Quantcast
Review: Killer Instinct (Xbox One) - Destructoid




Game database:   #ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ         ALL     Xbox One     PS4     360     PS3     WiiU     Wii     PC     3DS     DS     PS Vita     PSP     iOS     Android


Killer Instinct  




Review: Killer Instinct (Xbox One) photo
Review: Killer Instinct (Xbox One)

12:30 PM on 11.23.2013

A surprisingly semi-killer combo


When Killer Instinct was announced, I don't think I had heard the silencing of so many screams since the destruction of Alderaan. While many gamers quickly jumped for joy at the mere mention of this resurrection, said joy was completely obliterated when Microsoft said these two fateful words -- "Double Helix."

The Rare of old is dead and buried, and handing off such a storied franchise to a developer who generally handled licensed games was...interesting, to say the least. But here we are months later, and you know what?

It kind of worked out.

Killer Instinct (Xbox One)
Developer: Double Helix Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: November 22, 2013
MSRP: Free ($4.99 per character, $20 Season Pass, $40 Ultra Edition)

Killer Instinct 2013 is a "2.5D" fighting game that operates similarly to Street Fighter IV. But as a stark contrast to some other fighters, the crux of the game is based on the intricate combo system -- which lets you to "link" certain moves together (regulars and specials) to form long chains of attacks. To start off this process you'll throw up an "opener," which will allow you to begin a combo, then you can throw in a few regulars, with a small window to enact another link move, and so on.

The regular hit-confirm game is more present than ever, as you attempt to link everything you can into an opener to start a combo. To prevent you from doing this indefinitely, there's a "combo limit" meter near your hit count that shows you when you'll have to stop -- at that point, you'll pop an "ender" to inflict as much damage as you can, and your opponent will be allowed to recover, resetting the fight.

The beauty of this system is that it's extremely simple to grasp at first, but it has a lot of intricacies to it. For starters, the enemy can escape any combo with a "combo breaker" move, which is used by pressing either LP+LK, MP+MK, or HP+HK. Why the disparity between light, medium, and heavy? Well, because you need to know the strength of the combo your opponent is using to break it -- if you press the wrong combination of buttons, you'll be "locked out" of a breaker for a few seconds, and you'll have to take the punishment.

Add in the fact that you can use moves called "manuals" (delayed attacks that mix up the timing of combo breakers), and you have a huge, interesting meta-game involving the combo system that's very interesting to take part in. In practice, I mainly love this setup because it always keeps you on your toes. At any point anything can be punished, but instead of sitting there and waiting for it to be complete, you can just break it -- and with enough practice, you'll be able to break more and more.

But combos aren't the only system present in Killer Instinct. There are shadow attacks (EX moves) that allow you to modify special moves to do more damage, open up new combos, or even go through projectiles. Killer Instinct also has its own version of Marvel vs. Capcom 3's X-Factor (used by pressing HP+HK), which allows you to regenerate a small amount of health, and gives you more hit stun capabilities. But it's more than just a buff, as it can be used to cancel a move to avoid a punish, and momentarily reset your combo limit.

All of the standard fighting game tropes are also present, including cross-ups, wake up game, resets, and frame-specific moves. To finish everything off, you can use an "Ultra" combo as a fatality of sorts when your opponent has less than 15% of their health left on their last life. It's meant to be a dramatic finish, and the announcer goes absolutely nuts.

You won't have too much difficulty learning these systems, as Killer Instinct's "Dojo" tutorial is one of the best in the genre, rivaled only by Skullgirls. In fact, I'd make the claim that if you finished both tutorials from start to finish, that you'd have the foundations to improve your skills in any fighting game -- they're that comprehensive, including frame data and frame specific tutorials. Jago is the new Shotokan (or, Shoto, Street Fighter's perfect learning character) of Killer Instinct, so injecting him into the demo as your first free character is genius.

But while the systems are pretty solid, Killer Instinct is bare-bones in a lot of ways. For one, there's no campaign or any substantial amount of single-player content, really -- you're relegated to playing against the AI in single combat in the form of versus, survival, and practice. Killer Instinct does support two-player local and online play of course (which is where I spend all of my time anyway), but if you're the type of person who tends to play by themselves a lot, you might get bored rather quickly.

It doesn't have a whole lot going for it in terms of the fighter count, either -- there are a mere six at launch, and the promise of two more earlier next year (with future content up in the air). Alongside of Jago you'll get Sabrewulf, Sadira, Thunder, Orchid, and Glacius. Out of all these Sadira is the only newcomer to the fray -- so you're getting five pre-existing characters in all. Now, while the count is low for sure, I have to say the game is pretty balanced, to the point where all six are viable in their own way.

I was particularly blown away by Sadira, who quickly became one of my favorites with her web-based combos and aerial antics. All of the fighters have a decent amount of flair and their own personality though, so players shouldn't have trouble gravitating towards one. Personally, my all-time favorite Fulgore isn't coming until 2014, but I'm slowly learning to master Jago and Sabrewulf until then. As an aside, the visual style may feel a bit uninspired at times, but it runs at a smooth 60 frames per second, and occasionally looks like a next-gen game -- albeit a very early one.

Although I've been playing the game for quite some time, the reason the review is dropping after release is because I wanted to test the netcode, and online play in general. It's a bit of a mixed bag in the end, as most of the games I played had no slowdown, latency issues, or drops -- but there were a handful of games that had any number of those issues, to the point where I hope Double Helix fixes them sooner than later. On the bright side, you'll get a win for enemy disconnects.

Matchmaking is simplistic (to a fault), with the ability to be put together in ranked or unranked fashion, or host private games for friends. Keep in mind that your options are extremely limited in the sense that online play has no bells and whistles attached to it, and I hope that Double Helix ends up adding far more options in the future -- including robust lobbies, a spectator mode, and tournament options.

So how do you buy Killer Instinct since it's not a physical game? Well, you download the free version, and choose what to add on from there. Despite the gaming community's proclamation that the sky was falling at the announcement of the game, Killer Instinct is a far cry from an abusive free-to-play scheme. It's very simple -- you download the game for free, which comes with Jago, or buy each character for $5.

If you spring for a Season Pass (six characters now, with two more later) it'll run you $20, and the "Ultra Edition" nets you some extras for $40. So long as you don't mind the limited roster of six at launch, it's not a bad scheme in the slightest.

Since you can still completely learn the game's systems using Jago for free and play with your friends, fighting game fans will get hours of entertainment out of the "demo" alone. I tested the bare-bones version out for myself actually, and was sufficiently entertained for quite a while before I was influenced to redeem my Ultra code.

If you spring for the Ultra Edition of the game, you'll get a number of costumes, all the characters from the Season Pass, and a full Xbox Live Arcade game -- Killer Instinct Classic. This is basically its own game that's completely separate from Killer Instinct 2013, with its own achievements, save files, and extras. Point blank, if you're even a mild fan of the original it's worth buying.



The Ultra version includes the original arcade game with all its "fan-favorite glitches" in tow, and a rework that smoothed them out completely -- to be clear, this is not the Super Nintendo version. Unlike the Xbox One game this one has 10 characters, all of which are fairly unique in their own way. The extras are basically a solid collection of fan service, including a sprite gallery, cutscenes, and even Easter eggs like the "Winners Don't Do Drugs" arcade messages.

Killer Instinct may not be the new king of fighting games, and it feels a bit rushed in terms of content, but it is very solid and far exceeds my expectations for it. With a pricing scheme that doesn't feel exploitative and a balanced character roster, the well developed mechanics will keep you busy until the new content drops next year. It'll be interesting to see what the community at large thinks of it over time, but in my living room, it's a welcome addition to my fighting game roster.



THE VERDICT - Killer Instinct

Reviewed by Chris Carter

7.5 /10
Good: A solid game that definitely has an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun. Check out more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.





Riptor is looking pretty killer in her new Killer Instinct trailer photo


Riptor is coming to Killer Instinct this week photo


Brendan Fraser wouldn't like this next Killer Instinct Season 2 character photo


Killer Instinct's Season 2 is off to a great start photo


Killer Instinct Season 2 starts tomorrow with TJ Combo and Maya photo


Watch TJ Combo wrack up a 195-hit combo in training mode photo


Watch Maya wreck Sadira in these new Killer Instinct Season 2 screens photo


Killer Instinct: Season 2 begins October 15 photo


Killer Instinct hits store shelves, breaks combos in September photo


Maya will rejoin Killer Instinct for season two photo


Killer Instinct Updates, Screenshots, & Videos







Comments not appearing? Anti-virus apps like Avast or some browser extensions can cause this.
Easy fix: Add   [*].disqus.com   to your software's white list. Tada! Happy comments time again.

Did you know? You can now get daily or weekly email notifications when humans reply to your comments.





timeline following:
Killer Instinct



10:00 AM on 12.16.2014
Riptor is looking pretty killer in her new Killer Instinct trailer

Although we had confirmation of Riptor's existence in Killer Instinct already, now we have a better look at her moveset and backstory. Evidently she was created as a result of a competing project with Fulgore and Cinder...more



8:00 AM on 12.15.2014
Riptor is coming to Killer Instinct this week

Another classic combatant returns. Killer Instinct will get Riptor this week, as announced by the developers. Early access members are set to get her today, while the rest of the public will get her on December 17. The n...more



5:00 PM on 11.21.2014
Brendan Fraser wouldn't like this next Killer Instinct Season 2 character

Kan-Ra seems about as menacing as an Saturday morning cartoon villain, but that's why I like him. The mummy sorcerer is next in line for Season 2 of Killer Instinct. He'll be available first for Ultra Edition ($39.99) player...more



4:00 PM on 10.17.2014
Killer Instinct's Season 2 is off to a great start

Although it had a few issues in terms of content, Killer Instinct on Xbox One was actually a good game at launch. Since then, I've taken a look at both Spinal and Fulgore, and found them to be a great addition to the alr...more



8:00 PM on 10.14.2014
Killer Instinct Season 2 starts tomorrow with TJ Combo and Maya

Iron Galaxy took over continued development of Killer Instinct for Microsoft following Amazon's acquisition of Double Helix earlier this year. We'll get to see what the studio has come up with starting tomorrow when the firs...more



11:00 AM on 09.30.2014
Watch TJ Combo wrack up a 195-hit combo in training mode

TJ Combo is an absolute beast. We knew that back in the older Killer Instinct games, and that seems to be true to this day. Fans have been experimenting with the new iteration of the character in Killer Instinct fo...more



1:00 PM on 09.18.2014
Watch Maya wreck Sadira in these new Killer Instinct Season 2 screens

Killer Instinct is still chugging, and I still go back to it occasionally to play with friends. It's really held up, and Season 2 looks to bring more characters in along for the ride. In addition to the confirmed TJ Combo and...more



2:15 PM on 08.12.2014
Killer Instinct: Season 2 begins October 15

Season 2 of Killer Instinct begins on October 15, 2014. Fans can expect new fighters, enhanced game modes, and a revamped interface. The Ultra Edition will cost $39.99 and will include eight fighters starting with TJ Combo an...more



12:15 PM on 07.31.2014
Killer Instinct hits store shelves, breaks combos in September

To put a bow on the first season of Killer Instinct, Microsoft's offering the (somewhat) free-to-play Xbox One title to a new audience -- the retail crowd. Microsoft revealed today that on September 23, the game will receive ...more



5:30 PM on 07.11.2014
Maya will rejoin Killer Instinct for season two

Iron Galaxy is picking up Killer Instinct where Double Helix left off with a second season of content and as announced today at EVO 2014, one of the upcoming characters will be Maya. She's returning to the series with her tru...more




DLC

2:30 PM on 12.16.2014
Forza Horizon 2's first DLC takes places at the ominous Storm Island

Forza Horizon 2 shipped this fall with plenty of inclement weather, unlike some other game. Nevertheless, its first add-on centers around even more torrential downpours on the paradisiacal sounding Storm Island. Storm I...more



2:30 PM on 12.15.2014
Assassin's Creed Unity season pass owners' free game is coming this week

As an attempt to make amends for the flubbed Assassin's Creed Unity launch, Ubisoft announced last month that it'd grant the Dead Kings story add-on for free to all Unity players. This put out the season p...more



9:00 AM on 12.12.2014
The first batch of Call of Duty DLC weapons are live now for Xbox owners

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is still truckin', and although the first DLC pack hasn't officially dropped yet, Season Pass owners get free weapon DLC early. Of course, I meant to say "Xbox owners" get said weapons fir...more



View all DLC






Back to Top




All content is yours to recycle through our Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing requiring attribution. Our communities are obsessed with videoGames, movies, anime, and toys.

Living the dream since March 16, 2006

Advertising on destructoid is available: Please contact them to learn more