You’ve probably heard, but Microsoft’s gaming plans for the next couple of years accidentally leaked, thanks to unredacted documents from its trial with the US Federal Trade Commission. Some unannounced sequels to Ghostwire: Tokyo and Dishonored were revealed. The mid-gen refresh for Xbox Series X and S has been revealed, with an announcement likely coming next year. Even its plans for a hybrid cloud-based console had leaked.
So what does that have to do with Mortal Kombat 1, NetherRealm Studios’ reboot of the franchise, which has earned acclaim from critics (check out our review here)? It’s this bit by Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer, talking about triple-A gaming and its stagnation. “Triple-A publishers are milking their top franchises but struggling to refill their portfolio of hit franchises – most triple-A publishers are riding the success of franchises created 10+ years ago.”
Spencer’s solution – using Game Pass to help publishers “build towards a successful future”, by providing a large player base they could monetize and potentially take more risks – may not be the best, depending on who you ask. However, the initial analysis isn’t too far off when examining ongoing major franchises like Mortal Kombat.
Is it the worst thing? After all, the reboot has excellent visuals, a great story – even with its late twists and turns – and a solid combat system. Its netcode is solid, the roster is diverse and well-designed, the Kameo Fighters slot in nicely, and there’s finally a reason to care about each character’s ending in Klassic Towers.
However, the flaws of Mortal Kombat 1 remind us that just because a triple-A publisher – Warner Bros Games, in this case – is intent on farming its long-time series, it doesn’t mean they’re looking to ensure the most polished or complete experience.
Since its release, players have reported all kinds of bugs, like the inputs for Brutalities being wrong (which prompted NetherRealm to release a full list of the same for all playable characters), the frame data for many characters being incomplete or missing and so on. Now, there will be bugs in almost any game, whether it’s a massive RPG like Starfield or an indie game like Dave the Diver. They’ll be resolved, eventually, and as long the gameplay isn’t severely compromised, things should be fine, right?
However, one issue has emerged that severely affects the core gameplay. Fans will remember when Mortal Kombat 9 had a Player 1 advantage. If two players attack simultaneously, Player 1’s attacks would win out (except for a few moves). No trading – just a solid advantage in favor of Player 1.
Mortal Kombat 1’s issue, as discovered by YouTuber mrAPchem, has more to do with combos. If you’re in the Player 1 position and time them correctly, your combos will always land in full, regardless of which side you perform them or the stance. However, if you’re in the Player 2 position, you’ll notice some hits in a combo failing to connect. Some examples were showcased with Sub-Zero and Kitana using Jax as a Kameo Fighter, and the same issue emerged.
How many more fighters could this apply to? The real question is, which combos are adversely affected by this? Some of them? All of them? How does this affect interactions with Kameo Fighters?
It’s theorized that hits failing to connect relate to a character’s hurtbox when they’re falling. The hitbox, which is your attack, may be correct, but if the opposing fighter’s hurtbox has issues, they’re at an advantage, however small it may seem. All because they’re in the Player 1 position, and you’re not.
The best of the worst of all this? It’s applicable in online play as well. If you ever found yourself whiffing combos that may have otherwise landed and don’t know why, this is probably the reason. To say it’s a catastrophic issue would be an understatement since it effectively undermines the golden rule of any fighting game – that both players are on an even playing field. The game, as such, is rigged from the start.
An investigation is “in progress” for this issue on WB Games’ Bug Reporting portal for Mortal Kombat 1. It has a whopping 238 votes and other players have been able to reproduce it.
Whether the issue is due to a bug or a fundamental design flaw, there’s a growing sentiment that Mortal Kombat 1 needed more time in the oven before shipping out. Go to the Trending tab on the Bug Reporting portal, and you’ll see the top-most issues being crashes in Invasion, sound dropping, hitches and stuttering during gameplay, no progress on daily and weekly missions, online matches not connecting, crashes in Towers and so on.
All are under investigation, some nearly approaching the two-week mark and remaining unresolved. Player 1 advantage hasn’t even entered this tab despite blowing up so quickly.
But hey, these are all just bugs, right? The full list is rapidly growing, and it hasn’t even been a month, but they’ll be fixed eventually. Some players may never face these issues, while others may see them sporadically. However, there’s no denying that the reboot is a step down in many ways, missing fundamental features like character tutorials, pinning moves to practice them, changing outfits in the character selection screen, and more.
Invasion Mode is also a let-down. It was never going to top Mortal Kombat 11’s The Krypt, but annoying hazards, Invaders with super armor, lackluster (when not laughable) survival challenges and a lame conclusion make it feel underwhelming despite some solid mechanics. You also have the 18-floor seasonal tower, which is immensely torturous and ends with a punishing Test Your Might mini-game with only one try. Fail that, and you have to do it all over again.
All of this points to the entire game – and not just the terrible Nintendo Switch port, which makes Mortal Kombat 11 on the same platform look like a current-gen game – requiring more time and polish to iron out its issues. As for why it wasn’t delayed, there are several potential reasons, but the most obvious is likely because of Warner Bros. Games. With Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League receiving a mixed reception and delay to next year, it needs a win, that too within the lucrative Fall season.
Whether delaying it to November would have helped remains unknown, but regardless, Mortal Kombat 1 needed more time to cook. If nothing else, look at series co-creator and NetherRealm boss Ed Boon’s comments regarding the Switch version to the BBC last week.
While confirming that it would receive an update and that a “number of the concerns of the issues that had come up will absolutely be addressed,” he also said, “It would have been ideal for us to have released the version that we absolutely wanted. But anything that we’re finding a problem with is on our list and is going to be fixed.” Take that for what you will.
Mortal Kombat 1 is still a very good game, one of the best in the series by far, but it has several issues that can’t be ignored. Hopefully, NetherRealm will address these and support the fighter for many years while expanding it with fan-requested features.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.