Shoryuken @ E3 2013 – Killer Instinct Hands-On Part 2: Meter Management, Game Flow, and DRM

By on June 18, 2013 at 10:44 am

Killer Instinct now has a traditional super meter (dubbed the shadow meter) as well. Attacking an opponent or taking damage builds your meter a tiny bit, but nothing builds it quicker than having your moves blocked. Blocking a few normal will be enough to give you one stock of the two level meter. Blocking a few specials will fill your meter to max! One blocked fire-ball builds over 25% meter! This makes zoning incredibly powerful.


Using a special move with two buttons (two punches/two kicks) allows you to do a shadow move, which costs one stock of meter. Shadow moves have enhanced properties and damage when compared to normal special moves but, oddly enough, they aren’t the best thing to end combos with. Damage scaling in Killer Instinct is very high. In fact, most of the damage in a combo is built up in “potential damage” i.e. damage an ender can do. Without an ender, combos rarely break 20% health, if even that. Using shadow moves don’t really help to increase that total.

Shadow moves do build an incredible amount of potential damage, however, and nearly everyone can be auto-doubled afterward. Therefore, it is better to use a shadow move’s invincibility and enhanced properties to start a combo, or as a linker in the middle of a combo. This will let your ender build an incredible amount of damage, easily taking your combo damage over 60%. Some enders can even cause special hit-states, like Jago’s wind kick which causes a wall splat. This allows you to get even more damage in after you have “ended” your combo. Sick!

The other new system introduced in the new Killer Instinct is the Instinct Meter. This is essentially KI’s version of X-Factor. When the meter is full, you can enter Instinct Mode by pressing both heavies when attacking or in neutral. This does three things. First, it immediately cancels whatever move you were doing, returning you to a neutral state. Second, it gives you a character specific buff which lasts throughout all of instinct mode. For example, Jago’s buff gives him extra frames of hit and block stun on his moves. Finally, it reduces your Knockout Meter to 0, allowing you to greatly extend the combo you were doing. Using instinct mode allows your potential damage to skyrocket, easily netting you 70% damage or more.


Many of you are probably shouting “where are the ultra combos!” Don’t worry, they are still here. They can now only be done when the opponent us at 15% health or lower, essentially acting like Killer Instinct’s version of Astral Finishes from BlazBlue. Their motion is simply a normal special move motion with 3 buttons, giving any player who can quarter circle access to them.

There are a few other aspects of the system worth mentioning. Throws are done with a back or forward directional input and both lights. They can be canceled into special moves allowing you to hit full combos providing you have the right positioning (usually the corner).

Life bars are handeled in the traditional KI way, i.e. the Vampire Savior way. Instead of breaking between rounds, the action just pauses every time a life-bar is depleted, allowing you to retain the life you had left over when killing your opponent. Deplete your opponent’s life bar twice to win.

Most attacks in Killer Instinct safe, if not very close to safe. Blocking gives the opponent a ton of meter, and so the neutral game in KI is very aggressive. In fact, there were points where I chose to get hit instead of blocking in order to hit back with a combo breaker early on in my opponent’s combo. This actually let me do more damage than their potential combo could do!

Comboing in Killer Instinct is really a risk/reward game. Scrubs can mash out 60 hit combos easily but without real knowledge of the combo system, they will either be easily broken, or do very little damage. Pros will try to get in as much damage as possible without being broken in order to buff their ender. They will insert manuals and light auto doubles in order to bait out combo-breakers, and then use their lockout time to pump their damage up to obscene levels. In a way, every combo in Killer Instinct is like a TAC in Marvel 3. Even the shortest combos can be broken with a good guess right at the beginning, but repeated poor guesses will result in combos that do 50% damage with no meter spent.

When two people who really know the KI system step up to a KI cabinet, you are going to be seeing, oddly enough, a lot of three hit combos. It’s still easy enough to break most combos in the game, and so safe damage seems to be the way to go. However, as soon as someone flubs a combo breaker, the combo videos begin to roll. Since meter builds so quickly in this game, there is nothing that is “impractical” as long as your opponent is bad at playing rock paper scissors.

The final thing I asked about was the dreaded DRM. With the Xbox One’s policies of having an always online connection, tournament organizers will have a hard time making a KI tournament run. Double Helix’s told me that they were “keyed in to the tournament scene” and that they are “exploring alternatives” for making tournaments run. However, they had nothing to announce at this time. Hopefully, they will release some sort of “tournament edition” that is exempt from DRM, at least temporarily.

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.
  • ReddChief78

    The #1 KI site on the web is back with a upgrade along with the new KI
    Info gameplay downloads anything KI is on the site all versions

  • Hopefully, they will release some sort of “tournament edition” that is exempt from DRM, at least temporarily.

    I find this to be highly unlikely. MS doesn’t have a vested interest in making some of their games excluded from DRM.

    Time will tell, but there’s nothing coming from MS indicating that anything would be exempt for any reason.

    • Jake Klippert

      Double Helix already confirmed that Microsoft is working with them and organizers on a simple tournament solution for the Xbox One.

      MS is also sponsoring CEO and other majors now so Killer Instinct will be in future tournaments for sure.

      • “working with them” is extremely vague. It’s a positive sign, agreed and it’s also a positive sign that they are sponsoring CEO (although, IIRC they’ve been a sponsor for more than just this year, so it’s not really KI related as much as it was an existing relationship) but until there are concrete statements, I stand by my original statement to not read too much into things that aren’t there (yet).

      • ZenTzen

        yes because PR talk is gonna make MS change their policies just to satisfy the lowest common denominator, the fgc

        • Cat Astrophy

          lol they changed

    • TwitchyGuy

      This. Best case scenario, they’ll have a temporary solution for big sponsored events like CEO and maybe EVO (in case the game gets a spot there), but I doubt your average grassroots tournament would be exempt from always online restrictions.

      • JELIFISH19

        Is it even a problem though. Someone can just create a hotspot on their phone and all the X1s can log on in the morning. Then they can sign out and be set for the day. You just have to sign in once every 24 hours. That doesn’t seem that difficult.

        • Noir

          It’s still an extra hassle that you shouldn’t even have to deal with in the first place. And if I’m not mistaken, 3g/4g hotspots support a maximum of 5 connections at a time. At least last I checked. Which means for a major that would presumably have a lot more than just 5 Xbox One’s running, you’d have to do them 5 at a time. Which could take a while depending on how many systems need to connect. And most majors run 3 days long. So imagine having to do that every morning for all 3 days of the tourney.

        • Also, you have to set up the network connection on all of the XBoxes to be tied to your hotspot. They’re not just going to auto connect. For any XBox-based tournament that’s going to be a supreme hassle.

      • And KI for ninth and last game at Evo 2014.

  • Beb0p

    Knowing Shit Fighter, KI will probably remain better looking for a long time.

    • ReddChief78

      Capcom better step their character models up on SF5 the new KI is looking boss loving the new graphics

  • Yan Zhao

    I never thought I’d ever say this line, but…

    PC version please.

  • Jaden

    Wow, the gameplay and all around advanced tech, sounds VERY similar to
    KI2 right down to the “supers”(Shadow moves) being used to net big
    damage for the ender, and for KI fanatic like myself who plays it
    competitively this is not a bad thing.

  • Jaden

    Wow, the gameplay and all around advanced tech, sounds VERY similar to
    KI2 right down to the “supers”(Shadow moves) being used to net big
    damage for the ender, and for KI fanatic like myself who plays it
    competitively this is not a bad thing.

    • ZenTzen

      uh as far as i know KI2 was shunned because of those things, thats why KI1 is more popular

      • Jaden

        Really? Interesting, I happen to love them both in the same light. But to each their own I suppose.^_^

  • Noir

    Lol, you already know when “DRM” is in the headline for a fighting game that isn’t even on PC that shit is gonna fail.

    • Jake Klippert

      Everything on your phone is DRM, everything on your TV is DRM, practically everything on your PC is DRM, everything on you iTunes or Google play is DRM……

      Infact almost everything that succeeds in the world today is DRM. The companies that seem to be failing are developers who get pirated and have countless copies of used games sold(though the Devs are capable of making games that you want to keep).

      If Sony isn’t there today they will be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the future along with their fans. MS started the trend last gen and Sony has been trying to play catch up ever since.

      Don’t even for one second tell me that PSN has as many servers or as or as decent connection 70% of the time. Especially in America. There is a reason why anyone who plays competitively in a plethora of games uses XBL instead of PSN.

      • Noir

        If Sony is so far behind in protecting their IPs, why is an Xbox so easy to hack and the games so easy to pirate while a PS3 is near impossible? There’s a difference between DRM and Draconian DRM. This online authentication check is complete bullshit. Once DRM becomes a burden to the consumer it ceases to protect the product and serves only to hinder it’s success. Look at Diablo 3, Sim City, and Assassin’s Creed 2 (on PC). These games caught a lot of flak and ultimately lost their fanbase due to always online DRM. I know a 24 hour connection check isn’t quite as harsh as an always online DRM system, but it’s just one step away. And I think you need to look into what DRM actually means, because I doubt everything on my phone is DRM. My phone sends and receives calls…and that’s all it does. And horrible DRM is exactly the reason I don’t use iTunes, and I’m not even sure what Google Play is. If you want to pay money to have true ownership of everything you purchase stripped away from you, that’s fine. But most people don’t want that and the overwhelmingly negative response to Microsoft’s idiotic decisions in regards to the Xbox One’s DRM says you’re in the minority.

      • Noir

        Also I’m not sure what the PSN’s number of servers or connection quality has to do with DRM. That’s just trying to start a PSN vs XBL debate, which this was not. But if you’d like to argue that, I’d have you know that the XBL master servers (the ones Microsoft actually operates) has nothing to do with your connection in individual games. That comes down to the netcode which comes down to the individual developer on each individual game. If you’d like proof of that, look at the state Persona 4 Arena launched in. The Xbox version had horrible connection issues until Atlus pushed a patch out, while the PS3 version was fine from day one. You’re delusional because you pay a monthly fee for an internet service that works off the internet service you already pay a monthly fee for (to your ISP). And that’s fine, just educate yourself before you make yourself look dumb. Besides, all this talk of servers is pointless when online play for consoles obviously runs off of P2P connections with rare exceptions (Gears of War 3 and Battlefield 3 among others run on dedicated servers). And no monthly fee or brand loyalty will help you if some guy with satellite internet connects to your game. It’s gonna lag.

      • Ben Brocka

        iTunes music hasn’t had DRM for years. Not sure about Google play, but Music in general has shed DRM for a long time.