I recently got some hands on time with the new Killer Instinct and I have to say, wow.
Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.
I’m a few weeks away from the stick and I’m seriously struggling to get this game out of my head. I’m searching YouTube daily, listening to the theme tune, hoping that Miles923 has a new video up.
It’s a miracle, basically. Double Helix have taken the ignored corpse of a fighter that, if we’re being absolutely honest, was pure style over substance, have brushed it up and down to look presentable, and have Frankenstein’d it with some off cuts of Street Fighter IV’s feel.
Then, when it was looking somewhat healthy and capable of coherent thought, Double Helix lured it into a cold interrogation room with promises of 90’s dance music and Orchid buns, strapped it to a chair, and repeatedly asked the poor thing ‘what if?’; until KI got smart.
Old KI was about combos and breakers, but that was largely it. It was a two note system that led to the game becoming somewhat predictable. Due to its stilted nature many that considered themselves ‘good’ at the game actively avoided long combos as they were easily broken. These players stuck to what was safe, and Killer Instinct’s unique selling point was rendered largely mute.
The new Killer Instinct is still about those combos and breakers, but it’s more aware of the gameplay elements that bleeds from these systems and more reluctant to let them fall into misuse. It asks ‘what if?’
What if a player reads that their enemy is using light linkers? Then we combo break, duh. Textbook. That’s nothing new.
Ok, but what if we know that this opponent likes to mash out breakers? It would be dangerous, and pointless, to run the risk of the break. For this situation we can counter break, putting our eager friend in a vulnerable state if they try to break. Just this addition alone fixes the ‘luck’ of the combo breaker, and turns the act of breaking into more of a mind game.
However, what if they know we like to counter break? In that situation they’re going to be looking for the punish. How about if you could purposefully stop a combo with the promise of additional damage if you can quickly pick it up again?
Sure, it’s a mechanics pile as you’d expect of any modern fighter, but it’s one that cleverly builds upon KI’s soul. Double Helix could have added Street Fighter III’s parry system, they could have gone with ultras, they could have totally remixed the controls so that this new Killer Instinct played like Guilty Gear, but instead they took what Killer Instinct is known for – combos and breakers – and turned that ‘yes or no’ game into a true flow chart of options, fakes, lures, guesses and reads.
It would be enough for Killer Instinct just to play like a solid modern game – and it is solid, this is one of the tightest fighters I’ve sampled for years – but these improvements to the combo system are genius, and work to turn a two note plod into a far more enticing melody.
There’s not a lot of news going around at the minute. Tournaments continue to play, games continue to be talked about, the Free to Play bus rolls on (Tekken Card Tournament was downloaded a silly number of times, who needs a proper fighting game eh?).
When asked why the game wasn’t coming to these consoles Ed Boon, Mortal Kombat creator and lead designer at Netherrealm Studios, commented that ‘it’s not as simple as that’.
Could it be that Sony have got a timed exclusive on their hands with next-gen Injustice? Not releasing the game on Xbox One I could almost understand, it’s an entirely new console with new costs, but Injustice exists on Wii U. The bulk of the game’s Wii U development would be done, it would just be a re-issue essentially, an effort not on par with tweaking a new version for Xbox One.
Of course they could just be ignoring Wii U on account of low sales, but you’d think that Boon could just say that…
It’s just an interesting thought to ponder. Could we, after about two generations of being largely ignored by the main publishers, be seeing a power grab to become ‘the fighting console’? I know that it’s a major factor informing my choice of console, so it’s almost cute to imagine that there is a bit of courting going on with the genre.
Shame Playstation All-Stars didn’t really work out, eh Sony?
One of the year’s top fighters (if you live in Europe), Persona 4 Arena offers zippy combo-tastic combat and a unique and interesting two character mechanic.