The artificial intelligence used in fighting games has been questionable since the genre first debuted. Hitting up arcade mode, story mode, or similar computer-battle modes has always been a decent-enough way for those tired of training mode CPU dummies to go out into the “world” and try to work on hit-confirming or a number of other tactics, but as we all know by now, doing this is never as good as playing against another player.
This is due in large part to the way that the AI acts. Everything from actually reading your inputs, to employing random tactics, to being able to flawlessly block even the most ambiguous of cross-ups every time (yet still getting snagged by every third errant jab) make it feel, well, artificial. One could even argue that fighting against the AI isn’t even playing the same game as when battling another player.
After decades with the issue of actually needing another person present in order to truly level up in fighting games, the folks at Iron Galaxy Studios have launched Killer Instinct’s Shadows Mode as a means to counter this. Shadows Mode allows players to train the AI–their “shadow”–in how to effectively play the game like a human rather than an algorithm.
The first thing that you do when training your shadow is play three matches against an computer-controlled Jago. While this is only to get things started, the crew at Iron Galaxy claim that even by that point, your shadow will be pretty good at mimicking the way that you fight. Of course, the more data that your shadow has, the more that it can learn and the better it can mimic your actions. The developers also note that shadows can only use tactics that they’ve seen, but they’ll even go so far as taunting if you’ve trained them to do so.
This “shadowing” of a player isn’t based purely on recording inputs either; instead, shadows will attempt to adapt to fights the way that their owner would. They “naturally avoid trying to select the same action over and over,” and they have human reaction times, which is a major plus.
During the training process, you can, of course, challenge the shadows of other players, and you can also access the Shadow Brain menu, which details your shadow’s fighting style with an intricate breakdown that should help you train the best shadow possible while also finding your own flaws.
Below, you can check out the official Shadows Mode video to see what else the team has to say about this exciting addition to Killer Instinct. For a complete breakdown of everything included in this mode, you can also hit up the Ultra-Combo forums.