Mortal Kombat 1 Review – A Smashing Good Time

A new era begins, and it's spectacular for the most part.

Mortal Kombat 1 Review – A Smashing Good Time

Mortal Kombat 1 on PS5

When it comes to fighting game royalty, the Mortal Kombat series surely has to be up there with the likes of Street Fighter and Tekken. After all, it has brought us over three decades of bloody combat, with each new entry finding new ways to surprise and astound. Mortal Kombat 1 is no exception, and could easily make the case for bringing the most significant addition to the formula of vicious combat in a long time. The series may boast a decorated legacy, but this sets the stage for a new era to kick off in the goriest of ways.

That star attraction is the new Kameo mechanic that will spice things up aplenty for the meta of the fighting game. For the very first time ever, players will be able to count on the help of a secondary character during a bout in Mortal Kombat 1, potentially turning the tide and filling in the gaps that the main fighter possesses.

Mortal Kombat 1 Story Mode
Image Source: Warner Bros. Games via Twinfinite

While it may not seem too revolutionary considering other contemporaries have adopted the design before, in practice, it transforms Mortal Kombat 1 into a more cerebral fighter than you might be used to. With various assist moves available to each Kameo character and their different uses across the many scenarios a player may find themselves in during battle, it dramatically expands the options available to find solutions.

It goes beyond just having another trick up your sleeve to catch the opponent off guard. With Kameo characters, more invested players will be able to reduce the possibility of being caught out by character weaknesses, instead turning them into prime counterattacking setups instead. The less time spent worrying about the inadequacies of a character’s combo string, the more time you have to concentrate on dishing out the pain.

Of course, the system works both ways, which only serves to make Mortal Kombat 1 a much more enjoyable and tactical affair. The implementation of the Kameo system may change up how the traditional one-on-one fighter feels, but rather than take away the spotlight, it only accentuates the strong, solid foundation that it already has.

Mortal Kombat 1 fatality
Image Source: Warner Bros. Games via Twinfinite

NetherRealm doesn’t just stop there either, with the studio continuing to do excellent work in improving many other aspects of its blockbuster series with the new entry. Meter management, for starters, has been streamlined to keep the focus on the action. No one has to fear wake up attacks or recovery rolls from opponents. Defensively, players have to actually engage more actively to get any change. The list goes on, and everything works together really well to freshen things up without necessarily losing that Mortal Kombat flair.

All of that juicy action can be experienced in the various modes available in Mortal Kombat 1. The story mode carries on from where Mortal Kombat 11 ended, with Fire God Liu Kang getting his hands dirty in restarting the entire universe. Obviously, the peace doesn’t last long, and soon, everyone is plunged back into high-stakes fights with the fate of everything on the line.

While the general direction of the story is quite predictable, it is fun to see how NetherRealm has reimagined many beloved characters in new guises. It is not just the main stars that get their time in the sun; even those like Reptile and Baraka are getting plenty of time in the spotlight. Couple that with some great writing, references galore, and generally solid humor, and the six to seven hours spent in the story mode will just fly by.

That said, much of that time might actually be spent on getting to know the current character better for the particular arc. The way the story has been crafted makes transitions quite seamless, but jumping from one character to the next can be jarring when you don’t know what you are doing. The story mode could have benefited from better on-boarding before throwing players into the mix, but it does make a case for forcing players to learn its roster of fighters throughout.

Mortal Kombat 1 combat
Image Source: Warner Bros. Games via Twinfinite

If the narrative isn’t your cup of tea, then perhaps the new Invasions mode will be more up your alley. A single-player adventure that takes the place of The Krypt, players will venture into themed locations that change seasonally, taking part in short battles as they move like pieces on a board game. It is an interesting idea to infuse light RPG elements into a brawler like Mortal Kombat 1, but it is not without its issues.

As a mode, it makes the point of educating the player on various mechanics and systems. Every character has a specific damage type that slots into a rock-paper-scissors type system, there are relics and talismans that grant buffs and additional abilities, and modifiers can significantly alter a straightforward fight into a bid for survival against demonic demons throwing fire from above as an example.

All of that sounds intriguing, but unfortunately, when you are able to dominate with a character that you have become seasoned with, it all goes out the window. The balance isn’t right at the moment, even with some of the tougher challenges that buff up the enemy, and when you have to grind through a gauntlet like this over and over again, it can become tiresome and too gimmicky for its own good.

If it wasn’t for the constant rewards of new cosmetics, brutalities, fatalities, and more, Invasions becomes even harder to stomach in the long run. With more content set to arrive in the future, there is still every chance that Invasions will improve, and hopefully, that will be the case for players looking to get more out of their investment.

Mortal Kombat 1 Invasions
Image Source: Warner Bros. Games via Twinfinite

For players who are more into showing off their skills against others, the online portion of Mortal Kombat 1 is where the action is at, and there really isn’t anything to complain about. Ranked play dangles sweet rewards for those willing to put in the hustle to climb the rankings, and the netcode hasn’t caused a problematic connection issue just yet. While it is disappointing that crossplay isn’t available at launch, its eventual arrival will only make things better. Perhaps the only gripe is that matchmaking will strictly keep players locked in without the ability to do anything else. Considering how the competition has handled this, the inability of Mortal Kombat 1 to allow matchmaking to carry on while players play other modes is frustrating.

For newcomers to the franchise, this is a great place to start. Mortal Kombat 1 boasts some of the most gorgeous character and level designs out there, especially when witnessing the many gruesome fatalities that will come your way. The tutorial system remains in a class of its own, allowing players to learn at their own pace and distilling many of the more complicated theories into accessible material, which then makes the fighting all the more special and enjoyable.

Whether you are a seasoned combatant or a new one stepping into the arena for the first time, Mortal Kombat 1 has something for you. The Kameo system has revitalized the trusted formula, which has improved with the many welcomed changes made by the team, everything looks great in motion, and the story mode is more engaging than ever before. Invasions might not be for everybody, and online play could do with some work, but there is nothing too major holding this game back from shining brightly. A new era of Mortal Kombat has arrived, and things are looking smashingly good.


Mortal Kombat 1

Reviewer: Jake Su
Award: Editor’s Choice


Kameo system spices things up with quality-of-life changes aplenty.
Story mode remains a high point.
Visually stunning.
Sets the standard for tutorial systems.


Invasions mode can do with some work.
Online options can be improved.
Release Date
September 19, 2023
NetherRealm Studios
Warner Bros. Games
PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC, Nintendo Switch
Copy provided by Publisher

About the author

Jake Su

Jake is a full-time trophy hunter and achievement gatherer on consoles, and a part-time Steam Sale victim. He has a thing for Batman and awesome statues, and running out of space for both. Send help. Jake was a freelance writer for Twinfinite between 2021 to 2023 and specialized in writing detailed guides on every new release he could get his hands on.