Mortal Kombat 1 – Beta Impressions

On Friday 18th August, the Mortal Kombat 1 (MK1) beta released for those who pre-ordered the title.  Everything showcased thus far has me hooked, so it was necessary for me to experience what’s on offer. I’ve been impressed with the roster, graphics, innovations and overall project. But how does it feel not to just simply see the game but rather to experience it first-hand? 

Across the Beta, I played between 40-50 matches (online and offline combined). I played as each of the six available characters at least once, experimenting with all kinds of attacks and combinations. These six are Mortal Kombat (MK) mainstays Johnny Cage, Kitana, Lui Kang and Sub-Zero, alongside Kenshi and Li Mei (who hasn’t been playable in a Mortal Kombat game since Mortal Kombat: Armageddon – released all the way back in 2006). Four Kameo Fighters were also available within the Beta: Frost, Jax, Kano and Sonya Blade. 

I’ll confidently say these were the correct inclusions because of the combat variety collectively offered. Johnny Cage, for example, was straightforward to play as being a close-range character, whereas Sub-Zero is more complex to use yet offers a great mix of close and long-range moves. Kenshi offers a unique selling point in his stance changes; Kitana offers some ridiculously satisfying combos and so on. This in turn results in anybody being able to try the MK1 Beta and have a fun time. 

Gameplay itself is enjoyable with all six, although Johnny Cage is my favourite thus far. Combos are, as always, satisfying to complete, whereas special moves are often vibrant and flashy (especially those of Lui Kang). It feels as though there’s a wider range of combos too compared to that of Mortal Kombat 11 (MK11), although, I found myself using the same three or four on each character because of the limited timescale. 

Noticeably, there’s a greater emphasis on what’s being called ‘air combat’ in MK1. A significant portion of move lists are dedicated to air combat. While most of these moves are simply variations of ground attacks, options to take to the skies have never been more prominent. To coincide with this, other MK1 Beta players have stated how the game feels floatier – perhaps this is an attempt to make air combat more important to the core gameplay.  

However, gameplay buoyancy does partially slow the tempo, alongside character movements feeling almost leisurely. Rounds – and thus matches – are lasting longer in MK1, and while this is due to players still coming to grips with MK1, the game also lacks the speed of MK11 and, to a greater extent, Mortal Kombat X. 

If I’m honest, I’m far from reaching a verdict on Kameo Fighters. Alongside the emphasis on air combat, Kameos obviously create gameplay depth. Now, depth is a positive because it aids in replayability, especially 16 of them at launch. We also see the return of characters who didn’t quite make the cut on the main roster, potentially pleasing more MK fans in the process (Darrius fans exist?).  

Kameos will take time to wrap my head around as I found myself not using my Kameo in every match. Part of me wants to play MK1 without the Kameos entirely, at least occasionally. If NetherRealm Studios offer a game mode that removes Kameos – even at the expense of losing X-Rays – MK1 is more likely to appeal generally to MK fans, especially casual players

Slight tweaks are necessary prior to MK1‘s release date of 14th September. Gameplay will benefit from a higher tempo, and some character balances are necessary (looking at you, Johnny Cage). But this is what Betas are for. If NetherRealm Studios can listen to feedback and acknowledge the mixed response to Kameos, alongside slight concerns over gameplay, this will be a fantastic title! I’m wildly anticipating getting my hands on everything the newest MK instalment offers. MK1 is available to pre-order now. 

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