EVO Online Featured Game Primer: Killer Instinct

By on May 19, 2020

To help you get up to speed with the latest news about this summer’s online Evolution Championship Series, we’re doing a series of posts on each of the four open-bracket games. In this post: Killer Instinct.

Killer Instinct returned from the shadows of fighting game history in 2013, bringing with it a bit of the old to mix with the new. As a first-party launch title for Microsoft’s Xbox One, Killer Instinct featured a “free to download, pay for more” model while polishing and re-introducing many of the series standby mechanics. With consistent support over the game’s three content “seasons,” as well as stellar netcode to support online play, it’s easy to see how Killer Instinct secured a spot on the Evo Online main stage.

The game has a number of mechanics that set it apart from other fighters of its kind. A two-stage life bar replaces distinct rounds. Among other things this lets players turn the tide quickly even if they’re “knocked out” once, since health doesn’t regenerate after the reset. If you’ve ever heard terms like “ultra combo” and “combo breaker” tossed around, these were both introduced by the original Killer Instinct. These functions are still key to the game, which revolves around using specific openers to trigger an extended combo state for high damage.

Combos aren’t unique to Killer instinct, but they’re notably longer and change the way special moves behave. In his Complete Killer Instinct Guide, veteran player Infil summarizes combos in KI as “…effectively, a prolonged mixup that favors the offensive player.” Defending players can interrupt combos by pressing buttons that match the strength of an attack in a combo, triggering a “combo breaker” and essentially resetting both characters to neutral.

Granted, there’s much more that makes Killer Instinct’s combat system robust than this. The guide mentioned above is a fantastic early resource that breaks the game down in a way that’s easy to digest, even for extreme beginners. Infil’s guide is up to date (as of April 2020) and covers everything from the very basics to detailed character mechanics and analysis for the entire roster.

In addition to its depth and history, Killer Instinct has another (perhaps more important) claim to the Evo Online spotlight: superb netcode. The game’s rollback-based online play is arguably one of the best to ever ship with a triple-A fighting game. While we could certainly talk at length about the benefits of well-build rollback netcode, it’s perhaps better to let Infil himself break down how this makes Killer Instinct a top-tier online game.

If you’re looking for a spectator fix on Killer Instinct before Evo Online begins, there are still plenty of people that regularly feature the game. Players like NickyFGC or XiBassiX run sets on Twitch several times a week. On Youtube, DevilMayCare4 and itzLCD offer a mix of technical breakdowns and match videos.

Killer Instinct originally launched as an Xbox One exclusive. It has since ported to PC as well, and is available both through the Windows store and Steam. The base game is free to download, but from there you’ll have to buy individual characters or seasonal packs to unlock the entire roster. It may be better to grab the game through Windows or Xbox though, if you can. This version offers cross-buy between Microsoft’s platforms, giving you more access to the game than Steam if you own an PC and an Xbox.

Check out our other EVO Online Primers below:

EVO Online Primer – Skullgirls

EVO Online Primer – Them’s Fightin’ Herds

EVO Online Primer – Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath (coming soon)

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