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Insane combo!

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    Killer Instinct

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    Insane combo!

    Killer Instinct has been a game series that has lied dormant for well over a decade. Since Rare was acquired by Microsoft to develop for the Xbox, fans have been begging Microsoft and Rare to put out a new game in the Killer Instinct series. Well, that wish has finally come true with Killer Instinct on Xbox One, co-developed by Rare and Double Helix, Microsoft made the wise move of releasing their eighth generation console alongside a launch title that was considered a dream project for many fighting game fans. Killer Instinct on Xbox One was well worth the wait, living up to the hype and surpassing it in many ways, resulting in a game that makes Xbox One well worth the price of admission.

    Killer Instinct uses a very unique pricing model. Anyone can access the various game modes for free, but they can only use one character, which is rotated out every so often in updates. Players can choose to purchase specific characters, or purchase to unlock all of the characters. Those that want to spend the most money can have access to two downloadable characters (including Spinal, who was just recently released as of the time of this writing, and another character coming down the line), ability to unlock all of the content in the game, and access to an Xbox One port of the original Killer Instinct arcade game, complete with the original version with all the glitches and the redone version that fixes the glitches.

    Diehard Killer Instinct fans and anyone that just honestly digs the game will want to pay the full price of admission, which is a respectable $40. Usually a pricing model like this would bother me, but Microsoft gave Double Helix and Rare very limited time to make the game since it had the strict deadline of launching alongside Xbox One. The developers chose to make the core gameplay mechanics the focus of their development time, hence adding the rest of the characters and later an arcade/story mode months after release.

    Because of this very unique pricing model, reviewing Killer Instinct is somewhat of a challenge. Depending on how much users are willing to spend, if anything at all, can definitely have an effect on how much they enjoy the game. I recommend trying it for free and then if it is enjoyable, buying the $40 Ultra Add-On that comes with the most content. Another reason that reviewing this game is trickier than the average game is because this essentially the "first season" of Killer Instinct, with a second season planned for later that will add even more content, characters, and change various aspects about the gameplay.

    So what I can do is review what’s there right now, and what’s available right now is absolutely phenomenal. Killer Instinct on Xbox One is by far one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had with a fighting game. The game is incredibly deep and complex, yet it is also accessible to newcomers to the genre. It is an extremely fast-paced game, with a focus on combos as well as breaking up combos. Mastering each character takes a lot of time, but mastering the basics of the game and the fighting genre in general has never been easier.

    This is because of the Dojo. A lot of fighting games have little tutorial sections, but I’ve found them cumbersome and a pain to use in the past. Killer Instinct’s Dojo starts with the most basic of functions in the game, and then slowly builds on that one lesson at a time. Those that are struggling with the game can just spend some time with the Dojo and they will come away much better than when they started.

    Of course, there’s also a generic Practice Mode for those that want to test out their moves against motionless bots. I do have to knock the game for lacking a genuine arcade/story mode at launch, but the other modes are very adequate. Players can just fight the AI or each other offline, plus there is online available in the form of both exhibition and ranked matches.

    With the exception of one time when the game frozen on me during the stage selection, I found the online in Killer Instinct to be very enjoyable and accessible. The ranking system genuinely works, so it is unlikely for players to be put against those that are way out of their skill range, an issue I discovered is quite prevalent in other fighting games. Various systems have been put into place to punish rage quitters, so there really isn’t much of that going on in the online battles. Hell, the battles are quick enough so that it’s actually more inconvenient to quit in the middle than it would be to simply finish the fight. These factors combine to result in a surprisingly mature online community that has provided one of the least poisonous experiences I’ve had with any game through the Xbox Live service.

    Every character feels vastly different from the next, and I like that the developers decided to keep the roster small instead of stuffing as many characters as possible into the game like many other fighting game developers try to do. As of the time of this writing, there are seven characters available, with one original character and the rest based on characters from the older Killer Instinct titles. Fulgore is the eighth and final character for the season 1 version of Killer Instinct, but I obviously have not been able to play as him (since he is forthcoming), so I am unable to comment on how he fits into the game.

    However, I love all of the characters included. They look amazing on Xbox One, with a high level of detail and stunning animation accompanying each one of them. The fluidity of the animation is truly remarkable. The fast-paced fighting combined with the vibrant colors and brilliant particle effects help Killer Instinct stand out amongst the early eighth generation games as one of the best-looking fighting games made to date and one of the few games that truly looks like it belongs on an eighth generation gaming system.

    Less truly is more when it comes to Killer Instinct, and perhaps other fighting game franchises should take note. Each character has a stage based on them, and the stages are kept fairly simplistic. There are no environmental attacks or anything of that nature as we saw added in various other fighting game franchises over the years, and there’s no need for these gimmicks to keep the combat fresh and exciting. Everything is focused on the battle between the two characters, which is a nice change of pace from other fighting games that are more about collecting power-ups or using those aforementioned environmental objects to gain the advantage in fights.

    One thing I did not like about the game is the current unlockable system. Players have to complete ridiculous tasks just to unlock the right to purchase the extra content, which is oftentimes overpriced. I feel like the content should either just A) be unlocked using the in-game currency or B) be unlocked by completing the conditions outlined therein instead of requiring players to do both. It puts up an unnecessary roadblock between the players and the coolest unlockable content.

    Killer Instinct gives players plenty to do, between the multiple game modes, achievements, and the constant stream of updates and DLC that’s on the way for the game. Killer Instinct Classic provides a nostalgia look back for those that grew up with the original arcade game, and the online is very addicting. Killer Instinct provides one of the best bangs for your buck out of any of the other games in the eighth gen lineups, with the potential to offer players countless of hours of entertainment.

    I don’t really consider myself that much of a fighting game fan. Most fighting games, even those that are highly praised elsewhere, honestly fail to capture my attention. However, a certain few, such as Killer Instinct on Xbox One, render me unable to put the controller down. The game is a masterpiece, a testament to what is possible on eighth generation gaming systems, and a triumph considering how little of development time the developers had to make sure this game was ready for the launch of Xbox One. Killer Instinct is a fighting game fan’s dream come true; it embodies what we loved about the series in the past while also making it feel like a relevant update. I can’t wait to see how the game evolves more and more over time, as it is sure to just get better and better. Until then, I can assure anyone reading this that Killer Instinct, even in its current state lacking game modes and characters that will be added in future updates, is worth every penny.

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