Killer Instinct Review

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After only ninety minutes in the Xbox One’s Killer Instinct reboot, a blister was carved into the flesh of my left thumb – a painful reminder of the toll this series takes on your innocent extremities. In 20 years of gaming no other franchise has demanded a more painful price of admission, and yet despite such an inconvenience, the recovery has been tinged with nostalgia. That hasn’t stopped me from playing the game however because against all odds, with barely a member of the original KI development team remaining, Double Helix has captured the essence of the franchise while keeping it accessible to a modern audience.

So what sets KI apart from its better known, Japanese brothers? Well, just like the controversial tv show Lost, in KI you press random buttons and crazy shit happens. You don’t have to count frames or spend months training to feel like a badass, which opens up its appeal to an audience typically unfazed by the fighting game genre. Hell, I’ve wedged the Xbone’s controller between the gangly stalks at the end of my smelly, fungus-infected feet, and still managed to pull off some formidable combos (true story).

But that filthy word, accessible. Yeah I dropped it eight lines ago like it was nothing, and have branded it before as one of the hurdles blocking video gaming potential. With KI, however, it’s different.

No, really.

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Hadok… oh, wait

KI might be welcoming to newcomers, but it also hides a deep complexity only unraveled after countless hours of play. Go up against a KI pro and you’ll quickly realize your repetitive combos and breakers are useless against an opponent who knows what you’re going to do before you do it, and counters your breakers with combos strung together with manuals.

If that all sounds like the recipe for a headache, then the game also offers a cure – the Dojo. Comprising 32 lessons, the Dojo offers the most comprehensive training mode ever provided by a fighting game, with detailed explanations on everything from basic movements and combos, to reading frame data and the importance of hit-boxes. It’s basically an interactive ‘Fighting Games for Dummies’, and considering how many idiots are out there in the world, its inclusion will be put to great use.

Another element of the game put to great use is the ninja Jago, popping up online more often than sex sites during a four hour long porn binge. That’s not to say his presence is not welcome, however, as he and the five other fighters available have been expertly designed with entirely unique move-sets (none of that mimic character crap). Jago’s a short-mid range rushdowner, Glacius a mid-long range zoner, and Thunder the always delightful grappler. While six fighters (currently) might seem bare it’s a smart, and rather refreshing, move on Double Helix’s part. Quality will always trump quantity (at least in my eyes) and considering most gamers won’t focus on learning more than two characters it’s a perfect formula for reintroducing a classic IP. If Spinal and Fulgore (released in a couple of months) exhibit the same level of polish enjoyed by the rest of the cast then the diversity offered will more than make up for the character count.

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Fly kicks: the answer to all of life’s arguments

One feature that’s impossible to debate is the lack of a story mode/single player campaign. Sure, fighting game stories always suck, but I’m still dying to hear what that nefarious skeleton warrior has been up to all these years, and how the megacorporation Ultratech ties into it. Without such a single player campaign all you’re left with is the Dojo mode, a non-stop survival challenge, 1 v 1 player/computer battles and the litany of swear words that accompany every video game’s online multiplayer.

So is it a rip-off then? No. For starters the game can be picked up for free (your fighter choice will be limited to Jago), and if you don’t like its style, then you can walk away without dropping a cent. Want the game with all eight characters unlocked? That’s $27, almost a quarter of what we pay for standard retail. By the time the story mode releases, estimated around February/March next year, there should be enough content to please the most tight-arse of fans. Then when season two releases in roughly a year you’ll have another wave of characters available for purchase. If Double Helix continue this pricing scheme (roughly $30 a season) for the duration of KI’s forseeable future then it’s a win for consumers. No longer will we be forced to pay full retail for a re-skin of the previous entries release. Instead you’ll build a single game in affordable installments, or cherry pick only the content you want.

  • Xbox One

The Verdict

A blast to play with incredibly solid mechanics. It might be light on content and still has a lot to prove but I bought an Xbox One for Killer Instinct – I’ve yet to regret that decision.
8.5
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