Fans of 1990s fighting games had been waiting for this game for over a decade. Killer Instinct may not be the most well-known fighting game, but it had a cult following. So when it was announced at the Xbox One reveal that Killer Instinct would return, unsurprisingly many fighting game fans were excited. However, talks about the game’s “Free-to-Play” model hindered much of the buzz, as did some comments from the creators of the franchise. Despite these setbacks, did Killer Instinct live up to the hype?
What exceeded expectations?
In the past, the gameplay for Killer Instinct was clunky, but racking up large intense combos would more than make up for the experience. However in this remake, there is far more balance, starting directly with the combo system and defending it. In the earlier games, players were helplessly caught in a flurry of attacks unless they had a combo breaker ready to use. This game has added not only a combo breaker system that’s timing oriented and rewards players that have done their homework on their opponents. And with the addition of the counter breaker, those infamous onslaughts of attacks turn into mind games.
The small roster is actually a great thing for the game. It provides the player more time to learn how to use a few characters, and then learn how to read the moves and tactics of the other characters. It also allows the roster to be very unique. Glacerius is a distance fighter, while characters like Sabewulf and Orchid need to be closer. The new character Sadira is an aerial fighter. Some of these styles were impossible in the previous games. Too often, fighting games provide a large cast of characters, only for competitive players to weed out which ones have the edge over others. With a smaller cast, Killer Instinct allows the players to choose whoever they want, and master them without feeling like they are always going to have a major disadvantage online.
The tutorial is an absolute gem. Too often, competitive players have a clear advantage online because they understand game mechanics that casual players are not told. The developers chose to close this gap with an extensive tutorial, as well as an endless survival mode to help players hone their craft. With these tools, players will be able to kick butt online in no time.
What met my expectations?
The soundtrack for the most part is decent, with Orchid’s background music being the clear highlight. And the original announcer for the previous two games returning was also a treat for old school and modern fans alike. He brings an over-the-top quality key to this game’s aesthetic.
The art was at times great and as vibrant as Killer Instinct should be. However, at other times, like Jago, Thunder, and Orchid’s character designs, it came off as uninspired, and in Thunder’s case, lazy. Then again, character designs have never been a strong suit for Killer Instinct, but even relative to the classic games, the designs are lacking.
There was an expectation for extra content, and providing the original Killer Instinct game was something appreciated, but predictable.
What failed to meet my expectations?
The game is incomplete. There is no other way around it. There are a serious lack of modes and content. Compared to the recent Netherrealm Studios outings, Killer Instinct feels like a quarter of a game; a demo. You must buy the entire cast for $20, or you’ll be left only with Jago. This means that most likely, you will be fighting plenty of Jago’s online. I’m sure those who were playing the title when it was first released had to deal with this.
The lack of modes and content really polarizes this game, yanking away a lot of the crossover appeal the game could have had. As it currently stands, the game is built for competitive play and only competitive play. And not gamers play for that. Not even all fighting gamers, despite the massive push towards competitive gaming culture instead of casual play. Also, not everyone has the money or patience to have to wait for a complete game; to wait for each “season” of downloadable content.
As it stands, Killer Instinct is one of the best launch titles on the Xbox One. However, it could have been better. Much better, and if that meant it not being a launch title, then that sacrifice should have been made. Instead of it being the face of another fighting game revival, it is instead the face of a current business model for fighting games—one that isolates casual gamers and is unhealthy for the genre. So the game is fun, and if you are a dedicated fighting game fan, keep an eye on it. If you feel that it is a rip-off, then you are not alone, and hopefully, that feeling doesn’t continue throughout this console generation.