Mortal Kombat 1 first look at Summer Game Fest 2023

Description: Ed Boon's on-stage gameplay reveal of Mortal Kombat 1, the latest entry in the storied fighting game franchise, was one of the stand-out moments of an otherwise subdued opening event. At a private event after the show, Senior Video Producer Brandon Quintana and UK Bureau Chief Mat Smith sat down to play some MK1 and came away impressed.We'll be at Summer Game Fest all week, including the Xbox Showcase on June 11th and Ubisoft Forward on June 12th, so stay tuned for more first looks and impressions from the show.

Video Transcript


BRANDON QUINTANA: Earlier this year in May, the latest entry in one of the most coveted and brutal fighting game franchises was announced-- "Mortal Kombat 1." And I had the bloody pleasure of getting my hands on it.

During the opening keynote of Summer Game Fest, NetherRealm Studios showed off what was, to me, the most intriguing game of the entire showcase-- "Mortal Kombat 1." Of course, I've been playing mortal Kombat since the 1990s, so I'm a bit biased here.

But the four-minute trailer showed off everything that gamers, and especially "Mortal Kombat" fans could have asked for-- gratuitous violence, an intriguing story, a bit of nostalgia, and to top it all off, the trailer was kicked off by one of the original creators of "Mortal Kombat," Ed Boon. And now having played the game myself, I can definitely say that the game lives up to every bit of hype that that showcase built up.

I didn't get to experience any of the story, but based on the intro briefing that led up to my playtest, the trailer, and of course, the end of the last "Mortal Kombat" game, "Mortal Kombat 11," Liu Kang now has control over the universe and is the god of fire.

Using his new power, he has reset the entire universe and everything you previously knew about "Mortal Kombat." Of course, every character available to play during my time with the game was a familiar face but reimagined. everything from their looks and even back story has now changed.

For example, as Ed Boon explained at Thursday's Summer Game Fest keynote, Sub-Zero and Scorpion, former rivals, are now brothers. During our time with the game, we were limited to Sub-Zero, Kenshi, Katana, and Liu Kang himself as playable characters. As I mentioned previously, all of these characters have a new look. And that new look is fantastic.

However, while the main playable roster has been refreshed, some characters bear a design much more reminiscent of the original "Mortal Kombat" trilogy from the '90s. These are cameo characters. Cameo characters are a new feature in "Mortal Kombat 1."

They're a separate roster of characters that stay dormant and offscreen until you call upon them by pressing the Cameo button. I'll admit, initially I was skeptical about how this new mechanic would fit into the already chaotic pace of "Mortal Kombat."

But they work into the gameplay quite seamlessly. They can be used offensively, defensively, and in the middle of combos. For example, during my test, I built up a small combo while holding the cameo button and then released it as soon as the combo ended.

This allowed me to charge Kano's Kano Ball and unleash it right at the end of my string of attacks, extending the combination. In case you're wondering, I did ask whether or not the cameo character's old school design played into the story in any way.

And the only real answer I was given was that the characters' likenesses are as Liu Kang remembered them. So I guess we can at least confidently say that the old timeline isn't being completely scrubbed from MK history even if it only lives on in Liu Kang's memories and, of course, our hearts.

My choice of cameo characters, much like the base roster itself, was limited. I got to choose from Sonya Blade, Jax Briggs, and Kano in all of their retro glory. It's worth mentioning, if only to stir up some new fan theories, that these characters have always had a history throughout the "Mortal Kombat" franchise.

Sonya and Jax were once professional partners, and Kano was always at the top of their list of enemies. Again, I'm probably looking too much into this, but it's fun to ponder the possibilities.

As for the controls, they felt as smooth as ever. I played plenty of "Mortal Kombat 11," and I felt right at home playing "Mortal Kombat 1." Freezing opponents, sliding on ice, and executing brutal fatalities with Sub-Zero felt intuitive from the start. And I believe it will for you too if you play the last entry in the series.

I do wish that we could have seen more of the story. But as most fighting games are, "Mortal Kombat 1" is tons of fun just playing the versus mode on its own. I'm glad to see fighting games still finding success today, especially one of my favorites in "Mortal Kombat." I think it's due, in large part, to NetherRealm's balance between feeding into their fanbase's nostalgia while still providing a polished and fresh experience.

The graphics were astounding. The gameplay was smooth. The playable stages looked beautiful, especially Johnny Cage's mansion, which you can see right here. And the fatalities were as brutal as ever. I personally can't wait to get my hands on the game again once it releases on September 19.

We'll be covering Summer Game Fest all week. So stay tuned. In the meantime, don't forget to follow Engadget on all platforms. And of course, subscribe to our YouTube channel for more news, reviews, and tech stuff.