MORTAL KOMBAT 1 [Beta Review] – From NetherRealm to Comic-Con, IT HAS BEGUN.

Mortal Kombat 11 was a fantastic time. It’s Krazy to think that it’s already been over 4.5 years since the critically-acclaimed release of the last MK title, and there was only one way to follow up on all that greatness: start over again.

Thankfully, Mortal Kombat 1 also serves as a sequel of sorts following the triumph of now Fire GOD Liu Kang over the “Keeper of Time” Kronika — with the help of a very selfless Raiden, now mere mortal saint. Kang rewrites the universal timeline (and, no, I’m not talking about that Kang — however ironic in the name) and delivers peace to the 6 realms, and ay’thang in MK land is reset, refreshed and ready to Kontinue…

That brings us to a seemingly perfect amalgomation of sequel and reboot and kharacters from games like MK4, MK: Armageddon and MK: Deadly Alliance have returned. I’m excited since I Kompletely missed the MK lore from games four through eight and all the spin-offs in between. Tanya, Li Mei, Darrius, Khameleon, and Kountless fighters from the 3D era are all new to my eyes, but the fact they have a history with longtime diehards makes them all the more fascinating.

Are you playing the Mortal Kombat 1 Beta? In a smart “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” vibe, MK1 plays so much like MK11 and that pleases me deeply. Enter the all-new Kameo system and now we have a shake of the dice that doesn’t shake up the quality. But the Kameo system does shake up the balance, and there’s no doubt it’s going to take even the Maximillion Dudes, EVO Pros and GVO Joes plenty of practice, especially since the fighter movement feels slower here than in MK11 but the Kombo system is so much faster. Strange dichotomy there.

For those not in the know, Kameo fighters are just that; they don’t completely tag in like Tekken Tag or Marvel vs. Capcom and your Kameo kombatants are called in for a special assist. There is a timed limit to using your Kameo again, so there is definite strategy behind the helping hands & feet. Chuck fire as Liu from the bottom and call upon Sonya to soar across the skyline with her Square Wave kick. Good luck avoiding either. Enter the returning Kenshi with his trusted spirit slicing low and throw a Kano kniving high into the mix and you’re basically *&^#%$! Each Kameo has 3 special moves with the addition of a charge or cancel.

Speaking of GVO, I’ve hosted plenty of hotly Kontested gaming sessions with buddies and our most recent prime time fighter choices have been Kombo-heavy (Guilty Gear -Strive-, Street Fighter 6, King of the Fighters XV, etc.). Mortal Kombat once again has that element in spades with Mortal Kombat 1! In the Beta, you can also change your Kontrol settings so your Kameo can appear with either bumper button your little Kano’s klenching heart desires. The timely Kameo can help you juggle the opposition with bombastic kicking and puncing sequences (i.e. you can Kombo Kitana’s fan blades with OFFSCREEN BLADES from Kano; insane!). Timing is definitely going to be the throughline in both MK1‘s narrative and gameplay.

Graphically, Mortal Kombat 1 Kontinues the superb visual performance of MK11 with pure development for current/now-gen (i.e. PS5, Xbox Series). Kinda. There is a Nintendo Switch version Koming later and I don’t see how that is possible, but I’m definitely Kurious. So far we only have two stages to gawk at, but the new Johnny Cage Mansion setting is gorgeous in all its Malibu sunset view glory — the beautiful lighting, the moving fire pit, the windy palm trees, the bobbing ducky float in the pool, flocks of seaguls in the background, traffic on the PCH. It’s Kolorful, and even has a Day/Night sequence.

Another thing super worthy of note: no more Kharacter variations. While I loved learning the different versions of, say, Sub-Zero and altering mah dude with upgrades and Kustom looks, I’m cool with learning THE ONE.  In MK11, many of my MK fighters were turned into DC superheroes/villains and it was a blast. But with NetherRealm deciding to keep things simplified this time around with their Kombatants, it’s Klear that what you’re getting in MK1 is the best possible version of every fighter on the roster.

Finally, my biggest disappointment with the Beta isn’t the slower movement or Kameo spamming or netcode or anything game-related, really… it’s the fact that, barring the inclusion of Li Mei and Johnny Cage, this Beta is literally the same as the Stress Test from one month ago. Major bummer. My excitement for the Beta almost had me throwing another GVO! You Kan’t Kouch Ko-Op. The only options are the Towers and Online play, which I’m very MID at so I just take turns with the fighters in the towers. Yeah. Li Meh is right.

Gameplay/Visuals/Music = 4.75/5
Options/Kharacters = 2/5

Overall = 3.25/5 NetherRealm Lights.

Some of the news from the Resetting Mortal Kombat: A New Beginning With Mortal Kombat 1 SDCC panel held a few weeks ago:

MK1 spurns an intriguing new narrative that sees former friends now bitter enemies Li Mei and Tanya as friends now turned foes, with new Edenia, now princess of Umgadi, Mileena and Baraka now affected by a mutant-disabling disease called Tarkat. Series creator Ed Boon referred to this Tarkat as “Hulking out”, with Baraka suffering from this viral detriment longer than the still kinda sexy Mileena.

-More narrative beats in the panel included a lengthy clip that expaanded upon the Lin Kuei trailer, showcasing Smoke going full on trios/six-man tag with Scorpion and Sub-Zero. That said, I don’t expect this dream team to last forever, especially with Subzy wanting to lead EarthRealm rather than defend it, the old tradition style that Scorp prefers. Smoke chose a hot stove plate over a frozen TV dinner with these idealogies, so Kount me intrigued.

-Speaking of story, Boon and Kompany promised a new, far more expansive single player experience for “those who get sick of getting their butt kicked online”. We already have the Kampaign Tower experience, which you can try now in the current Beta (if you pre-ordered and/or dealt with shenanigans from some of WB’s retail partners *cough* GameStop *cough*), and this SP mode should also be different than the usual Story Kampaign.

-If you haven’t been living under a molten lava shrine the past few weeks, then you already know about the Kombat Pack reveal with the likes of Omni-Man (voiced by J.K. Simmons!), Highlander and Peacemaker joining the Premium & Kollector’s editions of the game. Quan-Chi and Ermac are the less celebrated but no less important additions to the Pack.

-Joining Darrius and Khameleon as Kameos is the wildly popular Goro, back from the dead of MK9, and Ferra, Johnny Cage (yes, classic JC), Mavado & Tremor. As far as the armored Shao Kahnesque Reiko and the Minotaur Motaro, both shown in the clip concerning Li Mei and Liu Kang, it’s YTBD if they will be full-fledged fighters or Kameos moving forward.

-Lastly, The Living Forest will make a return. Stage Fatalities are unknown at this point, but Boon confirmed that we will see some “alities” — be it the returning Babalities, Animalities, Friendships, etc.

SDCC Panel = 4.5/5 Whoopsies.

-Travis Moody