Mortal Kombat 1

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: Fighting
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Release Date: Sept. 19, 2023


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Switch/PS5/XSX/PC Preview - 'Mortal Kombat 1'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 25, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Mortal Kombat 1 will introduce a reborn Mortal Kombat Universe that has been created by the Fire God Liu Kang, featuring reimagined versions of iconic characters as they’ve never been seen before.

Pre-order Mortal Kombat 1

Earlier in the summer, Netherrealm Studios and WB Games released a technical beta for Mortal Kombat 1 that was specifically to test network performance to ensure a smooth launch. It also gave players a glimpse into some of the new fighting mechanics, since this has received a good overhaul compared to previous titles. The impressions were very positive, and while a weekend was hardly enough time to put the title through its paces, the promise of another beta for those who pre-ordered the game was enough to continue the hype. The beta is here, and we checked it out on the day that the servers went online.

For those who didn't get a chance to check out the technical beta, MK1 retains the classic 2D fighting from the previous recent entries. The pacing is a little slower than before, as movies feel like they have some weight again, but the action remains nearly as fast as the modern incarnations. You can still spend some of your special meter to enhance special attacks, and you can still perform a Fatal Blow combo if you're running low on health.

There are two mechanics that have been removed this time out. The first is the gear system, which let you change the look of your fighter and gave them some unique special moves. Now you're guaranteed that the version of Sub-Zero you face, for example, has the same arsenal of moves as you. The second removal has to do with environmental interactivity. No longer can you pick up weapons in the environment or use things like vines or stumps to give yourself a boosted jump. You can still affect things like kicking around the automatic vacuum in Johnny Cage's apartment, but nothing will stun or hurt your opponent.

The replacement is the new Kameo system, which lets you call upon other fighters to perform a move for you. Much like the original Marvel vs. Capcom, these fighters come in at your command. While they can hit, they can also be hit to temporarily stop them from being called in again. You can use them to help you start or continue a combo string, and you can have them come in as a counter-parry to an opponent's attack. They help begin the Fatal Blow, and you can even have them perform their own Fatalities against opponents. The catch is that the pool of fighters in the Kameo role is different from the roster of playable fighters, so it means that some people's favorite fighters from the past won't be playable if they are in the Kameo group.

As for network performance, we didn't see any issues on the previous network test, and we didn't see anything this time, either. There are no hints of lag due to the slightly slower pace of the fights, and the menus go by quickly enough that you aren't waiting long to get into a match. You also get indicators to show what kind of connection everyone is using, along with ping, which is still informative in the genre. In short, there are no complaints in this area.

For the most part, the demo for the pre-order group is the same as the demo for the network test group. Multiplayer is online only, with all of the expected options from a modern fighting game. The single-player mode is one tower with a selectable difficulty level. There are two environments to fight in, with both having a day and night variant, and all of the playable and Kameo fighters from the previous technical test have returned to this build.

In terms of surface-level stuff, the changes between builds are decent considering that the roster was small in the technical test. For the Kameo fighters, Frost is the latest addition, and like past Mortal Kombat games have demonstrated, she isn't just a female Sub-Zero clone. She can still freeze opponents to give you a free hit, but she can also produce ice spikes and a ball that freezes opponents after it travels on a slow arc. Like Kano, she's a Kameo you'll use to cover the distance between you and your opponent, but she doesn't necessarily cover the full screen distance.

For actual playable fighters, two new selectable characters are available. The first is Li Mei, a character who was first playable in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance like Frost was. She can throw projectiles like a straightforward energy blast, but she does a bit of area control with a floating lantern that moves slowly enough that opponents don't want to jump for a while. Her other special moves concentrate on more acrobatic kicks for quick combos, but her highlight is a move that has her rushing toward her opponent delivering a flurry of hits. She's a solid addition and a nice evolution of a character that hasn't been seen since the 3D days on the PS2.

The second playable character is longtime series veteran, Johnny Cage. He still has a cocky swagger along with a crotch punch attack, but his green trails during special moves are gone. His green ball attack is also gone, replaced with a sunglass throw that has short range but lots of height — along with a laugh track when it hits. He's more evasive, with a good number of moves that allow him to dodge behind the player when he's about to get hit. He also has a second hype meter that allows him to execute more powerful moves when hit, making him more formidable if you're the type to use a meter to amplify moves.

There's one more month to go before its release, but Mortal Kombat 1 is already looking like another strong fighting game for this year. The back-to-basics approach with the combat system works well with the more modern pace of the series. The addition of the Kameo system makes the mechanics feel even deeper than before. The online performance is quite excellent, and the presentation hasn't faltered one bit. We can't wait to see the rest of MK1 next month when it launches on Sept. 19, 2023, for the Nintendo Switch, PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X|S.

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