King of Fighters 14 – Review
- Deep and Rewarding combo system
- 50 unique characters to use
- Plenty of replayability
- Gallery packed with nice bonuses
- Great deal of thought put into the online
- Poor graphics and sound design
- Rush combo is a poor attempt to make the game accessible
- Online runs poorly (at launch)
- Story mode is basic in comparison to other offerings in the genre
Review copy purchased by writer
Version tested: PS4
King of Fighters 14 marks the return of the popular fighting franchise from SNK but does King of Fighters 14 leave you burning to fight, or is this a misstep for the franchise?
So let’s talk about the system, which is arguably the most important part of a fighting game. King of Fighters 14 (from now referred to as KOF14) takes a lot from its past entries as well as from other fighters to create a system that feels fresh, unique and massively addicting. It keeps the signature 3v3 fighting system that it is known for and combo’s operate the same as in prior entries and feel fairly simple to pull off, thanks to a decent tutorial that teaches you the main mechanics. Where KOF14 differs from the standard fighting games is in how it uses super meter.
Meter is determined by the amount of characters you have left. All three team members will give you a max of three bars and you will gain a bar for every member lost. This means your final character could be using up to 5 bars of super meter. Super meter can be spent on counter attacks to knock opponents piling on the offensive pressure away or on evasive rolls allowing you to roll safely out of high pressure offense for the cost of 1 bar and both performed while guarding. KOF14 keeps the standard normal super attacks for one bar of meter and the upgraded versions for 2 bars. New to the series is the Climax Combo, a high damage super attack that costs 3 bars, but what makes this unique? Well in KOF14 you can cancel these into each other. The highest damage in the game can be earned through doing a short combo into an upgraded super combo and then cancelling into a Climax Combo. It is simple and massively satisfying.
Another big change to the system is the addition of MAX mode. Popping MAX mode gives your character access to upgraded special moves for a limited amount of time. Where MAX mode gets interesting is when you discover you can extend combos beyond normal lengths by activating max mode at the end of unique normal attacks to extend your combos. Learning how to effectively cancel into MAX mode is one of the more rewarding aspects of the game and paves the way for the higher damage combos.
Upon firing up KOF14 and heading into the character select screen you will likely be rather surprised at the sheer amount of fighters on display. Ranging from the fan favourites such as Terry, Kyo, Mai, Iori and King to newcomers such as Kukiri, Sylvie and Nelson. KOF14 definitely offers a large cast of characters to play around with each with their own unique play style, supers and Climax Combos. Each of these characters have 5 combo trials with varying difficulty and allow you to get to grips with your chosen warriors.
There are plenty of modes to take your team into from survival, time attack and the aforementioned trials mode. The game also has a story mode however, it is nowhere near the quality of other titles. Story mode in KOF14 operates very much like the arcade mode featured in classic games. You battle through a gauntlet of opponents sometimes running into brief cutscenes where characters talk to one another before fighting, to reach the sub-boss and then the final boss. When stacked up against titles like Mortal Kombat X, Dead or Alive 5 and even Street Fighter V it falls massively short.
It also suffers from some fairly basic and bland presentation. The graphics look less than impressive with some models looking completely atrocious and others looking fairly serviceable, the sound design for music is fairly decent with some remixed classic tracks, however hit sound effects (especially blocked hits) sound rather like stock and bland.
Also in a bid to make the game less daunting to casual fans SNK introduced the rush combo, where players can mash the Light Punch to perform combos ending in a level 1 super combo if they have the meter. The feature cannot be turned off and even though it doesn’t do a lot of damage it cheapens online matches where laggy matches can become frustrating when you attempt combos only to drop them due to lag, while your opponent sails through by using the rush combo.
Speaking of lag, KOF14 unfortunately suffers from a massive amount of it. Pre-release reviews stated the netcode to be fairly good, however upon release KOF14 has suffered from some serious lag issues and while SNK have announced they are tackling it, it isn’t a good start. Thankfully when the game runs well it is a blast to play online and I am excited for SNK to fix it so I can play more.
That isn’t to say SNK didn’t put any effort into KOF14’s online, as clearly this was well thought out, with ranked matches, player matches that can allow for lobbies full of players challenging eachother, single fights where players use one character and Party Vs, where the 3 team members are played by different people. It is all fairly impressive and shows SNK was committed to making a robust online experience, which makes it more of a shame that the servers are experiencing lag issues.
There are plenty of reasons to return to the game, each official team has an ending in story mode, there is unlockable artwork, special music and all manner of nifty little unlockables to keep the playtime interesting.
KOF14 is certainly a rough around the edges title, but if you are willing to look beyond the fairly bland presentation you will find a fighter with some of the richest most addictive combat on the market and with moments that will have you grinning like an idiot while you destroy your enemies.