Once you have the basics of the combo system down, you need to know how to use meter and how to best defend yourself. This section covers Combo Breakers, combo damage, Ultra Combos, the KV, Shadow and Instinct meters and throws. As an offensive game, Killer Instinct allows you to gain meter very quickly, so it’s important to know what options you have when it comes to using meter.
The Combo Breaker has been a staple of the Killer Instinct series since its inception. To execute a Combo Breaker, in the middle of a combo press the punch and kick buttons equivalent in strength to the attack your opponent is using. For example, you would press MP + MK to break an opponent’s MP Auto-Double.
A successful Combo Breaker stops a combo and builds Instinct Meter. However, if you miss a Combo Breaker or use it on an attack that cannot be broken, an exclamation point appears by your character. This indicates that you cannot attempt another Combo Breaker for three seconds (180 frames), giving an opponent ample time to accumulate damage. A red X with an exclamation point means that you used the wrong strength Combo Breaker, while an orange X with an exclamation point indicates a mistimed Combo Breaker.
In the original KI, the highest level of play revolved around unbreakable combos. However, in the new KI, the plan is to make sure that everything can be broken in some way. As of the E3 build, Enders, Shadow Linkers and Ultra Combos could not be broken by conventional Combo Breakers. It is currently unknown how or if these attacks can be broken by other means.
KV Meter and Combo Damage
The KV meter appears after two hits.
It fills as you continue a combo.
Use a combo Ender before it maxes out.
During every combo in Killer Instinct, a white bar appears under the combo hit counter. This is called the Knockout Value or KV meter. With each additional hit in your combo, the bar increases until it turns red. This meter is a visual representation of your potential combo length and damage. If you do not use a proper Ender by the time the KV meter turns red, the opponent is knocked away, you lose all of the built-up potential damage and your total combo damage suffers greatly.
Auto-Doubles cache up to 50 percent of their damage during a combo. That damage is lost if you do not use a proper Ender. Manuals and certain attacks cause the KV meter to build slower compared to using Auto-Doubles (allowing for more attacks in a combo). Shadow attacks do not build any KV meter at all.
For example, a 10-hit combo with Jago that does not use a proper Ender may inflict 12 percent damage. However, an eight-hit combo with a proper Ender could easily inflict 20 percent damage or more. If you’re not getting much damage out of your combos, chances are you’re simply not using a proper Ender.
Half a Shadow meter allows you to use a Shadow attack.
A full Shadow meter allows you to use two Shadow attacks.
The Shadow meter is the blue bar at the bottom of the screen. It’s cut into halves and provides access to Shadow versions of special moves. For Street Fighter players, think of Shadow attacks as EX special moves. They’re executed with two Punch or Kick buttons instead of one, and use 50 percent of your Shadow meter. The meter is used anytime you execute a Shadow attack, whether as a standalone attack or as a Shadow Linker during a combo.
Shadow Linkers inflict far more damage than a normal Linker and cannot be broken with a Combo Breaker. In addition, Shadow attacks generally have unique properties. For instance, Jago’s Shadow Wind Kick is projectile invincible (goes through fireballs).
The Shadow meter fills when inflicting damage on an opponent, or when an opponent blocks your attacks. Due to the heavy offensive focus of Killer Instinct, the Shadow meter fills up extremely fast when an opponent blocks. In the E3 build, four blocked fireballs gave Jago a FULL Shadow meter.
Your character portrait glows when your Instinct meter is full.
New to the Killer Instinct franchise is the Instinct meter. It appears near the top of the screen by the life bars, near your character’s portrait. The Instinct meter fills when you take damage or successfully execute a Combo Breaker. If you initially use Instinct shortly after the meter is full, you should be able to use it again by the time you are in Ultra Combo danger (below 15 percent health in your second life bar).
When full, the Instinct meter allows you to enter Instinct Mode. The attributes of Instinct Mode vary from character to character, but it has been loosely compared to X-Factor in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. For example, Jago’s Instinct Mode regains lost health and improves his frame data by +4 block stun and hit stun while Instinct is active, while Sabrewulf gets increased chip (block) damage and a general damage buff.
Instinct Mode can also be used mid-combo to reset the KV meter or even mid-Ultra to “style” on an opponent. After an Instinct Cancel, you can essentially start a brand new combo while the opponent is helpless. Keep in mind, this also gives an opponent more chances to use a Combo Breaker.
When an opponent is down to 15 percent health or below, on their second life bar (the red life bar), it is possible to perform an Ultra Combo. Each character has a unique Ultra Combo input that is generally a special move with all three attack buttons (LK + MK + HK or LP + MP + HP). You can execute an Ultra Combo as soon as the combo counter reads at least two hits. As soon as an Ultra Combo is initiated, it depletes the opponent’s remaining health and the game is essentially over.
Throws in Killer Instinct are very similar to throws in Street Fighter. They are executed by pressing LP + LK. In addition, throws have a large amount of invincibility frames and go through almost any other attack. However, they have very limited range. Jago has the ability to cancel his throw animation into a Shadow attack.