Killer Instinct hit its prime back in the 90’s when it was one of the ‘must play’ games in arcades. It might be before your time but I clearly remember blowing my pocket money on it with a massive grin on my face. It was one of the fastest and best-looking fighting games in arcades, and trumped Mortal Kombat in terms of detail and of course combos. It’s been many years since we last saw a Killer Instinct game, many fans were hoping that Microsoft would revive the series on the first two Xbox consoles (after acquiring Rare), but alas that would have been silly. Why silly you ask? Because, we needed to wait this long for a system that could do justice to Killer Instinct’s insane combos, while keeping the framerate as smooth as Aunty Berrel’s homemade custard.
That system would be the Xbox One, and Killer Instinct was one of its launch titles at the end of last year. The game has adopted a free-to-play type model where you can download it and get one character free. You can then purchase additional characters as you please. However there is now a retail disc version that includes all the season one fighters (a TJ combo as a bonus). The game lets you choose from the classic arcade mode, a survival mode or a practice mode (Dojo). The arcade mode is exactly what you would expect to have seen back in the actual arcades, comprising of a ladder of fighters that you need to take down. Each victory gets you a little further up the ladder and the opponents get tougher as you go.
Speaking of tough, Killer Instinct is one of the harder fighters out there. This is because of the c-c-c-c-c-c-combo system. The combos in Killer Instinct are some of the best in the genre. If you’re a veteran you’ll make short work of your foe. However, if you are on the receiving end of a 50 hit combo, you might get a little de-motivated to continue the good fight. This is where the Dojo comes in handy. It’s a training area consisting of 32 lessons taking you through the art of combos and counters so that you can start to turn the tide of a mid-combo barrage with your own combo breakers, as well as actually land your combos successfully. Getting to grips with the various combat systems will help get you through a ladder of opponents, and prepare you for when you want to take the fight online.
You can also face off against countless waves of AI in a survival mode, if you are feeling up to it, and there is of course a player vs. player mode. The controls and combo systems work very well and there is a massive range of different techniques you can use once you learn how. Solid controls are not the only place where Killer Instinct excels though, the visuals are probably the best seen in a fighting game to date (until Mortal Kombat X dethrones it). There is an amazing amount of detail on-screen at any given time. Super powers unleash a storm of particles effects that light up the screen in immense detail. Shadows are fantastic, as well as the animations of the characters.
The character detail is also some of the best I have seen, Saberwulf’s fur for example will shake violently as he tears into an opponent. There is even some mild environmental destruction. The maps are pure eye candy, especially the mountain top area where it starts raining half way through the fight, and the water starts slowly pouring down the side of the cliff – wow moment (Ed – David just had an orgasm). This all happens at a blistering 60 FPS with not a single hiccup, however there is only one thing missing – blood. It seems to be minimal to non-existent during a battle, certainly nowhere near the levels of the old games. It’s a little sad because it’s such a brutal fighter that you would think bringing back the blood-stained floors of yester year would make sense.
However, that is a very small flaw in this polished fighter that has certainly been worth the wait. Season 2 has also just been released so once you buy the disc version you can decide to get an additional eight characters at a cost. You can also get Killer Instinct 2 arcade as an optional add-on too. To be honest the core game with the eight fighters (from season one) and the added bonus of TJ Combo is just about all you need. Sure you can add on season two fighters when your wallet agrees with you, but season one is well worth the asking price. Overall Killer Instinct does justice to the high standard set by its predecessors, and its taking no mercy on your thumbs. Time to get button smashing.