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Review

Killer Instinct Review

  • Game release: November 22, 2013
  • Reviewed:
  • XONE
Jeremy Jayne on Google+

C-c-c-combo breaking its way into your heart.

by

Killer Instinct is back to bust heads and break combos after an almost two-decade-long hiatus. Once you decipher the game's free-to-play pricing, you discover a bombastic brawler whose balanced fighting mechanics buck the trend towards very long, very technical combos while still providing an engaging challenge for all types of players. With all its "auto-doubles," "combo linkers," and "shadow counters," there's still plenty to familiarize yourself with, but Killer Instinct is flexible enough that even a complete novice can hop in, mash some buttons, and cobble together an impressive-looking combo.

Building a combo in Killer Instinct is a simple matter. Special moves, such as Jago's laser sword, can easily be linked together with normal kicks and punches to form long combo strings. In fact, you can input laser sword over and over and build a long combo that way. Granted, that combo won't deal a ton of damage and could easily be countered, but superficially it feels good to be whaling on another player moments after you first pick up the game.

Strong combos follow a specific structure. Some special moves are combo openers used to start combos, and others are combo enders used to--wait for it--end combos. Ending a combo in such a way could reward you with extra damage, extra energy, or the possibility to start an entirely new combo depending on the attack used. Mixing and matching different attacks is a fun way to keep your opponents guessing and prevent them from successfully interrupting your assault.

In most fighting games, long combos are treated as a one-way street. If you get caught in one, there's not much to do besides wait it out--or punch the other player in the arm. Killer Instinct handles this a bit differently. The defender isn't a helpless peon during these long strings; quite the contrary. The tables can turn in an instant, so both combatants have to pay close attention.

The pops and crunches of Killer Instinct's sound effects make attacks feel really painful.

At any point during a combo, the defender may attempt a combo breaker. If successful, this move instantly interrupts the combo, creating some space between you and the attacker. Otherwise you trigger a lock out and be prevented from trying again for a few seconds--at which point your opponent may gleefully pummel you without concern. Layered on top of this system are the counter breakers, which are used by the attacker to break combo breakers. They also cost half of your total energy, and if used at the wrong time leave you wide open to counter attack.

The interplay between these two systems--and trying to predict when your opponent will use them--adds an engaging layer of mind games to the traditionally one-sided process of building a combo. Successfully predicting when exactly a breaker will happen means really getting into the other person's head--and when you do, it's extremely satisfying.

While Killer Instinct's combat mechanics are accommodating to a wide breadth of players, the game doesn't go far enough to hold the interest of lone players. Versus, survival, dojo, and practice modes make up the game's offline offerings, and while they all function as expected, they also represent the minimum standard for the genre. For fighting game veterans with access to a reliable source of competition, this is not a huge issue. But those looking for a strong narrative-focused mode, or for more of a reason to keep playing than "practice for online play," will be left wanting.

Each fighter has a handful of cosmetics to unlock.

Dojo mode is Killer Instinct's main educational mode. Consisting of 32 different lessons, this mode runs you through the basics of movement, the combo system, and the art of counter breaker mind games. There are even some helpful lessons on how to interpret frame data and set up frame traps, two topics that are extremely important for skilled play but are rarely explained in other fighting games. But while the content of these lessons is great, the information is presented in a very dry style that feels akin to reviewing a checklist than learning the game's mechanics.

Once you feel confident in your skills, it's time to take the fight online. Far and away, the most important aspect is performance, and thankfully, in all of our testing, online matches ran smoothly. This is especially important since the game doesn't display the ping for the opponent you're facing, denying you the ability to manually filter challengers based on connection speed. Much like the game's offline modes, Killer Instinct's online offerings are just the essentials of player and ranked matches, as well as a leaderboard.

Practice mode features some very helpful tools, including frame data and hit box display.

An unfortunate omission in this lineup is not being able to watch matches between other players, which is an excellent way to improve your own abilities. Killer Instinct keeps recordings of your most recent matches both online and off, but does not provide a list of other players' replays to download in the game. The Xbox One console lets you record and upload short clips from the game, a feature with amazing potential as an educational tool but one that needs more granular filtering options than "epic fail" or "review" to be useful.

Killer Instinct successfully updates the '90s classic into a finely tuned, competitive fighter that can stand alongside the genre's regulars. Its muscle-bound roster conveyes a satisfying sense of weight and force with their movements, while still feeling responsive to your commands. There is a lot of flexibility in combo authorship, but the combo and counter breakers help keep both fighters on their toes even as the hit count rises.

The Good
Fights are intense and engaging
Combo and counter breakers emphasize mind games
Online play runs smoothly
Ultra Edition includes classic Killer Instinct
The Bad
Barebones online and offline modes
Lacks replay sharing
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

/ Staff

Maxwell is a long-time fighting game fan who was banned from playing the original Killer Instinct. He was excited to finally fill this gap in his fighting game knowledge, but is still trying to land the coveted double-ultra combo.

Discussion

498 comments
Grenadeh
Grenadeh

This game fucking rocks. Brings me back 20 years. And I already have blisters on me fingers, again.

eze_sl89
eze_sl89

this game deserves to die

Pukshd
Pukshd

I was worried(They dind't do HomeComing too *-*) but is looking awesome(And the bussiness model is nice)


redbat32
redbat32

good game better if they release it on pc

SOLDIER-No2
SOLDIER-No2

People can say what they will about the story mode, character list, price, etc, but the developers did not half-ass the fighting system. It is light years beyond KI 1, and I had my doubts about this game. Not anymore.

DoomglooM
DoomglooM

I'm willing to bet anything that this game still doesn't stack up to the SNES or even arcade Killer Instinct....MS should quit trying to control Rare and let some things just go

frylock1987
frylock1987

Game should have been a 5/10 strictly because you have to pay for the roster fighter, by fighter...I'm sorry but I guess I'm the only one who thinks that is a retarded way of doing things. 


Cut the Smart Phone Bullshit Tactics.

Xyllix
Xyllix

Holy fuck you're all retarded. You're all bitching at the fact that it doesn't have more characters. Can you fucks realize that the game costs $20 for all six?? This a beautiful revival of an old franchise. Visually looks nice, as he mentioned plays smoothly. Only downside is maybe the lack of modes to choose from.

Get your heads out of your asses.

thecman25
thecman25

i gotta go with ign with the 2.7, this game looked like crap when i saw a video on it

dustinw
dustinw

Not to take anything away from the review, but one of the "Bad" bullet points was that there is no replay sharing. Though, isn't that kind of what the Game DVR is for?

kukikuamor
kukikuamor

This is the only Xbox One game that seems likeable to me.

Tekken still beats this by a long shot IMO.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@Pukshd I can tell you from the last 2 hours I've spent playing, it is awesome.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@DoomglooM It far exceeds the SNES and arcade versions. It's easier to do combos but it still requires mad skill to to ridiculous ones. It feels completely like the original games and that's an imaginary argument in the first place. Wait until you actually play it. What it looks like is completely irrelevant, but if that is your actual argument, it looks close enough to original KI that it doesn't actually matter.


And anyone who said it looks like SF4, you're an idiot.

Artwark
Artwark

@DoomglooM I agree. It doesn't even look like its the SNES feel which explains why the reviews were just mixed.


cvantu
cvantu

@frylock1987 the FTP model of this game is absolutely genius. You can pay character by character, buy the 19.99 version which gets you all the characters, or a 40 dollar version that gets you absolutely everything the game will offer. This is exactly how a free to play should be. It's very flexible. I went ahead and paid 5 dollars for a character and can enjoy all the modes. What is wrong with that?

obsequies
obsequies

@Xyllix thats what critics need to do. Not criticize games. Who would have thought that critical people come to critic based sites to criticize critics

cvantu
cvantu

@thecman25 I gotta go with the fact that you can't really read and mixed Fighter Within and Killer Instinct. Apparently you must be blind too.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@dustinw There is replay sharing. XBL is flooded with replay videos people have uploaded. As usual, GS knows not what they say.

ritsukoblue
ritsukoblue

@kukikuamor I never heared of a $20 or $40 TEKKEN game. have you? plus! This is a 2D fighter not a 3D fighter!

belfador
belfador

@frylock1987 I agree with you, this is one of the few current examples of a well designed ftp model.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@obsequies @Xyllix They are criticizing shit they don't understand in a game whose progenitor they never actually played, because they get paid to find usually imaginary flaws in otherwise flawless games.


I spent my entire fucking childhood playing KI on SNES and it's easy to tell within 5 minutes of picking up the controller on this game that it is nothing short of spectacular.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@ritsukoblue @kukikuamor Tekken sucks balls. Anyone who would say Tekken is better than KI doesn't know shit about fighting games. And this especially far surpasses Tekken Revolution.

Sevenstorms
Sevenstorms

You sound dumb !!! This is Killer Instinct all the way !!!

Tegorian
Tegorian

@DoomglooM @ritsukoblue @frylock1987 No but I would prefer if you stopped defecating in type all over the comments section.  You have an opinion good but, understand people will disagree.  I personally think they did a good job not only capturing what made me addicted to SNES/Arcade KI back in the day but updating it.  Also, the inclusion of the Arcade version for only 40 bucks makes it a no brainier purchase in my book.

Killer Instinct More Info

First Release on Nov 22, 2013
  • Xbox One
Killer Instinct is a fighting game franchise that will make its long awaited return exclusively on the Xbox One.
7
Average User RatingOut of 55 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Double Helix Games
Published by:
Microsoft Game Studios
Genres:
Fighting, 2D, Action
Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Teen
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