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Mortal Kombat 1 Review: A Worthy Reimagining

Mortal Kombat 1 Review: A Worthy Reimagining

Dillon Bantel
11 min

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It's hard to say that MK1 is anything other than a revolutionary installment in the franchise.

In the beginning... was Liu Kang. And the God of Fire and Protector of Earthrealm forged the heavens and the earth... Yeah, you get it.

Mortal Kombat 1 has officially launched for Premium Edition users, and let's just say I couldn't wait to get my hands on this highly-anticipated reboot as quickly as possible. From the moment that timer counted down to 0, I've been in Earthrealm, oooing and awing endlessly. MK1 isn't just a reboot but a true reimagining of the iconic series.

Before we get into this, this will be a spoiler-free review, and we'll only be sharing footage from the very early parts of the game, so stick around, and let's get into what NRS has done to set this installment apart from the rest.

A Whole New World

Upon entry, we are graced with a stunning and captivating intro cutscene. Liu Kang pays heed to all the things he has done to create this new universe in his image and some reasoning on why. Once it ends, we're brought to the incredible title screen, which I just sat and stared at for quite some time. I was barely a few minutes in and was already amazed at the visuals of the game.


Liu Kang being in charge of the universe isn't the only new thing to the franchise. Kameos are by far the biggest addition to MK1 from a gameplay perspective. They completely alter how the game is played and has been played historically. Sure, we somewhat had assists in MK11 in the towers, but nothing like this. 

As someone who has played every MK game to date, it took me a lot of time to utilize them properly, and I still have a lot of room to improve. I am extremely excited to see what players like Rewind and SonicFox come up with and how they absolutely break the game with them.


Kampaign has three offerings for players: Story, Invasion, and Towers.

Without getting into the nitty-gritty details, I found the story in MK1 to be truly captivating and engaging. I've always been a fan of MK lore, but they haven't always grabbed me in portraying it in certain installments.

That is not the case with MK1.

MK1's characters, animations, voice acting, iconic mini-games built into the story, the whole kit, and kaboodle are truly fantastic. It's not so stiff in moving the story along, and the best part to me is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. That's something many people come to expect with a Mortal Kombat story mode, and MK1 really delivered it very well.


Characters aren't really good or evil (maybe with the exception of Shang Tsung); they just have differing motivations, which is what I really like in a story. Reptile is a fantastic example of this. He's not a "bad guy," but Shang Tsung has him by his tail, so he must do what needs to be done. This is only one example of characters in MK1 having actual reasons for their actions, not just "I do bad things because I'm bad."

It took me roughly six hours to get through the main story. I happily did it in one sitting and will likely play through it again at some point. I laughed, I loved the eye candy, and I really cared about everyone involved in some way.


Invasions are a new addition to the MK series, taking the place of the Krypt. While it's hard to really compare these two modes, they serve a similar function: a fun and more casual way to get new cosmetics for your characters. But at the same time, there are some interesting RPG elements to the mode in terms of editing stats, gear, and rock-paper-scissor-type interactions in terms of elemental damage.


There are goofy challenges akin to what we saw in certain towers in MK11, some cameo appearances as you traverse the map, and it has enough variety to keep things interesting. And the mode even serves as an alternate story mode of sorts, much to my surprise and delight. 

This is where I have spent the majority of my time and will continue to do so. I was genuinely impressed with its level of depth, and it's a fun getaway after a tough online match or just a unique way to interact with the game. I know there will be many MK fans who prefer the aesthetic and puzzle-solving of the Krypt, but I also know there are just as many who will enjoy this new take.


At the time of creating this review, Towers are just that: Towers. If you have ever played an MK game, you are familiar with the iconic towers that have been in the series since the dawn of time.

Five are currently available, and I played through all of them at least once. The one I had the most fun with was Survivor, which is a tower that tests your might to see how many opponents you can defeat without regaining any health. But even with this tried-and-true mode that we've all seen a million times, NRS still found a way to make it look stunning and fit in extremely well with the aesthetic of MK1. And I imagine it will get some wacky updates similar to what we saw in MK11.


I won't spend much time spelling out the individual versus modes, as we are all quite familiar with the usual offering, and MK1 isn't too special here.


What's most important about this aspect of the game is the net code and how this game feels to play against other people. So, I took to the online world to test how the game feels and to get my butt kicked, all for your sake. Not that this was much of a worry to me, given MK11's strong net code.

I ran into 0 issues throughout about ten matches of just auto-accepting the first match that popped up. There was no lag or stutters; it was a great experience. After those ten matches, I tried to find someone with a bad connection or high ping but didn't have any luck.

Kombat League

Kombat League is MK1's (and MK11's) take on ranked play. While that may sound enticing, it is not without its faults. Three key "features" of KL are that you are not able to accept/decline the players you're paired against, you cannot leave the match aside from closing the game or turning off your system, and it is best of five.


While I get the idea behind these decisions, it can make for a very poor experience if you match someone on a bad WiFi connection, and it also makes for long matches (in comparison to MK11's best-of-three setup). My first match in Kombat League was 10 minutes long, and it was only that short because the player quit when I went up 2-1. I also witnessed a streamer get trapped in a match with a very laggy Smoke, and due to the setup of ranked, they had to sit there for 15 minutes and deal with it. Let's just say those two things were enough to delay my next foray into Kombat League for a while.

Again, I see what they are going for with these three integral points, but in practice, it makes for Kasual being a much, much better mode to play. Kombat League isn't EVO Grand Finals, and I don't see a need for such harsh restrictions.

Another missing feature is some readout on the current frame delay. Going from practice to online feels quite different in terms of timing your combos, but there isn't currently a direct way to establish the numerical difference, which makes for a somewhat tough transition.

Kustomization and Monetization

Much like the previous section about online play, there are pros and cons to the way customization works in MK1. Let's start with the good stuff.

Each character has four customizable aspects: Gear, Palettes, Taunts, and Finishers. Much like in MK11, these customizable aspects can really alter how a character looks from their base design, and it makes for a welcome experience when it comes to player expression. At the time of writing this review, the game is still only in Premium Edition access, but I've still seen a wide array of takes on characters like Sub-Zero and Kung Lao.

Now, this customization can also come at a kost, quite literally. While you can obtain many cosmetics from playing Invasions and leveling up your profile, you can also obtain them via the Shrine and by spending real money in the store. The real money option is pretty self-explanatory, so let's talk about the Shrine.


The Shrine lets you place 1,000 coins into it for a random roll on various customizable items. This can range from character/environment art, music, or actual things for your characters. Let's not beat around the bush here; this is a loot box that utilizes in-game currency.

This is fairly disappointing to see due to the overall lack of being able to purchase items you explicitly want for your main character using your in-game currency, and this being a full-priced game ($110 for Premium, $60 for Standard).

You either have to wade through Invasions, getting items for characters you don't play to get what you want, level up to get items that may not even be for your character, swipe your card, or pull the lever. In my case, the character I have the most cosmetics for is Johnny Cage. How many times have I played him? If you guessed zero, you'd be right.

Welcome To The New Era of MK

Overall, it's hard to say that MK1 is anything other than a revolutionary installment in the franchise. From its brand-new modes, deep character / kameo pool, customization, series callbacks, and great net code, it delivers on all fronts. Not only is it a great entry point for new players, but it also serves as a well-done reimagining of a universe many people have come to adore while still maintaining its sense of identity.

Some core aspects of ranked play and outfitting your character could do with a little reimagining, but it's hard to say they greatly outweigh all the good this game provides.

If you're a new or casual player, MK1 is a great entry point, being a reboot, and it has plenty of content to keep you engaged. If you're a seasoned veteran looking for a level of depth not offered in the previous installment, MK1 also has plenty of that. Overall, Mortal Kombat 1 is a worthy installment worth exploring, and we hope to see you in Earthrealm soon.

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