Mortal Kombat 1 review: A gory good time

Mortal Kombat’s back, bringing with it all the trappings you’d expect – gory special moves and Fatalities, a zippy and entertaining story mode to gun through, and online matchmaking for the dedicated.

Does it bring enough to the table, though, in a time when fighting games are at their highest visibility levels in ages? I’ve been punching, kicking, slicing and dicing my way through it to find out.

Mortal Kombat 1 Square

Mortal Kombat 1

Good gory fun

Mortal Kombat 1 is a brilliant time, albeit one that might not quite have the staying power it could have, thanks to thinner modes than you’d expect. Its story is a barrel of fun, though, and it looks about as good as any fighting game I’ve played, so fans of the series should absolutely pick it up.


  • Looks so, so good
  • Really fun story mode
  • Great character designs and stages

  • A little light on modes
  • Some missing quality-of-life features

A world rewritten

Mortal Kombat 11 (that’s the last game in the series if you’ve lost count or been confused by its consistently absurd naming conventions) left things completely rewired in story terms.

Liu Kang has seized the chance to redesign reality in less brutally violent ways, dividing up the realms and attempting to keep harmony between them, to avoid that all-important titular mortal combat.

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Warner Bros. Games

That means, in practice, a bit of a reset for the timeline and a chance to meet various of the series’ most famous characters before they turned into psychopaths who only live for blood.

So, Raiden before he could channel lightning, Mileena before her mouth got all scary, and Kung Lao wearing a straw hat that doesn’t have a razor-sharp blade around its edge.

They’re actually quite a fun gang, too – Mortal Kombat 1’s story mode is by far its biggest highlight, and whips you through a cinematic set of cut-scenes interspersed with fights.

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Warner Bros. Games

These give you the opportunity to learn the ropes then jump between characters, making an ideal primer if you haven’t played a Mortal Kombat game recently.

The stitching between cut scene and fight is also exemplary, helped by the luscious visuals that I’ll get onto later – even if the story isn’t necessarily revelatory, it’s really snazzily told.

Beyond that you get some fairly perfunctory online modes and a new option called Invasions, which theoretically offers loads of content in the form of singleplayer chalices, but in fact feels a little too lifeless to really grab the attention.

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Warner Bros. Games

If you’re not into online matchmaking purely for the sake of getting better, you might find that Mortal Kombat 1 doesn’t grab you for a great deal longer than it takes to complete that fun campaign.

Keeping it traditional

When you load into a match, whether it’s in the glitzy story mode or online, Mortal Kombat 1 feels like a pretty traditional approach to a fighting game, especially in a year that’s already given us Street Fighter 6 and its optional simplified controls.

You’ll still be playing a fighter that feels just like it has for ages, with your four face buttons mapped to different attack options, and combos requiring you to learn the right button-presses without any real shortcuts.

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Warner Bros. Games

The new addition this time around is a roster of Kameo fighters, support options who you can call in to break enemy combos or deliver powerful attacks in a range of scenarios.

It’s a fun way of adding a new spin and does become a very meaningful addition in so far as it’s one you can’t ignore if you want to compete with good players.

Kameos also widen out the roster of included fighters, although there will doubtless be plenty of fans disappointed if a favourite from the past is only a Kameo, not a full fighter.

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Warner Bros. Games

What Mortal Kombat 1 gets right is its feedback, with attacks that are clear and easy to read, making counterplays doable even for newcomers when they start to practise.

Still, the relative paucity of game modes does mean that once you’re through with the campaign you don’t have a million things to do and, speaking of newcomers, the tutorial system is as old-school and simplistic as ever.

Some missing features (like full cross-play, which is coming but hasn’t made it in time for launch) mean that Mortal Kombat 1 does feel like a pretty thin package in comparison to the likes of Street Fighter 6.

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Warner Bros. Games

Still, if you’re well into the series and know you’ll find climbing its ranks and getting better addictive, the central fighting mechanics here are still incredibly solid.

Oozing class

If my thoughts on Mortal Kombat 1’s modes and core gameplay are a somewhat complex mixture, its visual presentation brings home a complete and pretty asterisk-free victory.

This is a gorgeous fighting game, one with stages and characters that look fantastic at a glance, from a distance, and on even the closest inspection.

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The aforementioned story cutscenes are expressive and dripping in character and background design notes that give a really convincing sense of the realms being real places.

They’re also finished to an extremely high quality, and are impressively ambitious – you’ll sometimes go five minutes between bouts as the story unfolds.

Voice acting is almost entirely great, with scenery-chewing aplomb shown by basically everyone called upon. The exception that proves the rule comes in the form of a wildly awful showing from Megan Fox, stunt-casting of the highest order and a performance so awful that I could see it being patched out down the line.

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Warner Bros. Games

Stages are incredible to look at, meanwhile, with deep and animated backgrounds that make watching someone else play a real treat, and there are enough to give a really good sense of variety, too.

Finally, the fighters themselves have never looked better, their designs now mostly modernised and their special moves splashing out in particle effects and crunchy sounds.

The series’ trademark gore is, of course, still here, but it’s also (dare I say it) toned down somewhat to more of an additional flavour, rather than fetishised as the entire point of the game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still dead silly, but I found myself cringing less than I have in the past.


Mortal Kombat 1 feels like a useful counterpoint to something like Street Fighter 6 – if you’re looking for a perfectly balanced competitive fighter that caters to newcomers, then Capcom might have you covered slightly more confidently.

If, though, you want a polished and witty story to blitz through, flashier moves and stages and fighters that look as good as anything the genre has seen in memory, this slightly less fulsome package could be the answer you’re seeking.

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