As promised, the full Chief Thunder reveal video was released today, a week before he’s playable for the first time at Gamescom. You can watch the reveal video at IGN, but let’s take a moment to really break down what we saw and heard in the video. As we predicted in our Outlook, Thunder is a grappler, but as the first grappler to grace the Killer Instinct franchise, he is quite unique.
Before we delve into his play style, let’s get all the fluff out of the way first. The Chief looks like a completely new character. His mohawk is gone, replaced with dreadlocks that have feathers protruding from the end. His face is covered in war paint that drips down his chest. This is to signify the pain he’s suffered at the loss of his brother Eagle, and Thunder’s inability to track down his body. In standard grappler fashion, he stands quite a bit taller than Jago and Sabrewulf.
From a gameplay standpoint, Thunder has a few tricks up his sleeve that should turn out to be pretty lethal. His Triple Axe Spin (Spinning Chop) and Sammamish (Flying Mohawk) have returned, but it seems as though everything else is gone. Most notably, there’s no sign of his Phoenix Throw projectile, which was expected to be removed given the fact that he’s now a grappler character.
We know that the new Triple Axe Spin is safe when blocked, and the Sammamish is projectile invincible. Right off the bat, that could be bad news for Glacius and Jago. The new version of the Sammamish looks to cover quite a bit of distance, but it also has a stomp ender that seems to have replaced the Tomahawk Dive. If the stomp is safe, or at least leads to a combo, Thunder will be able to use the Sammamish to blow through projectiles from a decent range, then come down with the stomp to combo or just put himself at close range. From the video, it seems as though the stomp is an overhead, and it looks like Thunder can at least combo with a Shadow attack after the stomp connects.
The Shadow Triple Axe gives Thunder one hit of shadow armor, which means he is deadly at close range when he has meter. Since the normal Triple Axe is safe on block, we’ve got to assume the Shadow version is as well. This means you can toss out the Shadow Triple Axe any time you think an opponent will press a button. If you’re right, you’ll start a combo. If you’re wrong, it will be OK because you’ll still be safe. If you have a full Shadow meter, you can even get tricky with back-to-back Shadow Triple Axe attacks to trick the opponent into thinking it’s his turn to attack, then blow through that attack with the armor. You should also be able to use the armor like a Shadow Counter, and go right through the last hit of a block string, or even as an anti-air to absorb the aerial attack and start a combo.
So far, we know Thunder has at least two new special moves. One is a command grab, and the other is the Ankle Slicer. The command grab seems to be unblockable (as it should be), and the Shadow version launches the opponent into the air for a follow-up juggle. It’s currently unknown whether or not the normal version has this property as well, but at first glance it doesn’t seem to. The Ankle Slicer is a low combo starter that seems to have decent range. It’s also invincible to low attacks during the latter half of the animation. We’ll have to see if Thunder has a standalone overhead attack to use as a mix-up with the Ankle Slicer, but at the very least you will probably be able to use a command grab, followed by an empty jump (jump-in with no attack), and go directly into the Ankle Slicer. Since jump-ins must be blocked standing, the opponent may not expect the low-hitting Ankle Slicer.
Thunder’s Instinct mode seems to alter his dash. It gives it more range, and makes it completely invincible. You can also cancel the Instinct mode version of his dash into a special move, which makes it extremely useful. Once Thunder activates Instinct mode, the opponent is almost forced to block or keep their distance. With the longer range on the dash, it may be difficult to keep Thunder away from you. In addition, he can dash through anything, which should almost completely shut down an opponent’s offense. Add that to his new command grab, and the opponent can’t just sit and block.
So far Thunder looks beastly. He seems to have all the tools he needs. We’ll get hands-on time with him at PAX in just a few short weeks, but in the meantime we’ll ponder what his frame data is. We know his Triple Axe is safe, but does he have frame advantage at all? What are his Manuals? Does he have a standalone overhead? Is the stomp safe? We’ve got a lot of answers, but even more new questions. Keep an eye on Prima Games to find out everything you need to know about Thunder following PAX Prime.