The first inkling that Rare might revive the Killer Instinct franchise came back in September of last year when Microsoft renewed their license for the fighting game franchise. Then came a post-Xbox One reveal quote from Microsoft, in which they hinted that Rare might be bringing back a “historic franchise.” Those two details (the license renewal and the tease) together seemed like clear indicators Killer Instinct was ready to make a comeback.

However, it wasn’t until Microsoft’s E3 2013 Press Briefing that our suspicions were finally confirmed, when Rare officially announced the game, debuted a brief teaser trailer, and then demoed the game live on stage. From the moment gamers realized a next-gen Killer Instinct was, in fact, real it was pure elation.

Yes, Killer Instinct has ditched the claymation art style in favor of a design presumably inspired by Street Fighter, but there was still a lot to be excited about. And it only took a few seconds of hands-on time with the game during a Microsoft Xbox One showcase before we realized this is the game fans have been waiting for.

Killer Instinct E3 2013 Hands On Impressions

While the game’s art style might be very different from what older gamers associate with the Killer Instinct franchise, everything about the game feels like a natural evolution of that basic fighting game template. Combos are still an important part of combat, and they are as rewarding as ever. And rest assured, the silly names for the various combos and the game’s iconic narrator are also back in full force. It may take some time before gamers get used to the move sets and are knocking out 10 or 20-hit combos, but when they do they will be justly rewarded.

The demo was extremely fluid and filled with plenty of personality from super moves to unique, character-specific abilities. Killer Instinct is still, at its core, a fighting game, and it doesn’t seem like Rare is trying to reinvent the wheel in that regard, but they are trying to keep things looking crisp and feeling modern. By that we mean the game is very approachable to any gamer familiar with the fighting game genre.

Unfortunately, while the demo on display — featuring a match between Jago and Saberwulf — was enough to whet any Killer Instinct fans palette, recent developments surrounding the game are very disappointing. As it turns out, Killer Instinct will be a free-to-play, digital-only launch title for the Xbox One — which is great — but every character will come at a cost.

Killer Instinct Xbox One - Jago

Gamers will get access to a single character, the ninja Jago, for free, and that’s it. Rare and new developer Double Helix promise new combatants and fan-favorite characters, but they have yet to announce pricing or any fighters beyond Saberwulf and Jago.

So, while the game might not have the look of Killer Instinct, grabbing a hold of the fight stick and taking control of Jago instantly triggered my muscle memory. The other stuff surrounding the game, specifically the price gouging with free-to-play, is a definite turn off, but at least I can report Killer Instinct is back.

Are you excited that Killer Instinct is back? Which characters would you like to see added to the roster? What do you think of the decision to make the game free-to-play and then charge for additional characters?

Killer Instinct launches alongside the Xbox One in November of this year.

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