Impressions : Mortal Kombat 1 : Stressed to Impress

Mortal Stress Test Weekend has come and gone. Sure, it doesn’t ring quite like the infamous Mortal Monday, but this past weekend will still hold some Mortal Memories. Let’s get this straight: the game is awesome. It plays exactly how you would want a Mortal Kombat title to play, with the speed of the action lying somewhere between MKX and MK11. Two things make all of the difference this time, however, namely Kameo Fighters and freeform creativity (kreativity?).

First, the Kameo Fighters work like assist-style characters from games like the Marvel vs. Capcom series and Dragon Ball FighterZ. After choosing your main character and your Kameo Fighter, your selected combatants work as a team as you come up with interesting ways to blend their moves together, keeping your opponent thinking about which angle you may be trying to exploit. As your opponent also puts their Kameo Fighter through the paces, bringing them out whenever they wish with only a short cool down timer preventing their appearance, the chaos that ensues on the screen is quite a spectacle. There are times when it can seem a bit too overwhelming, but given that each Kameo Fighter only has a few moves in total, the strategy in countering relies less on what they can do and much more on the situations set up by your opponent before bringing them in.

Those opportunities showcase a portion of the second major difference in the fighting system. Mortal Kombat certainly has had several variations throughout its history, from the stoic “dial-a-combo” system (the remnants of which are still shown in the shorter combo strings present for each character in modern games, including MK1) to switchable fighting styles and even weapon utilization. But, while there were absolutely some unique combos and situational styles that players came up with in the previous games, nothing felt as “freeform” to me as what I’ve played in the MK1 Stress Test.

A lot of this comes down to the way each move performs, granted more specific utility in unique situations than in past MK games. Moves that simply went from east to west across the screen may now launch upward a bit, granting both some anti-air protection and creative combo opportunities since the victim will be left hanging off of their feet. Spacing and screen control have been given more consideration as well, an example of which can be seen with Liu Kang who no longer simply throws a fireball in the air, but a barrage of projectiles that would look perfectly at home in a Dragon Ball episode. Each move has much more depth than before, especially given the enhanced variants of the special moves which often change more about the move than simply added damage. While some aspects of this could be said about previous MK games, the creative windows you are afforded in this battle system allow for some truly engaging ideas and combo execution.

While weaving around the battles, you will be in awe of just how incredible everything looks, sounds, and feels. The attention to detail, and the spectacle therein, is a feast for the senses. Because this is a reboot from the dark “everyone is dying and the world is being destroyed” aesthetic from where the story was stuck for its past several iterations, MK1 begins anew with vibrant locations which are full of life and wondrous potential.

The two stages on offer feature a bar scene where the environment seems “normal,” with patrons who are enjoying their time thinking about anything but the end of the world or some cataclysmic event tearing the whole thing apart. No, it’s a relaxing location for commerce and entertainment, with space for a fight to break out for those with a score to settle. The other location, it turns out, is one of the most beautiful you’ll ever see in a fighting game, and it’s one that is sure to be an iconic stage going forward. It seems that Johnny Cage has done very well for himself this time around, and his stage is a look inside of his extravagant home which overlooks a city on a bay. You’ll be forgiven for taking a punch or kick here and there while you study the intricacies of the background, featuring a slew of details such as a swimming pool in the middle complete with a pink flamingo floaty.

Compelling and idyllic stages aren’t all you will witness, however. The characters themselves have all sorts of details in their animations, and the special effects ramp it all up. Sub-Zero can fully encase his opponent in ice, but he also has moves that simply add a subtle blast of chill, affecting the characters in a slighter manner. Liu Kang can do his “Fatal Blow” (a desperate Super Move available when health is low, allowed once per match), and, after its use, the Mortal Kombat dragon logo will appear burned into the ground where the victim lands with the symbol staying there for the rest of the match. Little details like this are prevalent throughout, even in the blood and gore which looks both excessively comical as it is freed from players and incredibly realistic as it spreads and congeals on the ground.

Everything else is on point, too, from the sounds of gruesome blows and screams to the music, which is more hopeful and mystical in this rebooted reality. The UI also looks attractive, with minimalist and easy-to-understand on-screen battle elements along with menus that provide detailed information on the available moves and “kombos,” including a section dedicated to Kameo moves. And, of course, there are details on Fatalities.

There is only one Fatality listed for each of the four selectable characters in the stress test (Sub-Zero, Kenshi, Kitana, and Liu Kang), but you can also perform a Fatality with any of the three Kameo Fighters (Jax, Sonya, and Kano). It was a nice surprise to see these revamped versions of the Kameo Fighters’ Fatalities of old. Regarding the new Fatalities, however, they are an interesting mix featuring a high level of detail and quality. Netherrealm has a knack of coming up with some interesting showcases of gory demise, even with years of previous efforts exhausting a great number of creative kills, so I’m looking forward to what will come in the full release.

During the stress test, the single player tower, featuring four matches, worked perfectly well, as expected, though some infinite combos rear their heads and certainly need addressed. The online portions, however, were a mixed bag, to say the least. Frequent disconnects happened, and it was difficult to know whether it was my internet or theirs that may have failed, or if they simply quit (though it was fun to see that “Quitality” is still a feature). I’m sure the servers will fare better during the actual release; this is a stress test, after all, and issues like this are exactly the reason for it.

Also, being a stress test demo, there is no mention or glimpses of other modes, such as the Krypt, Story, or anything else. I have a feeling this one will be packed with some surprising extras, but we’ll have to wait to even know everything that will make up the entire catalog. For now, I’m just having so much fun with what IS here that I’ll be quite sad once the stress period is over. The September 19th release date is not that far away, though, so we’ll have to be content with these Mortal Memories and the snippets of info that Ed Boon and friends share in the mean time, until those sweet September days are upon us.

Mortal Kombat 1 releases on September 19th with early access releasing on September 14th via the special editions. Stay tuned for our full coverage and review!

By Patrick Shields

I love the outdoors as well as the indoors, and when I'm not gaming, writing, or being musical, you can find me outside, climbing trees and getting lost off the road less traveled. It is a known fact that I've been blessed with the greatest kids in the world and an incredible wife who is an awesome nurse and my superhero. I've played games on nearly every system ever made and regularly go back to the classic games that helped raise this fine fellow. When asked which system or computer I prefer, there's only one answer: yes.

Let Us Know What You Think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts

%d bloggers like this: