mortal kombat 1

Preview: Mortal Kombat 1’s Kameos Bring a Ton of Creativity to Each Match

Mortal Kombat 1 brings back some familiar, bloody warriors in a battle for gory supremacy. With last weekend’s Online Stress Test, players were able to get in the ring with these old friends and see how they’d handle in this newest iteration of the long-standing series. While you’ll be right at home with the usual decapitations and brutal beatings, it’s the Kameo System that offers to bring something new to the table. If you like combos, you’re really going to enjoy what this system has to offer.

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The Stress Test gave us four characters to try out: Liu Kang, Kenshi, Sub-Zero, and Kitana. While deeply saddened by the lack of Scorpion in this trial, I didn’t stay that way for long. The four characters demonstrated a great variety among their moves, offering familiar strikes and special abilities that will have long-standing fans jumping right back in. I can still fling icy blasts without a problem after all these decades, thankfully. Kenshi’s puppet-like summons, Kitana’s traps and fan attacks, and Liu Kang’s hot hands all felt great and gave some wide variety in how they played, too.

While I love freezing people and making use of Sub-Zero’s slide in Mortal Kombat 1, it was Kenshi who I found myself leaning towards. The ability to summon in a second swordsman (called an Ancestor) who would attack while I was striking the opponent made for some potent pressure. I was eventually lured away from him with Kitana’s various traps that I could lay and then juggle foes into, though. But then, I just found it so satisfying to do Liu Kang’s special kicks and fire blasts. Something about the weight of those impacts and the sound they made kept making me want to select him for the next match. I usually lean towards one or two characters when I start a fighting game, but here, all four felt really fun right off.

That’s no wonder, as they all had vast movesets you could link together into cool stuff. While the game shows you a fairly basic set of specials if you go into the Kommand Menu, you can go into a more in-depth version that lists all of the moves, basic attacks, and enhanced strikes you can do as well. Each character has a fair amount of normal moves you can play around with, and this move list laid it all out with information about where each attack would strike and how much damage it would do. You can even look further into frame data as well so you can really dig into what’s possible.

mortal kombat 1

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That’s not surprising given that this is what a move list is used for, though. However, coming to Mortal Kombat 1 off of Street Fighter 6, it’s a shame to just see this listed as static typed information in a window. I know this is only a stress test so more modes and information may be coming, but Street Fighter 6‘s presentation in their move list made it less daunting and better-explained for someone new. Another gap in the Kommand Menu is that, while it shows you how to do the Fatalities (the ones shown were fairly easy – a welcome thing), it doesn’t show the distance you need to be from the opponent for it to work. I could only test this so much, but some characters really had to be a specific distance away, and I had to guess at that to pull it off.

Once you get past that hurdle, though, you can put together some great combos in this game. The characters have a lot of attacks that feel like they link well into one another. It’s fairly easy to launch someone and follow after them with a quick dash or hop into the air. The timing felt a bit more forgiving than what I’ve been experiencing with Street Fighter 6, which made me feel like I could get a bit more creative with what moves I strung together. Even with little direction, I felt I could start to put combo strings together myself.

The Kameo system really increases that creativity in Mortal Kombat 1, though. Kameos are characters you can summon into the match to do an attack. You had access to Sonya, Jax, and Kano during the Stress Test. Now, I thought this kind of system would be neat, but nothing ground-breaking when I looked into it. Sure, most assists let you do cool combo stuff in fighting games, but here, you can really amp up your capabilities with them.

Take Sonya, for instance. Each Kameo can do a couple of moves. Sonya can do her Square Wave, which strikes in the air. It’s a cool way to cover the air while you attack on the ground. However, you can also do it when you’ve juggled your foe into the air, giving you an extra hit and enough time to link a move that might not have otherwise reached your foe in time. You can also call her in to use her Energy Rings to blast foes from a distance, or snag them with a Leg Grab on wakeup if they’re trying to pressure you while you’re on the ground. She has so many utilities in different instances, and all you have to do is hit R1 and a specific direction to make use one of those aforementioned attacks (R1 for Square Wave, R1 and Forward for Energy Rings, R1 and Back for Leg Grab).

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Each of the Kameos gives you a variety of options in different situations in Mortal Kombat 1. The best part is that you can use them multiple times in a match. You start with a full circle bar of usage, and each call-in costs half a bar. It recharges fairly fast, so you can start right in with using your Kameos from round start and call them in fairly frequently throughout a match. They give you a lot of extra ability to lengthen combos, get out of trouble, or just blast people at a distance when they might not expect it of your character. And given how generous the game is with how many times you can call them, they’re definitely meant to be a core part of the experience.

Because of those abilities, it feels like you can get incredibly creative with how you fight. As they can fill in gaps with your character, you can try some more aggressive plays that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. You can put together some wackier combos and then call in some support to keep them going. They just add a quick ability to bring something new to your character’s game plan, and even with the three characters in this Stress Test, you can see how they can bring a lot of new possibilities to each character. It has me excited for what will be possible in the full version.

It’s also going to look incredible. Mortal Kombat 1 feels like one of the most colorful entries in the series. It’s vibrant and striking from the forest opening to the floaties in the pool in the background of one of the stages. The characters themselves look fantastic, with Sub-Zero’s icy abilities really stealing the show. The chunks of icicles bursting from your frozen foes show an incredible attention to detail that tells me the full game will be looking sharp.

That cheerful brightness hasn’t taken away from any of the gore, though. You’ll still be beating people bloody during the match, as the characters get pretty mangled as they get stomped each round. Fatalities are the natural extension of this focus on bloody beatdowns, though, and they don’t disappoint. Sub-Zero cuts his foe in half with an ice blade, kicks the upper torso around backwards, and then lets them fall, head-first, on the ice blade embedded in the ground. It looks impressive, although if you are finding you have a weaker stomach for gore, the hyper-realism in the Fatalities may start to turn you off at this point. You can call in your Kameo to do their Fatality if you feel that your own is too gross, though. Or vice versa.

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Mortal Kombat 1 also brings back Fatal Blows, the long X-Ray Style attacks from the previous few games. While I used to think these were pretty cool, nowadays I feel they take too dang long to execute. Ten seconds of watching your bones get broken is just a bit too long for me, but being able to do huge damage once per match makes for a heck of a comeback (you can do Fatal Blows once you are at low health). This time around, the game has you AND your Kameo each do their own Fatal Blow, so you get double the beatdowns if you enjoy them. I’m sure you’ll definitely appreciate the damage they do when you’re in trouble. Maybe less so when you’re on the receiving end. Either way, though, they take AGES to execute.

As for the online, matches happened quickly and with minimal fuss. I was able to get in several matches with a variety of different skill levels. I had zero issues with the online (except for the savage beatings I received here and there). At this stage, though, it was honestly cool to see how the other players were using the characters and Kameos together to do neat stuff, so I was happy even as my teeth were getting punched out of my head. It feels really fast, intuitive, and creative with all the mechanics coming together, and it made the solid online great fun.

If you’re getting totally steamrolled in Mortal Kombat 1, you do have the ability to do a breaker move. It’ll cost you, though. To break a combo, you press forward and block. However, it will cost you all three of the bars on your meter (which you normally use to enhance your specials) as well as your Kameo bar. This move can save your life, to be sure, but it is EXTREMELY expensive as a defensive option. When characters can juggle you for ages with creative Kameo attacks, it feels like there’s not much you can do about it except try not to get in that situation next time. It’s prohibitively expensive to break the combos, so I guess the only way out is to be aggressive right back. Which will make for some interesting matches, no doubt.

Mortal Kombat 1 looks fantastic, visually and creatively. I’m stoked about the capabilities that the Kameo system offers the game. You can really fill in some gaps, add some surprises to your pressure, or just link all kinds of wild moves together for better combo damage. It will be really interesting to see the various ways people bring it all together once the full game releases. I just hope that the tutorials in the game are built to really help newcomers to the game, as I am spoiled by Street Fighter 6‘s ability to teach things clearly and effectively these days. Overall, though, it’s looking like it will be a solid entry in the series, and one whose combos will be a real sight to see.

Mortal Kombat 1 is due to release on September 19, 2023 on Ps5, Xbox Series X/S, the Nintendo Switch, and PC

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Joel Couture
Joel is a contributor who has been covering games for Siliconera, Game Developer, IndieGamesPlus,, Warp Door, and more over the years, and has written book-length studies on Undertale, P.T., Friday the 13th, and Kirby's Dream Land.