With the September 19th release date fast approaching, NetherRealm Studios hosted a pre-order beta for the titular fighting series’ latest entry. How does this new fatality simulator and one-on-one punch-fest fare compared to its predecessors? Well, stick around to find out.
The Ace of Cage
Mortal Kombat 1’s beta duly delivered six kombatants to enter the fray with, with four Kameo fighters also available to summon at will. There were only two modes to try out: klassic tower and online versus. Thankfully, that’s all you really need, owing to the exploding heads, crunching uppercuts and flashy suplexes.
Of the limited roster available, I stuck predominantly with my personal main Sub-Zero and the hugely improved Johnny Cage. Johnny especially was already a favourite in the Versus meta, so look forward to plenty of ball-punches and selfie slams.
In fact, the half dozen fighters that featured all feel relatively reworked in a significant way. Which makes a lot of sense, given that this is a reset of the Mortal Kombat universe. Sub-Zero, Kitana, Johnny Cage, Kenshi and Liu Kang brought up the returning favourites, with Li Mei as an entirely new entrant.
Many of the special abilities that featured in previous titles like Sub’s sliding assault or Johnny’s rising elbow return, but core combos have been shifted substantially. Having played a lot of Sub-Zero in MK11, I wasn’t entirely sure I enjoyed all of the tinkering made, but it does give each fighter a fresh feel. Switching up the meta is always a fun puzzle to solve, too.
Much of the difference in gameplay comes down to the reworked combo systems, which we’d better talk about now.
The biggest change in Mortal Kombat 1 is the Kameo System. The beta hosted Frost, Sonya Blade, Kano and Jax as the presenting fighters to demonstrate the system, and well, I’m not totally convinced. At any point during a fight, you can summon your Kameo companion to hop in and perform a move.
They’re on a cooldown system so they can’t be spammed, thankfully. However, they feel a bit gimmicky and I’m not certain how good a replacement they are for the fighting styles left behind from MK’s 10 and 11. Moreover, they feel clunky to call in during a combo and accommodating them feels like it’s complicated the previously well-mapped control scheme.
Obviously, there’s only four Kameo fighters I got to try out, so the potential for some epic chemistry and duo-destruction is there. Summoning Kano to do his thunderous forward roll smash never really got old, in truth.
The other main difference is triggering enhanced moves, which has moved from R1 on delay to R2 while performing the special itself. Again, I didn’t have loads of time to practice this, but it didn’t feel quite as smooth as the system did in MK11. Many of the specials are also more focused on being combo-extenders or juggling starters, which is actually a boon, as they could be abused for victory in previous entries.
Probably more importantly than anything else, I had a lot of sadistic fun and primal pleasure from ripping people’s spines out and melting faces into metal. Mortal Kombat 1 retains the series penchant for gratuitous violence and no holds barred gore. Animations are smooth as butter and the graphical festival of blood and innards is charmingly horrific.
If anything, Mortal Kombat 1 will probably appeal most to upper-end players and purists. It’s a return to the series roots in both function and theme, which I think many will be pleased with. Will I miss the variations and styles of 10 and 11? Probably, on this evidence.
Having said that, as I watched Johnny Cage face-plant Kenshi into a celebrity plaque before lifting his half-removed face to take a selfie grinning ear-to-ear, I knew I was back in that comforting place of Mortal Kombat. Revamped character metas, a whole new set of systems to master and a return to purer roots make Mortal Kombat 1 an appealing proposition.
I’m excited to see how the rest of the roster fares compared to this small smattering and I’m keen to see how the community takes to the new Kameo system. Having plunged into a good 30-40 matches during the beta, I’m eager to get my ass handed to me and also dish out some serious pain for hundreds more in the game’s full release.
Mortal Kombat 1 is scheduled to launch for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC (Steam and Epic Games Store) on the 19th of September. Brutalies galore.
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Disclaimer: In order to complete this preview, we were provided with a code for the game’s pre-order beta. For our full policy, please go here.
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