In 1994, Killer Instinct redefined
what was possible out of a 2D fighting game. Both graphically and technically,
the the original KI (and its sequels) made a
memorable impact in the fighting genre. After the
sequel (KI2) and N64 port (KI Gold) a couple
years down the road, the series went "missing in action" for over 15 years. In
March of 2010, rumors of a
next-gen reboot started to swirl, and finally at E3 2013, Microsoft and
Double Helix Games announced a brand new Killer Instinct for Xbox
The new Killer Instinct debuted as a launch title for Xbox One in Nov. 2013. The core game is free-to-play, with Jago originally available to everyone from the start
(the free character is rotated every so often).
Players can use all of the game's default modes in the
free version, including
Online and Training. Additional characters can be purchased
individually for about $5.00 each or in various packs. The later Season
2 content added several stages and 9 characters to the title. Season 3 released in March 2016 for both Windows 10
and Xbox One. Both platforms
are connected with cross-play, and purchased
content will transfer back and forth if you own both versions. Rash from Battletoads,
KI's first ever guest character, alsos make his debut in Season 3 along
with Kim-Wu, Tusk, Arbiter, Mira and Gargos.
Instinct Season 3's new selection screen.
Visually, the new Killer Instinct presents a sharp 2.5D graphics engine with
eye-catching particle effects and lighting. The "evolving" backgrounds
and BGM tracks also bring some aesthetic innovation to the table. Many returning characters
look considerably "different" than the way us old school
KI players remember them. However, some "classic costumes" from
KI1 and KI2 have thankfully made an
appearance via DLC (with surely more to come in the future). Personally, I'd
like to see classic costumes for all of the returning characters (along with many color
options, like in previous games).
Killer Instinct uses the familiar "6-button" layout - 3 punches
and 3 kicks. Like in the prequels, the combo system will allow for some insanely long
and flashy combo strings. Dubbed "around the world" combos, heavy attacks can
chain into medium attacks, followed by light attacks. Afterwards, you can
connect a heavy attack of the opposing type (light punch to heavy kick) and
continue the cycle. Like in past installments, Special Moves can be used as combo openers,
linkers, and enders.
should fix your face, Kim Wu.
Killer Instinct now has a traditional 2-level
super meter called the Shadow Meter. Attacking and taking damage build the
meter slightly, but having your attacks blocked build the meter faster.
Blocking a few normals supply 1 stock, and blocking a few specials
fill the meter to max rather quickly. Once the
Shadow Meter fills up, players have access to Shadow Moves (similar to EX
Specials), which have enhanced properties and damage.
The "Instinct Meter" is another entirely new
system introduced, and can be compared to X-Factor from Ultimate MVC3.
When a player has full meter, they can enter Instinct Mode by pressing both
heavy attacks. The Instinct Meter has three different effects. First, it cancels
a move in progress, returning the character to a neutral state. It also gives
character-specific enhancements, for example: Extra frames, more block stun,
etc. Lastly, Instinct Meter reduces Knockout Meter to zero, enabling players to
extend their possible hits during a combo and max out the damage.
What made Killer Instinct
fun to play in the past was its insane but addicting combo system. The general
format of the new combo system is very similar to the old titles. Start a combo
off with an "opener," add in the normal moves, and finish the combo
with a cool-looking "ender" to end the combo. There
is now a "combo limit" meter near your hit count which indicates when
you should start thinking about ending the combo.
C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!!! Of course, the iconic Combo Breakers return and are easier
(but fairer) to execute. Pressing the 2 buttons that correspond with either a
Light, Medium, and Heavy attack will allow you to break your opponent's combo. But
if you guess wrong,
you'll be "locked out" and have to take the full damage of the combo. Combo breakers also deal
significant damage, which ends up making them dangerous when characters have low
health. Combo Breakers aren't the only
gameplay mechanic that breaks combos. The new Knockout Value bar (underneath the
health meter) fills when linkers and auto doubles are used repeatedly. When the
bar is full, the player will drop their combo.
Black Orchid's new moves
are just sick... and her old ones still look great!
Thankfully, Killer Instinct features
an in-depth "Dojo" Tutorial mode (a direct throwback to the N64 mode),
giving players every opportunity to learn the in's and out's of the gameplay
engine. In short, it's definitely one of the best fighting game tutorial modes
in recent memory. The Dojo features 32 lessons, ranging from fighting game
fundamentals to the many intricacies of the combo system.
Season 3's "Shadow Lords" mode offers a nicely designed single-player
experience, in addition to the original Season 1/2 Story Mode (which was pretty
bare bones). Now that Season 3 is here, Killer Instinct feels like a very
"complete" game... a stark contrast to its original launch. The final
character roster includes every single character from past games, who are joined
by colorful newcomers such as Sadira, Kan-Ra, Mira, Hisako, and Aganos,
who all seem to "fit" into the series incredibly well. And what's a
fighting game without guest characters in this day and age? Rash from
Battletoads, General RAAM from Gears of War, and Arbiter from HALO make their
fighting game debuts.
The game's Customization mode is fun, which includes a variety of unlockable
items for all characters. Perhaps my favorite part of this mode is the Retro
Costumes, which are throwbacks to each character's original design. Other than
that, it's fun to mix and match clothing items to get that perfect look for your
fighter of choice (and there's great variety)! Additionally, each character has
plenty of basic color palettes to choose from, which is pleasingly reminiscent
of the many color options found in KI2 / KI Gold.
||Double Helix, Iron Galaxy, Rare Ltd., Microsoft
(XB1 - Digital Release)
Sept. 23rd, 2014
(XB1 - Retail Combo Breaker Edition)
Oct. 15th, 2014
Mar. 29th, 2016
10/XB1 - Season 3)
Sabrewulf, Thunder, Orchid,
Sadira, Spinal, Fulgore,
T. J. Combo, Maya,
Shadow Jago, Omen,
Aria, Kim-Wu, Tusk,
Raam, Kilgore, Eagle
Instinct, Killer Instinct 2, Killer
Instinct Gold, Mortal Kombat 9, Mortal
Kombat X, Super SF4: Arcade Edition,
Ultra SF4, Street
8.5 / 10
7.5 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.5 / 10
/ Sound Effects
9.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
7.5 / 10
8.5 / 10
Options / Extras
7.5 / 10
Intro / Presentation
7.0 / 10
Replayability / Fun
7.5 / 10
8.5 / 10
9.0 / 10
Review based on PC version
By Season 3, Killer Instinct
ended up being a solid reboot of a classic fighting game series... one that old
school players though they may never see brought back into the spotlight. For
better or worse, Killer Instinct is still very much Killer Instinct.
an old school KI1/KI2 player from back in the arcade days, there are
plenty of details and throwbacks to appreciate in this reboot. Although... there are some
things I wasn't so impressed with. While I was happy to see the return of all of my
favorite KI characters, some of the updated designs lacked... something.
Spark? Personality? Originality? It's difficult to put a finger on it.
the updated character designs just seem to be either trying too hard or not
quite hard enough. When bringing back a character, their body type or
"proportion" is a pretty important detail I think. Capcom fighting
games are particularly known for their exaggerated proportions. Well, the
original KI and KI2 had unique character proportions as well... and that
"style" is somewhat compromised in this new Killer Instinct.
In terms of
animation, some moves and win animations also look awkward and "animatronic"
in an "early SF4" kind of way.
Furthermore, some of the rendering of human characters faces and bodies (like Kim Wu
and Tusk) is pretty darn ugly. On the bright side, all of the non-humans looks spectacular.
These artists can definitely do monsters... but they seem bored with humans.
Nitpicks aside, the game as a whole animates
well and looks very crispy - especially in MAX settings on PC.
Besides the crazy and open-ended combo system, my favorite part about KI
visually is probably the
stage designs. The backgrounds have many small aesthetics that give them
atmosphere and personality, and the
amazing soundtracks really bring it home - capturing the original heavy metal
"vibe" of the franchise. The way the soundtracks evolve throughout the
fight is also very innovative and memorable.
Xbox One exclusive?
Gross. I knew I made the right
decision by NOT buying an X-Bone just for this game. (Thanks PC version.) Back in 2013, Killer Instinct launched in a very raw and incomplete
state. The game was practically a
work-in-progress demo for several years... but everything finally came together
in Season 3. However,
I have mixed feelings about the "free-to-play" model, and the rate at
which new content was released...
Furthermore, some of the DLC characters were kinda "flop" designs, in
my opinion. Adding one new "chess
piece" to the game every few months did manage to keep the game fresh, at the same
time, it became a bit monotonous and discouraging for non-hardcore players. I
personally like putting my valuable time into learning a "complete" fighting
game from the get-go, and one where I don't have to relearn the game every 2 months when a new balance patch is
released. These constant updates were a double-edged sword, in my opinion, and
actually contributed to my loss of interest in the title over time. Just my 2
I ended up buying the "Ultimate Edition" of Killer Instinct
Season 3 on PC for $59.99... but was disappointed to see that Shadow Jago
was not selectable. I waited all this time to buy a "complete" version
of the game, and still... I don't get to use every character with my purchase?
That's pretty BS. Other than that, I enjoyed my time with Killer Instinct. The reboot still seems
half-polished in some areas, but not half-hearted. The team worked hard on this
game, and it shows. Overall, Killer Instinct "3" ended up
being a pretty solid fighting game for players new and old. ~TFG