Killer Instinct Is Like Playing Darkstalkers At A Heavy Metal Concert

By Kris . October 2, 2013 . 4:06pm

At first, Killer Instinct reminded me a bit of Darkstalkers 3. It’s a six button fighter with light, medium, and heavy punch and kick buttons (that generally combo pretty easily ino each other in order of increasing power), and like Darkstalkers 3, instead of rounds, each player has two health bars. When one is depleted, the downed character takes a moment to stand up as his or her health bars are swapped, with the opponent maintaining their current health.


Seeing this, I chose Sabrewulf (based on his slight resemblance to Gallon/Jon Talbain) and tried to play Killer Instinct like I would Darkstalkers. It was surprisingly effective.


Like Darkstalkers, special attacks could be made into more powerful versions (that in KI’s case had the character trailed by smoke) by sacrificing some meter and pressing two punches or kicks when performing the attack. While every character could dash and lighter attacks seemed to naturally flow into heavier ones, Sabrewulf felt fast, like he was built for rushdown. He didn’t have much range, but he was fast enough that I could dash into my opponent (who was playing Chief Thunder), knock them down with a few hits and dash back to safety.


When I didn’t do this, Thunder would grab Sabrewulf, toss him to the ground and stomp on his head as punishment. However, once I realized that Sabrewulf was a charge character, I started understanding what makes Killer Instinct unique: the combo system.


One of Sabrewulf’s attacks would simply make him run forward. A punch after that would have him take a forward leaping bite out of his enemy and a kick would have him slide under his foe and attack from behind. Either of these would stun my enemy into one of Killer Instinct’s combos.


My first couple of combo opportunities had me  randomly mashing buttons, which would do a decent number of hits, but not that much damage. As you land your attacks, a gauge fills up under the number of hits. Fill that gauge and the opponent is knocked out of the combo, with a bit of their health converted to red health (which gradually restored itself, just like Darkstalkers 3!). However, you can use certain specials to decrease that combo gauge and extend your combo.


Lastly, if you use a special attack designated as a combo finisher, all of the red damage that you put on the enemy will be transformed into regular damage. Having realized that, my combos started getting longer and longer, and I had to start weighing whether or not I wanted to lengthen my combos at the risk of having my opponent break my combo (if my opponent knew whether my incoming attack was light, medium, or heavy, he could break out of my assault by pressing the punch and kick that corresponded to that attack) or if I wanted to deal a little bit of safe damage with a short string and a combo finisher.


After exchanging a few combos, my opponent and I both had very low health. He dashed forward and tried to use the EX version of his throw, but I’d slid under him and started a combo. The first few hits were to be expected, a few slashes and bites, but I extended the combo by sliding under him again. Each hit played a note that matched the theme of the stage (it sounded a bit like that thing a lot of bands do at the end of a concert where everyone hits the same note at the same time).


I extended the combo again to more grindy guitar, and when I finally landed the last hit (which was the 27th) the announcer shouted the famous Killer Instinct “ULTRAAAAAAA COMBOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” At the same time, more wailing guitars started playing, and Sabrewulf struck his victory pose.


Killer Instinct is a different beast from the Darkstalkers-alike I thought it was at first, but that different beast is an awesome one.

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  • EdgeKun

    “Killer Instinct Is Like Playing Darkstalkers At A Heavy Metal Concert”

    Oh Kris, you know exactly what to say to catch my interest. You had my curiosity, now you have my attention. =P

  • Juan Andrés Valencia

    As interested as I am on the game I do have to question why it’s running at 720p60?

    • Rob Toohey

      Frame rate in a fighting game means more than resolution. this being an early game means that they haven’t mastered getting the most out of the system yet.

      • Daniel Gulyas

        At the same time, not having it at the standard 1080p for the average TV is going to increase input lag slightly, since the TV is going to have to render a 720p image at 1080p. Not an issue for high quality monitors, but a problem for many players.

        • Rob Toohey

          I honestly see that as a non-issue. the core fighting crowd will already have low input-lag monitors, and the Xbox One’s scaling should be faster and more accurate than the 360’s(which was already pretty decent and didn’t introduce much lag, if any at all).

          • Daniel Gulyas

            You’re right. My main point is that being in 720p does have tradeoffs as well, and with KI starting as FTP, they’re probably going to try to appeal as much to people that don’t have $150 sticks and low input lag monitors.

    • Hector Velar

      and why the graphics (lvl of detail & charater models) look so last gen? this game looks good if it was xbox or xbox360 perhaps… and about rob toohey’s comment that they have not mastered the most out of the system I call BS! more like lack of creativity, knowlagable/skilled staff, than anything else. Stop coming out with excuses, I was able to do better character models on 3dmax or maya back 8 years ago when I was in college.

      • Juan Andrés Valencia

        To be fair the particles (They even interact with the clothing and they cast lights and shadows), cloth simulation and character detail are great. Until you realize that The Witcher 2, Crysis 3, Batman Arkham City, the Assassin’s Creed series and Beyond: Two Souls are using some top notch visuals on much worse hardware (And look, most of those game look 100 times better on the PC but it’s no excuse for a 720p fighting game ON A NEXT GEN CONSOLE).

      • Rob Toohey

        It’s 1st gen. The dev studio doing this game is NOT a first party studio like turn 10 is. so obviously, they’re not going to know the system as well as MS and it’s internal teams are.

        • Hector Velar

          I’m sorry Rob, do you have a degree in media arts? have you ever worked with maya or 3d max? because I have and I can tell you that there is no excuse for models to look like this specially when running them on powerful engines. There is no excuse but lack of creativity and effort, often times in America we tend to rush games out with very little aesthetic value, going to give you an example compare the character creation tools of new mmos like Guild Wars 2 & Elders Scroll(from what I seen from beta) or any american MMO of this gen, and look at the character creation tools from korean games like Tera or Core online… big difference, American companies just wants to push the product out. If you are going to support this go for it.

          • Rob Toohey

            actually, yes I do. I know it can look better, but honestly for a 1st gen effort for the Xbox One, it doesn’t look all that bad.

            preference usually goes to the internal studios since they always get hands on the hardware first.

          • Hector Velar

            and you are also a microsoft employee. my apologies.

          • Neutron15

            butthurt is butthurt

      • Neutron15

        because it started on Xbox 360 duh, and started on development on precisely late September

  • Shippoyasha

    Excellent. That is precisely what Killer Instinct is supposed to be. Hopefully they keep adding features and fatalities eventually. A lot of people doubted the game but the devs are working very hard. One can tell from how far it has come since the E3 build.

  • Killer Instinct plays nothing like Darkstalkers 3. Killer Instinct plays EXACTLY like KI2/KI1 you’ve the shadow moves from KI1KI2 (Super bar which are used for Shadow moves)You have your standard two piece health bar and it restores if you’ve Instinct mode on. And you don’t have the “Chain” combos from Darkstalkers at all. You have Links. Sure you could do chains, but you at least could follow up with an ender unlike Darkstalkers. So basically you’ve auto doubles and auto combos and other stuff. If anything it’s similar to auto combos from UMK3 but you have more freedom and have more variety here in KI. And you could actually auto whatever you want till someone tries to break the combo or till you decide to finally finish it off with an ender by using one of your special moves which will prompt the announcer to say “Combo” with whatever quote their is. (Depends on how many hits you had) But if you decide to not end it with an ender the announcer won’t say “Combo” but will just say the quote only. The only thing that resembles something from DarkStalkers 3 is your “Instinct” Bar at the top which is called “Instinct Mode” Which powers up your characters attacks, give them advantages which differs from each characters and restores your health. (Won’t restore it to your first health bar though) It resembles the “Dark Force” From Darkstalkers 3 aka Vampire Savior. That’s the only thing that’s like Darkstalkers 3, if anything it reminds me more of Bloody Roar when they transform and combine it with Injustice’s Trait. So yeah, that’s probably the only thing that resembles Darkstalkers 3. This KI is KI period. With minor adjustments such as Instinct Mode, Shadow counters, Counter breakers, Lock outs, Ultra Cancels, (Similar to Ultimate Combos) Double Ultras and the announcer not saying “Combo” After a quote IF you didn’t land an ender. If you landed an ender he’ll say “Combo” with it. The only thing missing from KI is No Mercys, Ultimate combos (Which they’ve something similar already called Ultra cancels) Humiliation, last breath and stage fatalities. But those are being worked on in the season passes.

    • Göran Isacson

      Oooh, so each character does have a “super mode” so to speak that enables a new kind of power? I really liked that in Darkstalkers 3, and think it’s a cool feature more beat-em-ups could stand to emulate. Cool to hear KI has it, between this and the trade-off between stringing up big combos or playing it safe with short combos and quick combo finisher this really does look good… even if I personally don’t really feel like getting an XBone. But hey, maybe they’ll release a Steam version sometime down the line?

      • Yeah I guess you could call it a super mode since each character have a different power up when using instinct mode. Which helps makes the game more fun than it already is. Some get speed up, some get powered up and some get extra frame advantages and dash cancels, invincibility etc. And yeah the game is fun, and great to play up close and in person. Those who have no idea how to play KI and think it’s a button masher are going to get blown up pretty darn fast and probably will hate on KI just cause they’ve no idea what they’re doing. And I don’t really know about a steam version…. I heard from Double Helix and they said something about wanting to do an steam version in the future but it depends on approval from Microsoft and fan demand. Cause right now Microsoft solely wants this to be “The Xbox One seller” Which is why it’s exclusive to Xbox One right now.

  • hazelnut1112

    Can’t wait for the inevitable PC release a few months down the line.

  • Jonathan Tse

    VSav is “short combos/blockstrings that lead to constant pressure/okizeme”. KI (at least the new one) is “mixups within combos themselves to maintain damage/risk balance and avoid having your combo momentum broken”. not gonna say which one is better, just saying that even at a far glance they’re pretty different (mindgames after combos vs mindgames within combos).


    >Killer Instinct Is Like Playing Darkstalkers At A Heavy Metal Concert

    Sorry, kris. But you need to know better about Darkstalkers . KI doesn’t play like Darkstalkers. The only fighting game that plays like Darkstalkers IS Darkstalkers (maybe marvel MAYBE). The speed is different in both games that is not even funny to compare. Darkstalkers matches play alot more quickly than KI. The gameplay mechanics have a huge difference too. The dark force in Darkstalker don’t just “make your attacks stronger”. The characters of Vampire while in Dark Force mode have new moves and gain special abilities too. Like how Jedah, Q-Bee, Phobos, Aulbath keeps flying till the end of dark force. or how morrigan, gallon, lilith and phobos and have permanent “Darkness Illusion” (a shadow of the character is created in the opposing direction of the character). There’s four types of Dark Forces called: Helper (adds intervals during your inputs), Shadow, Enhanced Armor (this one have the Super Armor and the Hyper Armor), Power moves (some characters gain new move sets during while DF), and Flight.

    So KI is KI and Darkstalker is Vampire Savior. :p

    • Actually in this KI instinct mode is like Darkforce/Bloody Roar Tranformation/Injustice’s traits. Because in this KI you get different abilities, frame advantages, health bar regeneration over time, characters gaining armor, moves being invincible, dash cancels among other things. But yeah, for the most part KI is KI. And plays NOTHING like Darkstalkers, I don’t know what this guy was playing. Since the combo systems aren’t the same and the gameplay is not the same at all. This KI is fast if not faster than Darkstalkers 3 too in person. And the combos aren’t even like Darkstalkers, since in Darkstalkers 3 you can’t cancel any of your chains into specials or anything unlike in KI where the chains are called “Auto combos and Auto doubles” and linkers are your links from Street Fighter, you could actually end it with an ender with a special or cancel it out with instinct mode, or if say you use Jago’s shoryuken you could combo into it again as an ender or you could just finish it off without an extra juggle. So yeah, Killer Instinct for Xbox One and the old Killer Instinct 1,2 and gold does not play like Darkstalkers 3 at all. This KI is KI period. With minor adjustments such as Instinct Mode, Shadow counters, Counter breakers, Lock outs, Ultra Cancels, (Similar to Ultimate Combos) Double Ultras and the announcer not saying “Combo” After a quote IF you didn’t land an ender. If you landed an ender he’ll say “Combo” with it. The only thing missing are, Stage Fatalities, No Mercy’s, Ultimate Combos, Humiliations and last breath. Which all will be added in the season passes they’re having. So I’ve no idea what the writer is talking about.


        Ah! I see. I didn’t know about the Instinct is this version, thanks for the heads up. I was going to say the stuff behind the Chain in Darkstalker and the Link in Ki but i read your early post so I skip it. From the article i got that the only change was the attacks getting stronger so i said what the DF really was. About the speed of the game I need to play the game and see. From the videos the games seemed more slow than VSavior.

        • No problems, some people tend to skip those kinda stuff and I figure I would let everyone know that KI and this KI plays nothing like Vampire Savior at all. It’s just straight out good old KI with some improvements that gave the game more variety and made it more fun. Trust me, the game is faster in person than video. 60 FPS and very fast and fluid, the game is fun, and faster than the old KI games cause now you could rush down even with the characters who plays defensively. The game just look’s not faster than it’s counter parts and not faster than Vampire Savior cause it’s in video. Once you get your hands on the game, the game is pretty darn fast, on par with Vampire Savior, or even faster than it and very fluid and way better to look at in person than on video. :)

    • Erikdayo

      Someone on this site, can’t remember who, also said that JoJo All Star Battle was like SFIV with side stepping. Couldn’t be further from the truth. They don’t feel similar AT ALL… Besides a few of the same inputs being used that are also used in almost every 2D fighter.


        I don’t remember that. but JJASB certainly is not like SFIV lol

    • Jonathan Tse

      i’d say P4A and GG come close to VSav in terms of overall gameplay. Marvel 2 as well. definitely not Marvel 3 though.

  • Hm. So you can do a manual Ultra combo? KI has died if that is truth. Ultra combos are the ultimate joy of watching, the ultimate finishing combo.

    Not something you do on your own :p

    • Nah, you input the motion to start the ultra and than you just do whatever you want to do. Just like in KI1/2 but now you get to immediate cancel it to a giant attack to finish it off. Which is probably why people think it’s an manual ultra. (Similar to ultimate combos in KI1/2) Which are called “Ultra Cancels” You’ve Ultra Cancels and Double Ultras in this game now. Ultimate combos, No Mercy’s, Humiliation, Last Breath and Stage Fatalities are planned later on for the season passes but not right now.

      • Good to know. It still feels to much like SF4 for me to be interesting.

        But that they are not making all the stuff from the original game and having that from the start is bull. I found it fun to humiliate the CPU opponent by making him/her dance.

        • Well if you play it, your opinions would change about feeling like SF4 since this game isn’t footsie heavy like SF4 and is more of a rush down, knowing when to actually be committed to doing a combo and knowing when to actually end your linkers and auto doubles. Also some zoning characters and grappler characters could actually rush down too instead of playing defensively. The game is way too fast to even be like SF4. The only thing that’s like SF4 is the fonts which are already changed drastically. Other than that, it doesn’t even feel like SF4 at all. And the reason why those stuff from the original games are missing is because of Microsoft. Everyone should go complain to them, Double Helix and Rare didn’t want this to be a launch title and wanted to release it around 2014 or 15 but Microsoft said no so they couldn’t implement any of those stuff into the game yet, cause of Microsoft rushing them to make it a launch title. Which is why they’ll be season passes for characters. Fulgore, Cinder and Spinal were already confirmed to be in the game. So more than likely they’ll be three of the 8 characters in the first season pass. But yeah, the Ultimate combos, No Mercy’s, Humiliation, Stage Fatalities and Last Breath will be in the game, just not right now. Double Helix are aware that everyone wants those stuff to be in the game and said they’ll likely be adding it alongside the season passes. But now they want to focus on the gameplay and making it what Killer Instinct really is first since it’s going to be a launch title.

  • leingod

    I want this game. But damn MS won’t bring the XBONE to my country.

  • 永次

    This game looks terrible.

  • Hector Velar

    1st KI revolutionary (fresh new ideas & best grsphics) it was great! second KI was only so-so and was not able to endure the competition. 3rd KI a copy cat of a game that did not sell well which is struggling to come out with a sequel. I remember back when Microsoft obtained Rare fans of KI begged them to re-release KI 1&2 for 360 and Microsoft said No that they where going to use Rare for new games, new titles that will be revolutionary… instead they did this to get those fans (including me) hyped up and buy their new system… good try MS I see what you did there… not gonna work for me. Be careful.

  • gerald

    I take it the writer is new to fighters or very casual. Not an insult, it was just very shallow assessment of a fighting game.

    Fighters aren’t about what each button does and what kind of supers and health bars it uses. They’re about the balance of range/spacing games, attack frames, punishers, combo effectiveness (from things like frame activations, links, cancels, etc.).

    KI sounds like a very shallow fighting game not for the core fans. It seems to focus on flash more than depth and balance, and the combo system is especially bad in that regard.

  • Well. At least someone enjoyed it. The gameplay experience was similar to my own, except mine was far more chaotic and less controlled. My opponent and I extended our combos by simply mashing the buttons after the first few hits. We felt bad but it worked so well. It felt like you could pull off some cool stuff with some effort but mashing gets the same effect so why bother?

    Also, every hit had sparks flying around as if the characters were made of metal. I don’t mint hit effects but these were far too OTT and distract from the actual fight itself.
    And my opponent also pulled off an 8 hit ultra combo. No idea how that worked…

    • Uhm than you haven’t fully experience KI since mashing will NOT help at all. Otherwise you’ll get combo breakers, shadow counters and counter breakers and will end in lock out which will be easy for someone to ditch out at least 40 to 50% damage. Cause the game relies on linkers and auto manuals, and auto doubles. And mashing will NOT help you out at all otherwise you’ll end up getting blown up pretty darn badly since KI never was a button masher but a fighting game that requires you to at least know when to do a combo and when to end it. And the particles aren’t distractions at all, Double Helix already removed most of the particles so it’s fine the way it is. Also, if you don’t know about an 8 hit ultra I don’t even know what to really say since all the KI games have Ultra’s that are 8 hits or over. The person you played just inputted the motion to do the Ultra but he didn’t do it correctly. Cause if you do the motion for the ultra it’ll do only 8 hits or so. You have to at least try to put in some attacks and finish it off with an ender otherwise the announcer will say “Ultra” instead of “Ultra combo” Cause it didn’t end with an ender.

      • That’s just it, the combo did end with the announcer saying “ultra combo”, with extra win cutscene and everything despite it clearly being a failed input. And my opponent and I had more luck with combo breakers when we were trying to do more controlled combos at the start as we were testing things out.

        It just felt like the game didn’t do enough to reward deeper play and trying to cater too much to non FG fans with eyecatchers and a really low execution barrier

        • No. As long as it ended with an ender it’ll say “Ultra combo” No matter what, even if you didn’t input anything else at all. Theres like 2 or 3 ultra quotes in this game. Depends on what you do. One is him saying “Ultraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” The other is “Ultraaaaaaaaaaaaa Coooooooooooooooooooooombo” even if you didn’t input anything else it’ll still say “Ultra combo” No matter what, as long as the combos ends. Well that’s your opinion since everyone I know who plays fighting games at an competitive level absolutely love the game and all of the content that they added into it. You’ve shadow counters, instinct mode, counter breakers, lock out and tons of fun stuff to mess around with, so i’ve no idea what you’re talking about saying it’s trying to cater to non FG players. Since the execution of the game is perfectly fine and they said they’re catering to everyone who plays fighting games hardcore and to some people who don’t and EVERYTHING about the game is fun to play and watch. So if you’re not into Killer Instinct gameplay and is button mashing in it without knowing all of the mechanics and how fun it could be than you wouldn’t be interested in Killer Instinct for Xbox One at all. Period. Since the game is all about knowing when to actually end your combos and knowing when to actually counter break and use high risk and high rewards just like in the old KI NO ONE did 20 to 30 hit combos cause they’ll break it. But in this game you’ve counter breakers, shadow counters and lock outs to avoid all of that and could lead to heavy damage and it already HAS deeper gameplay rather than just doing footsies all day and playing keep away. The game has EVERYTHING you want in a fighter period. You’ve ways to get in, meter build when people block and you could even rush down with defensive characters too and the grappling character in Thunder is actually fun to play cause you could do everything you want with everyone instead of doing what Street Fighter and other fighters do. So the game IS already deep enough and doesn’t need anything else since it ain’t low execution either. If you actually play this with people who knows what to do you would actually know that theres tons of variety in this game.

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