Launch line-ups are never compromised of unforgettable system defining games, in fact they rarely harbour even one title that could be described as such in their midst. Even with a range of experiences whose highlights are generally considered to be somewhere between good and average most launch titles gain a large appreciative following due to the lack of choices at the beginning of a generation. This strange time leads to remarkably average games like Heavenly Sword becoming cult classics, the excitement of course is even more excessive before the consoles release when gamers are caught in the thralls of immense anticipation. What makes Killer Instinct so distinctive is the apparent lack of enthusiasm on display the only launch day fighter.
The lack of anticipation for the returning long dormant series was displayed at the event where the competitive versus mode demo was regularly left lonely and unplayed by the audience for long periods of time – a chance to play Xbox One just left, crazy! This apparent absence of enthusiasm is entirely unjustified as our few rounds with Killer Instinct’s distinctive fighters was wholly enjoyable and marked the title as completely under-appreciated. In contrast to games like Mortal Kombat whose fights are heavily revolved around the use of special moves Killer Instinctive is far more heavily based on the skillful use of combos.
Thanks to Killer Instincts combo heavy mechanics and lack of move list availability our ultimate death match quickly devolved into a button mashfest which translated to our werewolf and native American combatants unskillfully slapping each other. It’s evident even after five rounds that this is a title aimed at hardcore fighting fans, as someone whose somewhat competent at the genre it became clear very quickly this not a beginner friendly experience. It’s certainly entertaining but it’s lack of special moves imbues the player with a much smaller sense of cool than many of it’s current gen counterparts – whatsmore those special move fighters are more accepting of new players too.
It doesn’t help the situation that whilst Microsoft has went through painful lengths to iterate positively on their already remarkably popular Xbox 360 control the biggest point of contention was always it’s flakey D-pad; steps have been taken here to improve the weakest aspect. For all the D-pad undeniably feels better than it’s predecessor it’s still not as good as it could be, it makes playing Killer Instinct more difficult than it had to be; it makes me wonder if Playstation will be the system for fighters once again. Despite this upgrade not being as drastic as it perhaps should’ve been it’s a significant improvement
Regardless of their happyslap shenanigans our battlers looked unsurprisingly beautiful as they comically collided. The extra power afforded by the Xbox One has clearly been put to good use on the character models – each one is distinctly different which means everyone touts their own unique brand of beauty, Saberwulf the werewolf in particular is stunning. On the occasions the opponents did clash in remarkable ways the combat sharply turned more awesome like witnessing Thunder slamming axes into his foes causing them to harshly recoil or the aforementioned Saberwulf powerfully hurling his foes across the arena. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the stages, textures in each arena looked sadly dull, whilst it’s not a deal breaker by any stretch it would’ve been nice to see some extra effort.
Perhaps the sad reason that no one wants to adorn the personalities of these awesome fighters is down to the fact that Killer Instinct will follow a free to play model that asks players to pay per character. The controversial payment model is highly unpopular with the core gamer who generally feels short changed by the system. When you consider that Killer Instinct is intensely targeted to toward the same market that distains free to play it’s little wonder that all it’s great traits are obscured behind the words “free to play”
What we have here is an atypical example of a launch game, it’s largely good but comes with a couple of negative issues. It’s difficult to squabble about a few petty issues like arena textures or a D-pad that’s not as good as it could’ve been when realistically this the first fighter to grace a next gen system and it feels damn competent and occasionally flickers with fun – one things sure as my opponent and I faced off the smiles never fizzled from our faces. For fighting fans looking to whet their beaks in the next generation Killer Instinct appears to be a great starting point despite the stumbling block of free to play.
If you missed any of our hands on impressions with the Xbox One hardware or games you can find them on the links below.