I am terrible at Killer Instinct. I’ve never really been a great big fan of fighting games that are built around combo chains, but even for somebody like me it’s easy to appreciate how the previously Xbox One exclusive fighting game is.
When it was released, it was largely ignored – in part due to the Xbox One’s lower install base, and in part to its release model. Killer Instinct was an “in development game,” launched with just a handful of characters and fewer features than you’d expect in a new entry in to an iconic and beloved franchise. It also didn’t get the flack that Street Fighter V did, because thought it was released in a meagre state, it had a price point to match.
Since then though, the game has seen some sizeable updates, and even a new developer in Iron Galaxy since original developer Double Helix was whisked away by Amazon. Killer Instinct’s second season expanded upon the game with new characters, news stages and even more story modes.
Since release then, Killer Instinct has gone from being a barebones fighter (albeit with one of the best training modes to be found in any fighting game), to one of this generation’s most fully featured and competent fighting games. If you’d like to know how it works at its core, read Darryn’s review of the first season here.
It’s third season is now upon us – or at least, half if it is. Though there are a few more modes and characters that’ll be coming to Season 3, right now it’s focused on just four new fighters, three of whom get their own shiny stages to battle on. Two of the new brawlers come from the annals of Killer Instinct history.
Killer Instinct 2’s sword-wielding barbarian Tusk returns, now looking a little more Nordic. His attacks all do massive damage, but take what seems an ice age to come out – which is par for the course for large characters in fighting games. he’s got a number of great pokes and a few unblockable moves to make up for his lack of general speed.
Another returning favourite from Killer Instinct 2 is Kim Wu. The plucky Asian fighter who recalls Bruce Lee is easily my own favourite of the Season 3 characters, as she’s fast and nimble. While easily the weakest in damage output, she’s the up-close and personal sort, which is how I tend to play. She’s able to generate three dragon spirits through various means, which can then be used for something called Dragon Cancels, helping her boost her combos.
The other two new characters in Season 3 are from other Microsoft properties, and should give fans of other games a kick. The first is Rash, one of the Battletoads. There’s been a great deal of attention, love and care in bringing Battletoads to Killer Instinct, and Rash brings that beat-em-up’s zaniness to the fore. He’s got transitional moves from Battletoads, like a battering ram, wrecking ball and his great big spiky boot; effective tools that can easily be chained together for heavy damage. He can also use his tongue not just for getting around quickly, but also for blocking projectiles, making Rash one of the most creative characters in the game.
The last character is the one of struggled to get my head around most. Halo’s Arbiter joins Killer Instinct. He seems to be a zoning sort of character, operating mostly from a distance, bringing with him attacks straight from Microsoft’s shooter – a plasma sword, plasma grenades, Carbine rifle and energy shield. I have no idea how to use him, and I don’t think I ever will. More impressive than the character himself though is his stage, The Arena of Judgement, It has a full-scale Halo battle going on the background, and it’s a delight to watch.
Season 3 brings with it the same focus on music as the rest of the game, so there are some neat little music touches – like moving through the menus playing the theme tune – that are bound to make you smile. Season 3 also brings with it a bit of a graphical overhaul thanks to a rejiggered lighting system that makes things look a little more natural, and a lot better.
Season 3 also marks the introduction of the game to Windows PC’s. While it unfortunately uses the UWP program, it does come with a nifty little effects laden test pitting two Cinders against each other. It’s worth downloading on PC just to watch that, frankly – but the test does more than just provide eye candy. Should your machine not perform adequately, at the required 60fps, you won’t be able to play against others online.
There is, of course, more coming; new characters in the vampyric Mira, series baddie Gargos, General RAAM from Gears of War, and a final mystery character. On top of that there’s the Shadow Lords mode, which is a little like the factions mode from Mortal Kombat X – a single-player and multi-player experience, the mode will have players working to stop Gargos from taking over the world, using shadow characters you create based on your playstyle. It’s not available yet, but I’m keen to see how it works once It’s functional.
Even now, in its half-released state, Season 3 is worth getting if you’re fan of the game – or just a fan of fighting games. We’ll have a full scored review once the full season is available.