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Review in Progress: Killer Instinct

Combos were made to be broken.

by

Killer Instinct is back, and this past week I spent a lot of quality time with the game. However, at the time of this writing, Killer Instinct's online multiplayer is not yet up and running. This means I'm not ready to pass judgment on the game just yet, but I wanted to share with you my thoughts and impressions on what I've played so far.

Combat in a fighting game is a war on two fronts, and Killer Instinct's combat is no exception. There's the battle against other players, and the battle against yourself. Against other players, you dance around the battlefield, ducking in and out of striking range while searching for a crack in their armor. Blow-by-blow, Killer Instinct's muscle-bound roster conveys a satisfying sense of weight and force, while still feeling responsive to your commands. Whether through technique or sheer luck, when you finally find that crack and land a hit, that's when the battle against yourself begins.

Each successful hit raises the question, "Do I know, in this moment, the correct timing and sequence of button presses to combo into to deal the maximum amount of damage to my opponent?" This is especially true in a game such as Killer Instinct, where long, strategic combos are how you deal the most damage. Capitalizing on these moments is key to winning the fight, and if the opportunity passes by, you have no one to blame but yourself. This is why any seasoned fighting game player will tell you there's a big difference between losing a match and being beaten. One is your fault; the other is your opponent's.

What makes Killer Instinct interesting compared to most modern fighters is how it simplifies its combo system while adding on a layer of player-versus-player mind games. The game has some very long combos, but they're easier to execute than, say, a wall-carry tag combo in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 or Magneto's hyper grav loop in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. This is by design, since both players have something else to worry about during a combo besides timing button presses to 1/60th of a second: each other.

I wonder what hurts more: the boot or the lighting bolt?

Explaining Killer Instinct's combo system is more complicated than using it. In brief, a character's special moves can be easily linked together using normal punches and kicks to form long combo strings. It's a system that empowers new players by letting them rack up a double-digit combo, such as by inputting Jago's laser sword over and over.

However, if you want to get the most out of your combos, you have to know the system's nuances--such as which moves are combo enders. Ending a combo with a combo ender nets you more damage, more energy, or a chance to extend your combo further. So, while the all-Jago-laser-sword combo may look impressive, since it doesn't end with a combo ender, you don't get much in return.

In most fighting games, long combos are a one-way street. Getting caught in one means you just have to sit there and take it--or knock the controller out of your opponent's hands. Some games, such as the Guilty Gear series, let you interrupt combos, but doing so is a limited-use technique. Not so in Killer Instinct. The game's iconic c-c-c-combo breakers are a constant threat, and their inclusion helps keep both players feeling engaged with each other more often during a fight.

There are three different types of combo breakers the defender may attempt during a combo. These are light, medium, and heavy--the same as the game's three different attack strengths. If the defender successfully enters the combo breaker that's the same strength as the attack he or she is currently enjoying, then the combo is instantly broken. Breakers don't deal any damage, but they do put some space between the two players--essentially setting them back to square one. They also don't cost anything to use, so you're encouraged to attempt them. However, you cannot spam breakers freely, since inputting the wrong one triggers a lockout for a few seconds, during which your opponent may gleefully pummel you without concern.

Orchid's firecat attack takes a bite out of crime--and Jago.

The combo breaker, while powerful, is not a "get out of jail free" card that works 30 percent of the time. If you're laying down a combo and suspect a breaker is in your immediate future, you can attempt a counter breaker. As its name suggests, this technique overrides the combo breaker and lets you stay on the offensive. Unlike the combo breaker, however, the counter breaker is risky. It costs half of your total energy, and if used at the wrong time, it leaves you completely vulnerable to attack.

So far I've had a lot of fun exploring the nuances of Killer Instinct's combat system. Its simplified combos free me up to worry more about playing mind games with my opponent and less about running a manual dexterity challenge. Of course, I've still got a lot to learn as I prepare to take the fight online. Be on the lookout for the full review of Killer Instinct on the Xbox One later this week.

Discussion

243 comments
Cuthbert1970
Cuthbert1970

Looks incredible to me so far. I used to play the hell out of the original and this is shaping up to look like a worthy update to the series. Praying it's ported to PC one day cause I'm not buying any next gen consoles anytime soon.

kuu2
kuu2

So Max should we expect this tomorrow considering Forza will take center circle today?

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

Looks good - and I don't even play Street Fighter 2 type fighters.  But I like the tutorial mode and the game looks fun as hell with friends over.  Does Sony even have any 2 player games that don't require an internet?  I'm not bashing online play - but sometimes friends come over and this type of gaming is needed.

I'm sold - getting an Xbox One!

Wojciech Kałużny
Wojciech Kałużny

Hey guys, can you check two things while testing Xbox One hardware - 1. Does xbox 360 controller works with Xbox One, and 2. Which is really important for people who want to buy xbox this year, but aren't living in 13 selected countries, can you play online/log into xbox live while having an account in diffrent region? Thanks!

RageSet
RageSet

Alright, I feel a little better about this game now. So where is my sequel to Jet Force Gemini?!

ghostXzero
ghostXzero

i don't mind them releasing this game in parts at a time.  as long as they release a KOMPLETE edition with everything in one package at the end--and release it for PC, too!

ThePowerOfHAT
ThePowerOfHAT

Aside from the small roster, everything I've seen of the game thus far suggests that they really nailed it.  The basic fighting and combo systems are particularly well-done, the available characters feel fairly unique from one another while also being surprisingly balanced, and the various additional modes and training/teaching opportunities make it one of the most fully featured fighting games in recent memory.  Particularly impressive considering that most of it is available for free.  I'm interested to see what more of the final review scores end up showing, but at the very least, it's nice to know that the rather small selection of characters at this time hasn't kept it from being an otherwise very high-value title (especially considering that it's still free-to-play to some extent).

Bruce S Benzing
Bruce S Benzing

LOL at the Sony fanboy haters. It must really sting to know that a fighting game with 6 characters is scoring equal or higher then a flagship franchise FPS on PS4.....

Bruce S Benzing
Bruce S Benzing

I have to wait next year when I get my tax return. Hoping they announce a TitanFall bundle...

Bruce S Benzing
Bruce S Benzing

Good old MS gives you pertinent free goodies unlike their competition....

Bruce S Benzing
Bruce S Benzing

Yes you know that because you own the full version of the game and not just trying to go by random videos....

sakaixx
sakaixx

metacritic score on this game ain't looking good but atleast the reviewer said it was fun

Paul Barnett
Paul Barnett

Looking forward to this, two days to go!! :)

TashunkoSapa
TashunkoSapa

I see the Sony fanboys are already in dread and doing their best..

john_matrix8953
john_matrix8953

Aside from Xbone fanboys, who's going to believe in McGee's review? He's the same guy that gave Street Fighter X Tekken an 8.5. If a bare bone fighting game with shitty mechanics and 12 locked characters can get a great score, then a glorified demo can probably work its way up to a fairly good score under McGee's radar.

Jestersmiles
Jestersmiles

Back to King of Fighters 13 steam edition nothing to see here but a glorified demo. 

Sonicgod
Sonicgod

The is the worst looking most horrible playing fighting game  I have ever played in my life. right after rise of the robots and shaq fu. is this game on my list stuffed in the middle as most horrible.

Mike Boone
Mike Boone

Oh you mean the six fighter roster? About that..

LordCrisp
LordCrisp

Maxwell McGee you said in the Xbone launch stream that you don't know what the unlockable announcer is, and I just wanted to let you know, that it's the original announcer from the 2 first games... of course they had to pull him into the studio because there's a lot more combo names now than there was back then. 

There's also a good amount of easter eggs in the game, like for example if you stand still in Sabrewulfs stage for a while, it's gonna start playing a KI3 version of his old stage theme. And in general, for your review I think it would be nice of you to mention the dynamic music that in general intensifies the experience. But good to hear that you like the game :) I also had a lot of fun with it at GamesCom

raddys2001
raddys2001

@ghostXzero  

Thats why im waiting to sit this one out and puchase a complete addition i dont like to have to wait for additional content for three months.

uchihasilver
uchihasilver

@Bruce S Benzing oh grow up ffs seriously both consoles are good and if you think that the launch line up defines this generation then i speak for the entire gaming population in saying im out!

sirapathetic01
sirapathetic01

@TashunkoSapa You people sicken me. All fanboys...

kuu2
kuu2

@TashunkoSapa Yes some people are just against change.  People are acting like the game is broken and unplayable.  Quite the opposite actually.  It is a has a good fighting engine, great animations, and really good tutorial for teaching noobies the game.  When I heard that the game was going to be F2P I was also worried but it looks like DH did a fine job with how it will be priced as well.

Sonicgod
Sonicgod

I mean really this game is an insult to anybody that played the killer instinct games by rare thanks for screwing it up  as bad as gearbox did with aliens col marines microsoft! . wont be buying .

LordCrisp
LordCrisp

@Mike Boone What's with the 6 character roster? It's at launch... 2 more's coming in the beginning of next year, and that makes it 8... Yes yes, I know, you still think it's a rip off and they're idiots, but seriously. If you think about it for just a fraction of a second, you'll notice that 8 characters for 20$ also equals 24 characters for your typical 60$ game price. So actually, you get just about as much for you money with KI as you do with just about any fighter... Plus I would rather have a well balanced roster, instead of 50 characters, where only about 10 of them is REALLY usable.

SkullGirls is getting around with only 6 characters.

Yeah it's true, I would have liked for KI3 to have a full roster at launch, but Microsoft has pushed them to a launch release. Plus, I would rather play the characters that are ready, while waiting for the rest, than I would keep waiting for it all... It's basically just paying for a beta, where you get the game for the same money when it's done.

PosiTVEMinD355
PosiTVEMinD355

@raddys2001 @ghostXzero there already is a complete edition and it's a full $60 for the full game.  Only thing is, it can only be bought at the MS store.  Look up Pin Ultimate Edition

john_matrix8953
john_matrix8953

@kuu2 @TashunkoSapa "Yes some people are just against change."

STFU with that cheap argument. That aesthetics are ripped from SFIV which in turn looks like shit. 

TheJamin
TheJamin

@Sonicgod Such a shame to hear... KI on snes was my all time favorite... I also owned rise of the robots. hilarious.

ad1x2
ad1x2

@Sonicgod I don't know how you can say it is the worst looking fighting game when it looks better than a lot of fighters that were released on the PS3/360. That's like saying there are 16-bit fighting games that look better than this.

I won't comment on the gameplay comment since I haven't played it yet but I've played some stinkers and from what I've read so far about the game KI can't be as bad as the worst I've played.

LordCrisp
LordCrisp

@Sonicgod Uhm... are you sure you've played this? It plays awesome. It sounds awesome. It looks awesome... And Double Helix even put in a lot of easter eggs for us to find. 

Don't really like the accessories myself, but I've seen on the forum that there's a good amount of people who do. But anyway, if you don't wanna get this game then don't, but at least stop being a jerk about it :/ If you wanna play the old KI, then play the old KI instead of expecting a new installment to be the exact same.

john_matrix8953
john_matrix8953

@LordCrisp "SkullGirls is getting around with only 6 characters"

And that game was developed by a small development team not by a mediocre developer that's being funded by one of the most riches companies in the world. Don't ignore facts. .

LordCrisp
LordCrisp

@PosiTVEMinD355 @raddys2001 @ghostXzero You don't get more with the Pin edition that with the Ultra Edition, difference is that you get a psychical box that is gonna be used as a Pin holder, for pins you can earn in different unannounced ways. Wont get any "Complete Edition" out of buying that one, it's more of a collectors item, and he will still have to wait for the game to be "complete"

God I'm looking forward to playing this again :P

kuu2
kuu2

@john_matrix8953 @kuu2 @TashunkoSapa Argument against what, your opinion?  What you feel about something can't be argued.  Carry it with you knowing people will disagree.  Nothing cheap about what I said except you don't like it.

kuu2
kuu2

@john_matrix8953 @kuu2 @TashunkoSapa Man you are angry.  Did someone from DH kill a family member?  Your opinion is just that yours, it does not make it true, worse, or better than someone else's.

LordCrisp
LordCrisp

@DemocraticTroll @LordCrisp Like the 19 in Street Fighter 4...? 25 (plus 4 DLC, 3 Unplayable and 1 PS exclusive) in Mortal Kombat? 24 (plus 5 DLC) for Injustice? 28 in Soul Calibur 5? 29 in Dead or Alive 5....? 

I would still say... 24 characters for 60$ is pretty average

LordCrisp
LordCrisp

@john_matrix8953 @LordCrisp I kinda like how you keep calling people, who don't agree with you a moron. Have you ever thougt that you might just be a narrowminded jackass?

And yes 19 chars in SF4... Did you see a Super in front of that? or Arcade Edition after... My point is still valid... There's still more games with around that amount of characters that there is not... 

Oh, and by the way. You ignored the answer to your own trolling and jumped to someone elses comment to troll about... Don't have any comments on the other comment I made? Geeez

john_matrix8953
john_matrix8953

@LordCrisp @john_matrix8953 LMFAO. My post has less text and yet you manage to ignore it by posting irrelevant bullshit. 

"So who is it REALLY here that is ignoring facts?"

" Like the 19 in Street Fighter 4...?"

That right there proves that not only you're a troll but also a retarded one. 

Also, a lengthy post doesn't make you intelligence moron, it just means more bullshit.  

LordCrisp
LordCrisp

@john_matrix8953 @LordCrisp HAHA! still hating on Double Helix because of their past? wow... They have showed time and time again that what they're doing with KI is awesome. And they waren't the only ones "competing" to get to be the developer of KI3, but they got picked by Microsoft (With Ken Lobb there to test) that the playable blueprint they made felt like KI even without real textures and effects. 

We've also been able to see A LOT of progress in almost every build that they've made, and much of that also goes to them actually listening to the community instead of just making they game that they want and shitting on their players like a lot of other do.

It's not their fault that Microsoft haven't given them the time they needed for finishing it. Everything in KI3 is made from scratch, for it to feel and look exactly like they want it to, instead of stealing from everyone else.

So who is it REALLY here that is ignoring facts?


But anyway, if you're gonna skip this because it's made by a team with a mediocre past it your loss, just stop being an ass about it. Judging from you other comments around here, you almost seem like a person just trying to get in Feedbackula, with stupid comments with random hate for everything in your path