Review: The King of Fighters XIV - We Know Gamers

As a fan of fighting games, the King of Fighters series isn't unknown to me, but with a greater understanding of the Tekken and Street Fighter series, how does King of Fighters XIV compare and is it really worth your time? Read on as I dive into the features of the latest KoF title.

To begin, The King of Fighters 14 is a PS4 exclusive and I feel this review should cater to gamers of all skill levels, so I'm going to jump straight in with the controls. Like Tekken, KoF 14 has a light and heavy punch as well as a light and heavy kick. Using the direction buttons you can combo moves together, even countering and dodging moves altogether. The controls are simple enough to get players of any level stringing moves together like it's nothing and yet there's still a great deal of depth for the more hardcore players to really put their skills to the test.

Dodging has never been more simple. By pressing LP + LK together (light punch and light kick - square and x on the controller) in addition to back or forwards on the d-pad, you can roll away from your opponent, through your opponent and even through your opponents attacks completely unharmed if you time it right. The window to do this is also incredibly forgivable, so you don't even need to have perfect timing, though up against more skilled players it'll probably help.

To block you simply hold back (the directional button pointed away from your enemy), but be careful here because grab moves (pressed by heavy kick or heavy punch in close proximity by most characters) can easily break through this, though you can interrupt grabs by pressing forward towards your opponent+LP+LK at the right time. You can also press HP+HK to smash your opponent across the screen, giving yourself more space to get back into the fight again. In addition, probably the easiest way to fight in King of Fighters 14 is to get up close to your opponent and mash square repeatedly. This once again is LP (light punch) and will allow you to perform a Rage combo, which is just a string of attacks that can rack up damage against your opponent fast. The moves vary depending on how high your Max bar is. If you're at level 0 on your Max bar it'll do one combo and if you have levels, it'll do a different combo on level 1 and above which uses one or more of your Max bars, but does a considerable amount of damage more. To activate Max mode all you do is press LP+LK together (square and x) when you have one level or more and it'll increase your damage output and allows for more powerful variations of standard moves to be executed.

Similarly to Street Fighter IV, when you have enough Max bars from either taking damage or dishing out the pain, you can perform your characters Super Moves. These are stylish, over the top and fairly cinematic moves that can deal a ton of damage to your opponent. They're flashy and although visually akin to those found within Street Fighter IV, are just as much fun to watch and pull off.

Kukri enters the ring!
One thing worth mentioning here is how good the Tutorial mode is. From playing fighting games in general, I was able to apply my combo knowledge from Street Fighter to learn some of the moves, but to really get a grasp of the KoF 14 system, I highly recommend using the in-game tutorial. Not only is it great at teaching you the basics, but once you're done with them the tutorials will surpass what's accessible in the main menu and take you into the hidden tutorials, only accessible by clearing each tutorial as you go along. I personally got pretty far through this, but as soon as it mentioned Super Cancelling, I was completely lost, so this is where the hardcore players can really pick up some extra tips, testing their skills to their heart's content.

Next up we have Story mode. This is the main mode of the game and offers a pretty basic story like any other fighting game that came before. Every character has their own set of motives for fighting in the King of Fighters tournament, with dialogue unique to certain characters depending on who they're facing/when their rivals turn up. Unlike other fighting titles, you can actually choose the order in which your team members fight in every battle, saving time and removing the need to exit back to character select just to change character order. In this mode you pick three characters and each time you lose a battle, you start another with the next character along. If you win, the opponents next character comes in and your health increases slightly with your current character. The same thing happens vice versa. Each time you go through this mode, you unlock multiple features of the game. This varies from special illustrations, posters, icons, cinematic cutscenes, background music and character voices - Of note, you can choose whether to have a male or female commentator from the options box in the main menu.

In addition to this, the roster for The King of Fighters 14 is huge. When you first insert the game disk you'll need to install it like any other game, only there's enough content on the disk for you to play as Kyo Kusanagi or Iori Yagami in Practice mode while the game's installing. This is a nice feature because it means you don't have to wait around to play it. On top of that, once the game's installed the starting roster consists of 48 characters. Yes, 48. Going through Story mode unlocks the last two for a total of 50 characters altogether.

From left to right: Iori vs Kyo.
Interestingly, although most of the characters have very similar control schemes, they do actually all handle very differently. My initial team was Kyo Kusanagi, Luong and Love Heart. Kyo has some pretty devastating fire kicks, punches and shoryuken typed attacks but doesn't have ranged projectiles. Luong is like a Praying Mantis in that you can input kick commands and hold them, releasing incredibly fast kicks when your opponents step into range. Love Heart is an all rounder. She has a celestial sword that comes into being with some of her closer ranged attacks, can leap roughly halfway across the screen with an overhead kick (two-hit combo) and has some jumping, diagonal kick Special Attacks that come down hard on your opponents. Other characters can teleport and move about quicker while some are better fighting at range (such a Billy with his fighting pole), others are slow but hit hard and then you have Iori who can literally just spam light and heavy projectiles across the floor. Though, don't let that fool you as he's just as devastating up close, if not more so. I almost managed to get through the whole game with him alone, so he's a real force to be reckoned with.

Other game modes include Mission, Versus and Online play. Mission mode has a Time Attack, Trial and Survival mode to sink your teeth into, while Versus and Online play aren't too different from one another. I had a look at the features of Online play, but the trouble with reviewing a game that isn't out yet is that you'd be incredibly lucky to find others online the same time as you. It looked as though it would work the same as any other game though, where you can slightly customise your online profile, set up private matches, free matches (unranked) and ranked matches and then battle for the top spot on the World Leaderboards. Basically, everything you'd expect from a top fighting game is here.

To experience the offline multiplayer, I took KoF around a friends house and had some games with him. He's not great at fighting games, but because the controls are easy to get used to, he soon had fun fighting against me and this was at a point where I'd not even looked at the controls myself, so we both had a great deal of fun and I taught him moves as I learned them myself. This shows just how accessible the game is. Everyone can have fun, no matter what their skill level may be and with almost universal combo's in place, it's pretty easy to work out the slight variations in button combinations, so if you've always been hesitant in entering the world of fighting games, don't be, because there's something for everyone here and The King of Fighters XIV is a great entry title for those new to both the KoF series and fighting games in general.

Luong preparing her Mantis stance.
In Versus mode there's no real limitation for what you can do. You both have the full roster of characters to choose from, can both play as the same character if you wish, can choose what colour your costume is and have the full selection of Battle Arenas to choose from. You also have the option of playing the game KoF style, as in each picking a team of three to duke it out, or you can go the more traditional route and just have one on one bouts, which personally I prefer.

Moving onto the sound, there are no English voices for this title. The King of Fighters 14 is very much a Japanese fighting game. English subtitles are provided so you don't miss out on anything, but for some I'd imagine English voices would have been a nice addition to the game. The sound effects for moves, character voices and the commentator are all pretty good, but sadly a lot of the music is quite forgettable, with the exception of one or two fairly catchy tracks.

One thing I really miss is the charm of the older, 2D characters and arenas of past games. There's also a lack of silly characters this time around, but with Sylvie Paula Paula (the name so good we named her twice) in place, fans of Mignon Beart can still have fun playing the teen Otaku girl with a love for Sweet Lolita fashion. This may not be a 2D KoF, but the 3D character models, animations and the 19 different stages on offer all look great.

Overall, The King of Fighters 14 is an absolute must have for any fighting fan out there. With its huge roster and generous offering of stages there's a lot of fun to be had and although you can't move in a three dimensional space, KoF 14 takes the best elements from previous titles, mixing elements of the Tekken and Street Fighter games together, creating one of the most fun fighters of recent years, packed with content and plenty of diversity.

The King of Fighters XIV will be released exclusively for the PS4 this Friday, the 26th August.

Are you looking forward to playing The King of Fighters XIV? Did you like this article? Be sure to let us know in the comments below or hit me up on twitter @CaptainCortez.

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