Over the past week I have gotten the chance to play several Xbox One game demos in advance of the November 22nd launch date of the Xbox One itself at an event here in Toronto. Many of my experiences were fairly shallow on non-full versions of games, but with vertical slices of gameplay and repeated stress tests. Killer Instinct was one of such games I have gotten a chance to get my hands on, and here is what I thought about it.
Killer Instinct Gameplay: The Experienced Thrive
Out of all of the Xbox One games I got to play in advance, the Killer Instinct demo was the closest to full retail gameplay available. It featured 5 of the 6 launch characters, co-operative play and player vs cpu play. It would have been nice to play as Orchid, but for now 5 characters was more than enough of an entry experience.
Playing with a friend who accompanied me, we both enjoyed the hell out of Killer Instinct. For players going in, it did seem like button mashing for one player did well against another inexperienced player, until you accidentally learned some combos, enders, linkers, how to enter shadow moves, use c-c-c-c-combo breakers, etc. At that point, the balance begins to shift with those with more experience (although, at early entry and even between 5 characters, there are very slight tier differences in the launch roster).
Don’t let that put you down, however; Killer Instinct comes with one of the most intuitive sets of training modes at launch. These tutorials not only edge you into the deep end learning how to do basic moves, but eventually gets you performing difficult combos over time at a pace that has you learn how to play the game optimally. Experience will make you better than those who just enter the game fresh, but using the dojo and the CPU recording to let you train against certain sets of moves, you will get as much of the game as you put into training.
Killer Instinct Visuals: Dem Particles
Killer Instinct is yet another one of those 720p Xbox One launch games, but as most fighters should be at frame-rate-wise, it comes in at 60 FPS. Just like Ryse looks like the best Xbox One game at 900p, Double Helix’s game seemed the most visually enticing of the launch titles to rock the lesser 720p resolution. A lot of it has to do with the fact that there is less content in terms of assets, arenas, a small file size (3 GB) and few character models that allow them to focus a lot more depth on what they have.
Also, as the heading suggests; dem particles. Many of the characters have projectiles, including Jago with his Endokuken, Glacius with his ice-based attacks, etc. When these attacks collide with players, particles fly off quite spectacularly. In combination with pulling off sweet combos, combo breakers and counter breakers, the satisfaction of pulling off difficult moves is rewarded in turn with impressive combat animations. Additionally, certain stages include puddles that splash very realistically. Next-gen puddles confirmed!
The background stages also make a great deal of improvements over contemporary fighters. Upon playing Killer Instinct gameplay-wise, there does not appear to be much in terms of playing that separates this game from the 7th generation of gaming, but those backgrounds are quite dynamic in their animations. Chief Thunder’s stage was quite remarkable, as when you progress through the fight the weather gets harsher and harsher. Rain turns into a storm, which can eventually evolves into tornadoes, swaying trees and lightning dropping down from the sky.
Killer Instinct Final Thoughts
From the hour(s) I got to play Killer Instinct, based on what games I have played on both the PS4 and Xbox One, it is my favorite launch title out of either console this holiday season. It doesn’t have a story or arcade mode at launch, so if you absolutely need these modes in your fighter, then perhaps you should wait. However, at either a free entry with a single character or $19.99 for the full Season 1 roster (at the cheapest), you will get co-operative play, Survival Mode against a wave of CPU opponents and online competitive play on Day 1.
The most impressive aspect of Killer Instinct’s announcement, to development, to launch is how Double Helix seems to have brought full production value. These guys were booed at Evo 2013 when Microsoft had a special presentation of the game at this year’s FGC championship, but since then the development team has poured their hearts and souls into Killer Instinct. For a company that has a history of less-than-stellar products, including Silent Hill: Homecoming and the Battleship tie-in game, Double Helix has given credibility to their name.
Remember, only Season 1 is confirmed. Beyond the first 8 characters and the eventual release of Arcade mode, it’s up to the fans showing financial support to prove to Microsoft that continued development is worth their investment. Please, Killer Instinct and FGC fans, do your best to get the word out!
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