Killer Instinct Review For Xbox One
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
Fighting-game aficionados may remember the days of the arcades and Sega Genesis, when the 90s were filled with fighting series vying for your attention. You had the ever popular kids, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, all shiny and drawing crowds around them, and then Killer Instinct rode into town on a Harley, with a badass attitude that people couldn’t help but be attracted to. Killer Instinct certainly wasn’t one of the ‘cool kids’ on the block, but it certainly gained enough of a cult following with its intense and fluid combat, flashy Combo strings, and Combo Breakers. Now, veterans can relive the glory days and newbies can check out what the fuss was all about with this initially free-to-download game, published by Microsoft Studios and developed by Double Helix.
One of the first things people will notice is that Killer Instinct doesn’t have much in the narrative department (nor did it when it was originally released). Without reading the additional character information in the Help menu, players really won’t know what’s going on and the motives for each character for fighting each other. This game is purely for the simple pleasures of picking up the controller and taking out your aggression on your opponents. And wale on your foes, you shall!
Killer Instinct is set up as two main modes, Local Play and Xbox Live. Locally, you can play against a friend in Versus mode, where you both select your chosen characters and battle for the reigning title. Those who are new to the series or want to brush up on their skills can head over to the Dojo, where you can take Basic Lessons and Advanced Lessons to fully learn the battle system. It’s here that you’ll come to understand the main gameplay and Killer Instinct lexicon, such as Combo Breakers, Lockouts, and Instinct Mode, and train in executing these wonderful moves. If you feel you already know the KI battle system and want to just freely practice your skills against a target, go to the Practice area to perfect your Combos and super moves. Don’t feel like playing against a human opponent? Well, you can test your skills in Survival mode, where you’ll face an endless round of AI foes until you finally lose a match.
For those of you who’d like to venture out into the big, bad world to test your mettle against others, Xbox Live is your destination, where you can compete in either Ranked Matches or unranked matches (in the Exhibition Mode). The latter is where you can host/invite your friends to play with you (when they’re too lazy to come over!)
The key to Killer Instinct’s battle system is combos – and lots of ‘em! Attacks can range from basic to the uber-flashy, with Special Moves and Shadow Attacks taking centre stage. Your typical punches, kicks, and throws are considered Command Attacks. Aside from the basics, each character has his/her own set of Special Attacks as well as Shadow Attacks. Special Attacks are unique to each character, such as Jago’s Endokuken (which sends a flying fireball towards his foe) and Orchid’s Flick Flack (a move performed while Orchid’s in a handstand, with her legs spinning like a helicopter to perform multiple kicks), and will result in higher hit points than regular Command Attacks. You’ll notice that there are blue rectangles at the bottom of the screen – these are your Shadow Meter, which once you’ve earned at least one full bar of, you can perform your character’s Shadow Attacks – extra powerful versions of their Special Attacks. For example, Orchid’s Shadow Attacks include a Shadow Flick Flack and Firecat (where she turns into a golden firecat that charges at her opponent, landing multiple hits), whereas Sadira can perform the Shadow Widow’s Bite (where she throws five daggers at her enemy, and the final one pulls her down towards her foe, leading into another attack).
Within the frenetic battle, complex sequences can be linked by performing Combo Openers, Combo Linkers, Combo Enders, and Finishers. With enough practice (or lucky button-mashing), you can link your Combos to create devastating attacks. Skilled fighters on the defensive will be able to perform Combo Breakers, which interrupt the Combos. However, with the new 2013 Killer Instinct, a new move has been added, where the attacker can perform Counter Combo Breakers, which allows them to continue their Combos while simultaneously putting their opponent into a Lock Out where they cannot perform a Combo Breaker for a brief time.
Another new and welcome game mechanic, Instinct Mode, can be triggered when the Instinct Meter under your Health bar (at the top of the screen) is completely filled up (by either successfully performing Combo Breakers or by taking damage), and will enhance your fighter’s abilities. This helps balance the playing field for those who aren’t too skilled (by giving them a boon that assists their attacks), and also creates a new level of frenzied gameplay.
The battles wouldn’t be anything too special if the graphics weren’t up to par. Luckily, Killer Instinct has been given a face-lift from its pixilated days, though it doesn’t necessarily show off all of the Xbox One’s fancy capabilities over the Xbox 360. Regardless, if you take a closer look, you’ll see that much attention and effort have gone into the characters and settings. The fighters are well-designed, with minute details (such as the defined musculature of all the characters) making it obvious that these are not people you’d want to trifle with. Each character has some added flare, such as Sadira’s blades catching the light, Sabrewulf constantly panting, salivating and flexing his claws, and Glacius’ shiny and smooth body, which greatly resembles the ice in his background.
It’s interesting to play the 3D, high-def version of the game after playing the classic version (which is included in the full download of the 2013 Killer Instinct). With the comparison, you can really appreciate the effort that’s gone into designing the battlegrounds. Gone are the pixilated pictures, replaced with multi-layered settings that give players a glimpse into the world of Killer Instinct. Each background has elements that move on their own (like the flags swaying gently and flames dancing in sconces within Jago’s temple, and the constant barrage of snow in Glacius’ icy crash site). Even the fights are a sight to behold, with extra visual effects for all of the attacks (e.g. glowing and shadowy silhouettes for the Shadow Attacks, fields of energy surrounding the character when Combo Breakers are executed successfully) making Killer Instinct not only fun to play, but also entertaining to watch.
Even the sound department has seen many improvements, with additional voice-acting beyond the usual snarling, grunts, and overall martial-arts sounds. Each character has an introduction and victory phrase (or in Sabrewulf’s case, a bunch of snarls) – which are very minimal voice-acting, but often adds a bit more insight into their backgrounds and personalities. For example, without reading up on Orchid’s story, her “Target spotted. This should be quick” and “One step closer to flushing out Ultratech”, one can surmise that she’s looking for a corporation called Ultratech, and fighting her way through enemies to do so. You also have the announcer who manages to add to the adrenaline rush, with his endless commentary of “C-c-c-combo breaker!”, “Ultra-Combo!”, “Mega Hit!” – just to name a few. Aside from the voice acting, there are also the ambient sound effects, such as Sabrewulf’s growls, Orchid’s weapons energizing, Thunder’s axes whipping through the air, and the sickening crunch when Thunder stomps on his opponent’s neck.
The nifty battles aren’t all that this game has going for it. Trials have been added to this remake, giving players extra goals to strive towards. Each Trial yields x-amount of KP, which can be used to purchase goodies in the KI Store, such as different character skins and accessories, settings, concept art, and player profile logos and taunts. Mind you, most of these store items must be unlocked first before you can buy them. Each Store item has a requirement that must be met to unlock it, such as gaining x-amount of fight titles with a specific character, clearing a particular amount of enemies in Survival mode, or winning a certain number of fights in online play. These unlockables and over 90 Achievements will surely motivate people to spend countless hours with Killer Instinct.
Unfortunately, if you spend enough time with Killer Instinct, you’ll soon find some glaring issues. Each time you enter a new match, the game seems to take forever in deliberating which graphics to pull up, making the load times almost unbearable (especially if you’re playing more than a couple rounds). Also, in Survival mode, you cannot go back to the Main menu until you’re past the load screen and your character’s intro cutscene. Finally, when playing against the computer, your AI opponents can have polar difficulties, where they will keep rolling with devastating combos, yet when backed into a corner, they can’t seem to jump out of the corner, allowing you to beat them to that final victory.
Overall, Killer Instinct is a surefire must-have addition to your library if you’re a fan of the fighting games. For those who are willing to pay the additional $20 or $40 to unlock a fuller version of the game, you won’t be disappointed – especially if you’re hoping to take a stroll down memory lane. Double Helix truly did the game justice in this upgraded version, and old fans are in for a treat!
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