When I first saw footage of the new ‘Killer Instinct’ game on the Xbox One, I was cautiously optimistic; there’s high risk involved with bringing back a long-absent franchise, even more so with a new developer and a new console. While Killer Instinct falls short compared to other fighters, its a fantastic game in its own right, and will win over many a casual and hardcore fighting game fan.
For those of you unfamiliar with Killer Instinct, it was one of the most popular fighting games of the 1990s, developed by Rare and found in video game arcades. We actually revisited it recently and you can read our Looking Back article here. It was later ported to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System where it became immensely popular. While so many other fighting games failed to succeed in the 90s (many felt like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat clones without any original gameplay), Killer Instinct both managed to pay tribute to its influences and offer its own unique gameplay concepts, namely a focus on massive combos and over-the-top characters.
This new iteration of Killer Instinct was developed by Double Helix Games, who have demonstrated their knack for adapting established franchises with their previous games Silent Hill: Homecoming and Front Mission Evolved. There are a number of ways that Double Helix could have brought Killer Instinct back but they have chosen to revamp the franchise’s classic characters and focus on the game’s iconic combo system. The game is also fast, and I mean fast.
Killer Instinct has comes with a roster of 6 characters, with plans for future characters to be released as downloadable content. The roster includes Jago, Orchid, Sabrewulf, Thunder, Glacius and new character Sadira. Sadira looks and acts very much like a spider, and is part of a group of assassins. She entered the Killer Instinct tournament just to kill the other combatants. Her character’s design makes her kind of stand out compared to the other characters, but her fighting style and special moves help her blend right in.
The story (though there isn’t an actual story mode) continues after the events of Killer Instinct 2, Jago is dealing with his shattered faith after learning that Gargos was in fact the Tiger Spirit, Orchid is still trying to destroy Ultratech, Thunder is still searching for his lost brother, Sabrewulf is trying to cure his curse through the dark arts, and Glacius has crash-landed on Earth.
Ask anyone about the older Killer Instinct games and they will tell you the gameplay revolved around one thing: combos. This is true and even truer still of the new Killer Instinct.
Combos can be executed manually as well as automatically by use of “link” moves. Each character has one or two special moves which can be used to begin auto combos, such as Jago’s wind kick. After the special move hits, the player can hit one of the punch or kick buttons to automatically add two hits to the combo, with the ultimate goal being to add as many link moves and hits in between as possible. The player must end the combo with a “combo ender”, which is usually a special move performed with a Heavy Punch or Heavy Kick. Of course, a skilled opponent knows how to interrupt a player’s combo with a “combo-breaker”, so prolonging a combo for too long can be dangerous for your health.
For veterans, there are also new special moves that can be executed. Counter Breakers counter a combo breaker, so that a combo can continue uninterrupted. Shadow Counters can be performed after blocking a Shadow Move, Instinct Mode strengthens a character’s abilities and varies from character to character, and Ultra Enders are Ultra Combos used to end combos when you’re character has 15% or less health.
The combo and special move system may sound daunting to a newcomer, but even the most inexperienced player can quickly pick up the basics of the game and win matches. Even with its lightning-quick action, Killer Instinct is still highly-accessible to all players.
Despite the absence of a story mode, Killer Instinct has Survival mode, Training mode, Versus mode and Dojo mode. What’s the difference between Dojo mode and Training mode? Training mode is essentially for players who want to practice, and Dojo mode teaches players not only the characters’ moves, but also various game mechanics and how to strategise depending on what their opponent is doing.
- Unique and fun gameplay
- No story mode
Killer Instinct is back. Double Helix have done a fine job at bringing back a classic franchise and injecting it with redesigned characters and a modern take on its iconic gameplay. A must-have for fighting game fans, and a fantastic Xbox One exclusive.
Score – 8.0/10