Mortal Kombat 1 Preview – Bloody good new beginnings

Mortal Kombat 1 Header

The long-awaited follow up to Mortal Kombat 11 is nearly upon us, as NetherRealm is making what is essentially a fresh start for the series in Mortal Kombat 1. We’re still a few months away from the game’s launch in September, but this past weekend gave us a chance to go hands on with the Mortal Kombat 1 stress test and sample its gore-filled fighting.

OK, so despite the name, this isn’t really a reboot. The big red reset button has been pushed, but the story also continues on from the end of Mortal Kombat 11, meaning that the universe has been reset with Fire God Liu Kang now in charge. So, for all intents and purposes, it’s a new beginning for the kombatants, but it’s not a simple retelling of the original story and remixes a bunch of plot points and character relationships.

As always in the Mortal Kombat world, things are not just all dandy and fine. Even in Liu Kang’s new world, the Kombatants are still out for each other’s blood and the pre-match dialogue between fighters makes it clear there’s a lot of beef to go around.

Over the weekend I got hands on with Mortal Kombat 1 in its first online stress test, trying out four of the announced main characters – Liu Kang, Sub-Zero, Kenshi and Kaitana – as well as three of the announced Kameo fighters – Kano, Sonya Blade and Jax.

Mortal Kombat 1 Kameo Fighters

It didn’t take long to realise the Kameo fighters are not just a bit part of MK1, they are the heart and soul of this new game. Long gone are the variations of each character, which in MK11 meant you had to learn many more match-ups than most other fighters out there. Now we’re back to there being only one version of each main character, but with variety now coming from being able to pick a second character to support you in battle. There’s an extensive roster to back you up, making for a staggering amount of combinations to learn and account for. The prospect is really exciting.

Kameo fighters are essentially assist characters tied to one button and a direction input to execute one of three special moves they have. There are two types of moves, Summons and Ambush specials. The Summon moves leave your character stationary while your Kameo fighter performs their move while the Ambush special can be used while moving, more importantly, in combos.

Already you can see that this system is going to be very deep, with a ton of combinations of characters that you can experiment with, adding different Kameo’s specials to further enhance the main roster’s combo potential. Even simple things like throwing your opponent and using Kano’s Kano Ball to punish an opponent pressing a button on wake up is just the tip of the iceberg of applications for the Kameos.

Within one day, players were already starting to figure out some disgusting combinations using the Kameos, and I can only imagine how good competitive MK1 is going to look after people have had time to experiment in the lab.

Mortal Kombat 1 Liu Kang

Out of the characters I played, my favourite had to be the Fire God Liu Kang, who maintains some of his spice from MK11 Aftermath – after getting his new powers. He felt really good to play as. He was familiar but also different from his previous iterations, coming with a few new tricks which will certainly catch people off guard.

Sub-Zero also felt fairly strong and seemed to be the go-to for most people online, with some good looking combos that certainly gave me a run for my money, while Kitana comes with lots of tricky set ups that will put the boot (or fan) to a lot of players with a bit of practice. If you’re not paying attention, she will punish you!

Finally, there was the returning Kenshi which really got me excited! After his absence in MK11, he’s now back and with a new stance to play around with. Summoning an Ancestor puts him in the Sento Stance, where he attacks alongside a ghostly apparition for some interesting combos. The only downside is that, while Kenshi’s ghost friend is out, he cannot summon a Kameo. It’s probably for the best not to let players double up, but still means that Kenshi alone has a ton of depth to explore which is exciting stuff indeed.

Mortal Kombat 1 Kenshi

Interestingly, Kameos also offer a slight layer of protection, but not in a way that you should really rely on. If they take damage, you also take damage, which isn’t great, but there’s the potential that this absorbed hit can get you out of a combo situation, so it’s a risk-reward situation.

This being said, it doesn’t mean that the fighters have no combo potential without Kameo involvement. Long combo strings are very much alive, especially with the ability to perform air combos. Putting your opponent into a high enough juggle state opens up a world of opportunities to perform some really fancy ariel combos off, and all the characters have access to launchers to get things going.

I was worried at first, as I got caught quite a bit in some long and damaging strings, but that’s where the Kombo breaks come into play. It will cost you all three bars of your special meter, but it will break your opponent’s pressure and give you some breathing room. You can even break Fatal Blows!

Yes, Fatal Blows are of course returning from MK11 and this time are more of a combo piece performed by your fighter and accompanying Kameo fighter. They’re just as brutal, graphic and massively satisfying to pull off, giving you a bit of a comeback when you are low on health. Like all comeback mechanics in fighting games, you can’t just throw them out there, with timing and patience being of the essence. A well timed Fatal Blow can have you go from losing a round to gaining a serious advantage.

Mortal Kombat 1 Stress Test

Lastly, being an online stress test, it would be remiss of me to mention how the netcode felt.

For a majority of the time, MK1 ran flawlessly. There were a few ropey matches here and there, but that could have been down to the fact my opponents were on wireless connections, as opposed to any major flaws in the netcode. In general, it was as smooth an experience as we are used to from NetherRealm games.

Freedom to express yourself, freedom to be creative and freedom to smash your opponents teeth in before ripping their hearts out, Mortal Kombat’s back and it’s bigger than ever. I can’t wait to dive deeper into the bloody fighting of Mortal Kombat 1 when it comes out in September.

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Consummate professional, lover of video games and all-round hero that can be found doing a podcast, writing about games and also making videos. Oh, I have saved the world 87 times and once hugged Danny Trejo. You're welcome.

1 Comment

  1. Not really been bothered with MK for a long time now. Might give this one a look at the first 4 were the best of the games. They kind of remind me of the Fast Saga, being dragged out to such an extreme place, a reset is probably the best way to get us games back in,

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