For the past twenty years people have been waiting patiently for the beloved fighting game to return and with the release of the Xbox One this has come true. Killer Instinct is a 2.5D fighting game created by Double Helix and published by Microsoft Studios. The game like many other fighters today revolves around two characters on either side of the screen using special attacks and combos until one player has their health bar depleted. If you have heard of Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat you will feel right at home.
First off, I have to mention that Killer Instinct technically is both the third in the series and a reboot of the franchise. It is also FREE-TO-PLAY for everyone that has an Xbox One. This is new to console gaming and allows you to play all the features of the game but with characters rotating on a weekly basis. I was not sure whether or not I would purchase the full version although being an avid fighting game fan, I was glad that I was able to try out the game first to see if I would enjoy it. The cost of the full game is also important, unlike other fighting games you can purchase characters individually or purchase the full game at a discount. Buying the full version of the game gives you the expansion characters for free and other updates as well. You can even download the original Killer Instinct (Arcade Version) when purchasing the Ultra Edition.
Another new concept is that of introducing the characters one at a time in seasons. Now that we have the complete roster for Season One the real game can begin with a new Arcade Mode and online feature. Over the course of this season we have seen many updates and improvement such as graphical improvements and balancing out the characters. Characters such as Jago, Glacius and Fulgore are from the original games whilst Sadira is a completely new and welcomed addition to the franchise. Hopefully Season Two will bring fan favourites Cinder, TJ Combo, Maya and bosses Eyedol and Gargos to the roster.
Killer Instincts main game modes are Arcade mode, Survival mode, Dojo mode and Multiplayer. Arcade is a very basic add on and similar to what you would find with any other fighting game. You fight through the cast of Killer Instinct and you try to get the highest score possible. What was a bit disappointing was the absence of a final boss, which would have made the arcade mode a little more enjoyable. As with most fighting games there is little or no story. You get a brief summary of each characters goal when you play them in arcade mode but aside from these small snippets of information the story can only be interpreted with your imagination. I feel the arcade mode was a little rushed although time constraints could have been placed due to the Double Helix being acquired by Amazon.
Survival mode is where you fight endless opponents whilst the enemies get progressively harder. Unlike other survival mode type games I’ve played you do regenerate health before each fight which is extremely useful. One nice twist as that this will actually decrease over time meaning each match will start you off with less health and each fight will get progressively harder. This is also a great way to earn Killer Points which can be used to skip ahead in the future or purchase Songs, Costumes, Taunts and other items in the store. I enjoyed playing this whilst learning each characters moves and it’s a great addition for times when you want to practice or not play competitively.
The dojo mode helps you learn the ins and outs of the game and help grasp some of the more complex concepts as well as learning about Combos, Ultras and Finishers. I found this an incredibly useful tool in understanding the game and especially since these kind of tools aren’t given to other fighting games. This makes a massive difference considering some of the techniques and terminology is used in other fighters as well and can get incredibly difficult to comprehend. More importantly by completing the entire training modes you will become an expert of Killer Instinct and have a better understanding of the mechanics of most fighters as well.
The multiplayer is extremely thrilling and as far as I can tell has excellent matchmaking services. I’ve found that I only had to wait a couple of minutes and I’m right into the action with little to no lag. With the most recent update Double Helix has offered an 8 x Player Spectator mode allowing you to create a lobby with friends and simply play round after round to see who’s the best in your group.
The gameplay mechanics are hard to break down as there are many things to keep in mind. The punches and kicks are divided by light, medium and heavy the same as in most fighting games with spacing and timing a massive emphasis. In Killer Instinct if you can perform combos correctly you can greatly damage an opponent. An interesting feature is the Combo Breaker when timed correctly can cancel an opponent’s combo and reset the screen. This is important considering that three or four damaging combos can kill you. Being able to combo in Killer Instinct is imperative, and making sure that the combo is done correctly can be broken down into four stages – Openers, Autos, Linkers and Enders. To fully maximise a combo these must be done in order otherwise you will give the opponent a chance to regain some life.
The controls feel very smooth and work extremely well on the Xbox One controller. Unlike other fighting games in the past that I’ve played the standard controller has been extremely difficult. Killer Instinct doesn’t have any complicated motions and borrows from the basic Street Fighter motions which are very familiar to me. There are arcade sticks available for the Xbox One and I would only really recommend them if you are used to it or play at tournaments. Either way you will have a great time with the game regardless of the controller type you choose to play with.
To put it bluntly the graphics are good but not great. I’ve seen quite a few Xbox One titles that definitely surpass Killer Instinct and considering that the stages are small and there is very little to animate I would have loved to see some more detailed character models. But don’t get me wrong the graphics are still good and there is a dark, stylistic feel to them that really does bring the game together. But with the power of the Xbox One I feel there is still a lot to be desired. One strength I will focus on is that everything is running silky smooth which is very useful when playing at the higher levels.
When launching Killer Instinct on my Xbox One the soundtrack is fantastic. Just as you press the start button the classic Killer Instinct theme song comes in revamped to a heavier more distorted version. It brings feelings of nostalgia and hype and the epic voice over really gets you into the mood for vanquishing your enemies. The sound effects really bring the game to life as every hit you make is loud and dramatic, and doing an ultra combo is still one of the most satisfying things to do and listen to again and again. A cool little feature I noticed is that when sitting in the rematch menu if you move up or down notes will quietly chime a soft melody which just adds to the immersion.
Overall I think Killer Instinct is one of my top three most beloved fighting games already. It has a truly unique gameplay style that is basic and easy to learn for beginners but still holds true to the more hardcore fighting game audience. Playing Killer Instinct is a captivating experience for any gamer whether you like fighting games or no. If you haven’t already downloaded it for FREE you are definitely missing out on something which should be a more prominent title for Xbox One and is deserving of all game players library. Season One has been a great learning experience for the Killer Instinct community and I look forward to see what Iron Galaxy Studios will come up with in Season Two.