Killer Instinct tips and tricks

Supreme Victory

This ain't your daddy's Killer Instinct--this is Killer Instinct on Xbox One. Cinder? GET OUTTA HERE! Fulgore? NOT FOR A FEW MORE MONTHS, SUCKA! But what's back in force is the breakneck pace of all the matches, which are wall-to-wall blitzes of crazy combos and awesome reversals. And if you're not prepared for an onslaught of attacks and C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAKERS, you're going to get utterly creamed online.

So before you venture into the Xbox Live arena, we highly recommend you check out the Dojo. The tutorials in Killer Instinct are some of the best in the genre, actually teaching you almost everything you need to know. Almost. We're not world-famous fighting game experts, but we've got a few tips to help give you an edge against your fellow (or rival) killers.

Medium-strength Combo Breakers are your best bet

Combo Breakers are an ingenious mechanic, letting the victim of a long combo fight back using a pseudo-rock-paper-scissors system. If you match the strength (Light, Medium, or Heavy) of an incoming attack, you'll break out of the combo and hopefully turn the tides. But when you haven't learned the animations of everyone's normals, it's tricky trying to guess the correct counter. So try this: when you're first starting out, just mash the Medium Combo Breakers. Light autos are harder to chain together, and by default, Heavy autos act as Enders. That means your opponent will subconsciously want to use Medium auto attacks in most combos, and you can exploit that predictability using Medium Combo Breakers. Just watch out for Medium Counter Breakers in response.

Take the time to learn what your character's Instinct Mode does

Most players will realize the Instinct Mode's most obvious application right away: using it as a special or shadow cancel to extend combos even further. But what you may not know are the subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes that come with each character's Instinct Mode, all of which are unique and potentially game-changing. Here's a quick breakdown: Glacius gets one hit of armor, Sabrewulf's specials do chip damage, B. Orchid can set up cross-ups with panther projectiles, Jago slowly regains health, Thunder's dash becomes partially invincible, and Sadira can deploy some extremely powerful web traps that lock down her opponent. Master the intricacies of your favorite fighter's Instinct, and you'll have a huge advantage.

Don't be afraid to use an early Ender

Here's another lesson that's taught in the Dojo, but it's worth reiterating: if you're near the end of a combo, it's better to be safe than sorry. Missing an Ender attack on a massive hit string is often a fatal mistake, because without an Ender, you won't "cash in" all the bonus damage you've accrued (displayed as the flashing white segment of your enemy's health bar). Even if you think you could eke out a few extra hits from a combo, you should err on the side of caution and go with the guaranteed damage. The more you practice, the better sense you'll get of when to call it quits on a crazy combo.

Zoning is still very important

With the crazy moves you can pull off by mashing buttons, some might assume that Killer Instinct doesn't require the finesse of other fighters. Wrong. Zoning is just as important in KI as it is in Street Fighter, where memorizing the range of your attacks is hugely beneficial. This also applies to footsies, because any poke can usually be converted into a super-damaging combo. Learn how far your fighter's normals reach, and try to gauge how far their attacks extend. Once you've established these distances, it's much easier to stay in control for an entire match.

Glacius vs. Thunder is a tough match

Difficult match-ups are a part of any good fighting game, no matter how well-balanced they might be. Funnily enough, duels between Thunder and Glacius are tricky no matter which of the two you're playing. Thunder has the challenge of trying to get in on Glacius, who can constantly keep him at bay with ice balls and unblockable, full-screen attacks. If you're taking a beating as Thunder, activate your Instinct Mode and try to dash up to Glacius' face. This is where the match flips around: as Glacius, it's extremely difficult to get away from Thunder once he's up close, so try to shoulder charge to create some space after a combo. No matter who you're playing, stay wary of your long- or close-range danger zones.

Expand your character pick horizons to maximize your KP

It's always helpful to try out the full roster in any fighting game, just to get a sense of each character plays (and what works best against them). But there's another benefit to diversifying your picks: you'll be raking in the KP currency like there's no tomorrow. Racking up KP lets you buy stuff like stages, costume pieces, colors, icons--pretty much everything that isn't a character, because those cost money. As you play any fighter, you'll quickly rack up KP-rewarding Titles, from doing things like special moves, Ultras, or throws enough times. You'd be shocked at how easy these Titles are to attain, so play around with your backup character if you're running short on KP.

One step closer to flushing out UltraTech

Those are the tips we've got on day one, but we're sure to come up with more as Double Helix continues adding new content to the game and refining the existing roster. Got any tips you learned the hard way while tearing it up online? Tell us about 'em in the comments below!

For more Xbox One tips, check out How to unlock the Flame Mecha Dragon in Dead Rising 3 and our list of the Best Xbox One games.

Lucas Sullivan

Lucas Sullivan is the former US Managing Editor of GamesRadar+. Lucas spent seven years working for GR, starting as an Associate Editor in 2012 before climbing the ranks. He left us in 2019 to pursue a career path on the other side of the fence, joining 2K Games as a Global Content Manager. Lucas doesn't get to write about games like Borderlands and Mafia anymore, but he does get to help make and market them.