Where do you start with a series as big as Mortal Kombat? The brutal and bloody game has not only popularised and evolved the fighting genre over the past 30 years but also helped transform the video game industry. It had jaws dropping (in more ways than one) during the era of arcade gaming with its unique graphical style and introduced multiple concepts that went on to become a staple of the fighting game genre. Since then, there have been sequels, spin-offs, movies, and the series has been immortalised in pop culture thanks to Fatalities and Scorpion’s famous catchphrase encouraging fans to "get over here" and see what all the fuss is about. Now, it’s time for a brand-new chapter on the latest generation of hardware, so clench those fists and get ready to FIGHT!

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In the words of NetherRealm Studios, Mortal Kombat 1 introduces a “reborn Mortal Kombat universe” which has been created by the Fire God Liu Kang and features reimagined versions of the iconic characters who have carried the series for three decades now. Although it is a fresh start, it does technically pick up from the ending of Mortal Kombat 11. Apart from the tutorial which provides the usual rundown of basics, advanced techniques and even new mechanics like Kameo Fighters, the story mode is the best place to start – revealing everything Liu Kang’s new universe is about and providing added context to the fighter roster and arenas.

The story mode takes around six hours to see the credits roll, factoring in both the cinematics, fights as well as the odd optional “Test Your Might” quick time button-mashing event. This new chapter begins with Liu Kang recruiting a team of fighters from Earthrealm – comprised of new rookie versions of Raiden and Kang Lao, a Johnny Cage whose career is in need of a desperate boost and Kenshi Takahashi who tracks his ancestor's ancient katana back to Johnny’s mansion. With Liu Kang's group of Earthrealm representatives assembled, the task is to beat Outworld in a small tournament, prevent war, and keep the peace. Unfortunately, Shang Tsung has been plotting behind the scenes and well, it all goes to hell not long after this.

Mortal Kombat co-creator and director Ed Boon previously mentioned how the challenge associated with story mode is coming up with so many different ways to get characters to fight each other over and over again, and to give NetherRealm its credit – once again, it manages to keep fights and matchups exciting from the start of the story until the very end, while finding the right tone to match the narrative the whole way through. The game opens with a bar fight and before you know it, it's jumping from one group of characters to another across the realms. It’s arguably the most action-packed and engaging story yet – once again drawing from traditional martial arts and classic Hollywood action blockbusters, although admittedly it might all be a bit overwhelming for some towards the end. Still, it feels like a true cinematic experience and it's a great follow-up to the story in the previous game. There’s also plenty of lore about Outworld and Liu Kang’s reborn universe throughout that should have most veteran players eager to push on to the next chapter.

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The cast of characters in Mortal Kombat 1 draws from the series’ extensive history, with a roster comprised of favourites like Raiden, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, and Johnny Cage while reinventing them with new characteristics and abilities. Returning players should definitely spot at least some differences with each fighter compared to previous counterparts thanks to refreshed movesets and their updated designs. All up though, there are more than 20 characters to fight as, and the roster is easily one of the best parts of the game.

And this leads into what is arguably the biggest update in Mortal Kombat 1, the all-new Kameo Fighters. Although it’s not exactly genre-defining and we’ve seen similar but different takes like this before, a Kameo Fighter is a secondary fighter that supports the main character in battle. You don’t ever directly control them, but you can execute certain moves to have them perform a particular attack in conjunction with your main. To do this, you must build up a separate meter during the fight and then they’ll briefly enter the battle and either deal damage or get blocked or countered by your opponent. This supporting cast also calls on 30 years of the series’ history, including classic fighters like Stryker, Jax, and Sonya Blade (all in their old school outfits) and then there are characters like Scorpion who double up as main characters and Kameo Fighters.

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Kameo Fighters have been flawlessly implemented, and the potential combinations on offer are seemingly endless. Each one will compliment characters in different ways, so you can experiment until you find one that matches your main’s playstyle. There are no serious barriers to overcome either – with some simple button presses able to provide offensive moves, defensive breakers, fatal blows, and more. You don’t need to be worried about these Kameos disrupting the fight, as they perfectly match the pace of battle.

Kameos also add to Mortal Kombat’s over-the-top violent streak – where you’ll get to witness all sorts of grotesque and bone-crushing Fatalities. In general, the thing Mortal Kombat is best known for has somehow been taken to a whole new level here in all sorts of wild, graphic, and creative ways with Fatal Blows and finishers. These more devastating attacks are of course backed by a range of core fighting mechanics comprised of the usual punches, kicks, blocks, grapples and combos. Generally, the fights in Mortal Kombat 1 feel fast and responsive, with the current generation platforms including the Xbox Series X and S delivering 60FPS in battle.

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Beyond the Kampaign’s story is a new mode called Invasions. The Invasions mode has essentially replaced the Krypt mode and will be a lot easier to make sense of if you have completed the game’s story first. In short, Invasions is kind of like NetherRealm’s equivalent of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s World of Light campaign mode. You move a fighter on a map from node to node - fighting enemies, discovering secrets, fending off ambushes, opening treasure chests, playing mini-games and unlocking all sorts of ‘Konsumables’ and cosmetics. At the same time, you can customise, enhance and upgrade your characters with items like Tailsman or ones that offer temporary boosts. Battles across the board also mix up each fight with modifiers. Admittedly, it’s not exactly revolutionary and does encourage a fair bit of grinding, but the rewards are unlocks and new Mastery ranks offering even more content. NetherRealm also has entire seasons planned around this mode that will refresh the experience every time, so it will be interesting to see how this pans out.

As for the game’s Tower mode, you’ve got multiple ladders to work your way through and completion with each character will reward you with a little bit more story about the fighter. This is presented across a series of illustrations, with some narration by the character. You’ll also unlock some extra content along the way as well. And even more unlocks can be obtained via the Shrine, where you hand over some Koins to receive an in-game item.

‘Kurrency’ comes in three forms in Mortal Kombat – there are ‘Seasonal Kredits’ – allowing you to unlock cosmetics and more, ‘Koins’ earned through gameplay and these also unlock rewards, and then ‘Dragon Krystals’ which are the premium currency that can also be earned through gameplay or purchased on your platform's storefront. Dragon Krystals are described as being “optional” and can be used to purchase cosmetic and “non-gameplay affecting items”, so players can’t get a competitive edge. In addition to all the unlocks throughout the game, each character also has a ‘Mastery’ rank as touched on before – where the more you play as a fighter, the more rewards you unlock for them. This includes new cosmetics, taunts, finishers, colour palettes and many other exciting goodies.

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And this brings us to the Versus mode, the classic part of the series where you can match up any character and Kameo Fighter against a CPU, local or online opponent. In the online mode, there's seasonal ranked, 'Kasual' comprised of a Versus mode and King of the Hill, and NetherRealm is planning to add more content to the ranked section in the future. All of the matchmaking plays out in a menu lobby, so there’s nothing like we’ve seen in a certain other fighter this year and while this may disappoint some, ultimately it gets the job done. There’s also no ‘Kross-play’ at launch either and it will be implemented at some point post-release.

All of this is supported by stunning and lively arenas, a quality soundtrack channeling classic tunes, a huge amount of voice dialogue, and some amazing visuals and themes. This could just be the most colourful-looking and dare we say prettiest Mortal Kombat to date, but don't worry, by the end of each fight at least one of the characters will have been ripped apart. The UI also looks tidier than the previous entry and the presentation as a whole looks incredibly slick.


Mortal Kombat 1 might not necessarily be the evolution some were hoping for, but it's still an incredibly polished production. The 'Kombat' is perhaps the most refined it’s ever been in the series' history, Kameo Fighters add a new level of strategy, and reuniting with classic characters in Liu Kang’s reborn universe is an absolute blast. It’s a promising refresh for this legendary series that’s arrived at the perfect time. Here’s to another 30 years of blood, guts and Fatalities!