The relaunch of Killer Instinct on the Xbox One took a lot of people by surprise. The long-dead franchise returned at the dawn of the new generation with a Free-2-Play model and an ambitious desire to prove itself a competitor that could stand toe-to-toe with the Street Fighters and Mortal Kombats of the world.
Many people scoffed at the idea of its comeback (myself included) and it was hindered by launching on Microsoft’s roundly trounced new baby, with many fighting game fans declaring there was no way they were plonking down the cash for the console “just for Killer Instinct.” But, despite these odds, developers Double Helix produced an excellent update of the mid-90s gimmick-fest that was KI, and the reboot went on to garner critical acclaim and financial success.
Cinder’s monthly line manager meeting took a violent turn
It wasn’t long before people started clamouring for a PC port, so Microsoft Studios polled the KI forums. Apart from some unbearably precious whining from a handful of fans (the kind of fans that think expanding your favourite game’s audience is a terrible idea) the call for the port was overwhelmingly positive, and new KI developers Iron Galaxy got to work on faithfully translating the fighter to Windows 10.
But, in a year of broken, hatchet-job PC ports, will KI become yet another studio-rushed cash-grab?
I’m happy to report that this is, most assuredly, not the case.
KI’s lighting and particle effects are a joy to behold
The PC version of Killer Instinct, launching last week in time for the start of Season 3, is a meticulously faithful contemporary to the Xbox One release. It contains every single character, stage, mode and feature of its sibling, including the game’s excellent Dojo training mode and the “Buy what you want” pricing system. You can download the game and play as one rotational character for free, or stump up dollar for various bundle deals. The whole shebang, with all the characters (including the next three incoming members) all the costumes and an XP booster will set you back $50 (you do not however, get Shadow Jago, a “rare” character who is only sold sporadically).
Killer Instinct’s intricately detailed visuals and plethora of flashy effects look equally as sharp and gorgeous on the PC (as they should) but the game maintains a constant high frame-rate despite the on-screen carnage, especially during the fights’ armageddon-inducing Ultra Combos. There is a graphical options menu, allowing you to fine tune the visuals to suit your rig’s setup. I personally have everything set on Max in 1080p, and have experienced zero drop in framerate. If you’re Ted Dibiase, then you can also have the game running in marvellous 4k.
Get your compound fractures looking *just* right
As the bread & butter of many modern fighting games lies in its online mode, it’s satisfying to report that KI runs fine in the competitive arena, with only one match I’ve had suffering from momentary lag. I’ve even had fluid matches with people across the Atlantic, which is an impossibility for me in SFV or MKX (it should be noted, however, that you are only allowed to play online ranked if your rig passes a specific benchmark test).
The port also has crossplay with the Xbox, so you can enjoy being annihilated by players who have been practicing for three years. Speaking of which, If you already own the Xbox version, then all your purchases automatically carry over, though I believe they are still updating this service for some players. KI PC currently supports Xbox 360 pads and Fightsticks, with Xbox One Fightstick support coming soon.
Is there anything sexier than a haughty robot?
The only subjective downside of all this comes from the Windows 10 delivery system. A lot of people are understandably nervous about upgrading to Microsoft’s new OS (a common occurrence with every new version of Windows that hits the market) and it is a big ask for someone to upgrade their PC just to play a new game. But this is a decision for you and you only. I can lead you to water, but I can’t make you drink it, brother.
Halo vs Battletoads. FINALLY.
Hopefully, with the launch of Season 3 and this timely port, Killer Instinct will continue to build its impressive audience, and keep the game strong against its stiff competition. The game itself is fantastic, visually astounding, has a badass soundtrack, great characters and a ton of features, including the best training mode a fighting game has received in a long time. On top of all of this, KI is free to try, so you can benchmark your PC before you even have to spend one thin dime. There’s nothing financially at stake in giving it a whirl.
Iron Galaxy have delivered a solid, reliable and dedicated version of the fighter Xbox owners have been barking about for the past three years, and is definitely worth trying out if you have access to it. Killer Instinct for Windows is, honestly, the best PC port I have played in an age.
Test specs: 3.2ghz – 8gb ram – GTX960
Killer Instinct is available now for Xbox One and Windows 10.