Game Review: The King of Fighters XIV (PS4)
30/08/2016 Leave a comment
It’s been a long-time-coming but the latest instalment into The King of Fighters franchise has finally arrived; and this time it is going to make its presence known exclusively onto the PS4. Introducing The King of Fighters XIV; a next-gen completely overhauled fighting game experience that’s been tailored to both classic and current generation of arcade fighting fanatics! Of course is this a good thing? Well let’s find out in our review!
|Title:||The King of Fighters XIV|
|Resolution:||1920 X 1080|
|Audio:||English & Japanese|
|Local Players:||1 – 2|
|Online Players:||2 – 6|
Both Street Fighter and Tekken are considered the most notable fighting games and in some aspects lead many to believe that no-other arcade fighter is worth your time; however dig deeper into the genre and you will find yourself a wealth of high-quality games in the form of Dead or Alive, BlazBlue, Guilty Gear, Arcana Heart and of course The King of Fighters. The King of Fighters is another long-running arcade franchise, for example this is its fourteenth numbered instalment, and yet hardly anyone seems to remember it when it’s brought up in a conversation amongst other gamers. Why exactly is this? Who knows; but with The King of Fighters XIV I am confident that it will spark interest into that genre that is often overrun with Street Fighter and Tekken players.
During its peak The King of Fighters franchise was seeing a new game released each year; with each game featuring an improved selection of characters, gameplay enhancements and general balance tweaks. However unlike Street Fighter and Tekken franchises each KOF title remained the same with its hand-drawn-sprite based visuals… that is until the latest instalment known as The King of Fighters XIV.
Throughout the games twenty-two year history The King of Fighters has always improved upon its core gameplay and character rosta but in each game the sprite-based-visuals remained. In The King of Fighters XIV however, which has been exclusively released onto the PS4, SNK Playmore have opted to bring their fighting game into the next generation with 3D Character models in 2.5D environments. It’s a natural step of progression, especially in the fighting game genre, and just like in Street Fighter IV (and then Street Fighter V) it works beautifully well.
Potential history lesson over The King of Fighters XIV is the latest fighting-game to be developed by SNK Playmore, but more importantly it is the first KOF title in six years – which is one of the longest hiatus in fighting game history. So what exactly can one expect to receive? Well at its core it is a fighting game so the objective is to simply defeat your opponent; however unlike traditional fighting games matches are done out of three fights as opposed to three rounds. For instance players choose three different fighters to create a team and the team who defeats the other teams opponent wins. What makes this ‘Team Battle’ extra unique is that any damage received will still appear within the next fight of that particular team match.
Of course those who prefer the ‘traditional’ method of fighting, which would see a singular character fight to win a set number of rounds against an opponent, remains but this new ‘Team based’ combat is at the focal point of The King of Fighters XIV and it makes a nice change from other fighting games. Ironically enough that’s not the only thing that’s different within The King of Fighters XIV as just like with Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax for the PSV/PS3 players can automatically preform special attacks when chaining together combos. Basically when the special guage has been filled at least once, and a quick-combo is preformed (which is achieved by pressing square button five times), the characters special attack will automatically take place. Depending on the button combination pressed during the quick-combo sequence will result in the special attack being dealt but it’s a nice little addition that helps newcomers get to the grips with the game.
It’s understandable that veterans will dislike this system, as I heard that some people disliked it within Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax, as they say it makes the game too easy; but from my perspective it’s a great addition as it finally adds that much needed balance and brings the ‘difficulty-gap’ between veterans and regulars down slightly. Oddly enough that’s not the only difference KOFXIV has with other fighting games as by pressing Square and X at the same time – which is the universal button for performing a throwing action – players can roll pass the their opponent. It’s a great addition and provides a more ‘tactical’ way of fighting; it’s even a feature which I have implemented into my own fighting style and it’s great way to avoid strong attacks by opponents.
At its core however the fighting mechanics within The King of Fighters XIV remain the same as other fighting games; sure enough players have High, Low and Mid attack ranges for both Kick and Punches and while special attacks may be called something else in this game they are available – either through complex button commands or automatic attacks. Veterans will love the complexity and newcomers will love the simplistic; it’s a great and it appeals to both types of players.
Moving away from the ‘core mechanics’ of the game we have a relatively nice selection of content to go through; so much that it would put Street Fighter V to shame in its current state. The focal point of The King of Fighters XIV maybe it’s ‘arcade fighting in a competitive world’ but we also have the inclusion of a story mode along with the usual trimmings of online and offline multiplayer, challenges, time attack, survival and tutorial gameplay sections. The only thing KOFXIV is missing out on is a simplistic arcade mode; but it’s a small price to pay considering that the games Story mode is treated as the Arcade mode.
The story mode will see players enter the fourteenth King of Fighters tournament that is being hosted by Antov. It’s a simplistic story but it’s not one without a few laughs. To start with players must select a team of three characters – which of course is KOF XIV’s new fighting style – and depending on the characters chosen will depend on the story told. Three random characters will generate the generic story of entering a tournament and winning it; albeit with a demonic boss fight at the end. However if selective characters are chosen, like characters featured within those team trailers promoted by Deep Silver during the build-up to the games release, then a more personalised story experience will present itself.
In retrospect the Story mode is where majority of the time will be spent; as players will need to replay the story mode with all of the different teams in order to unlock all of the possible cut-scenes and endings. It sounds easy but with fifty characters included in the game as standard, and with each story mode playthrough taking at least 35 minutes, it’s actually a bit more tedious than you might think. Of course repeating the campaign over and over again isn’t entirely advised, as I pretty much had my fill after two playthroughs, but it’s a challenge that is offered to you as part of the game.
Of course alongside this comical-filled story mode, that features some impressive CGI sequences between fights, is the inclusion of various offline modes and an online multiplayer mode. Basically it’s the traditional selection of content; namely Tutorial, Training, Survival, Time Attack and Trial (Challenge) where as offline multiplayer will see you do battle with another player controlled opponent or AI character in single or team based combat. To provide some context Survival will see you attempt to defeat an endless array of opponents with each opponent becoming slightly harder while Time Attack will see you defeat ten opponents (or ten teams) in the fastest possible time.
If you are looking to enhance your skills then the Training and Trial modes of the game will provide some much needed skill testing. As you’d expect training mode allows you to practice moves on an opponent and just like any good training mode you can customise the AI to make it useful. Trial mode on the otherhand will see the player challenged to perform certain moves and be awarded with character illustrations and such as a prize. Of course these are great at teaching you the most advanced moveset but the real challenge is online multiplayer.
When it comes to online multiplayer then this is where it gets interesting. For starters online multiplayer is available in both general and ranked match types, each of which will connect you to players across the globe; however elsewhere is general lobby matches – whereby winner stays on to beat the next opponent – as well as 3 on 3 match types in addition to regular single and team multiplayer aspects. The 3 on 3 match types operate like a regular team battle, with 3 opponents on each side, however each character is controlled by a single person and thus some team-work with the other players in your team is required in order to win. Of course all three characters do not fight at the same time; but if your team mate is KO’d then you’d be up for the next round. Furthermore up to six spectators can watch the fight which means that in total twelve players, in some shape or form, can be within a single match – which is quite mind boggling when you think that it’s just a 1on1 fighting game (to some extent). The online aspect of the game also allows you to take part in online training whereby you can join up with a friend, or a complete stranger, and practice moves against each other without the fear of being shamed by your lack of skill.
To round out this impressive collection of gameplay modes is the gallery section of the game. Everything you do within The King of Fighters XIV, be it story, online or challenge modes, will see content unlocked for viewing within the gallery. For instance completing story mode with selective teams will see the CGI sequences unlocked while playing as characters in online matches will see artwork and such unlocked for that particular character in the gallery. The inclusion of a gallery may be a small gesture to add to a fighting game but it gives you a purpose to actual play the other game modes; especially if you are like me who just enjoys the story segment of the game.
The King of Fighters may be a ‘blip’ on the radar to most gamers within the world; but in terms of The King of Fighters XIV it should be a blip on everyone’s radar. The accessibly of the game and the variety of content is superb – especially when you compared it to Dead or Alive 5’s extensive DLC selection – however it is not without its drawbacks. For starters upon starting the game you’ll have to wait 10-20 minutes for the content itself to actually install, and this is after the usual PS4 installation process; and during this timeframe you’ll just sit idle looking at the main screen with everything blacked out. It’s a bizarre choice by the development team but at least the tutorial section is available to access.
Another disappointment with The King of Fighters XIV is the fact that some characters are incrediblely small and as such they become painfully difficult to hit with a larger character. Never have I experienced a game whereby I am unable to hit an opponent due to a height difference (well maybe Gon from Tekken 3 but that’s a different matter all together) and as such it disrupts the flow of combat. At one point I even lost two of my characters due to being unable to connect attacks; but I guess you could look at it as a learning curve but I can only suspect how many online players may use this drawback to their advantage.
Overall The King of Fighters XIV is a great fighting game and it’s a welcome return to the franchise; sure enough it may be different to how KOF fans remember it but with its impressive rosta of characters, new gameplay mechanics and fresh new look it’s definitely one worth getting for your Playstation 4 console. In my eyes at least this is the most accessible fighting game to date and it’s great.
The King of Fighters XIV is now available for the PS4 as both a retail release and a digital download from the Playstation Network Store.