Killer Instinct is one of those games that will give fans of the mid-90s original happy memories of bashing away at SNES control pads. In 2013, and on Xbox One, the experience has much the same heart: it's all about button bashing, combos and counteracting your opponent as per any good fighting game.
The Killer Instinct demo we played at the Microsoft showcase in Los Angeles, California, offered the choice of Jago and Sabrewulf to pick from. The latter, a wolf-like blue-furred beast, is plucked from the original title as one of the classic KI characters; the former another classic character not a million miles away from Street Fighter's Ryu.
Pitted against other human players in a side-by-side battle, we weren't able to test the game's artificial intelligence, but think that might've worked for the best, as learning various combos and counters takes plenty of experimenting with the different buttons.
Initially it was all about simple kicks, punches combined with jumping and the occasional block. Simple yet responsive, this is a fighter that hasn't ventured far from the core of what makes such games fun to play.
Graphically things move super fast, but explosive sparks from special move combos flow and bounce with a smoothness that gives a sense of next-gen. Although it's not distinctly Xbox One: even though Killer Instinct is a good-looking game, we feel it's one more focused on classic beat 'em up gameplay than any graphical revelation. Saying that, we're yet to see other locations or characters - and there's plenty of potential throughout.
The temple-like world we fought in has plenty of visual depth and mixed lighting which is easy on the eye - although the game leans heavily on classic side-on beat 'em up visuals. Despite the depth there feels to be a sensation of what could be described as 2D homage about the game; there's little interaction within the environment to speak of and the flat approach leaves the focus on the fight.
The game is free to play but you'll need to fork out extra cash to open up the full game's additional characters. We look forward to seeing just how big the character roster will be for this title and which classic and new characters we can expect to play.
A classic is reborn, one that stands out from the stacks of open-world adventures for not being afraid of the genre in which it resides. Ready… Fight!