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Everything you need to know before playing as Johnny Cage in MK11

Since Ed Boon and his developer NetherRealm Studios officially revitalized Mortal Kombat, a series Boon co-created back in the '90s, MK and the Injustice series have become staples in the fighting game community. Known for their brutal, hard-hitting brand of combat, these two series have put NetherRealm on the map and have continually made for smart, fun, sometimes hilarious stories for nearly a decade.

With the release of Mortal Kombat 11, there's little doubt that the new iteration will continue the legacy Boon created so many years ago. One of the key representations of that legacy, rooted in comedy and a vast display of ridiculousness, is Johnny Cage. The actor-turned-martial arts expert has been part of the MK series since its inception, and he continues to be vital to the story that NetherRealm has written. As you likely know from a recent reveal video, Cage is back in full force and he's ready to help defend Earthrealm while adding some new moves to his arsenal. So let's take a look at everything you need to know before playing as Johnny Cage in MK11.

From Hollywood actor to defender of Earth

As a fan favorite and one of the seven original Mortal Kombat characters, it's no surprise that Johnny Cage is back for MK11. But how did he get to his current status, as a de facto defender of Earth? Not so many years ago, Cage was little more than a struggling action movie star with a penchant for doing his own stunts. Well, after entering the Mortal Kombat Tournament to prove his proficiency as a martial artist, he and future wife Sonya Blade formed a pivotal alliance to help defend Earthrealm against enemies from the Outworld and Netherrealm.

Years later, Cage and Blade divorced, but not before they had a daughter, Cassie Cage. Despite the divorce, the two remained on good terms and continued to work together, leading a special forces team tasked with protecting Earthrealm. After the team defeated Shinnok and trapped the Elder God in an amulet — a flashback that opened MKX — the story jumped forward, revealing two new enemies: Quan Chi and D'Vorah. Together, they planned to free Shinnok, which comes to fruition later in X. Cage was captured and nearly killed by D'Vorah, but Cassie rescued him and also defeated Shinnok. With the Cage family reunited and its bond strengthened, the team was successfully able to defend Earthrealm from its enemies once more.

Johnny Cage: the "Amplified" version

When using Johnny Cage — or any other character for that matter — you'll have opportunities to trigger Amplify moves. These moves, introduced for Mortal Kombat 11, are essentially powered-up versions of special attacks that utilize the in-game meters. When your meter bars are full, you can unleash Cage's Amplify attack, basically an EX move from past games. In a video that NetherRealm showed off recently, the developers illustrated an example using Cage and his, well, genital uppercut attack. The regular version is just a single hit to the bathing suit area, while the amped-up version sends an opponent airborne and allows you to turn it into a combo.

Originally, NetherRealm's design for these attacks was a bit more complicated. The initial version, shown off during the January reveal, forced players to memorize unique commands for each different amplified attack. This caused some backlash, because it added more memorization to an already lengthy move list. Boon and the dev team have since simplified this, allowing you to trigger the moves with just the "Interact" button — by default, the right bumper on controllers.

Introducing: Fatal Blows

If you're a fighting game fan, you've likely encountered stronger, more-skilled opponents throughout the years. With your back against the wall, and your character's life bar dwindling ever so quickly, you likely wished for some kind of escape — a last-ditch effort to help snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. In Mortal Kombat 11, you'll get that wish. During the game's reveal, NetherRealm outlined a new type of move known as a Fatal Blow. This move, which essentially replaced the X-Ray moves from past MK games, is a one-time use special that you can activate only after your health dips below 30%.

For Johnny Cage, his Fatal Blow is a reminder to fans that, despite his slightly more serious demeanor, NetherRealm hasn't taken all the comedy out of the character. Cage's bone-crushing combo ends with him pulling out a familiar-looking gold statue, cracking it over his opponent's skull, and then jamming the remnants of it into the torso. The Academy definitely didn't have that in mind when it designed the prestigious award.

A new fatality

It wouldn't be a true Mortal Kombat experience without gruesome, gratuitous Fatalities. The finisher has been a staple of the MK series for 15 years and a feature beloved by fans. So it should come as no surprise that NetherRealm's latest in the series is continuing on with the Fatality tradition with some new entries in the over-the-top finishing move collection.

During the character video for Johnny Cage, the team showed off a new Fatality, one with a nod to a specific glitch found in an earlier entry. Cage's finisher involves him taking three attempts at an uppercut to decapitate an opponent — a camera production "cuts" in between takes. Long-time fans surely caught that this was an homage to the triple-decapitating uppercut, which was a Mortal Kombat 2 glitch. After finally severing the head of his opponent, Cage brings out an action figure of himself to help celebrate the victory.

Cage: young vs old

MK11's story is driven by a time-travel narrative, one focused on bringing together past and present versions of popular characters, including Johnny Cage. After Shinnok's defeat in MKX, Kronika — a new antagonist revealed as the Keeper of Time  — vows to balance the force of good and evil by rewriting the current timeline. She can do so thanks to her powers of time manipulation, which allow her to transport individuals from throughout history to the present. This is how players will meet both the young and older versions of Cage.

Kronika's powers surely threaten Earthrealm and everything Cage and his family fought to protect in X, but it's not yet clear how the two versions of the former action movie star will interact throughout the new story. Surely, the younger, cockier Johnny will bring some strong moments of comic relief, but will he have a hand in stopping Kronika? Or, will he stand with her and fight against his older self? Only time will tell.

The new dual-meter system

Another new addition to the series alongside Amplify and Fatal Blow moves is the dual-meter system. Replacing the single EX meter from MKX, NetherRealm has designed two meters — one for offense and one for defense. Each meter has two bars that fill up on their own throughout the match, so you no longer need to take damage in order to replenish them. For the offensive meter, players can spend them on the Amplified special moves, as explained above. These moves can do extra damage, add opportunities for combos, or even grant frame advantage over your opponent. The defensive meter is spent on any defensive special moves, as well as combo escapes, dodges, and rolls.

There's plenty of strategy involved in this dual-meter system, whether you're playing as Johnny Cage or one of the other 25-plus characters. The meter bars replenish at rates dependent on what you last utilized them for. For example, if a player exhausts both offensive bars on one of Cage's air combos, those will refill relatively slowly. However, spending a single bar on a smaller move, like a projectile, will allow the meter to fill up faster. This design forces players to give a good amount of thought when it comes to burning these meters, and that should lead to better matches and less button-mashing.

Want to main Johnny Cage? Play the entire tutorial

One aspect of Mortal Kombat 11 that people continue to rave about is the extensive tutorial. It gives you access to the basics — blocking, ariel attacks, Kombos — as well as detailed looks at expert-level techniques including frame data, counters, and Punishing attacks. It's one of the better fighting game tutorials, and is one that every player from novice to professional can potentially learn something from. This is especially true if you're looking to main a specific character, like Johnny Cage.

Along with the main tutorial, which will easily take you an hour or two to get all the way through, each MK fighter has their own character-specific tutorial. For Johnny Cage, this tutorial includes a look at his basic moves, Kombos, and Fatalities. Between the them both, you'll learn a great deal about how to play as the acclaimed actor-turned-soldier. Don't overlook these modes: you'll be a better Cage player if you take the time to truly learn how he works.

Learn his Krushing Blow conditions

In Mortal Kombat 11, there's a new move mechanic known as the Krushing Blow. Similar to the "X-ray" moves from NetherRealm's previous MK games, these new moves deal high amounts of damage as they trigger slow-motion cinematic events. Unlike most moves in the game, you can only activate these when certain criteria are met during a fight. Each character has these specific moves — only usable once per match per move — and that includes Johnny Cage, of course.

Cage's first Krushing Blow, the Upper Cutter, can only be used when punishing or countering a high attack. His next move, the Tear Jerker, triggers if the final hit of a combo is the only hit that lands on an enemy. Mime Time is a tough one, as it can only work when triggered on the first hit of a match or after landing two extended Mime Times (the non-Krushing Blow versions). Finally, the fan-favorite Nut Punch has a KB variation, which you can only trigger when the Amplified version of the move is utilized for the first hit of a match or as a Punish move. The above moves are all the ones found in Johnny Cage's default variations; there are also other moves found in his Tournament Mode loadouts.

How to unlock all of his character skins

If you're more interested in unlocking loot than worrying about high-level moves and strategies, there are plenty of opportunities to pick up all of Johnny Cage's character skins just by casually playing Mortal Kombat 11. First off, if the aforementioned information wasn't enough to make you play his character-specific tutorial, doing so will net you a bonus skin for Cage. His tutorial, which takes less than 10 minutes to complete, unlocks one of his first skins, which you can equip immediately from the menu.

You'll find many of Cage's skins by exploring the Krypt and unlocking chests throughout it. Unfortunately for you collectors, this method involves a lot of work and is completely random. You can unlock 30 chests in a row and never be guaranteed of finding Johnny Cage's items. However, NetherRealm explicitly said that, while the chests randomly generate the items, the Krypt houses all of the same items for all players. So, no matter what, by the time you unlock every chest in the Krypt, you and every other player that does so will find all of the available skins for Cage.

Finally, to unlock the last of his skins, you'll need to use some Koins to purchase his Character Towers. By completing these tough towers, you'll gain a lot of vital experience for Cage and his gear, and also get the last few skins you've been coveting.

Unlock Cage's Character Tower

Speaking of his Character Tower, you'll want to spend the 25,000 Koins to unlock these challenging events even if you don't care about getting skins. Each MK character has challenge Towers that offer specific rewards upon completion. For example, when completing certain Johnny Cage towers, you'll unlock augments, consumables, and more gear. Essentially, if you're a completionist and want to get everything MK11 has to offer for the Hollywood hero, you'll need to spend some time fighting through these trials.

Along the way, certain Towers will only unlock once you complete objectives. These could be anything from collecting soul fragments to executing a specific number of uppercuts during fights. Whatever the test, progressing through these towers is worth it, especially if you're focused on making Johnny Cage your main. Not only will you receive a lot of experience and new gear to customize your loadouts, you'll spend hours learning the best way to utilize the character against the other fighters. If you're hoping to make a name for yourself with Cage online or in tournaments, the towers are a smart way to get used to his fighting style while also grinding for loot.

Augmented reality

Augments, a loot-focused system new to MK11, offers players the chance to modify and upgrade their characters' gear in order to strengthen them for single-player modes. If you're looking to get the most from a character — Johnny Cage, for example — during the Towers of Time or story mode, augments can help you do so. However, these modifiers won't come easily, and will require some effort on your part to unlock. As with most other loot in the game, you can find these items by opening chests in the Krypt. However, like with anything else, these are randomly placed throughout chests, so there's no guarantee you'll get a Johnny Cage-specific augment just for spending thousands of Koins.

You can also earn augments by completing Towers, which is a less randomized avenue, because the mode will actually tell you what its offering you upon completion. Once you've unlocked some, you can apply them to your gear, so long as they're meant for that specific piece. For example, Cage's $500 Sunglasses can take up certain Chaos Energy augments, but not Dragon Blood ones. You can find all the info about these — including what bonuses you receive by applying them — in the "Manage Augments" menu found in the "Characters" section.