STAFF REVIEW of Killer Instinct (Xbox One)

Monday, November 25, 2013.
by Brent Roberts

Killer Instinct Box art Over a decade of waiting, gamers around the world have been subjected to numerous teasers which amounted to nothing, the running joke of April fool’s jokes, but no longer. For those XboxAddict faithful, you'll know that I've personally been waiting for this moment since the Nintendo 64 days, and when the lights went down over the Xbox One launch, that was when the bell rang out and the fight was on. Killer Instinct makes a triumphant return as a downloadable game in the Xbox One store. There are many different versions of Killer Instinct to choose from and as expected different price points as well. For instance you can purchase the game for free, however the content you get is limited to only Jago as a selectable fighter and you will also miss out on the other five levels and characters as well. Currently there are six characters available now and those characters are:

Chief Thunder

More characters will follow such as Spinal and Fulgore, coming in January and March respectively. Given the number of variants of Killer Instinct, the price breakdown and content is as follows:

1) FREE - Jago only
2) Single Character - $5 per character
3) Combo Breaker Pack - $19.99 (First 8 characters which includes 6 from launch and 2 more to follow later)
4) Ultra Edition - $39.99 (First 8 characters which includes 6 from launch and 2 more to follow, PLUS costumes for each character, and accessories for each character, and even the original Killer Instinct game.)

Then Pinny Arcade has decided to step up to the plate and release a Killer Instinct Pin Ultimate Edition. This is the edition that we will be using for this review as it includes everything that you will find in the Ultra Edition, however like any true warrior you now have a way of showcasing your talents to the world. This version allows you to collect physical metal pins that have different characters, emblems and more and collect them inside a hardcover case. At this time there are two ways to acquire new pins once they are available. You can either purchase them plus pay for shipping costs, or you can register your Pin Ultimate Edition and complete various challenges throughout the months to get them sent to you as a reward for your success in Killer Instinct! Now you know what versions there are available, let's dive into the game itself. Fight on!

Right away you will be taken down memory lane as you here the terminator style drums kick in and the Killer Instinct title fade in from the fire below. Once you hit the start button to begin, your ears immediately feel the joy as the infamous guitar riff starts to take over your speakers. For any Killer Instinct fan, this moment was one that solidified your belief and faith in a game that was once thought to never be released again. From the opening menu you have some various options besides just the standard local, online and option menus. Your options in the local menu allow for player vs. player matches, survival mode, dojo missions which essentially are training simulations that you have to accomplish and will take you from the basics to advanced techniques of Killer Instinct.

You will also find training mode here which will allow you select an individual character and practice his/hers/it's combinations and even ultras as well. You can configure the training dummy as expected from other fighting games, but there is one thing missing, and that is a story mode. Why there isn't any form of story mode is beyond us and still leaves us with lingering questions from the last Killer Instinct. One little ding though has to fall with the multiplayer option. Your multiplayer menu will allow you to fight in either exhibitions or ranked matches online and view the leaderboards. If you want to challenge your friends it's incredibly simple to host a match and send out an invite, but ultimately in the end that is all that is provided at launch.

Other menu options such as Fight Archive allow you to view your fight profile, your achievements, and even replays which can be selected as favorites for view later. With the Xbox One allowing to record game footage, now your replays can be recorded and uploaded so you can show off your 50+ hit ultra-combos! Underneath the Fight Archive is the KI Store and it's in here that you can purchase additional characters, levels, and even character costumes. The costumes and levels must be purchased using the in game currency known as KP.

Gaining KP is done by completing various challenges such as jumping over 10 projectiles, winning one fight of survival mode, and so on. Once you have enough points you can purchase the levels, however, to purchase the costumes you first must complete the requirement to unlock it. These requirements follow a similar criteria to earning KP, and once unlocked can be purchased. Rounding out the new menu options is the Customization selection. Here you can go through all your characters and customize not only the color of their outfit, but their accessories as well. For instance instead of Jago wielding a razor sharp sword, he could use a mace instead. Each character has their own customization options to unlock and provides a great way to diversify the characters from their standard stock appearance.

There is a menu that will allow you to configure your buttons and that is critical in every fighting game, and in Killer Instinct, it's no different. The play controls are incredibly smooth which allow beginners to pick up and play while giving Killer Instinct masters, a true test on chaining together their longest combos. Killer Instinct is definitely a game that is simplistic on the outside but incredibly deep when you dive into the controls. Thankfully there is little lag when it comes to the button input which means that linking and chaining long combinations are fairly simple, however watch out for that combo breaker. In previous versions, your combo breaker required you to perform a certain move and match the strength of the attack in order to break it. This means that if your opponent hits you with a strong attack, your combo breaker must be done with a strong attack. While this could get confusing to some, in this version of Killer Instinct, you can use a combo breaker by using the right stick and pushing it either up, left, right, or down.

There are some new aspects as well to the gameplay and those are the Counter Breakers, Shadow moves/linkers, and instinct mode. The counter breakers are devastating moves that when pulled off correctly will allow you to counter your opponent's combo breaker and continue your unrelenting attacks at will. These turn the tide of a fight almost instantly and are a key to success. For instance, let's say that your opponent may be reveling in a successful combo breaker after you landed 15 hits; however, their hopes are immediately dashed as you counter their combo breaker and beat the ever loving crap out of them.

Instinct Mode allows your character special traits and abilities when activated. Some of these traits increase mobility while others can regenerate health. In order to use these new abilities you have to charge your Instinct meter to full and activate it, and even though the effects may be only temporary, when you time it right it could mean the difference between walking out alive, or death. Another addition to the gameplay is the inclusion of a "shadow meter" found at the bottom left of the screen. This meter climbs when you take damage, execute special attacks, and more, but what is interesting is what this shadow meter does to your character when activated. Take Jago for instance; normally he can only fire one projectile at a time; however, when he activates the shadow meter he fires five.

Once in the game you will see that Killer Instinct looks absolutely stunning. Character modeling has been taken to a level that fans have dreamed about but never seen in existence, until now. The background detail is also done very well. Various stages such as Glacius' crashed ship, Sabrewulf's dungeon, or Sadira's spider lair provide stunning backdrops to the fluid and intense fighting that will be taking place momentarily. Making sure the graphics run with a high sense of fluidity is a difficult challenge when creating a fighting game, but the crew at Double Helix Games makes it look effortless. While your eyes may be overjoyed by the visual beauty, your ears, however, will celebrate when you hear the dynamic soundtrack play throughout the fight. Each level has its own theme, however, as the fighting progresses and intensifies, the music will change. You will hear alterations and additions to the music including a rise in tempo so what you thought was just a rollercoaster ride of fun turns into a rocket launch about to go into orbit.

Also making an auditory triumphant return is the original announcer's voice for Killer Instinct. Beating the crap out of your opponent is always entertaining, however, when you hear that announcer yell, everything intensifies. Such an example would be when you land a combo breaker, the announcer yells, but if you land a counter breaker it sounds as if the announcer starts screaming "COUNTER BREAKER" right in your face. This however, is nothing compared to when you land the mother of all combos, the ultra-combo. This is where the announcer goes absolutely ape s*** crazy and screams as loud as he can, UUUUUULLLLLLLTTRRRRRRAAAAAA CCCCOOOOOOOMMMMBBBBOOOOOOOO.

There are a few gripes with Killer Instinct, such as the lack of a true story mode, online lobbies, ladder matches, lengthy load times for the fights, etc. Overall though, by producing a superior fighting game at a budget price point is a task that few attempt, and even fewer succeed, however the crew at Double Helix Games have pulled it off in a way that is absolutely remarkable. Solid and fluid gameplay is combined with stunning visuals, dynamic sounds, and relentless to create a truly mesmerizing fighting experience. With the inclusion of the original arcade game, this version of Killer Instinct is hands down the best value for dollar experience you can find right now on the Xbox One.

Include more multiplayer modes which include online lobbies, winner stays matches, ladder matches, etc. Please also work on including a story mode going forward. Include online play with the original Killer Instinct arcade game. It was possible to play the original Killer Instinct on the Super Nintendo via the Xband, but why not now?

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.8 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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