A Couple of Interesting Changes
Killer Instinct Season 2 has just launched on the Xbox One, and it brings a whole bunch of new features to the headlining fighting game. Developer Iron Galaxy, the guys behind Divekick and many classic Capcom remakes such as Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition , have taken the reigns after original developer, Double Helix, was purchased by Amazon. This means that they are building on top of a framework that is already there, a game they didn’t design, which puts them in a very awkward position. On one hand, if they change too much they could upset fans of the original Double Helix game. On the other hand, if they change too little, the new characters and options that they are adding will feel out of place. Luckily, Iron Galaxy managed to walk the middle line between making a new experience and honoring the original game. The result is something that feels somewhere between an expansion pack and a sequel, which is pretty much what every fighting game follow-up feels like anyway.
The first thing that you’ll notice in Season 2 , is a massive U.I. change. Double Helix was all about the flash. Menus were stylized, character select was focused on player portraits, and everything had this harsh and brutal edge to it. Double Helix, with their professional fighting gamer team, has decided to go a different route and instead make the menus far more pragmatic. All modes are laid out right in front of you to start, with the most often played mode, versus, stuck right at the top of the list. Menus aren’t stylized as much, and instead are made of simple easy to read text that doesn’t take up much space on the screen.
The place you see this new pragmatic philosophy the most is in the character select menu. The massive character portraits and busy character select screen have all been taken out. Instead, there is a much more traditional character select screen, with two sides and a number of mini-portraits in boxes in the middle of the screen. It feels Spartan, but as the roster grows it’s obvious that this layout will be much more effective as further expansions come out. Characters are grouped in packs of eight, each separated by season. There is even space at the bottom of the page left over for what we can only assume is Killer Instinct Season 3 .
Gameplay wise, the game is still the Killer Instinct that you remember, with a couple basic alterations that really change how the game is played. For example, you can now air-combo breaker, and air-counter breaker. This means that juggle combos are no longer “safe” for the combo-er. In fact, pretty much no combo is “safe” anymore. Just about everything can be broken at some point, which means that the days of unbreakable combos are pretty much over.
Another thing that has changed is hit-stop. It has been increased across the board for every move. Basically this means that every time a move connects, time freezes for a bit longer. This is actually meant to make breaking combos a little bit easier, and it does do that. Unfortunately, it also makes the whole game look a little awkward. Moves don’t really flow the way they used to and doing combos feels oddly robotic. This doesn’t actually affect gameplay in any meaningful way, in fact it helps gameplay by allowing the defender more opportunities to break out of combos. It just feels off.
That’s actually the biggest complaint I have with Killer Instinct Season 2 . Something feels off. TJ Combo, for example, feels a lot less “extreme” than other characters. His movements are tight and conservative and, while he is an awesome character, he certainly feels like he was designed by a different team than the team who designed Jago. The same goes for air breakers and counter breakers and a lot of the new moves and abilities that characters have. They feel somewhat out of place, like they were hacked in. They all make the gameplay better in every possible way, and when all is said and done Killer Instinct Season 2 is probably a much better game than Season 1 was, but things just look out of place at times.
The balance changes are also really interesting. Many other characters have changed move properties, changed instinct modes, and more. Jago, for example, can throw double fireballs in instinct mode, and only those heal his life. Fulgore’s meter system has been totally reworked, now being based on a “generator spin” system that constantly builds meter. Unfortunately, this seems to make him a little less useful than before. In fact, the whole tier list seems to have been majorly shuffled around… with the exception of Sabrewulf. Sabrewulf is still awesome.
I mentioned TJ Combo earlier, one of the new characters in Season 2 . Combo was included as a pre-order bonus for people who got the disc version of the game, so he’s been playable for quite a while. He is a “charge” style character that has a variety of movement and attack options. The things that set him apart from other characters are his ability to “recapture” the opponent, forcing them to stand after being juggled, and his ability to come back after a loss if his instinct meter is full. This means that, unlock other characters, you DON’T want to pop your instinct before the end of a round with TJ. You want it to just sit there and act as an insurance card in case you lose the battle.
Maya is even weirder than TJ in that her gameplay revolves around two different daggers that she can throw. When holding the daggers, she is more powerful than she is unarmed. However, she has to throw the daggers in order to “charge them up.” Each dagger which is blocked gives her a level of charge, and when both daggers are fully charged, she can either throw an unblockable homing projectile, which is bound to get you into a combo, or use an incredibly powerful special ender which does easily 20% damage. Of course, when she throws her daggers she has to pick them up in order to use them again as well. So it’s this big complex back and forth of having the daggers and ditching them that may be a bit much for some new players, but is really fun for people who get the hang of it.
Two other Killer Instinct classic characters will be joining the fight as well. Riptor and Cinder will be coming in later months, though we don’t quite know how they will play yet. This all plays into the overall theme of Season 2 , which is Ultra-Tech has released its experiments to deal with the other fighters. We are also likely to see four completely new characters come out this season as well, and stage based ultra-finishers are also coming back as well.
The last interesting new addition to the game is the new XP system. Taking the place of KP from the previous season, XP simply allows you to level up as you play each character. You get more XP if you complete certain challenges during the fight. For example, you’ll get more XP if you ultra-someone than if you kill them normally. Gain enough XP and you’ll level up, gaining new costumes and accessories. Of course, you can always choose to just buy the “ultra edition” for $39.99 to get most of the costumes and accessories right at the start, though there will still be some you can only earn by leveling up, and some which you can only buy. Ultra edition owners will also get characters and costumes before everyone else as they are released by Iron Galaxy.
Like Killer Instinct Season 1 , Killer Instinct Season 2 is a free to play game, so there’s no reason not to simply get on board and start playing today. However, I highly recommend you at least purchase the “combo breaker” pack at $19.99. That gives you all the characters in the season, at the very least. K.I. Season 2 is a fantastic way to rejuvenate one of the fighters that stood as an icon for the next-gen console launch. If you were a fan of Season 1 , you should hop online and start playing Season 2 today!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
The graphics are the same as they were in the original, though the new stages do look awesome. 4.0 Control
Now that everyone has arcade sticks, the game is incredibly fun to play. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Same great announcer as before. 4.0 Play Value
An incredibly fun update to an already fun game. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best