These fighters are, for sure, going to be in the game. Killer Instinct is pioneering a free-to-play model unseen in the world of fighters, where the game can be played for free with Jago as the only available character. A $20 bundle of the first eight characters (including Jago) will be available, but if you're picky, you can buy fighters individually for $5 apiece. We've played every fighter we can, so read on for our impressions of their strengths and playstyle in the new iteration of KI.
This sword-wielding warrior monk is basically the Ryu of KI: a poster boy with an accessible move set and a noble cause. Jago's specials will be instantly recognizable to any fighting game fan, with a fireball (Endouken, natch), an uppercut, and a gap-closing wind kick. Jago can also unleash a tiger-like fury for super moves, slashing with an animalistic, bright orange aura. It makes sense that Jago's the only free character--he feels very easy to use, with straightforward normals and relatively simple combos.
Jago's new design is less "ninja with torn-up clothes" and more "bad-ass, tatted-up monk," though his iconic metal face-covering and spiky tuft of hair remain. Instead of a samurai sword / lightsaber hybrid, Jago now wields a thicker machete-looking blade that can chop into enemies at mid-range. He'll use it just as frequently in combos as in the old KIs, so expect to incorporate plenty of fiery sword slashes into your approach.
He may not get as much glory as Jago or Fulgore, but Sabrewulf is as much a staple of the Killer Instinct franchise as any. This poor guy has gone full werewolf, succumbing to his Lycanthropic nature; desperate for a cure, he entered the Killer Instinct tournament hoping for help from UltraTech. Instead of treating his furriness, UltraTech experimented on Sabrewulf, coating his arms with metal and driving him into a vengeful insanity. What a bunch of a-holes.
Sabrewulf is clearly pre-metal-arms in the Xbox One KI, but he definitely seems to be at his most feral. He's completely without projectiles, but to make up for his lack of a long-range game, Sabrewulf is extremely mobile, able to dash and lunge around the screen with lightning quickness. Once he's in your face, Sabrewulf's claws can shred you to pieces, and his crescent-shaped anti-air swipes can juggle you for days. If you're an aggressive player, Sabrewulf will be right up your alley.
Everyone's favorite ice alien is back! Glacius might have the same mastery over frozen water as MK's Sub-Zero, but his playstyle is much more varied. Glacius has a little bit of Dhalsim action going on, able to extend his limbs into pointy icicles and stab enemies from afar. If projectile spam is coming his way, Glacius' puddle punch uppercut can swoop underneath fireballs for a big punish. And if you're trying to set up an unpredictable mixup, his spiky ice projectiles and long-range ground attacks can catch your enemy off guard.
Glacius isn't easy, but when played well, he can completely confuse his opposition. Plus, you've got something of a safety net if you get yourself cornered--Glacius' Instinct Mode grants him a thorny plating of frost, giving you some armor to interrupt incoming combos. Lore-wise, Glacius is your run-of-the-mill ice-based alien looking to take down UltraTech. But if he has to skewer some bystanders with razor-sharp ice shards along the way, well, so be it.
It's a cardinal rule of fighting games that there needs to be a grappler--and who better than Chief Thunder? This giant Native American is a man of few words, mostly because he lets his twin tomahawks do all the talking. Gone is the feather-Mohawked brawler of the originals; in his place is a design that emphasizes Thunder's tribal nature, with feathered headpieces and buckets of warrior facepaint. It's a visual representation of Thunder's anguish over his brother's death, and the vow he's taken to exact revenge.
Thunder no longer has the ability to spray projectiles from afar, but his signature Triplax move still lets him chop thrice into nearby opponents. His command grabs are brutally awesome, letting Thunder chuck enemies to the dirt before stomping their neck askew. And to make sure Thunder can get in on keep-away players, his Instinct Mode gives him partially invulnerable dashes to close any distance.
For some old-school gamers, B. Orchid stands above Chun-Li as the iconic First Lady of fighting games. Instead of rocking the thunder thighs, Black Orchid wields two tonfa-like batons that crackle with electricity. But besides her skintight jade outfit, most people remember Orchid for her ability to morph into a motherloving firecat mid-combo. She won't be doing that as often in the new KI, as it's part of her Instinct Mode, but we're happy to see it return in any form. That said, she can send out a firecat companion to ram into distant enemies and set up some crazy flips and spin-kick combos.
Orchid's attire this time around actually matches her profession: secret agent, looking to expose UltraTech as the evil megacorporation that it is. She's also the older sister of Jago, which makes it a bit odd that they would beat each other to a pulp every so often. Also, it's unclear if Orchid's breast-flashing No Mercy move will return; somehow, we think not.
Of the new KI's initial roster, Sadira is the only fresh face--but her design makes her stand out even amongst the fan favorites. Everything about this nimble assassin is a reference to arachnids; we'd call her Spider-Woman, but she'd probably cocoon us and drain our blood for even thinking such a thing. She may not walk on eight legs, but the four blades on each forearm make up for that, and Sadira has a penchant for descending into the arena via a thread of webbing. Creepy.
Sadira's moveset evokes Street Fighter's Ibuki: an agile fighter who can orchestrate a lot of very tricky setups from the air. Like Ibuki, Sadira can chuck blades downward from mid-air, or launch her opponent upwards with a backflipping kick to the jaw. If your opponent is getting too preoccupied with anti-airs, you can slice them up with Sadira's spinning Blade Demon attack or bind them with a gap-closing web-shot.
After Fulgore, Spinal is probably the second most beloved character amongst KI fans. His early incarnations were pretty much ripped straight out of a Ray Harryhausen movie, with a red headband added for flair. But for Killer Instinct on Xbox One, Spinal has gone full Pirates of the Carribean. His boney body is now strewn with ship rope, his cutlass is bigger than ever, and his dinky buckler has been upgraded to an ornate, much larger heater shield. And oh yes--Spinal's trademark cackling is back in full force.
We don't yet know how this Jolly Roger plays, as he was just revealed at the end of B. Orchid's trailer. In the original KI, Spinal filled a sort of Shang Tsung role, able to morph into shadow versions of his opponent mid-combo. We'll have to wait and see if he retains that ability on Xbox One, but if he does, we're sure it'll look amazing.
If Fulgore didn't make it into the KI reboot's roster, there would've been pandemonium in the streets. Fulgore is easily the most iconic Killer Instinct creation, because he's everything our teenage selves ever wanted from a '90s fighting game character: a robot with blades of light on arms, lasers shooting out of his eyes, a sweet Predator-style headpiece, and even a little blonde ponytail. What we're trying to say is: he's the cybernetic super-soldier of our wildest dreams, and we can't wait to see what he looks like in the new KI.
Nothing more than a teaser as of yet, but we hope to get more info as March 2014 approaches. We're also curious to see if his moveset will be changed up at all, or if he'll still offer a mix of close-up dash punches with long-distance laser pokes. And we really hope that his head is still able to morph into a mini-turret, as with his classic No Mercy move.
There's no official word on these fighters as of yet, but Double Helix Games is very receptive to fan feedback. If enough people want to see these fighters return, anything's possible!
Of all the fighters in the KI franchise, Cinder is probably the most laughably generic--at least, he was in his original form. Basically acting as the yin to Glacius' yang, Cinder was little more than a human torch who could temporarily shift himself into a fireball. We're confident that Double Helix is hard at work making him look more visually interesting than a buff dude with orange skin, but nothing's been shown as of yet.
Whatever he ends up looking like, Cinder's inevitable inclusion will be a nice foil to Glacius' icy antics. One of Cinder's trademark moves is the ability to turn invisible and avoid projectiles, so perhaps he'll be the perfect fit for gamers that like to get a little tricky. We also wouldn't mind hearing a bit more about his backstory: the convict whose skin is permanently ablaze after being the guinea pig for UltraTech experiments.
It's all the boxing prowess of Mike Tyson, with none of the frightening facial tattoos or assault charges. Combo's appeal is that he's one of the most "normal" fighters in the KI roster, with no superweapons or mutations to aid him. And his punch combos are a sight to behold, so we hope he eventually steps into the ring.
Riptor seems to have gotten lost on his way to Primal Rage and stumbled into the original Killer Instinct lineup, but he's got plenty of fans amongst the KI playerbase. Like Sabrewulf, he's a savage mutation of an ordinary man--in this case, transforming into a dinosaur mutant rather than a werewolf. Riptor seems like he'd be a worthwhile inclusion for those longtime fans, though we can't really see him being a priority right out of the gate.
For our money, Gargos was a much better final boss than Eyedol ever was. This winged creature is pretty much just a Gargoyles reject, but something about his imposing stance and glowing yellow eyes is just too cool. We're not saying we'd want Gargos ASAP, but it might be nice to see him added to Killer Instinct later down the line.
OK, Kim Wu's design is little more than a woman with nunchaku in a pink gi. But we know there are hardcore Kim Wu fans out there that would love to see her return in HD. Make your voices heard! Spam the Double Helix forums, and plant the seed of her revival!
Killer Instinct's roster will expand over time, given Double Helix's plans to constantly add content like fighters and costumes (a business model akin to the wildly successful League of Legends). We'll be sure to update this list the second any rumors or announcements crop up, so check back to see which KI fighter best suits you.
If you're looking for more Killer Instinct coverage, check out our latest Killer Instinct preview about the pitfalls of button mashing and our list of The best Xbox One games (that we've played so far).