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Mortal Kombat 1 Hands-On Preview Reveals More Core Gameplay Twists Than You Might Think

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Between Kameos and air combos, this new Mortal Kombat is a creative fighter's dream.

Mortal Kombat 1 is being billed as a fresh start for the franchise's story. The first two trailers--which highlight the Elder God Liu Kang's brand-new vision for the world he protects--give us a taste of these changes: Scorpion and Sub-Zero are now blood brothers, Mileena is the ruler of Edenia as opposed to her sister Kitana, and the list goes on. After getting some hands-on time with MK1 at Summer Game Fest Play Days, it's become clear the "fresh start" also applies to the game's core mechanics, as a few new elements add a layer of creativity that was sorely lacking in MK11.

This new creative push starts with an emphasis on air combos, where each character can now follow up on an opponent after certain launchers and continue their offense push. Most air combos are two or three extra hits, but some of them will bounce an opponent off of the wall or the ground--for example, as Sub-Zero, I was allowed to continue a combo once he landed from his jump and keep piling on damage.

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Now Playing: Mortal Kombat 1 Focuses On Offense - Mortal Kombat 1 Impressions

Every character in the game has new aerial tools like these, and some of the results were jaw-dropping. Kitana has a notably flashy sequence where she's able to use her fan to not only launch the opponent, but keep them in the air to give her an extra beat to attack. The new focus on aerial attacks opens up a lot of new possibilities, but when paired with the other major addition to the fighting scheme, things get really wild.

Kameo characters--assist-only characters who act as support when summoned--already look like they can completely change the way MK is played. The SGF demo had three Kameo fighters available: Sonya Blade, Jax, and Kano. All three were wearing the costumes in which they debuted in the series--Sonya and Kano in the first MK, Jax in MK2--and each of their movesets reflected their abilities in those games.

On paper, the Kameo mechanic sounds like the extra assist characters in Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes. In that game, a third character would join your team, they were summoned by a specific button sequence, and they had a limited number of uses before being disabled for the remainder of a match. Kameos improve on that idea in two key ways: First, each Kameo has three moves which depend on the direction on the D-Pad being pressed when they're summoned. Second, they are not beholden to a limited number of uses, though there is a cooldown timer, which means they can't be constantly spawned.

What's particularly impressive is how seamlessly these Kameo characters can be inserted into a combo, whether it's to extend it or end it with extra flair. Kano's Cannonball, for example, can be delayed by holding the button down until the exact moment it's needed, while Sonya's Square Wave Punch can keep an air combo going by allowing the character she's supporting to land and jump back up for a reset. As both the main and Kameo rosters continue to grow, experimentation and creativity will be key to finding the perfect pairing, and the idea of exploring all of those options already has our gears turning.

After getting some hands-on time with MK1 at Summer Game Fest Play Days, it's become clear the "fresh start" also applies to the game's core mechanics, as a few new elements add a layer of creativity that was sorely lacking in MK11.

We've been talking about new features so far, but this wouldn't be a Mortal Kombat without Fatalities, and MK1 definitely delivers the disgusting goods. The four playable characters all sported some gruesome death moves--Kenshi's finishing move, for instance, sees him force his sword down his opponent's throat while it rotates like a drill before he cuts them in half. What's more, since the Kameos were in classic costumes, they also used classic Fatalities when summoned. Sonya had her Kiss of Death, Kano applied his Heart Rip, and Jax used his uncanny ability to grow to enormous heights and stomp on the helpless foe. If the bloodier aspects of Mortal Kombat are what appeal to you, there's plenty of more gore in store here.

Looking back at our time with the demo, the most astounding thing about Mortal Kombat 1 is how much this new emphasis on being creative in combat shines through the gameplay, even in such a limited setting. We only had access to four main roster characters and three Kameos in a 30-minute hands-on demo, and even in that limited time we were able to find some really cool kombos both with and without Kameos. When the game launches on September 19, and we see the totality of both the main and Kameo rosters, Mortal Kombat 1 will become a realm of infinite possibilities, which is exactly what a fresh start needs to succeed.

Jason Fanelli on Google+

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Jason Fanelli

Jason Fanelli is a games writing vet of 15 years with bylines at The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, MMORPG.com, Game Informer, and more. He also produces and hosts the Cheesesteaks and Controllers podcast for Fox Sports Radio in Philadelphia. Ever see that viral Nintendo 64 Eagles jersey from 2014? That's Jason.

Mortal Kombat 1

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