Killer Instinct (Xbox One) Preview
When the announcement trailer for Killer Instinct was shown at the Microsoft E3 2013 Media Briefing presentation, I flipped out. The Killer Instinct series holds a special place in my heart to this day and I still own my Killer Cuts CD soundtrack from back when I bought a new copy of the original Killer Instinct for the SNES. You know, with that awesome picture of Fulgore on the cover and the cartridge that was black? Anyways, footage of the game play has since been shown, though only with series mainstays Sabrewulf and Jago as playable characters, and I’ve taken the time to notice the intricacies of the combat as well as done some research on what to expect from the revitalized fighter.
The first aspect you’ll notice about the game are the graphics. The original game was a 2D fighter with 3D CGI character models and backgrounds. This however has been fully rendered in 3D but on a 2D plane, similar to that of Street Fighter IV. The art style has also changed. Instead of attempting a realistic style, this has an artistic style sort of like Street Fighter IV. The backgrounds used to be actually pre-rendered full motion videos that were designed to look good and match the action on screen. This has more fleshed out animations in the back that repeat themselves or act organically to the action of screen, kind of like Street – you get the point.
Clearly developer Double Helix is a big fan of the recent Street Fighter revival. However, straight up copying the graphical design of another game doesn’t sit well with me. Now to be fair, the original Killer Instinct wasn’t this beacon of originality. It was released at a time when fighting games were commonplace and one was being released every other month. However, one of the two biggest factors that separated the game from the pack were the graphics. That kind of FMV aesthetic combined with a fast paced fighting game with equally impressive character models was a striking look at the time and I’m sad to see the game just look like a Street Fighter clone. That said, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Looks aren’t everything and especially in a fighting game, it’s all about the gameplay. Now I’ll prefix this by saying that since I wasn’t on the E3 floor, I can’t difinitely say this is how the game plays, seeing as I wasn’t able to touch the controller and feel the game for myself. All of this is based on what I’ve seen from gameplay footage as well as my knowledge of fighting games dating back to when I first playing Street Fighter II on the SNES back in 1993 with my cousins.
The gameplay is fast. Very fast in fact. It’s definitely faster than it used to be back in the day. Jago and Sabrewulf both move quickly and attacks are executed at a rapid pace. It might be too fast in fact as I saw many combos just stop before concluding, probably due to the speed in which you are probably required to input your attacks. Also, there are reports of some of the combos being automatic, similar to the original. As a result, the game can get chaotic, like in Marvel vs. Capcom, and that will turn some people off while others will enjoy the frantic nature of it all.
It’s worth noting that there is a super move meter at the bottom of the screen that builds up as the match goes on. Whether it fills up by attacking or being hit isn’t clear yet but many of the super moves I saw are similar to the super moves in Killer Instinct 2 / Gold. There also appears to be another meter directly below your health meter that once filled can be activated by hitting Hard Punch and Hard Kick together and that activates some kind of powered state. The details of this state are not clear yet. Finally, ultra combos and combo breakers are confirmed to be back in the game from the original, which is a welcome addition as it along with the focus on combos in general was the second of the two biggest factors that separated Killer Instinct from other fighting game.
I’ve been wanting a new Killer Instinct game for a long time but based on my initial impressions, this seems like a wait and see title. Three characters, Jago, Sabrewulf, and Glacius, have been confirmed to be in the game but there’s no word on what characters will be returning from the first two games, nor has there been anything said about new characters. Now here’s the thing. Killer Instinct (whether that’s the final name of the game isn’t clear yet) is exclusive to Xbox One and will be available as a launch title. It’s also going to be a free-to-play title but will only feature one character, Jago. If you want more characters, you will have to pay for them. Whether they will be rolled out or released all at once and will be priced as a bundle or separately isn’t clear but that is a strange way to release a title in a franchise that’s been dead for over 15 years. Again, I think we’ll have to see how this one pans out but I hope it does. I’ve been waiting too long for a new Killer Instinct game for them to just screw it up. Either way, it looks like it will be a very different game than in the past.