll have options between Ranked, for seasonal rewards, Kasual, because who doesn’t like a quick casual fight, and Private matches. Going back to the seasonal rewards, this type of gameplay has become quite prevalent in recent times because of how rewarding it can be for players who have the skills for it and even those who want to hone those skills and get a bonus out of it. Unfortunately, while there is matchmaking, you’re pretty much stuck watching paint dry while it searches, as you can’t enter any other mode when it’s busy.

Saving the best for last, Practice Mode. Yes, it’s nothing new, but it’s still just as important. Practice Mode is the best place to try out the many fighters in Mortal Kombat 1, and you can also get some practice in with the vast move lists, Fatalities, Brutalities, and combat in general. It’s also great if you want to play around with Kameos to find the best combinations to suit your playstyle, and you’ll likely end up spending a fair amount of time in practice.

Mortal Kombat 1, Review, Screenshots, Fighting, Arcade, Adventure, NoobFeed

On the visual side, Mortal Kombat 1 does not fail to impress with the overall world design and character models. There’s clear evidence that an unholy mountain of work into perfecting as many of the details as possible on each character model, along with how they move in a fight and in cutscenes. The nice thing about this is that there’s a seamless transition between cutscenes and a fight which keeps a really nice flow going. What stands out the most is a clear difference that is struck between Mortal Kombat 11 and Mortal Kombat 1, showing that the universe was reset but also the younger models indicating the start of a completely new era. The other thing that stands out to a whole other degree is the stages you get to fight in; each one features its own unique theme and environment that makes you wish you could stop to smell the roses or admire the gorgeous and sometimes gore-filled scenery. However, we can’t forget just how brilliantly detailed the various Fatalities and Brutalities are, which is the highlight of any Mortal Kombat game, but Mortal Kombat 1 took it several steps further.

Visuals aside, Mortal Kombat 1’s sound design and voice acting shine just as bright. With the usual great and hellishly atmospheric soundtrack to drive you along and the fully voiced fighters to add the cherry on top, there’s never a dull moment with how immersive the story mode can be. However, with each fighter being somewhat younger and with new ones added in, it might seem a bit odd as the voices are somewhat different from the ones we got to know in previous releases, though each voice actor played their part perfectly in the creation of Mortal Kombat 1.

Overall, Mortal Kombat 1 has seen vast improvements and brings a lot of new features to the table, even though some aren’t entirely necessary. The Story Mode alone brings a whole new beginning for Mortal Kombat as a whole and opens up endless new possibilities for the franchise to grow and expand upon. While there are a few minor drawbacks, like the complexity of Kameos and the strange turn brought in with Invasions, the biggest flop is how online play is handled. Though Story Mode and the visual side of Mortal Kombat 1 more than make up for a good majority of the flaws.

Jay Claassen (@R3GR3T_3NVY)
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS5, XBSX, Switch
Publisher(s): Warner Bros. Games
Developer(s): NetherRealm Studios
Genres: Fighting
Themes: Fighter, Action,
Release Date: 2023-09-19

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