King of Fighters XIV had a certain amount of pressure to perform, as the previous instalment of the game was very well received. Although King of Fighters XII was largely disappointing, XIII arguably brought the franchise back to its best. But was this game a fitting upgrade on last year’s edition, or would it end up being a step in the wrong direction?
There are five main game modes on show: Versus, Story, Online, Training and Mission. Accompanying these game modes are around 50 playable characters, each having a strong sense of unique identity. Each of the characters move and speak differently to their counterparts and this strong depth and level of detail is really welcomed. For instance, the variation between Geese and Antonov couldn't be greater, and even in similar looking characters, their individual move-sets negate any visual similarities. More powerful characters rely on the strength and physicality to get the job done, and will move slower than a more slight and skill-based fighter. The contrast between characters leads to some really intriguing battles.
The graphics are upgraded from King of Fighters XIII, but they are still lacking for a game that is a next-gen title. Yes, the 3D characters on 2D backdrops are beautifully presented, with the locations you can fight in being diverse and lively. However, if we are judging KOF XIV by next-gen standards, then they resemble more of a high-end PlayStation 3 title. I didn’t feel this was too much of an issue however.
In terms of the locations, there are fifteen locations in total - and they range from the likes of The Great Wall of China, to an underground prison, and a derelict church. Every single stage feels unique and as though they have been extremely well thought out. Sampling the stages was as enjoyable as sampling the characters, which is exactly how a game from this genre should feel.
Unfortunately, some of the online play can be frustrating. Certain games are lag free and run really smooth, but you can jump into another game minutes later and encounter some connectivity issues. But, the story mode is deep and enjoyable, so there is plenty to keep fans occupied if the online servers don't hold up.
The main point KOF XIV will rightfully be judged on is the gameplay. Does it surpass previous iterations? Are the combos challenging, yet rewarding? Is it ultimately enjoyable? The short answer to these three questions is a firm yes. The fights have a fantastic pace to them, and the emphasis is very much on offence rather than defence. The combination strikes are difficult to learn at first, but after your character reaches ‘Maxmode’, the combo moves can be frightening and exhilarating in equal measure. And most importantly, the gameplay is enjoyable. The local multiplayer cannot be faulted and it does what it should - entertain! I had so much fun trying different trio combinations in the 3v3 battles, with battles very rarely feeling like a rinse and repeat. Selecting your character and the order in which you want to select them adds a tactical element to battles.
King of Fighters XIV (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
King of Fighters XIV is brilliant. It is certainly an upgrade on the last game, with upgraded visuals, a cool story mode, depth of characters, and great locations being the main boasting point. Having said that, the actual gameplay is brilliant stuff, with the combinations and movement of characters being a particular highlight. It is just a shame the online experience is rather hit and miss, even after the patch.