Friday 9 September 2016

King of Fighters XIV

Another beat ‘em up. Bloody yawn, right? No. BECAUSE THIS ONE IS AWESOME.

Developed by SNK and out August 26th for PS4, The King of Fighters XIV is the most enjoyable way to fuck people up that I’ve seen in quite a while. It ticks a lot of boxes that make me – and a lot of you, I’d imagine – happy. Generous selection of fighters? Tick; 50 to be precise (48 ‘normal’ and two boss characters). Accessible control system? Tick; if you know the Street Fighter games (and who doesn’t?), then you’ll be able to start fighting here straight away. Useful practice modes? Tick; mission modes that teach you combos, and a highly customisable practice mode against a CPU opponent.

You’re going to need the learning opportunities, too. I mean come on; fifty characters?!? You’re certainly at an advantage if you’re an existing fan of the series, as many of the fighters here you’ll recognise from games released over the last two decades or so. As ever, The King Of Fighters brings together characters from other SNK beat ‘em ups such as Samurai Showdown and Fatal Fury, as well as franchise-exclusive characters (and some new faces again for XIV). And yes, don’t worry perverts; those female characters with boobs that laugh in the face of physics still have their science-defying chest balloons wobbling about. Thankfully for the rest of us, this only applies to a few of the female fighters on offer.

Existing fan or not, KOFXIV is a damn fine fighter. The latest entry has been tweaked to make it a little more n00b friendly, but this has only served to further improve the experience. You can now button-mash low punch for an auto-combo, but this leaves you wide open to attack if you mis-time it or have a skilled player patiently block the onslaught. The dodge button is more integral to the experience, a vital weapon in the armoury of newbie and hardcore champion alike. Timed correctly it allows you to avoid absolutely any attack. This isn’t a game where you’re helpless against those annoying bastards who spam fireball attacks. Sure, there are still annoying gits online who spam the same combos or techniques again and again, but that’s the human race for you.

A default KOFXIV match is 3-on-3. Three characters per side, one at a time, when one character’s knocked out he/she is out and replaced by the next in the team. Last person standing wins. You can have a traditional 1-on-1 if you prefer or, online, even a ‘party’ match where the six characters are controlled by six different players.

Of course all this would be meaningless if the game wasn’t any fun to play, and fifty characters would be a disadvantage if they all felt the same. Somehow, each character feels unique both to play as and against; and that’s quite an achievement. There are a couple of crappy ones in there, but I say that knowing full well that somebody, somewhere, loves the ones I’m thinking of. The point is that they all have different advantages and disadvantages, yet I can’t think of a single matchup where one character would have a huge advantage over the other.

You’ll need to learn all the characters not only to play as, but also to play against. This is particularly important when playing online, as knowing what your opponent is and isn’t capable of will reduce the chances of having your arse well and truly kicked. Perhaps you’re fighting against a character with attacks that can almost instantly reach you three quarters of the way across the screen, meaning you have to be on your guard even at a distance. Conversely, a few characters have attacks where they stand in place and deal multiple hits a few steps either side of them, meaning you have to be careful about when you get in close. I’ve played a lot of beat ‘em ups over the years, and this immediately stands out as one of the best. King of Fighters? Maybe it is.

It’s King brilliant. 5/5  

Luke Kemp

King of Fighters XIV at CeX

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