Killer Instinct review for Xbox One

Platform: Xbox One
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Double Helix Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

The thought of another Killer Instinct game had become a bit of a fantasy. The original game was released in 1994 and the sequel in 1996. The popularity of arcades died down, no new Killer Instinct. Newer, more powerful consoles were released, no new Killer Instinct. The resurgence of fighting games blew up again after the launch of Street Fighter IV, no new Killer Instinct. The legend of the game was almost stronger than the game itself, always rumored to be in development but never a reality. Imagine the surprise when Killer Instinct was in fact announced as launch title for Xbox One…and it is awesome.

I have fond memories of the original games. My friends and I would pull them out and play every few years. Unfortunately, the memories are better than the actual gameplay, and the sessions were short lived. Double Helix Games has done what fans had hoped for, truly upgraded the experience, not just the visuals. This was immediately noticeable from the first demonstration I saw on a fighting game tournament stream. The anticipation has been high ever since.

killer instinct 2

First I want to talk about the distribution, which I think is quite genius. Currently, KI is only available in digital format on the Xbox store. The game, with Jago as the single playable character is available for free. 100% of the gameplay and all game modes, free. You can call it a substantial demo or a free to play game model, either would be appropriate, but it’s an awesome way to get the game in the hands of every one with an Xbox One at no cost. From there, you can choose to pay for additional characters individually or buy the whole lot for $20. $20 gets you the six characters that are currently developed, as well as two more that are on the way. There is a $40 option as well that unlocks all the in-game content (costumes/accessories) as well as delivers the original Killer Instinct arcade game.

As far as in-game content, I’d consider it a little sparse. There is hardly anything available to the single player gamer. You can play an endless supply of AI in survival mode or just one off player vs. AI matches. There is an insanely in-depth training mode called Dojo, which I’ll cover in more detail, and there is the requisite exhibition and ranked online matches. For $20, I’ve already gotten my money’s worth. If the next round of DLC was $20 and included 8 more characters and some expanded single player content, like a MvC3 mission mode or Mortal Kombat story mode, I’d be thrilled.

killer instinct 1

The Dojo mode, which I previously mentioned, starts off like a tutorial, and then hours later turned out to be the single best training mode I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. I thought Skullgirls was good, but the 32 lessons in KI’s Dojo mode is hands down the best. Not only does it teach you the basics and gameplay systems of Killer Instinct, it teaches you solid fighting game mechanics. It shows you specific Jago moves that are easily identifiable for combo breaks. It teaches you places where manual combos would be more beneficial than auto doubles. It goes in depth into Jago’s possible combo setups, advanced juggles, and maximizing corner damage. I literally spent hours on the 32 lessons and have even gone back for refreshers. I only wish that the lessons that were Jago specific had correlating lessons for each of the other characters.

I guess we’ve gone this long without talking about how KI actually plays, but I can sum that up in one word, brilliantly. If you’ve played either of the previous games, the learning curve won’t be quite as tough since the basics of openers, auto doubles, linkers, and finishers are still mostly the same. If you haven’t played and are coming from any other fighting game series, it’ll take a bit to wrap your mind around the mechanics. What I think is so fantastic is all of the new mechanics that have been added to bring the game up to tournament competition standards.

killer instinct 3

New additions to the game include counter breakers, lock outs, shadow breakers, shadow counters, and a finite combo gauge, all of which answer nagging complaints from the old games and anticipate solutions to the new fighting game meta. In Killer Instinct, there is an answer to everything. The player is never without options because the game didn’t allow it, only if the player wasn’t skilled enough to use them. Stuck in a long combo? Combo break. Constantly getting combo broken? Counter break.

Defending players can’t mash combo breakers hoping to land one. If you pick the wrong break strength (red icon) or have the correct breaker but time it poorly (orange icon), you get locked out from attempting it again for a few seconds. As the offensive player that is your green light to extend the combo as long as possible and rack up the damage. An offensive player may find their combos getting broken quite often by a skilled player, and unfinished combos regenerate a lot potential health damage to the defending player. They have options though, keeping the combos shorter, attempting counter breaks (which again locks out the opposing player), or attempting, the more difficult but unbreakable, manually linked combos.

Ranked play online has been a blast. This is some of the best, if not the best, netcode I’ve ever experienced. I haven’t had a moment of lag in any matches I’ve played. This seems to mirror the comments I’ve been reading in the community as well. There is so much depth to each character, and matches play out in very different ways due to the number of tools at your disposal. I honestly haven’t felt limited by the character set yet. People online have played characters in a completely different style than myself in some cases, and the different styles seem viable.

killer instinct 4

Free to play games may still carry some stigma earned by the low budget quality of their ancestors, but you can’t just assume low quality anymore. Killer Instinct has extremely high production values in visual fidelity and sound. The visuals alone set a new bar for fighting games. The muscles bulk up and ripple when Saberwulf goes into Instinct Mode. Ice lances from Glacius shatter and the particles fall and bounce around on the ground. When you land an Ultra combo, each stage changes, like a giant spider appearing or a hurricane blowing in. All this at a solid 60fps. The sound is equally impressive. On top of being a huge fan of the soundtrack, the stage music changes dynamically during the fight. The guitar track will fade out as the players move away from each other and then really crank up during a combo. During a throw break the music scratches and rewinds a second before playing again. And during ultras, each stage has a unique beat and sound effect for every character.

Killer Instinct is deserving of all the praise it receives. I’ve already watched the top fighting game players pick it up (Justin Wong, Alex Valle, Maximillian, etc.). I enjoy watching top level play on a stream almost as much as playing it myself. For free, it’s a no brainer download. As a fighting game fan, for $20, I’m ecstatic. Sure I’d like to see another round of characters, dojo mode for everyone, and an enhanced single player mode. As strictly a fighting game, the long wait was worth it. Killer Instinct is everything I’d hoped for and more.

Grade: A-

With an Xbox LIVE Gold membership, take your Xbox 360 online to play Kinect and controller games with friends wherever they are. Instantly watch HD movies, TV shows and sports, and with Kinect, your voice is the remote control. Not sure what to play or watch? Quickly find new movies, songs or games with your voice. Even use your phone or tablet as a second screen to control and interact with what you’re watching. Plus, now you can explore the web on your TV with Internet Explorer for Xbox.* Entertainment is more amazing with Xbox.

Take Your Xbox 360 Online To:

  • Rent HD movies and buy TV shows, and with Kinect, your voice is the remote control.
  • Download arcade and full Xbox 360 games.
  • Keep games fresh with new map packs, new songs and workouts

* Broadband Internet, Kinect Sensor and console, games, add-ons and media content all sold separately. Not all Xbox LIVE functionality is Kinect enabled. See xbox.com/live.


Xbox LIVE Code Redemption
Follow these steps first before redeeming your code:

  1. Connect your Xbox 360 to a broadband Internet connection.
  2. Press the silver/green Xbox Guide Button on the controller.
  3. Select Create Profile & follow instructions to create profile name & avatar.
  4. Select Join Xbox LIVE & follow instructions to setup your

Xbox LIVE account.

  1. Sign in to your Xbox LIVE account.
  2. Press the silver/green Xbox Guide Button on the controller.
  3. Navigate to Games & Apps tab.
  4. Select Redeem Code & enter code.

Codes can also be redeemed at live.xbox.com/en-US/RedeemCode.


What is Xbox LIVE?

  • Your entertainment. Your way. Get your favorite games, music, movies and more on your TV, tablet and phone.
  • Use your voice to easily find movies, TV shows, music and games on Xbox 360 with Kinect
  • Play Kinect and controller games online with friends
  • Watch HD programs from Netflix, HuluPlus, ESPN, and more
  • Use your phone or tablet as a second screen for an enhanced game and entertainment experience
  • Explore the web on your TV with Internet Explorer for Xbox
  • Use Microsoft Points to buy or rent TV shows, movies, and games
  • Download new songs, workouts, levels and maps to keep your games fresh
 Xbox LIVE Entertainment Your Way 
Games Entertainment Kinect 
Xbox LIVE Gaming Xbox LIVE Entertainment Kinect 
Xbox LIVE is where your friends are playing Call of Duty, Halo, and other online multiplayer games1. With your voice you can quickly find things to watch and play. Even use your phone and tablet to add an extra layer of control for an enhanced experience with your console games. Plus, explore the web easily with Internet Explorer for Xbox on your biggest screen. Xbox brings you great entertainment no matter where you are. Play games online with friends on your TV, tablet or phone. Even enjoy music, TV shows and movies on any of your devices2. And when you’re at home with Kinect, just say what you want to watch and Xbox finds it. Entertainment is more amazing with Xbox. With Kinect for Xbox 360, you are the controller. Enjoy HD movies, TV, music and sports and control it all with the sound of your voice. Or choose from tons of great Kinect games and experience the fun of getting your whole body in the action1. Games and entertainment is more amazing with Xbox. 
SmartGlass Windows 8 Internet Explorer 
SmartGlass Windows 8 Internet Explorer on Xbox 
Xbox SmartGlass lets you use your phone or tablet as a second screen with your Xbox 360 for an enhanced game and entertainment experience2. Control and interact with your favorite TV shows, movies, music, sports and games. Even start watching on your tablet and flick it to your TV to keep watching on the big-screen. With Xbox SmartGlass, your devices intelligently work together to show rich interactive activities and new content related to what you’re watching or playing on TV at the moment. The Xbox SmartGlass app will be available on Windows 8, Windows Phone, and the innovative Xbox SmartGlass technology will be available on other major platforms in the My Xbox LIVE app. Xbox is the new way to get great entertainment on Windows 8. Enjoy the latest movies, TV shows, and music on your PC or tablet. You also get access to great games for every style — from the latest hits to your favorite classics. Plus, you can use your tablet as a second screen with your Xbox 360 for an enhanced experience with what you’re watching or playing2. Even start a show on your tablet and flick it to your TV. Entertainment is more amazing with Xbox. Explore the web on your TV with Internet Explorer for Xbox1. And with Kinect, use your voice to explore your favorite sites with ease on the biggest screen in the house. Even use your phone or tablet to type and control your experience. Discover the entertainment you love with Xbox. 
Xbox Video Xbox Music   
Xbox Video Xbox Music   
Xbox Video brings you the latest HD movies and TV shows on your TV, tablet, PC or phone. Rent or buy new blockbuster movies and classic favorites, or stay up with last night’s episodes of your favorite TV shows3. And with Xbox Video you get instant on HD to start watching right away. Plus, the video you buy can be enjoyed wherever you want. Start watching on your Xbox 360, and pick-up where you left off on your tablet. Even download it and take it with you on your Windows Phone at no extra cost. Xbox makes it easy to watch what you love wherever you are. Xbox Music brings you all the music you love, every way you want it. With millions of songs to discover, stream, download and own—it’s the all-in-one music service for your tablet, PC, TV and phone4. Select an artist, and SmartDJ instantly creates a playlist tailored to you. And with Xbox Music Pass, your favorite songs follow you wherever you go, across all your devices, including unlimited downloads. Because music is more amazing when it’s all brought together for you.   


Xbox LIVE Gold membership, fees and/or requirements apply for some Xbox LIVE features. Not all Xbox LIVE content is Kinect enabled. Games, add-ons and media content sold separately. Internet Explorer on Xbox coming Holiday 2012. See xbox.com/live.
2 Coming Holiday 2012. Compatible devices required. Broadband internet, additional fees and/or requirements apply for some Xbox LIVE features. Not all features and content on Xbox LIVE is Kinect voice and gesture enabled. Second screen control requires compatible devices enabled with Xbox SmartGlass and is only available with select Xbox LIVE content. See xbox.com/live.
3 Coming Holiday 2012. Broadband internet and compatible devices required. To watch on Windows Phone, sync content from compatible PC. See xbox.com/live.
4Coming Holiday 2012. Compatible devices and internet required; carrier fees apply. On TV, Xbox Music Pass allows for streaming only and requires an Xbox 360 console and Xbox LIVE Gold subscription (both sold separately). Limited hours of free streaming after 6 months; unlimited with paid subscription. Available Xbox Music features and content may vary over time. See xbox.com/music.

Get an Xbox gift card for games and entertainment on Xbox One, Xbox 360, other select Microsoft online stores, and Windows Phone 8. Buy the latest games, map packs, music, movies, TV shows and more.* And on Xbox One, buy and download full blockbuster games the day they hit retail shelves. Great as a gift, allowance, or credit card alternative.

* Music: Only for purchase of individual tracks & music pass on Windows 8.1; or music pass on Xbox One (Xbox Live Gold required). Coming holiday 2013

Gift card valid for eligible purchases (exclusions apply) made directly at select Xbox and Microsoft online stores. Microsoft account required. Subject to full terms and conditions and country restrictions at www.microsoft.com/en-US/giftcard.

Xbox Live Code Redemption
To redeem Xbox Gift Card code:
Redeem this card in your U.S. Microsoft account. Simply login to your account and enter your 25-digit card number.

To create a new account, visit https://commerce.microsoft.com. You must be 13+. The full card value will be applied to your Microsoft account and may be used for eligible purchases (exclusions apply) made directly at Xbox Games, Xbox Music, Xbox Video, and Windows Phone stores and other select Microsoft online marketplaces in the U.S. Balance restrictions may apply. Eligible purchases and prices may vary by region, device, and over time.


The currency in your Microsoft account can’t be used to buy an Xbox Live Gold membership at this time.

List Price:$20.00 USD
New From:$20.00 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock