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Killer Instinct is combo-tastic... and it's free-to-play

4:00 AM on 06.11.2013

Tony Ponce

Contributor

So much for my buzz

This is damn ridiculous. When does it all end, Microsoft? When does it all end?

I've just returned from a special Microsoft event where select members of the press could sample Xbox One titles before the E3 show floor opens. The game I was most looking forward to putting through its paces was Killer Instinct, the revival of the fan-favorite Rare fighting game.

Double Helix Games may have taken over development duties from Rare, but I was still excited to see how well the series had been adapted for a new generation. And until a few minutes ago, I was prepared to type a glowing piece about how much stupid fun it was to mash buttons and execute mind-numbing combos.

Then I read this nonsense from IGN.

I had only played Killer Instinct on sporadic occasions back in the day, but I remembered the pre-rendered Silicon Graphics tech that also powered Donkey Kong Country, the infectious dance numbers, and the unreal combo system. The graphics have been upgraded to a beefier Street Fighter IV-esque style, and I couldn't hear the music in the hustle and bustle of the event, but the combos were back in full force.

For the demo, we only had access to Jago and Sabrewulf. And as in the originals, battles are not broken down into rounds. Your fighter possesses two life bars, and there is a momentary pause from when one bar gets whittled down before your character hops back up on his feet. The timer will not reset and your opponent's health won't be refilled. It's a straight-up battle to the end.

Combos are as important as ever. When you start raining blows on your enemy, a combo meter appears on the screen, gradually increasing as you string together successive blows. Once the combo is finished, you will be ranked for your performance -- "Basic" on the low end to "Awesome" in the mid range. I myself pounded the buttons on my fight stick like a madman and managed to pull off a 20-hit combo, resulting in a satisfying "Monster" grade.

But you opponent can also flip the script and bring your combo to an abrupt end with a classic "C-C-C-Combo Breaker"! Again, I couldn't hear the game thanks to the noise in the room, but I'm assuming the announcer has returned to chant out your awe-inspiring combo accomplishments.

With the odds stacked against Microsoft, it was nice to know that there was something to look forward to on Xbox One, something fans have been anxiously clamoring for. But Microsoft couldn't stand not to fuck even this one up. Enter the free-to-play model.

Killer Instinct is a free digital-only Xbox One launch title, but you will have to pay for all the characters, which consist of both old faces and newcomers. In fact, the only character available for free is Jago, while the rest will be available for a price to be announced at a later date.

Whatever. I don't care anymore. Any goodwill Microsoft hoped to build with this revival has been chucked out the fucking window. Way to go, guys.

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