There's a lot that has been said and plenty still yet to be said about the story of Mortal Kombat 1. It's a new timeline, a new beginning, and completely new status quo for the long-running series. Story beats aside, though, how does it play? Shacknews had the opportunity to try the newest entry in NetherRealm's legendary fighting game franchise during this weekend's Summer Game Fest: Play Days.
Some folks viewed the Mortal Kombat 1 gameplay reveal from earlier this week and wondered if it looked and played the same as Mortal Kombat 11, which was released back in 2019. While the art style is similar to the one that has helped define the series in the 21st century, there are some major gameplay differences. The first thing to note is that variations are gone. Players will no longer have to choose between one of three different fighting styles and potentially learn three distinct versions of the same character. Instead, variations have been replaced by Kameo Fighters, which drastically change the typical MK formula.
The closest comparison to Kameo Fighters are the assist characters from the original Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes. Players can select their main fighter and a Kameo Fighter to assist in various ways. For this demo, the Kameo roster consisted of Sonya, Jax, and Kano (all in their old-school MK outfits), though the Kameo roster promises to be much greater. The Kameo's primary purpose is to act as a combo extender, juggling opponents and setting them up for bigger hits. They can also act as defensive options. That could mean their special moves be used as direct counters or anti-air strikes or they can be used as Breakers in exchange for part of the player's meter.
Kameos are integrated into just about every part of the fight, including throws, Fatal Blows, and even Fatalities. It is indeed possible to have the main fighter step aside and instead allow the Kameo Fighter to perform their signature finisher. In the case of the characters available during the demo, Sonya, Jax, and Kano all had their classic MK Fatalities on display with some obvious visual upgrades. Having said that, direct calls for the Kameo Fighter are restricted by a cooldown meter, so don't expect to spam assists throughout the fight.
That's not to say the individual main fighter won't have their own complexities. The returning Kenshi, in particular, will have a high learning curve, as he can summon forth his astral spirit to help in battle, and both can be controlled simultaneously. Casual players and newcomers likely won't be able to make the most of this ability, but more skilled fighters can wreak some dual havoc with these two versions of Kenshi. Thankfully, Kameo Fighters are disabled for Kenshi while his spirit is out, just so the opponent isn't totally outnumbered. Other fighters have some new tricks, as well. Liu Kang can shoot off a fire dragon across the screen, while Kitana has received some revamped fan attacks. Of course, many classic moves are available, too, like Sub-Zero's freeze and slide.
The one main item of note in Mortal Kombat 1 is that the stage design is on its way to setting a new standard for the series. Only two were available: The Fengjian Teahouse and Cage's Mansion. Both are far more detailed than any stage that has come in the series before, showing far more personality than Outworld Stage #5 or whatever other typical stages have come from the last few incarnations of the game. The Teahouse feels like a bar after last call with the Shaolin temples sitting in the background. Cage's Mansion is filled with Johnny Cage's various knick-knacks, an indoor pool, and a beautiful view of the big city in the background. The best part is that the player can opt for day or night, each showing off a different aspect of the game's lighting features.
This was a small taste of what we can expect from Mortal Kombat 1. However, the wait for the full version of the game will be a relatively short one. It's coming to PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch on September 19, which is just a little more than three months from the time of this post. That means fans should expect reveals to come at a frantic pace over that time. We'll follow news on this game along with everyone else, so be sure to bookmark our Mortal Kombat 1 character roster list to keep up with who's joining the fight.