The latest Killer Instinct is a reboot of the original 90’s hit title. Much has improved since and the quality of this game really blows my mind. So how does it stack up against other fighting games of this generation? As one of Xbox One’s launch titles, is it a worthy purchase? But more importantly, does it live up to the hype or does it drown beneath the baggage of huge expectations which is imposed upon it by fans of the series? Thankfully for us, it’s the former.
With the launch of next-gen consoles, it’s imperative that both consoles have some intriguing and must-have exclusive games to entice people towards buying their console. However, with the shady free-to-play mechanics which feels so uncalled for, and the limited roster of only six characters really do put this game in a questionable state. Moreover, if you decide to not spare anymore cash than you already have to on the game, you will not be able to play any other character besides Jago. The other 5 characters are locked until you throw some cash at the game’s developers. The lack of arcade or story mode only worsens the situation. How much gameplay can you get out of the game without these modes and lack of a good roster of characters? More than you’d think, actually. Yes, the character roster is confined to only 6, but it makes up for it by offering a full flashy and intelligent combat mechanics with tons of upgrades and unlockables that will keep you busy for a couple of hours before you master the game. As it turns out, it has more to offer you than what can be seen at a glance.
Combat is the crux and life of any fighting game and Killer Instinct is no different. Combat mechanics is where this game shines. It also solves the problem of its predecessor where while one person is hitting one combo after another in a flurry, the other can just sit around and watch. Well, not in this game. With the newly introduced counter-breaker and the ever-familiar combo-breaker, which has been modified a bit, it forces both combatants to be focused during combat at all times and no one can really sit and relax at any point in the game, not even when they are landing combos perfectly. If the other combatant uses the combo breaker aptly while you are busy mashing the buttons, the combo will be interrupted instantly and the other player will be able to counter attack. But don’t give up yet. You have one last weapon left in your arsenal. You can still use one of their newly introduced mechanics to save yourself from the wrath of counter attack – counter-breaker. This can prove to be a handy mechanics when you can accurately predict that the opponent is going to try the combo breaker. Just when he uses his combo-breaker, use your counter breaker to inhibit his counter attack and turn the tides in your favor. I know, it’s so subtle and overwhelming to try to get the hang of it all at once. Well, this subtlety of combat mechanism and counter attacks is what makes this game so compelling.
The Character Roster
As I previously stated, this game suffers from the depth and variety in the roster. With only 6 characters available for the time being, it’s easy to be mistaken and presume that this game won’t hold your interest for long before it gets boring. Fortunately though, that’s not the case. All the six characters in this game are a blast, especially the one you get for free. Jago, the only free character of the game can be used in almost every situation, while Glacious needs more space to fight. Similarly, you can choose Sabrewulf for close range fighting. All the characters have unique traits that differentiate them from one another. With only 6 characters in the roster, it must have been easier for the developers to balance, but the downside of it is the game can get dull after a while.
While those looking for a good story or arcade mode will be disappointed here, there is a survival mode for those looking to take on the string of CPU opponents. There is an option to compete in really challenging optional battles to unlock some extra goodies. These challenges appear on the right side of the screen. By just clicking on them, you will be dropped in that mode with your character. The dojo mode is where this game sets itself apart from other fighting games. It holds your hands teaching you every aspect of the combat mechanics step-by-step. It usually consumes 2-3 hours of gameplay time to complete the practice mode, but when you are done with it, you will not only master Killer Instinct, you will probably learn the controls of just about every other fighting games out there. Normally, you don’t see such an elaborate training session in any other fighting games which has always been surprising. Anyways, it is highly recommended for any new players to go through the practice mode at least once just to get the hang of the game and its controls, etc.
The practice mode also allows you to sharpen your fighting skills before fighting an opponent online. This is pretty much what the offline modes have to offer. The online is where all the fun is. You can fight any opponent online or offline and the Xbox One automatically records the fight for you so you can analyze everything frame by frame in slow motion. One more thing I would have liked is being able to download clips of fights with other players or watch the fight live.
Despite all the shortcomings of this game, Killer Instinct is still a really amazing title that costs nothing to try. With it’s incredibly subtle but deep combat mechanism and emphasis on educating newbies to fight like a champ, this can easily be one of the best Xbox One launch titles. Though it lacks a full sized character roster, the game delivers where it counts.