Shoryuken @ E3 2013 – Killer Instinct Hands-On Part 1: Basic Combo Systems

By on June 17, 2013 at 11:31 am

E3 2013 gave us a chance to go hands-on with Double Helix’s new Xbox One exclusive fighting game, Killer Instinct. This revival of a fan favorite franchise takes the old Killer Instinct system and modernizes it for the current fighting game market. That means longer combos, fairer combo breakers, and incredibly aggressive gameplay.


The game uses the classic Street Fighter three button system of three punches and three kicks. It also uses its own version of the magic series, but in reverse. Dubbed “around-the-world” combos, heavy attacks can chain into medium attacks of the same type (punches to punches) which then chain into light attacks of the same type. Then, with some strict timing, you can connect a heavy of the opposing type (light punch to heavy kick) and continue the circle.

Special moves can be classified as either combo openers, linkers, or enders. Openers, performed with light attacks, are quick and increase the overall damage of a combo. Linkers allow you to transition into an auto-double, extending your combo, and enders tend to knock the opponent away, thus ending the combo, but cause massive damage in the process. Enders actually change as the combo gets longer, increasing in damage and flair. However, this change can also cause some enders to whiff. For example, Jago’s uppercut ender sometimes whiffs under the opponent at higher damage levels due to what I can only assume is increased forward movement.

For those new to the Killer Instinct, auto-doubles are essentially two hit strings that trigger once you use a normal after a linker or opener. They are very easy to connect with and very easy to cancel out of with another special move. In the new Killer Instinct, any normal can be used as an auto-double after a special move, with heavies doing the most damage and lights being the fastest and hardest to break.


Oh yes, c-c-c-c-combo breakers are back in the new Killer Instinct, and they are both simpler to execute and fairer in actual gameplay. Simply press the two buttons that correspond with a normal your opponent is using. For example, LP+LK will break light auto-doubles, MP+MK will break medium auto-doubles, and so on. Combo breakers actually deal damage, so they are incredibly dangerous at low levels of life. However, if you fail to combo break correctly (either with the wrong buttons or wrong timing) the game will lock you out from combo breaking for three seconds, allowing your opponent to go to down with his longest flashiest combo yet. The system is also nice enough to show you how you screwed up, with a red X showing up over your head if you pressed the wrong button, and an orange X showing up over your head if you timed the breaker wrong.

To make breaking a combo harder on your opponent, you can choose to use manuals rather than auto-doubles. Manuals are, essentially, linked moves that connect without canceling out of each other. Manuals can only be broken during their hit-stun, whereas auto-doubles can be broken at any point during their animation. Essentially, you are trading a bit of damage and ease of execution for making the combo much harder to break for your opponent.

Combo Breakers aren’t the only thing that breaks combos in Killer Instinct. As combos continue, a new Knockout Value bar starts building underneath the hit-counter. It fills faster when you use linkers and auto doubles that you have already used previously in the combo and when it fills completely the opponent simply drops out of your combo. The bar also fills incredibly quickly when juggling an opponent, so keep him on the ground as much as possible when doing your combos.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Killer Instinct Hands-On series where we go over meter management, game flow and DRM.


Angelo M. D’Argenio A.K.A. MyLifeIsAnRPG got his start in the fighting game community as a young boy playing Street Fighter II in arcades down at the Jersey Shore. As president of Disorganization XIII, he travels the convention circuit presenting a variety of panels from discussions on gamer culture, to stick modding workshops, to fighting game comedy acts. He has a passion for looking at the fighting game community from an academic standpoint and has completed several studies on effective fighting game learning and the impact fighting games have on social circles. A six year veteran of the gaming industry, he also writes for Cheat Code Central and is a lead game designer for Ember Games. On Tuesdays, you can find him getting bodied by Chris G and getting mistaken for Seth Rogen at The Break.
  • tipsyruben

    I thought “around the world” was an exclusive combo for Jago, just like Sabrewolf has the rapid button presses to claw at the opponent? Also it says “openers, performed with light attack” – Cant openers be any strength of attack? I haven’t played the game yet, just going from the live streams / interviews I have watched.

    • Garland Steele

      For Jago’s “around the world” you can string together his auto doubles ( or manuals i think) with out using linkers to transition into them. The rest of the cast has to use linkers between each double.

      exp: Jago – Opener, H,M,W, ender
      Others- Opener,H,linker,M,linker,W, ender.

      • Lordd_G

        Actually for Jago it’s Opener, H,M,W (strict timing) H,M,W,ender

    • Guest

      “Around the world” for Jago is – He’s the only one that can link auto doubles ( and manuals i think) without using linkers to transition down the strength chain.
      exp: Jago – Opener, H,M,W, ender
      Others- Opener,H,linker,M,linker,W, ender.

  • Shoxy

    I really hope this game can be competitive. As one of the few who actually followed the original KI2/gold competitive scene, tiny as it was, that game degenerated into players jumping back and forth at each other with light attacks, and the longest combos are triple combos because anything else would be broken.

    It was an ugly ugly game at a competitive level.

    • ReddChief78

      shoulda found a better scene there buddy the KI scene wasn’t tiny and gameplay went nothing like that not even from players playing online using Kaillera wasn’t like that

    • Artekka

      Look at any fighting game and tell me if the gameplay you’re describing sounds like top tier gameplay.

      Sorry, but that is purely scrub play.

      I’m sad that they’re resorting to LP/K, MP/K, HP/K for combo breakers rather than the old counter specials. It makes it a bit easier, but oh well, it becomes more accessible that way.

      I want to know if there are manual doubles, animation speedups, pressures, etc.

      My favorite thing is that the dev team for KI is actually familiar with the FGC as well as lingo. Makes me get ultra hype!!!

      • ReddChief78

        I notice that about the devs too they know their stuff some people are worried about them doing KI this is their first fighting game maybe this is what there good at plus they have Ken Lobb
        Its not like MS asked them to do it and they accepted MS put the word out they came up with the best demo wanting the project and MS was impressed and now we have this guadlike demo which looks damn good so i’m hype

        • Artekka

          Heeeeeeeeck yeeeeaaaah!


      • Lordd_G

        “I want to know if there are manual doubles”

        Read the article before posting, bro…

        “Manual [double]s are, essentially, linked moves that connect without canceling out of each other. Manuals can only be broken during their hit-stun, whereas auto-doubles can be broken at any point during their animation”

        • Artekka

          Ha good cite man. I did read the article but when I was posting I was trying to think about all the things I loved from the earlier games.

          • Lordd_G

            No worries… I’ve read every word in every single article on this game and I’m getting HYPED. I just want play it already!

  • Jake Klippert

    Give me it now!

  • stephendeo

    i hope this game magically comes to other systems

    • Jake Klippert

      Or… you could just buy the console with the games you want to play.

      I know it’s a scary and revolutionary idea but I think you can do it.

      • stephendeo

        Or… pretend this conversation never happened… because i’m not going to get an Xbox … I wont let you force me into it!!

      • Kurow Akutenshi

        Getting a DRM NSA box? Who would willingly do that?

        • Jake Klippert

          First you could grow up and quit being a troll. Then pull your head out of your ass and stop with the NSA Spybox fanboy meme crap.

          Everything else in the world is going to be DRM besides the PS4, it’s called moving forward not trying to cling to the past like Sony did last generation.. Then they had to play catch up the entire time this generation looks like they’ll be doing it again. Either way you can still sell, trade, share your video games but now to people anywhere at anytime.

          1st there were floppies, the really floppy kind, then there were the 3.5 inch floppys, then there were CDs, then there were DVDs, then there were Blurays, then there were…..

          See where this is going?

          • Smang

            yeah, tournaments run on ps4s.

          • bkaSwordz

            lol but i thought you said sony was clinging to the past last gen?? last i checked a ps3 can play bluray and a 360 can’t. and they didnt play catch-up from “clinging” to anything, the 360 launched a year earlier and 200 bucks cheaper. get your facts straight.

            As for the whole “DRM” nonsense, I can still buy bluray movies, cd’s, tablets, etc without having to pay an extra fee for it being preowned. It has nothing to do with being a fanboy, the Xbox One is pioneering this anti-consumer policy, and it’s not okay. You’re either a shill or a fanboy yourself if you can’t understand that.

          • Cat Astrophy

            DRM isn’t moving forward. In fact, since MS just pulled back from that BS today it’s more evidence that you don’t know shit.

            Also you completely missed Zip and Jaz disks

  • Cat Astrophy

    “with a red X showing up over your head if you pressed the wrong button, and an orange X showing up over your head if you timed the breaker wrong”

    lol if you’re colorblind you’re boned

  • akumous

    I may get the xbone due to this game..