Five Thoughts About Five XBOX ONE Launch Titles Part One: KILLER INSTINCT

Screenshot from Killer Instinct
Credit: Double Helix / Microsoft

It’s nearly here. After a, by all accounts, successful launch for Sony with the PlayStation 4, on Friday November 22, 2013, Microsoft joins the next generation of console gaming with the Xbox One. While a lot of Microsoft’s early message was about being the “One” media device needed in your living room (get it?), their final media push leading up to release has definitely focused on the games. With three major retail exclusives (and a couple more that fill smaller niches) alongside five digital downloads, there are a lot of games that are only on the Xbox One during this console launch.

We will have full reviews later this week of Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, Ryse: Son of Rome, and of the Xbox One itself (and those vaunted media features), but throughout the day today we’re looking at five titles you can download right to the system on day one, that are only for Xbox One.

Some of these games you’ve heard of before, like Killer Instinct and possibly Zoo Tycoon (which does also have a retail release, but is a small enough download we featured here). Some you may not have, like Powerstar Golf, LocoCycle and Crimson Dragon. Here are five thoughts on these five games to help you narrow down which is worth your hard-earned cash (and bandwidth) this week. We kick things off with Killer Instinct, the revival of a classic fighter.

Screenshot from Killer Instinct
Screenshot from Killer Instinct
Credit: Double Helix / Microsoft

Killer Instinct

1: No Rare, But Definitely Killer Instinct

Every bit the classic fighter, I have fond memories of playing the old Killer Instinct on the Nintendo 64. While the graphics are obviously upgraded and some elements of more modern fighting games have been integrated into this new edition, it is absolutely, positively a Killer Instinct game, for better or for worse. The original developer may be gone (Double Helix did this one), but the fighting style is the same, with a jump-heavy and short-combo heavy fight path that you'll play no matter who you're controlling (more on that later). There are classic characters and classic moves - and if you get the Ultra Combo edition, even the classic arcade version of the game for the actual old-school experience.

Screenshot from Killer Instinct
Screenshot from Killer Instinct
Credit: Double Helix / Microsoft

2: Why Are You Yelling At Me?

Holy cow is that announcer’s voice annoying. Look, it may seem like a nitpick (especially to include as the second major point about the game), but part of the game experience is the audio. Sure, you can turn down the game’s volume and substitute in some music of your own – maybe that’s even preferable for a personal on-the-couch tournament with your friends – but when you first start playing this game, prepared to cringe every time you hear “COMBO BREAKER” screamed into your ears. And it happens a lot because the computer is incapable of letting you past about 13 hits unless you’re a fighting game wunderkind.

3: Choose Your Fighter! Not That It Matters...

There isn’t much variety to the fighters here. Yes, they have their own moves (most of which you’ve seen in other fighting franchises – it can at times be like “spot the homage” here), but the skinny female character by-and-large moves in an identical way to the hulking brute. They move with the same speed, their basic attacks deal the same amount of damage. That is a big deal in a fighting game, where the whole premise of you ever going back and playing with more characters is to see how they differ. It severely limits the game’s replayability and was especially disappointing after the third or fourth character tried.

Screenshot from Killer Instinct
Screenshot from Killer Instinct
Credit: Double Helix / Microsoft

4: At Last, Some Variety!

Game modes and challenges, however, are considerably more varied. The challenges that appear in a separate column on the main title screen are great/ they each bring you into a game mode and force you to pick different characters, try to master different moves, and generally experience as much of the game as possible. That’s a nice touch, and should get people out of the standard arcade ladder a bit. Multiplayer likewise worked admirably, both offline and online, but be warned, there are a lot of people out there who are very good at fighting games. Online matchmaking will try to match you with people of similar skill levels, but you might get frustrated.

5: Best Possible Price of Entry

It’s free, so just try it! Ultimately, if you want to try this game, it starts out free. You can download the game and play any mode (the full game) with Jago, the “Ryu” of the Killer Instinct series, and give the game a go for yourself. After that, the game is delivering content on demand. You can buy any of the individual characters, or buy bundles up to the “Ultra Combo Pack” that includes everything. It’s an interesting experiment in game delivery, and should certainly get more people to at least give this a shot. It’s a fairly formulaic fighter with moves you’ve seen (and if you’ve played a fighting game – any fighting game, done) before, but the nostalgia and the price tag for entry are certainly right. This is something in common with a lot of the first-party downloadables (and some of the retail games, too) this time around, where they all have very strong built-in elements of real-world stores built directly into the games. While it allows you to unlock or progress faster, it's also a high amount of microtransactions being thrown in your face from the get-go here, something they'll need to check balance on as they continue with new releases.

Stay Tuned throughout the day for five thoughts on Crimson Dragon, LocoCycle, Powerstar Golf, and Zoo Tycoon!

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