America - Front
America - Back
By Paul Broussard 16th Mar 2022 | 2,061 views
I’ll admit I have mixed feelings about the practice of providing numerical ratings for video games; attempting to sum up a multi leveled opinion on a complex, interactive piece of entertainment with a single digit is like being asked to describe the weather outside with a letter grade. Still, at least the practice is somewhat feasible for most standard, single player experiences, and even some multiplayer ones. Fighting games, however, are a whole other beast. Reviewing and scoring what is intended to be a serious, deep competition, the full mechanics of which will only be discovered over years of experimentation by players much better than I, is like not only attempting to grade the weather with a letter, but assigning a letter grade for next year’s weather based on what it’s like today.
Competitive ventures like this, more often than not, can really only be judged in fullness retrospectively. Any attempt to really gauge the quality of a predominantly competitive multiplayer game so early into its lifecycle is like trying to judge how good a restaurant is by how inviting the interior looks; enough information to tell you if something is seriously wrong, but probably not enough to really prove if it's worth your money. So consider this much more of a “how much fun is a random individual with a decent amount of fighting game experience likely to have in a week or so of playing it”, rather than an attempt to gaze into the future and decipher how the meta of The King of Fighters XV will play out and hold up years down the line.
Still, this is something worth examining, especially after a number of big name fighting games in recent memory have attempted to launch with what could generously be called an “underwhelming” amount of content. The King of Fighters XV certainly isn’t as bad as something like Street Fighter V in that regard, but it… probably could’ve stood to have a bit more included beyond standard player vs player fighting modes. The story mode is very bare bones, and doesn’t even have the comically bad writing of NetherRealm story modes to make me laugh at it. There are no notable single player offerings beyond that either; no challenge towers, no separate arcade mode, or even a spin-off offering like Heroes and Heralds from UMvC3 or Shadow Lords from Killer Instinct. It also might have been nice to have had some kind of tag mode as an optional fun venture, just to maybe give players a distraction that requires them to think about team composition a bit more.
In short, if you buy The King of Fighters XV, you should be prepared to solely… well, fight. If you are prepared to do that then The King of Fighters XV welcomes you with open arms. There are a ton of fighters here - 39 in total, so if you’re looking to play around with a lot of characters then you will absolutely get your money’s worth. The robust training mode (and an online training mode as well) will ensure that you have lots of chances to get familiar with the mechanics, with plenty of options to practice combos and specific situations that you feel underprepared for.
Speaking of the online, it works exceptionally well. Within fighting games, rollback netcode has lately become more popular than your mom on a Friday evening, and for good reason. It's difficult to understate how much it improves the standard online experience. The King of Fighters XV is no exception, being a substantial step up in quality from The King of Fighters XIV's delay-based netcode. If you’re looking for a good fighting game to predominantly play online, this certainly won’t disappoint.
Within the online itself, there are a decent number of options, with ranked, casual, and lobby modes to keep things going. This is admittedly always a hard ask for fighting games, as there's generally only so much you can do to vary the gameplay up without straying away from the core focus of being... well, a fighting game. That said, I still think there was room for a little more variety. One option would be the tournament mode that, to my knowledge, originated in Super Smash Bros. and has been an interesting idea that a few other titles have handled pretty well too. Or perhaps DBFZ's tag mode, where different players control different characters in a 3v3 battle.
Individual matches themselves are split between standard 1v1 fights and the 'traditional' 3v3 battles that comprise competitive play for KoF. Both modes work well and the individual roster seems to encourage a healthy mix of rushdown and zoning depending on character, although again, with the game less than a month old, it’s incredibly difficult to say anything about how the meta will develop for sure.
What will certainly age well are the visuals, with vibrant colors, exhaustingly detailed models and backgrounds, and plenty of expression and charm. And, being a fighting game, the effects go to greater use than just looking pretty. Visual and audio cues are used to great effect to distinguish attacks that hit, whiff, or are blocked, as well as make individual attacks more satisfying and visceral to land. Music is a bit more up and down, with some tracks feeling mainly like a rather slapdash set of electric guitars and synthesizers thrown on top of each other, and others actually sounding like genuine music that a thoughtful human being composed, but overall the audio and visual component is a thumbs up.
Ultimately, The King of Fighters XV is a solid fighting game, but how worthwhile it is will ultimately depend on what you’re looking for. If you want something to play almost exclusively as a standard person vs. person fighter, particularly if you’re focused on doing so online, then KoF XV is one of the better options available today. If you’re more interested in a title with a variety of options and gameplay modes, then this isn’t it. KoF XV is very focused on providing hardcore fighting game fans with a great experience, and everything else tends to fall by the wayside. Which I can respect; there’s certainly something to be said for a game that tries to do one thing very, very well. And while it will take some time to see the meta plays out and truly discern how well KoF XV actually accomplished that, the initial results are certainly encouraging.
Incidentally, the weather forecast for next year is a solid B.