The screams of “C-C-Combo Breaker” and “Ultra Combo” have been absent from consoles for a while. Microsoft and Double Helix remedied that though by making Killer Instinct as a downloadable title for the launch of the Xbox One. Does it deliver a satisfying punch or does the freemium-ish model leave it wanting?
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Microsoft and developer Double Helix are trying something different with Killer Instinct by partially borrowing League of Legends’ economic model for obtaining playable characters. The full game can be downloaded for free by everyone but Jago will be the only available character and you won’t gain achievements or build any stat history. Alternatively, you can buy the starting six characters individually for $4.99 each or plunk down $19.99 for all of them plus two additional characters that are planned for release in February or March of next year along with a story mode.
What is currently present with Killer Instinct is a bare bones fighter that offers a Survival mode, Versus mode to fight friends locally and ranked and unranked multiplayer matches. While there is no story board or elaborate online multiplayer it does offer a Dojo mode which provides everything an aspiring Ultra Combo-maker needs to get started.
Button Masher to Hero
The Dojo mode is the true gem of Killer Instinct as it gets you ramped up from noob-ish button masher to quickly understanding the intricacies of Openers, Autos, Manuals, Linkers and Enders to pull off the insanely satisfying combos. You’ll also learn how to pull off combo breakers by pushing the two buttons on the controller that matches the strength of the combo that your opponent is currently running on your head.
The Dojo mode is not only quick and satisfying but provides KO points as well that can be spent to unlock additional content such as alternate skins for characters, taglines and more.
Of course, KO points can be earned during the course of a match as well for executing various combos, Shadow moves and more. The combat is the heart of Killer Instinct and it beats mightily. While there are only six characters available right now they vary greatly and fit very specific roles (even if Sadira does feel cheap at times). In Street Fighter parlance, Jago is the Ryu/Ken character type while Sabrewulf is of the Blanka variety for example. This distinct fighting style variety combined with the combo system, combo breakers, shadow counters and other leads to some intense fights.
My God, it's Full of Particles
Visually, Killer Instinct is an excellent looking fighting game full of effects. The updated character models might not be to everyone’s tastes but screen is filled with lovely looking particle effects and rain dripping down the character’s body’s on some stages. It greatly helps that the animations are smooth as butter while running at 60 frames per second. Meanwhile, the dynamic background environments will change based on the action on screen (such as pulling off an ultra combo) and look damn fine in the process. The soundtrack and over-the-top announcer are solid as well and classic Killer Instinct soundtracks can be unlocked to use in the game’s practice mode.
Technically, Killer Instinct is in its first season and Double Helix plans to release additional characters, stages and other content in the future. The long-term success of the game will be determined by the quality of this content and how quickly it can be made available. Dropping $20 on what is currently available isn’t a bad investment as the game is a solid entry in the fighting genre and at least deserves a shot as a free download. Future costs might be an issue when compared to full retail releases but the scream of “C-C-Combo Breaker,” satisfying combat and a Dojo mode that does an excellent job of getting you off the ground (literally) makes Killer Instinct a can’t miss for the Xbox One.
Title: Killer Instinct
Platform(s): Xbox One
Developer: Double Helix
Price: Free, $4.99 for individual characters, $19.99 for Combo Breaker Pack, $39.99 for Ultra Edition
Release Date: Oct.8 (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Wii), Nov. 15 (PS4), Nov. 22 (Xbox One)
The Combo Breaker Pack was purchased by the author for the purposes of this review.
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