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Killer Instinct Features for Xbox One

On: Xbox One
Review Verdict Read Review
5Out of 10
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Killer Instinct screenshot
Killer Instinct screenshot

Killer Instinct's business model, which takes inspiration from the mobile world's reliance on microtransactions, is the console equivalent of receiving a free, yet tasteless ice cream.

The vanilla version is bundled with a costless cone, but the sprinkles, flake and flavoured source arrive at an extortionate price. Do you want to add any character to your delicious free treat, or does the cheek of such a limited offer make you want to let the tyres down on Microsoft's promotional van?

That's a question I will try to answer in the truest fashion possible: by funding extra purchases without the promotional help of the publisher.

As a huge fan of fighting titles, Killer Instinct's combat system is extremely appealing. Its emphasis on attack rewards those who take the initiative.

Opening a combo is simple, as is performing a chain of weak moves and rounding the sequence off with a super. While repeating the basic manoeuvres is certainly effective, those willing to branch out will find a decent variation of techniques that prioritise breaking your rival's guard from deep, then capitalising when close.

It's equally as easy to utilise Shadow attacks, which are governed via one of the HUD's metres and strengthen character-specific moves, such as Jago's Endokukens.

Instinct Mode builds upon this and thrusts your battler into a galvanised sense of fury. It also bestows a unique ability. Jago users will see the quiff-haired assassin's life slowly regenerate, while Glacius gains 'cool' armour and Sadira begins firing sticky webs in a bid to halt your offence.

Bouts take place within detailed yet occasionally grainy stages. Although it's mightily difficult to be wowed by something as generic as a dojo, one particular level launches you into the most beautiful snowstorm console games have produced since that scene in The Last of Us.

Despite these accomplishments, players will soon tire of duking it out as merely Jago, and take the plunge into buying more fighters. I soon encounter Glacius, an alien who is among the title's catalogue of six currently available characters. With his increased height, gangling arms and ice-sculpture body, I was intrigued to witness how differently he played to Jago, the cast's only free fighter.

£3.99 later, I wish I had bought a knock-off Red Bull and spent time filling my orifices with the spare change.

Killer Instinct screenshot

It's not that Glacius is a bad character, or that Killer Instinct is a terrible game. Far from it. It was the immediate realisation that, despite initiating my first transaction, I didn't actually have much more content to actually enjoy. This is partly down to the fact anything other than Survival, Dojo, Versus and online play will have to be paid for, but also partly down to Killer Instinct's unfinished state. I had a new character, yes, but not many enough places to use them in. I couldn't even use the more in-depth of the two training options with them, which is limited to Jago (the knock-on effect is that online players will, in the early stages, all be using similar, basic techniques, stagnating play).

While Microsoft promise an arcade/story mode and plenty of new options to enjoy, all my £3.99 did was tell the company this frustrating financial structure is acceptable. I practically patted them on the back, nodded in appreciation and added an expensive Ice Pop to the free ice cream I devoured earlier. To get to grips with Glacius, I had to buy the character. A huge element of learning a fighting game, and getting the most from it, is playing around with different combatants, learning their strengths and weaknesses.

That's difficult to do here without putting your hand in your pocket all the time. Even with such seemingly minor sums involved, there's a sense of injustice when spending to prolong the playing experience of a product that is essentially a demo. Microsoft do a decent job of hiding their open palm – your bouts aren't interrupted with cries for cash – but it's troubling to consider how many titles are going to suffer through the microtransaction model across the new generation.

Killer Instinct has the potential to compete with the best fighters out there, its combination of Street Fighter sprites and Mortal Kombat gore the perfect middle ground for players who don't necessarily want to learn complex sequences to feel powerful.

Picturing it as a fully blown release, something that isn't likely to occur for some time, it could have significantly aided the Xbox One's launch line-up with its unique concoction of enthralling one-on-one encounters.

For now, it's too light to really recommend, and paying for a character you may not like isn't exactly a sound strategy. Even then, paying for all the combatants as a bundle is still undercut by the sparseness of the modes. Any interest I have in the game has melted away, just like the funds I spent playing it.

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User Comments

Endless's Avatar

Endless@ Jesus_Phish

Hold on a minute a full priced SFxT, SSF4 and Injustice will set you back 40 quid. How is that comparable to the £17 KI costs? You pay more, you get more. If you double the price of KI and double it's content you are arguably getting more game for your money than the others and still for paying less for it!
Posted 13:03 on 05 December 2013
brookie94's Avatar

brookie94@ Endless

yeah, i can agree with that. there needs to be some way to test characters before you buy them.
Posted 10:54 on 05 December 2013
Jesus_Phish's Avatar


Where I see the problem with KI's model is that even at full price there is very little content within the game. Compare it to another full price fighter like Injustice, SFxT, SSF4. Even with the later twos locked on disc behind a paywall characters, they still contained much more content than KI does.
Posted 08:31 on 05 December 2013
Endless's Avatar

Endless@ brookie94

It is quite consumer friendly if you buy the full version and treat the free version as a demo. But the option to buy each character is supposed to make buying the game cheaper by tailoring it to just the couple of characters you want. In reality it may end up being more expensive than buying the full game if the characters you buy dont suit you.

All it needs is a try before you buy on each of the characters. That way you can give each character a good test and the option to buy 1 or 2 characters, instead of all 8, becomes a more realistic option.
Posted 03:05 on 05 December 2013
brookie94's Avatar


Putting microtransactions in a full priced release is too far, however I think this is fine.

"A huge element of learning a fighting game, and getting the most from it, is playing around with different combatants, learning their strengths and weaknesses.

That's difficult to do here without putting your hand in your pocket all the time."

so why not buy the full game. the free version is a stripped down version, because it's free. It gives you the option to buy it in chunks, which some people might actually prefer. You obviously don't, so buy the full game if you want to experience the full game. the price seems quite reasonable considering the ongoing support and content that owners of the full version will get included, in this way it is much like an early access game on steam. The game will grow into a more fully featured product, it's down to your preference if you want to get in early or not.

I see this as quite consumer friendly, and while i don't think it works for every game, it works well here and is nowhere near as greedy as other microsoft launch titles.
Posted 00:34 on 05 December 2013
Endless's Avatar

Endless@ Grip_Chimp

Except in this case KI is free to try and £17 to buy the full game. Hardly a rip off.

The whole idea behind this model is that most people only ever play 1 or 2 characters in a fighting game. Unless you're a pro or a seasoned competitive gamer you're unlikely to be able to master more than a couple of characters. Idea being you get the game with one character for nothing to try, then buy the one or two characters you intend to play regularly for much less than the cost of the full game. Nice idea. But without being able to try them first £4 is quite a lot to discover you dont get on with the characters mechanics or playstyle.

I definitely agree that buying the characters individually is a tad ridiculous when you dont get to try them out first. If they were all available in training for example then you'd at least be able to determine which characters you might enjoy playing before buying them.
Posted 23:23 on 04 December 2013
Weasel_Pants's Avatar


i think the thing is that you have to look at it like a full (ish) release with a free demo, and intermediary steps, instead of a freemium game with microtransactions. the unfinishedness is dumb on microsoft for pushing it for launch, but if you think of it a a steam 'work in progress' type thing, it makes more sense.
of course none of this helps for a review of it as now, but the review didnt really mention it.
Posted 23:23 on 04 December 2013
Grip_Chimp's Avatar


Not a comment directly relating to Killer Instinct, but I can't help rather cheekily looking forward to the inevitable backlash.

Buying little Johnny a sixty quid game is all well and good, but when he's constantly begging for an extra quid here, fifty pee there... Well, it's going to come to a head sooner rather than later. The fact that both Microsoft (and to a lesser extent Sony) are so brazen when it comes to the full price + Microtransaction/Season Pass/DLC model is hard to stomach.

This isn't "Horse Armour" all over again. This is something very different indeed.
Posted 21:01 on 04 December 2013

Game Stats

Release Date: 01/11/2013
Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: Fighting
Rating: TBC
Site Rank: 1,569 197
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