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Game Guys review - Killer Instinct

4:31 PM, Nov 23, 2013   |    comments
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Xbox One exclusive video game 'Killer Instinct' from developer Double Helix.

While most arcade visitors in the early '90s were getting their fix through brawlers such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, there were some other lesser-known that managed to attract some attention.

One of those was Killer Instinct, a fast-paced fighting game loosely modeled after Street Fighter that boasted the most interesting set of characters. It's not often you participate in a one-on-one brawl against a sword-wielding skeleton, a werewolf and two foes made of fire and ice, respectively. Then there was the announcer with his signature "Ultra Combooooooo!"

Killer Instinct has been resurrected in the form of a digital download for the Xbox One as a free-to-play fighting game. It's still as fun as insane as its predecessor, although the time players get out of it depends on whether you're willing to spend money.

The free game features one character, Jago, a martial artist reminiscent of Street Fighter icon Ryu. He throws fireballs, uppercuts pouncing enemies and delivers a strong kick. He's also got an additional sword attack for extra damage. The remaining five characters such as the gruesome Sabrewulf and icy opponet Glacius will be rotated in regularly to give players a taste of other fighters. Two more brawlers will be added in future downloads.

Players have a handful of modes to choose from, all of which are available across all versions of the game (more on that later). Versus is a straightforward single brawl with one of five other opponents, while Survival has players going through a gauntlet of enemies to see how long they can last. There's also online matches for those brave enough to test their skills against other humans.

For the inexperienced, Killer Instinct boasts a thorough Dojo tutorial mode, teaching players the nuances of the game and how to perform attacks and, most importantly, how to chain them together.

Players have three punches and three kicks: light, medium and heavy, while pulling back on the thumbstick blocks. Special moves are completed with a simultaneous button press and thumbstick gesture. So, for Jago's fireball, you press a punch button while performing a quarter-circle gesture from the down position forward using the left thumbstick.

As with many fighting games, combos are at the heart of combat. Executing special attacks such as tossing a fireball is great, but the real damage comes from putting it together with other strikes. Killer Instinct makes it simple by allowing players to easily chain together attacks through a variety of simple inputs.

Fighters must empty an opponent's health bar twice to win, which happens within one continuous match as opposed to separate rounds. There's also a special meter that gives players additional attacks or power boosts. Special moves can be made stronger by using a Shadow Attack.

The combat feels easy to pick up. Any player could easily pick up a controller, mash buttons and wiggle the controller frantically, and likely pull off 10-20 hit combos with little trouble. Yet, there's room for veterans to really study the moves and execute jaw-dropping combo attacks with 30, 40 or 50 strikes.

The Killer Instinct model is unique for a fighting game. The free game is nice for players to try out before investing. It's almost like a more robust demo. Players get access to game modes, but only one fighter.

Players can pay for individual brawlers for $5 a piece, or by a Combo Breaker pack featuring eight fighters (six at launch) for $20. There's even an Ultra Edition that packs in the original arcade game for $40.

With the lower price comes a few tradeoffs. The options between fighters and game modes is limited. Granted, the price is lower, but it means players might not get as much out of that experience as they would other brawlers such as Injustice: Gods Among Us or Marvel vs. Capcom 3 with its vast character options (and $60 price). It reminds me a bit of the console download Battlefield 1943. It was a quality $15 title, but featured a smaller number of maps and fewer vehicles and weapons.

Overall, Killer Instinct is a satisfying brawler, especially for longtime fighting game fans and for those wanting a less expensive way to fill out your Xbox One library.

Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Double Helix
Platform(s): Xbox One
Price: Free; $20 for Combo Breaker Pack; $40 for Ultra Edition; $60 for Ultimate Edition
Rating: T for Teen
Release Date: Nov. 22
Score: 3 out of 4 (a 75/100 on news10.net's scale).

- by Brett Molina, USA TODAY

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