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Killer Instinct is a one-on-one side-scrolling versus fighting game and the third main game in the series. Set several years after the events of the second game, it contains several characters from the previous game that each have their own story campaign. The series continues its trademark fighting system based on stringing together combos with a large amount of moves. They are not performed by individual button presses for every single hit, but by chaining together special attacks with button presses to continue the combo automatically, dubbed auto double. Characters can perform combo breakers to halt the hits, but these in turn can be countered with the new counter breakers, reversing the combo breaker and preventing the other player from performing another for several seconds.

The super meter built up while fighting is split up into two segments. The second segment enables shadow properties where moves do more damage and open up new combos. Typical of the series, an ultra combo can be performed to end the fight with a large rate of hits. A new addition is the instinct mode where a secondary meter offers the ability to enable a unique enhancement for the character, altering the combat. It also offers additional options to stop incoming combos with less penalties and dangers. While fighting a small meter appears below the combo value, showing how far it is coming along, how much more hits are possible and when it is likely to end, making it easier to anticipate.

The game was launched as free-to-play initially exclusive to Xbox One with Jago as the only character and all game modes available. The free-to-play version, dubbed Round One, has a single, rotating character and offers additional costumes and accessories packs as DLC. The eight characters of the first season along with costumes and accessories packs can also be bought in different bundles, also opening up early access to upcoming characters (such as Fulgore) and offering Killer Instinct Classic, the original 1994 arcade game along with the v1.5D variant and different changes and additions. The game offers offline and online multiplayer modes. This game entry only cover the free-to-play version and an overview of the available content, all bundles and DLC are listed separately.

The eight available characters for the first season are:
  • B. Orchid
  • Glacius
  • Jago
  • Sabrewulf
  • Sadira Killer (new to the series)
  • Shadow Jago (new to the series and exclusive to Xbox Live Gold members)
  • Spinal
  • Thunder
Not all characters were available right away. Spinal was for instance introduced in January 2014.

The second season was started on 15th October 2014 and it was handled by a new developer: Iron Galaxy Studios. Just like the first one eight characters were added over time and all of them as DLC:Next to the individual character DLC purchases, season 2 can be purchased as the Ultra Edition with the eight fighters, additional costumes and accessory pack, and a port of the arcade version of Killer Instinct 2, as well as early access to new characters and customization items. The Combo Breaker Edition provides the eight additional fighters, but without the extras. Composer Mick Gordon returned for a new score for the second season.

The introduction of the second season and the new developers also introduces significant changes to the gameplay, altering the combo and manual system, altering the rules and introducing new elements such as air breakers and air counter breakers. All existing characters from the first season are also tweaked.

The third season was launched on 29th March 2016. Just like before eight characters were added over time and all of them as DLC:Along with the launch of the third season the PC version was released with access to all the content of the Xbox One version in the same way. It also introduces cross-device multiplayer games between the two platforms. Some time after the release a Shadow Lords mode was introduced to the game. All purchases made for the Xbox One version previously carry over to the PC version. On a technical level the PC version runs at 60 FPS and has support for a 4K resolution. All stages received a visual overhaul and three new ones were added, making it 20 in total, including the new stage Arena of Judgement based on Halo 5: Guardians. A new lighting system was introduced as well. Along with an updated free-to-play version where characters can be bought individually as DLC, three bundle versions were made available for both platforms:


Killer Instinct Xbox One Kan-Ra vs Orchid
Killer Instinct Xbox One Player Vs Screen

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Critic Reviews

Gaming Age Xbox One Dec 05, 2013 A- 91
Play! Zine Windows Apps May 03, 2013 8.5 out of 10 85
IGN Xbox One Nov 18, 2013 8.4 out of 10 84
IGN Windows Apps Nov 18, 2013 8.4 out of 10 84
Giant Bomb Xbox One Nov 26, 2013 4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars 80
Hardcore Gamer Magazine Xbox One Nov 28, 2013 4 out of 5 80
Retro Gamer Xbox One Jan 09, 2014 72 out of 100 72
GameSpot Xbox One Nov 19, 2013 7 out of 10 70
4Players.de Xbox One Nov 28, 2013 60 out of 100 60
Games TM Xbox One Dec 05, 2013 6 out of 10 60


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  • The Game Awards
    • 2014 — Best Fighting Game — Nominated (for Season Two)

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