The original Killer Instinct was a fun game, but at the highest levels of play the system mechanics were a bit limiting. Players essentially played the waiting game until they could open up an opponent and use a short, high-damaging, unbreakable combo. Things expanded a bit in Killer Instinct 2 and Gold with the parry system and a few other gameplay additions. Now, with the new and improved Killer Instinct, set to hit the Xbox One in November, the bar has been raised.
You can’t have a Killer Instinct game with Combo Breakers which are now much easier to perform. In previous titles, you had to input a specific special move and match the appropriate strength to the corresponding attack you were trying to break. That has been simplified so that you only need to match the attack with both corresponding attack buttons. For example, if you’re trying to break a Light Auto-Double, you only need to press Light Punch (LP) and Light Kick (LK) at the appropriate time.
In previous games, you could break most combos with relative ease because there were specific combo paths that players had to follow. As long as you recognized the animation of the attack, you knew what Auto-Double would follow and could break accordingly. In the new game, you can use any button to execute an Auto-Double, so while there’s no set path for combo progression, you can still break combos on-reaction. In order to do this, you must recognize the Auto-Double animations. This will take quite a bit of time and reflexes to learn all of the Auto-Double animations and be able to break them on-reaction, but after playing at E3 and Evolution, we could already do this when fighting against Jago and Glacius.
In addition to Combo Breakers, the developers at Double Helix Games have added Shadow Breakers. In the E3 build you could not break a Shadow Linker but, in the Evo build, Shadow Breakers were added, allowing you to break a Shadow Linker if you have good timing. Every Shadow Linker in the game consists of five hits, but those five hits come at varying speeds depending on which Shadow Linker you use. To execute a Shadow Breaker, you must press Medium Punch (MP) and Medium Kick (MK) three times, in sync with three hits of the Shadow Linker. It does not matter which three hits of the five-hit Shadow Linker you attempt to break on, but the timing is fairly strict.
Each time you successfully press MP and MK with one hit of a Shadow Linker, the announcer will yell out a number. On the first success you’ll hear, “one”, on the second you’ll hear, “two”, and on the third the Shadow Linker will be broken and you’ll hear the trademark Combo Breaker scream. While hearing the confirmations that you’re hitting the breaker at the appropriate time is great, it also means that your opponent knows you’re attempting a break.
Another new addition to the Evo build is the Bluff or Counter Breaker. It’s performed by pressing MP and MK at any point during a combo. If an opponent attempts a Combo Breaker when you use a Counter Breaker, they’ll be unable to use another Combo Breaker for four seconds (also known as being locked out). The mind games between Combo Breakers and Counter Breakers are insane, especially when you learn that you can cancel the second hit of an Auto-Double with a Counter Breaker. At high levels of play, people will see the first hit of an Auto-Double, recognize the animation, and attempt the correct Combo Breaker. However, because you can use Counter Breakers, you never know when you can safely use a Combo Breaker, even when you recognize the animation of an Auto-Double. It has become a complicated mind game.
Counter Breakers become even more of a mind game when you factor in Shadow Breakers. Because you hear the announcer when an opponent is successful with the first two breaker attempts, you can choose to attempt a Counter Breaker, but you’ll need to guess when the opponent is going to attempt the third and final breaker. On some Shadow Linkers this is easier than others. Sabrewulf’s Shadow Jumping Slash is five very fast hits. If an opponent is going to break it, they almost have to break the last three hits because the first two come so quickly. It’s an extensive mind game that forces you to learn your opponent’s tendencies to use Combo Breakers and Counter Breakers effectively.
Rounding out the new system mechanics are Shadow Counters. After blocking an attack during a block string, you can use a Shadow Counter to stop the next attack and immediately execute a Shadow attack. You must have meter to use a Shadow Counter, and it’s most effective against blocked Shadow attacks (block the first four hits, then Shadow Counter the fifth and final hit), but it shuts down various attacks. For instance, Sabrewulf’s Ragged Edge is two hits in every instance. If you’re fighting against Sabrewulf and you block the first hit of the Ragged Edge, you can use a Shadow Counter on the second hit and begin a combo. The same strategy works against the two-hit version of Jago’s Laser Blade. Since the Shadow attack that follows the Shadow Counter is essentially an Opener for a combo, you can go right into and Ender to give the opponent only one chance to use a Combo Breaker.
As you can see, the new Killer Instinct is shaping up to be full of mind games and in-depth system mechanics that change the game at higher levels of play. There are still a few months left of development time before the game releases, and there have already been hints at some new and adjusted system mechanics that we’ll see at Gamescom and PAX Prime. Keep an eye on Prima Games as we’ll be at PAX giving you the low down on the new build.