At E3, the Killer Instinct development team at Double Helix Games announced they would reveal a new character at almost every major event they attended. The unveiled character would then be playable at the following event. At E3, Jago and Sabrewulf were playable, with Glacius teased. At Evolution, Glacius became playable and Chief Thunder was teased. Now, as we approach Gamescom and PAX Prime, fans await the ability to play as Chief Thunder, and the reveal of the next character.
Looking back at the characters we’ve played thus far, Jago hasn’t changed much since his original inception. Sabrewulf lost a few special moves, but overall he plays similar to how he did in previous games. Glacius saw the most change, going from a rush down character (like most other characters in the first two games), to a zoning character. He still has most of his signature attacks, but his play style saw a drastic switch. That said, most people would agree his changes were almost entirely positive.
There’s been a lot of buzz concerning Chief Thunder and how he’ll play in the Gamescom build, which will also be playable at PAX Prime. The father of Killer Instinct, Ken Lobb, hinted that we might see something before Gamescom, but there’s no confirmation that the sneak peak will include a look at Thunder’s play mechanics. While we wait, let’s theorize how Chief Thunder might evolve from the original Killer Instinct.
What we can safely assume is that Thunder will have his trademark tomahawks again. While we didn’t see much in the Evo teaser, the one thing we did see was a tomahawk. Aside from that, we don’t have much to go on, so let’s look at how Thunder played in the first KI, and see if we can figure out how he might change.
Thunder’s main tools in KI1 were his Spinning Chop, Phoenix Throw, Flying Mohawk and Tomahawk Dive. If we assume Thunder is another rush down character, he’ll probably keep all of these tools. However, some feel Thunder may be the first grappler character revealed. At the moment, we know about one character from each archetype. The only archetype missing is a grappler, and Thunder is the next character we’ll see in action.
If Thunder turns out to be a grappler, it’s unlikely he’ll play like Zangief from Street Fighter or King from Tekken. Instead, he’ll probably use his tomahawks to latch onto an opponent, then attack with his knees or mohawk while the opponent is pinned down. It’s also not out of the question for him to attack with his hands once the tomahawks are firmly implanted in his opponent, but the animations on that could look awkward. Keep in mind that during combos, things move pretty quickly. If Thunder has to continually plant and remove his tomahawks, it could look messy.
In addition, if Thunder is a grappler, he’ll probably lose his Phoenix Throw projectile. It seems like quite a staple attack to remove from the legendary Native American, but it may be time for a change. Even if he stays as a rush down character, we could see the Phoenix Throw turn into something that uses thunder and lightning to keep with his namesake.
It doesn’t seem likely that Thunder would turn into a zoning character, but if that happened, he would probably need some sort of lightning attack to combo from a distance (similar to the ice pillars Glacius uses). His Spinning Chop would also lose the ability to go through projectile attacks, unless it was the shadow variant. In fact, this may be the case no matter what archetype Thunder fits into.
Thunder should keep his Flying Mohawk uppercut attack since it was his primary anti-air special move. However, the Tomahawk Dive will need to see some changes. It wasn’t useful in the original game unless an opponent was foolish enough to use a projectile attack after Thunder was already in the air. If the attack is retained in the new game, it will need to either be safer on block, or have additional uses beyond a basic aerial diving attack.
If Thunder becomes a grappler, the Tomahawk Dive could offer similar options as Akuma’s Demon Flip in Street Fighter. He can grab an opponent, use a dive kick, attack with an open palm strike or do nothing but jump toward the opponent. If Thunder had the normal attack, a grab option and an empty jump, he would have a solid mix-up, maintain the grappler archetype and get to keep this once useless attack.
Gamescom is coming up next week, so hopefully we’ll get an early tease. If not, expect quite a few videos and hands-on descriptions of Thunder’s abilities. Plus, we’ll be at PAX Prime, ready to get our Thunder on with the latest build of Killer Instinct. We’ll have a full report on Chief Thunder next month.