A wholesale series reboot that pays tribute to the series three decades of genre-altering history, "Mortal Komnat 1" is a massive, penetrating fighting title that is bursting at the seams with modes, characters an Easter eggs aplenty.
It was nearly exciting to download and fire up the latest effort from NetherRealm Studios as it was to saunter up to the arcade cabinet when I was a teenager, plopping quarters in the machine for a few minutes of outrageously bloody action.
A whimsical and often hilarious story mode serves as the flesh to the old yet sturdy bones, recalibrating the nonsensical narratives from the games, films and comic book offshoots in an effort to shepherd them into something of a cohesive hard reset. Familiar faces abound, but they are back in altered forms that seem to be cruel-yet-appropriate twists of the multiverse.
Every bit as gleefully gory as the series' original, more controversial games, "Mortal Kombat 1" thrives on its willingness to take its bloodiness to the gory extremes. This is stuff that would make Itchy and Scratchy wince, and the game is all the more appealing for it.
While the franchise has never seemed to be able to climb to the upper echelons of the esports world, the combat in this edition seems balanced enough to make a play for that aspect. Online matches are immensely watchable, with wild momentum shifts and glorious combos and breakers that tend to fill matches with drama and suspense.
One irritating aspect of the game is the DLC content, which seems to be deliberately held back in order to charge gamers piecemeal for additional characters. Having to cough up an extra $8 for such a traditional character as Shang Tsung is wince-inducing.
Overall, though, "Mortal Kombat 1" does far more to please the crowds than it does to chase them up. I had a wide grin on my face throughout nearly all the time I spent with the game. Now that it stands alongside "Street Fighter 6" on my virtual shelf, it feels like the best of the 1990s fighting game renaissance is back in all the best ways.
Publisher provided review code.