The King of Fighters XIV (PS4 Review)
It’s been five years since the console release of The King of Fighters XIII, but finally the next iteration has arrived. Offering us the exhilarating gameplay and technical depth we have come to expect from The King of Fighters series. Bringing new mechanics and tweaks to the old formula, The King of Fighters XIV wants to prove to us that it too can take main stage and stand toe-to-toe with the 3D modeled fighting games of today.
Like most fighting games, The King of Fighters XIV offers a handful of single player game modes to explore outside of battling with friends and foes alike. The King of Fighters XIV unfortunately has nothing special to offer in this department. The modes in question are;story mode, survival, time trial, and trials mode. KoF XIV’s tale follows in wake of The King of Fighters XIII with the character Antonov hosting the latest King of Fighters tournament. As you battle and fight through the tournament with your team of choice, certain characters will entertain one another with pre-fight dialogue which only serves to reinforce the old personalities we’ve come to love and also establish the new entrants to the series. Each playthrough will reward you with an ending cinematic and other rewards, such as promotional art. Playing through as one of the preset teams will net you an ending particular to that team, helping to explain and flesh the cast out further.
So you have bested the story mode, what next? If you’re looking for more singleplayer content then the survival, time trial and trial modes await you, the former being your standard affair of seeing how far you can go on a lone character before your brave fighter is laying face first on the ground. Time trial is what one would expect; beat the opposing teams as fast as you can and achieve the quickest time. And finally you have the Trial mode, like its predecessor, The King of Fighters XIV offers five basic combos or moves to practice and execute per character. These challenges are intended to give players an idea and glimpse into what your chosen character can do, however the combos of choice are extremely lack luster, many of which being poorly optimized. For the casual fighter, this is not an issue, but those wishing to improve will find the trial modes have little to give.
Now for the player who just wants to pop on a quick fighter and play with his friends once in a while, this is perhaps as far as you would go. However for the more competitive, or even the casual player who wants to plum the sheer mechanical depth of The King of Fighters XIV, will be looking to spend a lot of time in The King of Fighters XIV’s training mode.
Much like modern fighting games, the training mode gives you the options you need to test, practice, and refine the skills you own – or even develop your own new tricks and combos to force upon your future opponents. If you have completed the trials first before dipping into the training mode, then you may have an inkling as to The King of Fighters XIV’s depth and mechanics. From there, training mode will allow you to test any scenario you can create and truly grind out the various situations and conflicts that can arise.
Speaking of the inner workings, The King of Fighters XIV has introduced new elements to its tried and tested formula, implementing new features for the budding challenger and tweaking the old for the veterans. One such addition is the Rush Combo which is performed by simply hitting the A button over and over, giving access to a basic combo. This feature is not without its drawbacks though, as your Rush Combo will do significantly less damage to a similar combo that is performed manually.
Replacing the Hyper Drive Gauge in SNK’s latest outing is the Max Mode system, where by pressing both the B and C buttons (light kick and heavy punch) together will send your character in to a state which gives them a slowly diminishing gauge, allowing them to use “EX” versions of their special moves. Each EX move you perform, rather than removing a full bar of your special meter, drains a portion of your Max Mode gauge, and depending upon the position of your character will last differing periods of time – shortest for your first and longest for your third. In addition to EX moves, the Max Mode system allows you to extend your combos by cancelling into Max Mode upon hitting them with a normal attack, such as a close hitting C. The Max Mode system facilitates all kinds of character archetypes, from your projectile throwing defensive characters to your high-pressure offensive powerhouses and opens up more strategic choices for players to explore.
Given The King of Fighters’ extensive roster and varied cast, you will not be disappointed with the 50 characters to create your own team. Every character is unique with their own personality; be it in their moves, appearance, or how they smack-talk everyone during their victory win quote. Ranging from old fan favourites, to the newcomers (yay Kukri!), players will not be disappointed in their choice. Speaking of appearances however, there is one elephant in the room that has to be discussed: graphical fidelity.
The topic of The King of Fighters XIV’s appearance has been raging on since the first reveal trailer, even though the modelling, shading and lighting have improved considerably with each subsequent trailer. Many fans couldn’t help but scoff and joke a little at the aged looking 3D models which, when compared to the other modern entrants into the fighting game genre, makes The King of Fighters XIV look outdated. This is not to say this holds true for the entire game, as certain stages look fantastic, vibrant coloured backdrops drip with personality and some of the characters do look great. However, when you emerge victorious and your team poses against the victory screen background, any fault, big or small, will be immediately apparent. Whilst I felt that the dated look brought a sort of charm to it, others may not be able to overlook and ignore these issues.
In addition to the shift of beautiful 2D sprites to 3D models, The King of Fighters XIV has chosen to shift its soundtrack from character themes to stage themes. A selection of players have voiced their concerns over this, however it can be seen that you can now choose your favorite tune regardless of whom you play by selecting your favourite stage. The music is not just comprised of new beats and tracks though, SNK have adopted some of their older themes for when particular characters come to clash, a good example of which being Terry Bogard and Geese Howard.
Now if you played The King of Fighters XIII and tried to play it online, you would know that the experience, to put it bluntly, is pants. Players would find that even within the same town would you suffer from input lag and stuttering, meaning that there were no online warriors and forcing would be competitors to search for offline avenues. SNK clearly listened and have tried their best at creating and developing an impressively smooth online experience. Challenging your friends locally online is no different than sitting side-by-side, and for UK based players like myself, even within Europe it runs run with little issue. However, fighting across the ocean though will still give questionable results to those looking for perfect and precise play.
Starting with The King of Fighters XIII, I have been excited for the next in the series and boy did The King of Fighters XIV deliver. The series has always been looked at with a touch of fear and apprehension from outside players, but those who give the game a moment of their time will find that it’s both an accessible and deep fighter, offering to the new and old alike. Many will and should overlook the questionable visuals, as passed the visage lies a spectacular fighting game, honed over decades. I just hope that in the future, SNK may offer us DLC, giving us access to costumes and perhaps even characters (Takuma, I miss you).
Editors Note: A special thanks goes out to David “David of the Sands” Cameron for helping us out with the review. If you aren’t familiar with David you should check out our interview with him here. After travelling to play KoF all over the EU David has established himself as one of the best players in the UK after being invited to the KoFXIV invitational at StunFest2016 and performing exceptionally well at Hypespotting V. It has also been said that he personally knows TSS Atma or “frame data-san”, but that remains to be confirmed. So look out for him at numerous events, including NEC and Revo2016 in the near future or follow him on Twitter @Davidofthesands.