Mortal Kombat 1 is available worldwide for those who purchased the Standard Edition, bringing the New Era to Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PC and Nintendo Switch. It’s acclaimed for its visual fidelity, Kameo Fighter system, mostly excellent Story Mode and overall combat. Nevertheless, some pretty big issues, ranging from the mind-boggling to the frustrating, hamper the experience. It’s still a good game, but make no mistake, there are several places where it lacks.
No Stage Interactivity
As much as the character models, cutscenes and animations are appreciated in a Mortal Kombat title, the environments are also worthy of attention. In Mortal Kombat 1, they’re brimming with details and having day/night settings livens them up. Unfortunately, you can’t interact with them like in previous titles. No objects to pull from the background and bash your opponent into. No stage Brutalities or Fatalities, with the latter being a much more baffling omission given how iconic they were in previous titles. Maybe stages will become more interactive later, but for now, they’re little more than pretty backdrops for fights.
No Tagging Moves On-Screen or Character Tutorials
How nice is it to tag moves on screen when you want to practice them? Or indulge in some character tutorials to learn the ins and outs of each fighter, what makes them unique and how they might fit your play style. But enough about features in Mortal Kombat 11 because they’re not in Mortal Kombat 1. The latter is especially egregious because there are Kombo Challenges, so why not go further with providing separate tutorials? Overall, Training Mode feels barebones compared to its predecessor in Mortal Kombat 11, never mind what competitors like Street Fighter 6 offer.
No Intro Dialogue in Towers
Intro dialogues are probably one of the more underrated elements in a modern Mortal Kombat, especially since there are so many. So why are they absent in the Towers? You can see them in Versus or online play, but what about offline players? The Klassic Towers have endings which are canon to the plot and are worth playing through to learn some pretty important things about the New Era, so they’re worth spending time in for solo players. Why ignore intro dialogues, especially when so much work has gone into the voice acting, and they’re mostly good? It just doesn’t make sense.
No Customization in Character Select
Another missing quality-of-life feature is customizing your character from the fighter selection screen. If you want to alter an outfit, color palette or gear, you must go back to the Customize screen, open it up, change things around and then queue up for matches. In a game where cosmetics are the primary reward, being unable to change them in the character selection screen feels like an oversight. There aren’t even loadouts that can be set and swapped before a match.
Fatal Blows and Fatalities Locked to 30 FPS
Mortal Kombat 1’s performance varies depending on the platform. Xbox Series X/S and PS5 are the smoothest, achieving 60 frames per second throughout, while PC has some stuttering issues but otherwise works well enough with DLAA and DLSS enabled. We’ll get to the Switch version in a bit, but the Fatal Blows and Fatalities are all in 30 frames per second. It’s jarring to go back and forth between 60 FPS and 30 FPS multiple times in a match. A constant 60 FPS would be appreciated.
Invasion and Seasonal Tower
Invasion Mode is cool in theory – you fight against various invaders from alternate dimensions, each with unique appearances. Earn rewards like gear and Talismans, level up your characters, and partake in mini-games like Test Your Might, Survival, etc. Unfortunately, the execution is underwhelming.
Several modifiers in fights are not fun to deal with, whether it’s the excessive armor on enemies or hazards like gas which interrupt your combos way too often. Many of the Talismans aren’t even that great, regardless of their level, and the invaders are underwhelming after finishing Story Mode (if you know, you know).
The final battle against Hellfire Scorpion, the boss of Season of the Spectre, is also pretty easy, despite going several rounds, hazardous flaming air and dodging his chains in a mini-game. At least he had a happy ending, though given how easily achievable it was, it makes the whole Invasion story moot.
If all that wasn’t enough, the Seasonal Tower in the Gateway Mesa is a torturous climb through 18 difficult floors with a superhard Test Your Might challenge at the end. Mess up, and it’s right back to the beginning. Don’t worry – the skins you get for completing it are available in the store using Seasonal Kredits, which are easily farmable. If you completed the Tower after the fact, well…moving on.
The Krypt is Gone
With Invasion being so underwhelming, it highlights The Krypt’s absence all the more. Say what you will about Mortal Kombat 11’s grinding and abundance of currencies, but it nailed The Krypt. Turning the classic Mortal Kombat environment into a fully explorable 3D environment with secrets, references and mechanics (like using Shao Kahn’s hammer or Kenshi’s blindfold) was one of the best things in the series.
Discovering all the different chests also made for a fun side activity, and you could freely move around instead of being confined to a predetermined path like in Invasion. It also doesn’t help that the Shrine is little more than a gachapon machine, feeding you cosmetics with every 1000 Koins.
Lead-up to the Ending
Regarding Story Mode, it starts well enough, with the New Era established Liu Kang brings on several warriors like Kung Lao, Raiden, Johnny Cage and Kenshi to participate in Mortal Kombat; Shang Tsung is scheming in the background; Outworld has its internal strife with General Shao being less than agreeable; the Lin Kuei are, well, the Lin Kuei; and much more. Some genuinely interesting threads emerge and are well done, even if it takes some time to get rolling.
That is, until the major twist in the final chapters is revealed, and it all comes to a head, presenting one giant cluster of team-ups, betrayals, etc. The final battle and ending aren’t too bad, and the post-credits tease is intriguing, but getting there can be exhausting, especially with how many times the story jumps the shark.
Final Story Boss
Furthermore, while the final battle, where you take on a variety of opponents that change based on the selected character, is fun, the boss fight with Shang Tsung is too easy. You would think that having Quan Chi would mean a battle against each of them, but no, he’s just a Kameo Fighter who doesn’t add much to the proceedings. If that weren’t enough, it’s only one round, making the final deciding battle for the fate of everything feel anticlimactic.
The Nintendo Switch Version
All the above ranges from underwhelming to annoying, but the game is pretty good, except if you’re playing on Nintendo Switch. The visual fidelity is reminiscent of a terrible PS2 title with some of the ugliest textures and character models. It’s a massive step down from Mortal Kombat 11 (despite being handled by the same team), and suffers from several bugs and glitches. Invasion mode is also barebones – you can only play through the intro, with the rest of the content coming in the next few weeks. Director Ed Boon says fixes are coming, but the fact that it costs $70 in this state is something else.