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The King of Fighters XIV Review

  • First Released Aug 23, 2016
  • Reviewed Aug 22, 2016
  • PS4
Chris Damien on Google+

Get serious.

The King of Fighters XIV is yet another satisfying entry in the long-running KOF series. It ditches the intricate sprites found in recent games in the series in favor of 3D characters and backgrounds, though battles still take place on a 2D plane. This change is bound to turn off those who might favor the series' traditional visual style; however, the game's core fighting system lives up to the series’ legacy, offering new mechanics that expand upon those from its predecessor. KOF 14 is an engrossing fighter that exceeds the initial impressions of its bland presentation, delivering an experience well worth your time, whether you're a dedicated KOF follower or a casual fighting game fan.

KOF 14 pits your side against teams of three fighters in a series of one-on-one battles; when one character is defeated, the next one is brought into battle and a new round begins. Returning players will notice the difference in movement speed from past games right away; the game seemingly slows down the energetic action of KOF 13, but this doesn't diminish the exciting nature of fights. Battles remain tense and exhilarating, especially once you get a feel for the pace of combat and combo timing.

Fights are as tense and exciting as ever.
Fights are as tense and exciting as ever.
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Many familiar faces from the series’ 22-year history return, while a host of new characters enter the fray to mix up the series' already diverse set of fighting styles. It’s uplifting to see such a robust cast, but it’s unfortunate that the visuals do little to bring their large personalities to life. The new 3D character models, while serviceable, are stiffly animated and occasionally doll-like in appearance. They’re a far cry from the dynamic 2D sprites of the past, showcasing only a faint glimmer of what made these characters so memorable and endearing.

Despite the less-than-stellar visuals, KOF 14’s new fighting system is its most striking quality. It streamlines mechanics we’ve seen in the past, while introducing expansive techniques and options for combos. The result is a fighting system that's easier to understand and more fulfilling to engage with.

The game presents three major mechanics to manage: Max Mode, Super/Advanced/Climax Cancels, and Rush. Max Mode is a cross between KOF 13's EX Specials and Hyperdrive Mode--it’s a state you trigger that grants you the ability to perform more powerful versions of your character’s special moves. These prove useful in turning the tide of battle, since these beefed-up moves can be linked with other moves to create even more powerful combos. Max Mode can be activated whenever you have a super meter to spare.

The iconic rivalry continues.
The iconic rivalry continues.

Then there’s the multiple ways of canceling moves into supers, which is the game’s bread and butter for executing destructive combos. Each allows you to cancel a certain move into a type of super special move at the cost of a set amount of super meter. When executed properly, canceling can be an effective means of finishing off opponents when you’re in a tight spot. It’s also an especially user-friendly mechanic that’s far easier to execute than the complicated Drive Cancels from KOF 13. Canceling out of one attack and beginning another more powerful one allows you to turn a single move into a custom combo, and with three ways to cancel moves in KOF 14, this opens up a wealth of opportunities for players of all skill levels to deliver a series of devastating attacks.

Lastly, Rush is a unique combo that you can perform by repeatedly pressing light punch. Similar to Persona 4 Arena’s auto combo, the attack is suited for beginners looking for a way to strike back at their opponent. This may raise red flags for advanced players; however, the attack is balanced accordingly, requiring you to be right next to an opponent in order to perform it. Rush also does comparatively little damage when you stack it up against the game's powerful combos.

These new mechanics help make KOF 14's combo-focused fighting system less convoluted and more straightforward; it’s the most accessible entry in the series thus far. That isn't to say that it downplays the finesse and strategic planning of the game. You’re still required to understand the fundamentals of execution and positioning if you want to be able to fully take advantage of the offensive and defensive capabilities available.

There's a wide variety of different characters, each with distinct movesets.
There's a wide variety of different characters, each with distinct movesets.

The coalescing of these mechanics makes performing devastating combos easier, which increases the stakes of a fight--one wrong move could result in a punishing reprisal that costs you half your life bar. However, the odds are tipped in your favor the more of your team’s roster is eliminated since the game provides additional super meter bars on top of your base ones during consecutive lost rounds. You may end up with five super meter bars during the final round of a match, which can be a lifesaver if you're able to find an opening to initiate a comeback. While this might seem imbalanced at first, it gives the losing player opportunity to even the odds, so that by the time the match reaches its final round, both sides are on equal footing. Still, it’s unfortunate that a combo-breaker move (in the vein of Guilty Gear’s Burst mechanic) wasn’t implemented to better give newcomers a chance to stave off opponents with higher combo literacy.

Thankfully, the path to understanding the intricacies of KOF 14 is a welcoming one, since the game offers a multitude of tutorials to get you up to speed on the series’ established mechanics, such as rolls, blowbacks, and the all the different types of jumps. There’s also a Trial mode that educates you on the combos you can perform with each character, providing a general idea of which attacks and special moves each character can link together.

Once you’ve outfitted yourself with the basic knowledge to fight, KOF 14 offers plenty of modes in which to test your skills. Like past games, there's a story mode that allows you to fight against 10 stages’ worth of CPU opponents, but if you're expecting anything similar to the recent story modes from other fighters, like Street Fighter V or Mortal Kombat X, you're going to be disappointed. The narrative is vague and nearly non-existent, setting up--in three brief cutscenes--a much larger conflict that's likely to continue in later installments. Fortunately, the game includes ending cutscenes for each of the canonical teams to help bookend your journey and provide slight context over the events that took place.

If you're looking to compete against other players online, the good news is that servers are smooth and stable thus far. It also helps that your online activities are initiated via matchmaking rooms, where up to 12 players can join in and slot into separate rooms within to play exhibition matches of a chosen mode. The format is intuitive and keeps you from having to constantly search for a new room after every match just to find another opponent--though you'll be resorting to this in Ranked mode. It's also a great way to interact with multiple players at once via voice chat or text, testing your skills, asking questions, or discussing strategies.

With plenty of opportunities available online or off, KOF 14 is a well-executed addition to the revered fighting series. Those disappointed in its new visuals may be unwilling to give it a chance, but if you remain steadfast in parsing through the multiple layers of its mechanics, you'll be rewarded with one of the most accessible, satisfying entries in the series to date.

Back To Top
The Good
Accessible-yet-complex fighting system
New mechanics streamline combos and make fights tense
Large, diverse cast of characters
The Bad
Visuals do little to bring cast to life
Shallow story mode
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Matt played around 20 hours of The King of Fighters XIV before writing his review. His main team consists of K' (that's "K Dash" to you, pal!), Ralph, and Kyo. AtlusUSA provided GameSpot with a copy of the game for this review.
113 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for Ezioprez9709

Very pleased with the demo, might pick this up.

Avatar image for OtherFabbros

KOF is back to the roots after those shameless fails of XII and XIII.


Avatar image for matthova

Looks beast

Avatar image for ronthallsballs

Does Mai's buttcheek still bounce when she does crouching hk?

Avatar image for Jestersmiles

Are you OK???? Buster Wolf!!!!

Avatar image for crazynotstupid

To everyone who is worried about the graphics - it's really not that bad. Please do watch the Evo side tournament. It looks fine. The gameplay mechanics and the netcode should be the main concerns. I haven't played the game of course but the gameplay looks more than solid as a spectator.

If you are indeed THAT worried about graphics then the only fighting game you should be playing is MKX because it's head n shoulders above the rest.

Avatar image for ProjektInsanity

@crazynotstupid: I dislike the character designs and after all these years, MK animations still look too stiff for me. I'd argue that Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator is easily the best-looking fighting game at the moment. I don't love all the character designs in that game either, but my god, it looks gorgeous. How I'd kill for some of my other favorite series (Street Fighter and KoF among them) to be done in that style.

Avatar image for crystos

2d sprites infinitely bette rthan the plastic 3d models... but its the online that would keep me away.. iw as burnt by the last 2 KOF entries..the online was UNPLAYABLE. can anyone confirm the online for this??

Avatar image for Superzone

Hey, a fighting game that's actually being released as a complete package with plenty of content! I'm officially interested. Might have to pick this up.

Avatar image for wexorian

Had not bought Fail fighter butchered dlc unfinished 5 from crapcom, was searching for replacement till tekken , Nice timing :)

Avatar image for orochipunisher

Visuals are great. Easy to get past. It's all about the gameplay, mechanics and balance which SNK is known for. If you simply are avoiding this game because you "can't get past the visuals" you aren't a KOF fan.

Avatar image for Henninger

I bought the game last night & the graphics are not that bad. The gameplay is great. Really newcomer friendly but deep enough for the hardcore gamers.

Avatar image for Shunten

@mikethetrueth: This is gold!

Avatar image for soul_starter

I might get this when theres a price drop, doesn't seem worth it at full price.

Avatar image for crazynotstupid

KOF XIV had a side tournament in EVO 2016. It's a pretty cool game actually. Yes the graphics are not overly flattering but it's not all that big a deal. Ultimately in a fighting game you're looking for impressive game mechanics and spectacular plays (if you're a youtube viewer). KOF XIV has both. So if you're a fighting game fan and the graphics don't bother you a whole lot then I suggest you pick up a copy.

Avatar image for ginxeno

Should've go with Guilty Gear 3D art style, better animation with better face expression

but since it is KOF series, a definite buy

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

Kyo Kusanagi's head polygons are really, really lacking. One look at him and my thoughts about the effort that was invested into his model design are "high-school student side-project".

Avatar image for RogerioFM

@Gelugon_baat: Meh, Iori for laifu, screw Kyo's stupid face, purple flames > orange flames. Yes, I judge flames by colour.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@RogerioFM: Indeed, Iori looks so much better.

On the other hand, come to think of it, Kyo has always looked like a wannabe-cool dork ever since the first King of Fighters.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@kazeswen: You could have given me a link about SNK's acquisition by Chinese investors, you know, instead of saying vague things like "it's all over the media".

Anyway, for anyone else reading this, here it is.

Avatar image for kazeswen

@Gelugon_baat: The funny thing is the Chinese KOF knock off game was better looking than this. They should have just outsourced the development as opposed to doing it in house, since SNK seems to pretty behind the curve in game design.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@kazeswen: Do you think that SNK die-hards would buy this game if they knew that it was not made by SNK? Heck, SNK might well have gotten this far due to the money of their die-hards.

But yeah, 炫斗之王 is hella better looking and it uses sprites (created from 3D models no less). Really, just look at this picture.

Avatar image for kazeswen

@Gelugon_baat: Any link that I would have given you would have been in Mandarin as that's where I saw it initially, it was a while ago back when I was flipping through some KOF forums.

Avatar image for youre_a_sheep

I'm just glad to see the fighter icons, health bars etc. completely visible. They're cut off the screen in the demo and you can't adjust settings.

Avatar image for FalseProphet

@youre_a_sheep: I had no problem adjusting the fighter icons and bars. Did you remember to press R1 in the Options screen to go through the different pages?

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@youre_a_sheep: Really? The demo was that un-user-friendly?

Avatar image for youre_a_sheep

@Gelugon_baat: Turns out even in the final version the screen settings cannot be adjusted beyond moving the hud up or down a bit. Even the character's names are partly lopped off the screen in character select. Definitely not buying this now. How absurd to omit something as basic as being able to adjust screen size.

Avatar image for jonnybrownieboy

I wish SNK would have waited a little longer to release this. The market is flooded with AAA fighting games right now and neither my time nor my wallet can handle this ATM.

Avatar image for youre_a_sheep

@jonnybrownieboy: That just means by the time you've got time for it the price will have come down.

Avatar image for metallinatus

@youre_a_sheep: Which is good for him, not for SNK....

Avatar image for deactivated-5cf9b97def93e

The visuals/graphics doesn't bother me really. As long as the gameplay/mechanics are solid, and has plenty of game modes,that's all I need. It looks really fun.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@Ninjalawpsn: I do agree - but if there's a comparable product out there which offer similar complexity and variety in gameplay but with more impressive visual designs, how would you decide?

P.S. I know that I can't really provide any comparable example with 3D visuals now - Street Fighter V's game modes are rather lacking, by the way. If I have to pick between this SNK title and Capcom's - and I insist that I am not a fan of either - I would pick this one.

Avatar image for deactivated-5cf9b97def93e

@Gelugon_baat: That's a good question haha. Complexity and variety are definitely the biggest factors for me. As far as visual design goes, as long as the movements/motions are really fluid, I'm ok with it hehe.

I have Street Fighter V, and while the gameplay is really solid, it still feels very empty to me. I haven't had the chance to play Guilty Gear Xrd yet ( I hear I'm missing out lol), so I need to pick that up as well here soon.

Avatar image for orochipunisher

@Gelugon_baat: You could compare it to Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@orochipunisher: Man, the Guilty Gear games sure keep having increasingly more unwieldy names, don't they?

Avatar image for leeko_link

Seems like a good fighter but this game feels like it could had been done on the PS2 or Dreamcast. Maybe I'll pick it up when it's around $25.

Avatar image for kazeswen

@leeko_link: Looks like a Dreamcast game

Avatar image for girlusocrazy

It doesn't look bad, and it's miles ahead of Maximum Impact.

Avatar image for neurogia

The graphics look better than Street Fighter V. Some of those fighting arenas and the spectators in the background actually look really good.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@neurogia: On that I strongly disagree. This King of Fighter's 3D visuals look sterile and bland in my eyes.

P.S. I don't like Street Fighter V, and Capcom is on my boycott list anyway.

P.P.S. I am also aware that the graphics engine is developed by SNK itself. With that said, just because it's self-developed, it doesn't mean that it's praise-worthy in my eyes.

Avatar image for chad28_69

the graphics look like PS2 graphics, like DoA2 graphics.

Avatar image for RogerioFM

They have a Tekken's King knock off that is a dinosaur?

Avatar image for ahpuck

I'm usually not one to criticize graphics, but these are so amateurish it's hard not to point it out.

Avatar image for orochipunisher

@ahpuck: SNK just got back into game development. Everything it their own home grown engine from scratch as well as the netcode. They wanted to gain experience developing in 3D. For a small team this isn't bad.

Avatar image for ProjektInsanity

As a longstanding fan of the series, it breaks my heart to say this, but I just can't get down with these visuals. The gameplay looks very solid. I've come to expect that from SNK over the years. Always a fun play. The thing is, although their graphics were never cutting edge (except for that abortion of a game, KoF12 and the excellent KoF13), they always had so much personality. That's what made me fall in love with SNK fighters going back to the late '80s. Samurai Shodown, KoF, Art of Fighting, Last Blade (my personal favorite), and so on. Each of them was just brimming with unique, fun, and memorable characters. The characters are still there, but they look like lifeless dolls now.

This is less about "graphics" and more about "artistic design." I hope this game is successful, so KoF XV can bring back the KoF I love. Until then, it looks like I'll be waiting on Tekken 7.

Avatar image for deactivated-5a5f623fa2551

"If you're looking to compete against other players online, the good news is that servers are smooth and stable thus far."

All I needed to know. Buy.

Avatar image for jinzo9988

I'm not a fan of the 3D to be honest... not just for KOF but I mean for fighters in general. Didn't like it in Street Fighter 4, didn't like it in Marvel vs Capcom 3 and I don't like it here either. Fighters used to be where sprite-based graphics really shined and it's a shame to see another series just drop them... especially after they just finished revamping the look of their 2D games.

It was inevitable I suppose. At least they made the transition well by the sound of it.

Avatar image for ProjektInsanity

@jinzo9988: You and I are on the same page, friend. At least Arc Systems found a way to fool us into thinking they're using traditional sprite-based and it's gorgeous. Guilty Gear Xrd is a gem. I wish more companies would go this route. 3D just doesn't have the personality, although the Unreal 4-based Tekken 7 looks quite nice, so that might shut me up.

The King of Fighters XIV More Info

  • First Released Aug 23, 2016
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    KOF returns in a brand new installment, The King of Fighters XIV, on PlayStation®4
    Average Rating28 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate The King of Fighters XIV
    Developed by:
    Abstraction Games, SNK, SNK Corporation
    Published by:
    SNK Corporation, ATLUS, SNK Playmore, Deep Silver
    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.
    Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence