Killer Instinct Review

By mancide, 2 years ago
Killer Instinct has been revived after a 17-year hiatus as a free-to-play title for the Xbox One. Does this interesting take on the fighting game genre add or subtract from the player's enjoyment? Let's find out.


Killer Instinct is an ambitious experiment for a next-gen title. Since it is a free-to-play game, anyone can download the title for no monetary investment and begin playing with Jago (and possibly Shadow Jago if you were lucky enough to score an Xbox Live Day One subscription card). Additional characters can be purchased individually for $4.99 USD each. Optionally, you can invest in two season pass options: the Combo Breaker Pack includes all of the launch characters and the two as-of-yet unreleased fighters for $19.99 USD. The Ultra Edition includes everything you get in the Comb Breaker Pack as well as unlocking all of the character customization options. Additionally, you get the Xbox One edition of Killer Instinct Classic which is not available for purchase separately. The tiered setup offers an interesting proposition, those players who are sure they will only specialize in one or two characters could purchase only the characters they are interested in.

The complete roster consists of the aforementioned free character Jago; along with the currently available Orchid, Chief Thunder, Glacius, Saberwulf, and new-to-the-series Sadira. Currently unavailable, but coming soon, are Fulgore and Spinal; both are returning members from the original line-up.

Saberwulf vs. Jago 10

The fighting mechanics of Killer Instinct are very much based around its deep combo system. Players new to fighting games (or much like myself, new to modern fighting games) will benefit greatly from the Dojo training system that teaches you about the combo system and techniques. Some of this information feels like it could translate to other modern fighters as well. After getting comfortable in the dojo, you can test your skills against opponents that will fight back. You have the option to start a versus match against a local buddy or the CPU. You can even jump online and test your skills (or lack-thereof) against fighters from around the globe. Yes, even those players with the "free" version of the game can jump online and play against the full roster.

For the purpose of this review, and the reviewer's self-esteem, offline Survival was the mode of choice. In Survival mode you are stepped through an ever-increasing difficulty of CPU opponents.

For the sake of completeness, a few online ranked matches were also tested. Matchmaking seemed to be quick in connecting to opponents and no noticeable lag was observed during these games. However, that could change based on varying network conditions.

Saberwulf vs. Jago 5

As you progress through the game you will be awarded "Killer Points" or KP for completing various in-game tasks. These can be used to unlock further character customization options, new announcer voices, or audio tracks. You will also need to spend some KP to unlock the additional stages for selection in local play.

The achievement list for the game is fairly straightforward. You are encouraged to play as all of the currently-available characters in a multitude of ways. Achievements can be earned for unlocking fight titles with each character, winning ranked matches, versus mode matches, and completing a set number survival mode matches. You are rewarded for experiencing every inch of the game. Depending on your comfort level in fighting games, time of completion could vary widely, but conservative estimates would clock in around 750 hours.

You can watch some of the better combos that were captured with the Xbox One's built in Game DVR function. The captured clips were combined and edited within Upload Studio.

Overall Killer Instinct has succeed in building an accessible, modern fighter for the next-generation of players. The interesting way to purchase characters individually or in packs makes the game much more accessible at a variety of price points. Killer Instinct also makes you feel like a fighting game bad-ass with its combo system and low barrier to entry. Please do not misinterpret that as saying the game is easy. The game, and combo system, have an extremely deep end. But much like a zero-entry pool, there is an extremely shallow end to help new players get their feet wet with the system. I felt like I had the basics down within the first hour of playing the game, however I know that I have a long way to go in becoming a black belt, ultra-combo master.

The reviewer spent over 10 hours kicking and punching his way to victory over various online and offline game modes, while unlocking 11 achievements and one challenge along the way. This review was based on the "Combo Breaker Pack" version of the game that the reviewer personally purchased.
Written by mancide
When not enjoying video games, our fearless newshound enjoys an nice pint of fermented barley and hops in a variety of styles. India Pale Ales, Stouts, Porters, Witbiers, Saisons, Gose, Lambics, Barleywine, you name it. If it has water, malted barley, hops and yeast in it, I'll consume it. I also enjoy all things technological, Doctor Who, wrasslin, traveling, and spending time with my family.