After the completion of the rebooted Mortal Kombat trilogy (9, X, 11), Netherrealm Studios gives the new game in the series the symbolic number "1", wanting to send a message to all of us that the next chapter is also a new beginning, both in terms of story and for several gameplay elements. So let's see if Mortal Kombat 1 is indeed a fresh take on fighting games or if it's more of an evolution of a clearly successful formula. Hint: it's more of the latter, though I don't necessarily count that as a negative.
I'll try to avoid too many spoilers in describing the plot because it's likely that there are a lot of readers who didn't get into MK11 and want MK1 to be their introduction or return to the series. Speaking vaguely then, after the events of MK11's story mode the Mortal Kombat universe was rebooted and as a result several of the protagonists now have a different destiny. Things seem to be generally running smoothly and peacefully in this new universe, until a mysterious intervention of unknown nature and origin sends several of the series' familiar villains back into the path of villainy. So once again the forces of earth realm must prepare to defend king and country through mortal combat.
As I hadn't had the chance to play Mortal Kombat 11, I read the review of George Dempegiotis on the site to see what state the series was in before the current reboot. So I'm happy to report that many of the elements that George praised in the previous game apply to the new one as well. Among them, the wealth of singleplayer content (a full campaign of sufficient length, many different towers, the new tabletop-like invasion mode that will be updated in seasons) and the generally solid and enjoyable multiplayer. Most of the online matches I played progressed without any problems, disconnections or lag, and there is always of course the option of local multiplayer to fight your friends. The graphics and sound are at a very high level, especially on the combat stages which are gorgeous, and the great thing is that the battles have a smooth and stable framerate at Very High details even on my modest system (laptop with 8-core AMD CPU, 16GM RAM, RTX 3060 with 6GB VRAM).
Unfortunately, the almost completely positive impressions are distorted by the fact that Mortal Kombat 1 is another game that was released without being completely ready and as a result in many parts it lacks polish, the attention to detail that makes you feel that you bought a quality and complete product. None of the issues I'll mention below directly affect gameplay so their effect on the final score will be limited, but it's disappointing to see problems remaining in the final version that would have been perfectly obvious through a last cursory check before launch. At some point publishers will have to understand that they are doing an injustice to years of hard work of their developers when they don't give them the time for a final "clean-up" before launch.
So, some of the (minor, but) numerous issues I noticed were the following: the EULA (End-user license agreement) acceptance screen appears and I have to accept it every time I run the game. Almost all game modes pull data from Netherrealm's servers and sometimes those servers are slow to respond, resulting in menus that are sometimes slugglish. Fatalities, brutalities and cinematics continue to run at 30 fps. During story mode, when switching from real-time gameplay to a cutscene (before or after a battle) there is always a big stutter. 1-2 online matches never started, leaving me staring at a black screen. There is no cross-platform multiplayer and, finally, I had four crashes to desktop over the course of about 20 hours of gameplay.
All of the above, combined with the fact that the character customization is not as developed as in MK 11 and with the absence of Krypt, which was one of the strong points of the previous game, means that Mortal Kombat 1 has taken an overall half-step backwards compared to its predecessor, despite the significant improvement in graphics and the always fun gameplay. It's not a worse game overall, instead in gameplay the community consensus says that progress has been made, but as a complete package I'd say it's somewhat less rich and rather less polished. Given how much fun I had playing it I still strongly recommend it, if you love fighting games then certainly Mortal Kombat 1 is a great choice. I would just suggest waiting a bit until the first patches clean up the more obvious issues.