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Killer Instinct

is a fighting video game, the third in the Killer Instinct series, developed by Double Helix Games, Iron Galaxy Studios, Rare and Microsoft Studios under supervision of... read more

is a fighting video game, the third in the Killer Instinct series, developed by Double Helix Games, Iron Galaxy Studios, Rare and Microsoft Studios under supervision of Ken Lobb, and released as a free-to-play launch game for the Xbox One in 2013.

The game is a reboot of the series, though some plot elements from Killer Instinct and Killer Instinct 2 have been retained. Development of the game involves individuals with histories in fighting games on both the developmental and competitive sides. It received positive reviews for its mechanics and engine, but was criticized for its initial lack of content. A second season of characters was released between 2014 and 2015. A third season, along with a port of the game for Windows 10, is currently in development, scheduled for release on March 29, 2016.


Killer Instinct is a return to the series which retains its traditional combo-based gameplay. The main mechanic of combos are the openers (special attacks that start combos), "Auto-Double" (button presses following special attacks will create automatic combo hits instead of each individual hit requiring player input), linkers (required between auto-doubles to extend the combo), finishers (solidify the potential damage of the combo) as well as "Manuals" (attacks that don't fit in the preceding combo system). A signature feature of Killer Instinct, the Ultra Combo, is included (an Ultra Combo is an automatic combo that can only be done to end a match and consists of a long string of attacks). "Combo Breakers" also return (attacks that, when executed properly, can stop an opponent's combo), with the new addition of "Counter Breakers" (the ability to reverse an opponent's Combo Breaker into a "Lockout" instead, the failure state of a Combo Breaker which prevents another breaker attempt for three seconds or when the current combo ends). The Season Two update added the ability to use Combo Breakers and Counter Breakers even when in the air, as well as an "Aerial Recapture" option that allows certain characters to attack opponents in the air and pull them down to the ground to continue their combos. A two-segmented meter enables the use of "Shadow" moves that have upgraded hit properties and can cause more damage/combo hits, though certain characters' meters function differently. All characters can use a Shadow Counter, a variation of Alpha Counters from the Street Fighter Alpha series, while blocking to instantly cancel into a shadow attack.

Another new feature to the Killer Instinct gameplay is the addition of "Instinct Mode". By filling up a secondary bar beneath the character's lifebar, each character can trigger a unique enhancement for a limited period (such as Glacius covering himself in ice armor for better damage resistance, or Thunder's dash becoming invincible and moving farther). The enhancements are built around complementing the character's playstyle traits. Instinct Mode can be used to perform an instantaneous cancel during a combo and also reset the "knockdown value" (a meter that appears during a combo that determines how close the engine is to automatically ending a combo). Instinct Mode can also be used to stop an Ultra Combo in order to chain it to other moves and even into another Ultra for an even more stylish finish than a simple Ultra Combo can provide.

Killer Instinct features an in-depth tutorial (labeled the 'Dojo' mode) that not only introduces new players to Killer Instinct's systems, but also the basics of fighting game gameplay up through the intermediate and higher levels. A training mode is also included, which features a recordable CPU dummy, in-game frame data, as well as viewable hit-boxes.

The game's online multiplayer features a monthly tier-based ranked league. Each tier is listed as follows: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Killer. After first reaching the landing page, a player plays 10 qualifying matches to determine their initial tier placement on the ladder system. Afterwards, players only play against other players of the same tier until they rank up. 'Killer vs. Killer' matches feature a best '2-out-of-3' match setup. After each month, the Killer tier is reset and the top 32 Killer players at the end of the month are rewarded PRO Status, which immortalizes them in that month’s leaderboards, in addition to unlocking special 'Player Card PRO' stars. The game's online netcode, developed with assistance from the creator of GGPO, is based on GGPO-style rollback functionality.

Killer Instinct also features the 'Shadow Lab' - a mode that studies how a player plays the game and then uses that information to create a 'Shadow' fighter, an AI for any character which is meticulously based off of that player's playstyle and techniques for that specific character, complete with that player's gameplay mannerisms (even going as far as imitating a player's taunting) and flaws. Players can create Shadows to play against other players online, even when the player is not present. Shadows attempt to adapt to fights the way their owner would. Shadows for a player's specific character grow stronger the more that player plays.

The game features the ability to unlock and use retro Killer Instinct music in the game's training mode, as well as character accessories and classic costumes for use in place of characters' standard appearances. Chris Sutherland, the announcer from the first two Killer Instinct titles, is featured as an optional announcer available for use, while original Killer Instinct art director Kevin Bayliss designed a set of eight costumes for the game's second season. The game uses Kinect's facial recognition software to save players' personalized game settings.

Killer Instinct runs at 90 FPS (frames per second) while rendering at 60 FPS in order to make both offline local and online play more fluid. Killer Instinct's input lag is limited to 81 milliseconds (compared to 122 ms for Street Fighter V for Playstation 4, 89 ms for Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- for PS4, and 105 ms and 107 ms for the Xbox One and PS4 versions of Mortal Kombat X, respectively). Plot and characters

Plot and characters

Killer Instinct - Characters

The game is a reboot of the series' fiction, though several elements of the prior games' plots, such as a prior Killer Instinct tournament and Jago and Orchid's knowledge that they are siblings, have been retained. Arcade Mode in Season One features story-based campaigns for each character, culminating in a final battle with Fulgore. Fulfilling certain conditions allows players to access a secret battle against Shadow Jago in its place. Season Two added "Rivals" Story Mode, an expanded campaign that continues after the events of Season One, with more story content and unique sequences of opponents for each character. Like Killer Instinct 2, the game features multiple endings in Season One based on the player's actions, with multiple cinematic sequences in both story modes.

The game currently features eighteen playable characters, with sixteen characters spread across two "Seasons" of content and two additional characters exclusively available via special offers. Eight additional characters are currently scheduled to be added as part of the game's third season. For the first two seasons, each character has his/her own stage. Season three is scheduled to only have three additional stages.

Season One

  • Jago – Killer Instinct (1994): Suffering a crisis of faith following the discovery that the Tiger Spirit guiding him was actually Gargos, Jago now seeks to purge himself of whatever remnants of Gargos remain within him.
  • Sabrewulf – Killer Instinct (1994): Still trying to regain his humanity, Sabrewulf has almost completely submitted to his feral side and torn out his cybernetic implants, restoring his arms through the use of dark arts and developing an addiction to the medicines and artifacts used in the process.
  • Glacius – Killer Instinct (1994): Glacius has landed on Earth to recover his alien technology before it can fall into the wrong hands, while also searching for the thief who stole his ship's power core after landing.
  • Thunder – Killer Instinct (1994): Having learned that his brother Eagle was killed in the first Killer Instinct tournament but not knowing how or why, Thunder seeks to locate Eagle's remains and finally receive closure.
  • Sadira – Killer Instinct (2013): Sadira and her assassins are ordered by ARIA to hunt and kill the former competitors of the Killer Instinct tournament. ARIA also tells her to "prepare the way" by taking Glacius's power core and using it to open a dimensional rift.
  • Orchid – Killer Instinct (1994): Having been disavowed by her agency, Orchid emigrates to Eastern Europe to establish a rebel group, and fully commits herself to exposing and eliminating UltraTech.
  • Spinal – Killer Instinct (1994): Resurrected by an artifact known as the Mask of the Ancients, Spinal seeks to find the mask so as to remove the curse causing his immortality and allow him to finally rest in peace.
  • Fulgore – Killer Instinct (1994): A new Fulgore prototype is constructed to protect UltraTech from its enemies, but it begins to develop self-awareness due to the residual memories of the human mind used in its construction.
  • Shadow Jagoa – Killer Instinct (2013): A sinister version of Jago under the possession of Omen, who aims to bring about Gargos's return.

Season Two

  • T.J. Combo – Killer Instinct (1994): Having lost his cybernetic implants and been scorned by the public after they are exposed, T.J. seeks to get revenge on UltraTech and earn redemption.
  • Maya – Killer Instinct 2 (1996): After UltraTech's attack on her hidden city wipes out her clan and releases Kan-Ra, Maya sets out to destroy him once and for all.
  • Kan-Ra – Killer Instinct (2013): Freed from imprisonment during the attack on the Night Guard's city, Kan-Ra now seeks to restore his power and control the world.
  • Riptor – Killer Instinct (1994): A new line of Stalker units augmented with cybernetics and led by Riptor is developed by Ultratech to operate in conditions not suitable for their Fulgore line.
  • Omenb – Killer Instinct (2013): Now able to manifest on the mortal plane thanks to his time spent in Jago's body, Omen seeks to herald the return of his master Gargos, destroying all who would oppose them.
  • Aganos – Killer Instinct (2013): Given the task of finding and killing Kan-Ra thousands of years ago, Aganos continues to pursue him, hoping to one day fulfill his master's last request.
  • Hisako – Killer Instinct (2013): When UltraTech disturbs her grave, Hisako's spirit is reawakened, and she seeks vengeance on those who disturbed her rest.
  • Cinder – Killer Instinct (1994): When he is caught trying to steal Ultratech secrets, Ben Ferris is forced to serve ARIA, being transformed into the half-alien Cinder.
  • ARIA – Killer Instinct (2013): Deciding that humanity has become weak and vulnerable, ARIA decides to force human evolution by any means necessary.

Season Three

  • Rash – Killer Instinct (2013): A guest character from the Battletoads franchise. An anthropomorphic toad who can transform his body in order to do damage.
  • Kim Wu – Killer Instinct 2 (1996): A design student who is chosen by a dragon spirit to do battle against an approaching evil, fighting with her people's ceremonial nunchaku.
  • Arbiter - Killer Instinct (2013): A guest character from the Halo franchise. A proud warrior of the Sangheili race.
  • Tusk – Killer Instinct 2 (1996): An ancient warrior wielding a great sword who has survived for over a millennia.
  • Mira - Killer Instinct (2013): Maya's late twin sister that sacrificed herself to save Maya. She has been revived as a vampire. 
  • Gargos - Killer Instinct 2 (1996): Trapped in another dimension for millennia, ARIA's machinations allow Gargos to finally reach Earth.
^a : Available as a playable character via limited release. Secret final boss in Season One arcade mode.
^b : Exclusive for those who purchase the Season Two Combo Breaker Pack or Ultra Pack.

Killer Instinct - Combat


For many years after Killer Instinct 2's 1996 release, rumors of a possible follow-up continued to swirl around the Internet. In March 2010, Ken Lobb, Microsoft Studioscreative director and co-designer of the original Killer Instinct games, announced that they are not working on Killer Instinct 3, but may some day bring the game back. In July 2010, Lobb said Rare wants to make Killer Instinct 3.Rare studio manager Mark Betteridge said that Rare would like to bring Killer Instinct to theXbox Live Arcade. In an August 2012 interview, Rare veteran Donnchadh Murphy said, "We all wanted to make KI3, but Microsoft [was] more interested in broadening their demographic than making another fighting game. So it never got made, I doubt it ever will."

In September 2012, Microsoft applied for renewal of the Killer Instinct trademark. In an October 2012 interview, Rare veteran Lee Musgrave, who was the former head of art at Rare, spoke on the issues of making Killer Instinct for XBLA: "We came close to firing off a conversion of Killer Instinct a few times, but there were licensing obstacles to that, and it never really had enough perceived interest to push it forward." In December 2012, Microsoft's renewal for the Killer Instincttrademark was rejected by the United States Patent and Trademark Office due to the possibility of the game being confused with the unrelated TV series of the same name that lasted for one season in 2005. Microsoft had six months to respond to the ruling. The trademark dispute was settled when Microsoft and Fox reached an agreement in April 2013.

At the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013, Microsoft and Double Helix Games announced Killer Instinct exclusive for the Xbox One. A trailer showed the series' mainstays Jago, Sabrewulf and Glacius. Ken Lobb said more characters would be announced at upcoming events such as Evolution Championship Series 2013, during which Chief Thunder's return was teased. Two polls conducted by Double Helix asked fans what characters they would like to see return. The development team also expressed a desire to introduce brand new characters into the franchise, particularly female ones.

Development of the game involves individuals with histories in fighting games on both the developmental and competitive sides. They include former Capcom developer and Weaponlord co-creator James Goddard and former competitive player and tournament organizer Adam "Keits" Heart as combat designers, former Street Fighter developer and Weaponlord co-creator Dave Winstead as character designer, competitive Street Fighter player Campbell "Buktooth" Tran as a producer, and formerTekken community manager Rich "FilthieRich" Bantegui and tournament organizer Alex Jebailey as community managers.

A live demonstration of the title at E3 2013 between producer Torin Rettig and Xbox community manager Ashton Williams was poorly received by a number of bloggers, journalists and developers, including Jonathan Blow. The demonstration had the two competing against one another and exchanging banter in a manner that some viewers interpreted as scripted and alluding to rape. Williams later commented that the dialogue was unscripted and no ill intent was meant on the part of either individual. Nevertheless, Microsoft's Phil Spencer issued an official apology stating in part that at Microsoft "bullying and harassment of any kind is not condoned and is taken very seriously."

Following the announcement that Double Helix Games had been purchased by Amazon, Microsoft confirmed that support for Killer Instinct would continue, later announcing Iron Galaxy Studios as the developer of its Season Two content. A port of the game for Windows 10 was announced at E3 2015; the PC version is being developed in-house by Iron Galaxy and will support cross-play and cross-buy with the Xbox One version.

At Gamescom 2015, a third season was announced, set for release in March 2016 alongside the PC version; Rash from the Battletoads series was also announced as a playable character for Season Three, and was made available free to all players for a brief test period prior to the season's launch. The second guest character is the Arbiter from Halo, announced at the 2016 Halo Regional World Championships. Mick Gordon, the composer for the first two seasons, did not return for Season Three, with Atlas Plug and Celldweller assuming the role in his stead.

Killer Instinct - Tomahawk attack


Killer Instinct was released as a free-to-play game that includes all available game modes but only one playable character, with the ability to purchase additional fighters individually. The sole playable character in the demo version rotates on a regular basis. Alternatively, players can purchase the "Combo Breaker Pack" for a single fee, which will provide immediate access to all six launch characters, as well as early access to the first two post-launch fighters (collectively titled Season One). Players can also purchase the "Ultra Edition", which includes all eight Season One characters, sixteen additional character accessory packs, eight additional costumes, and a playable version of the original Killer Instinct arcade game under the title Killer Instinct Classic. A similar model is used for Killer Instinct: Season Two, allowing players to purchase the "Combo Breaker Pack", which included T.J. Combo and Maya at launch and allows early access to the six post-launch fighters, or the "Ultra Edition", which adds new character accessories, new costumes, and Killer Instinct 2 Classic. Season Two was released on October 15, 2014. Season 3 was available for pre-order March 18, 2016 for release later that month on March 29.

Players who purchased a 12-month Xbox Live subscription during the launch of the Xbox One received access to Shadow Jago, a variation of Jago with the same moves but unique voice and visual effects. The character was later integrated as a secret boss, given unique moves and properties not accessible by the playable version. In May 2015, Microsoft began a fundraising campaign to raise money for supporting Killer Instinct tournaments, making Shadow Jago available for purchase for two weeks as an incentive. The fund ultimately raised $100,000 in three days; as a result of its success, Iron Galaxy confirmed that they would be updating Shadow Jago later in the year, giving him the moves used by his boss incarnation. The new version of Shadow Jago was released December 4, 2015, and was made available for general purchase between December 18 and January 15, 2016.

A retail version of Killer Instinct was released on September 23, 2014. This physical release includes all the content included in the Season One Combo Breaker Pack, as well as early access to Season Two fighter T.J. Combo.

An official arcade stick made by Mad Catz was released to coincide with the game's launch. A series of collectible figures is set to be released throughout 2016, with each figure including a code to unlock exclusive in-game content.


The soundtracks for Seasons One and Two were composed by Mick Gordon, based on the originals by Graeme Norgate and Robin Beanland. A double-album set, containing the official Season One soundtrack and the Killer Cuts album, was released digitally on October 14, 2014. A second double-album set, including the Season Two soundtrack and the Killer Instinct Gold Cuts album, was released on August 4, 2015.


Review scores
Aggregate scores
75% (Season One)
85% (Season Two)
73/100 (Season One)
85/100 (Season Two)
4/5 stars
Giant Bomb
4/5 stars
3/5 stars
Hardcore Gamer

Season One received fairly positive reception at launch, scoring a 73/100 and a 75% approval rating from aggregate review sites Metacritic and GameRankings respectively. Lucas Sullivan of GamesRadar called the gameplay "accessible enough for a newcomer while still providing the depth that the hardcore scene craves", while Vince Ingenito for IGN enjoyed it more than the original titles, calling it "fluid, deep, and well informed by the mistakes of its predecessors". Jeff Gerstmann of GiantBomb stated that the game is "still ridiculous, the announcer still screams his head off, and the combos are wild... but actually executing KI's combos is a good time, too, making this download-only fighting game an exciting turnaround for the series." Chris Carter for Destructoid did not take issue with the game's new pricing model, calling it "a far cry from an abusive free-to-play scheme" yet still criticized the initial content at launch as "bare-bones". Anthony Severino, reviewing for Game Revolution concluded that "if only there were more of it across more characters that had a story, Killer Instinct would be gold".

Season Two was more positively received, scoring 85/100 on Metacritic and 85% on GameRankings.

Orchid's theme (Touch Me and I'll Break Your Face) won 'Best Original Vocal Song: Pop' at the 12th Annual Game Audio Network Guild Awards.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Killer Instinct (2013 video game), which isreleased under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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