Hands-On With Arbiter And The Other New Characters Of Killer Instinct Season 3

by Brian Shea on Mar 01, 2016 at 02:06 AM

Following two successful seasons of releases that put the once-lapsed series back on the map, Killer Instinct is ready to move on to a third season. With each new season, Iron Galaxy, the team that took over from Double Helix, has introduced new characters. I recently picked up a controller and played with the four announced additions to the ever-expanding Killer instinct roster to see what players can expect.

The characters are all powerful and bring something great to the table through unique movesets and nostalgic callbacks in the cases of the crossover characters. Read on to see my impressions of each of the four characters I got my hands on.


Making the leap to from the Halo universe to the Killer Instinct universe, Arbiter brings an elite set of familiar moves to combat the other fighters on the roster of Killer Instinct. The most noticeable component of Arbiter's arsenal is his energy sword from Halo. Using this, he has some attacks with extreme reach. He puts that range to good use with his special moves. Using the classic fireball motion (quarter-circle toward + punch), he does the rising lunge slash from Halo, while the reverse fireball motion does a powerful overhead slash. Arbiter also has a strong ranged throw. Arbiter can also don an overshield, which gives him extra health and prevents projectiles from stunning him.

Perhaps most interesting about Arbiter are how his regular attacks are laid out. His punches revolve around the energy sword, but his kicks are nothing to scoff at. Though they aren't as far reaching, Arbiter's kicks pack some punch to them. Also, Iron Galaxy has not only brought some of his signature moves from the Halo series, but also the buttons used to deploy them. Using the left bumper to toss plasma grenades at opponents and the right trigger to fire off rounds from his Covenant Carbine are nice touches that show the appreciation that Iron Galaxy has for the Halo franchise. Since they are both effective projectiles that can be used with a press of a single button, Iron Galaxy has limited the ammo that players get per match. The plasma grenades eventually regenerate following depletion, but once you're out of ammo for the carbine, the right trigger is stuck with being a melee attack with the carbine for the rest of the match.

Arbiter feels incredibly formidable. His reach and his moveset are both extremely attractive, and his overshield gives him a great bonus. He's a little more cumbersome than characters like Kim Wu, but his quick-draw carbine and his special attacks give him deceptive speed at crucial times. 

Kim Wu

Kim Wu is a character that wears her attitude on her sleeve, which is evident by her opening comments, "I've got a friggin' dragon! You can see how this ends, right?" Even without the dragon, Kim is a tough opponent. Her nunchucks are quick and great at kicking off long combos. Kim also has a strong arsenal of thrusting special kicks at different angles. Whether you're looking to defend anti-air or just catch an opponent off guard, her special kicks are a great way to create some space.

Kim's dragons appear in Instinct mode and give her all kinds of new abilities. Heavy punch gives her the ability to use a projectile like a fireball, and the dragons can also help her with canceling and combos.

With dragons that grant new abilities, kicks that hark on specials from Mortal Kombat's Liu Kang and Street Fighter's Cammy, and speed to spare, Kim Wu is fun character to play as. I didn't quite grasp all of her abilities in my time playing as her, but I felt that she had the most upside out of any of the four characters I checked out.

On the next page, I go hands-on with Battletoads' Rash and the newest character in Killer Instinct, Tusk.


Players had the opportunity to play as Rash in Killer Instinct for a brief period, as he appeared as a beta character during Season 2. Rash has returned as a full-time character in Season 3, and has a strong mix of his beta moves, with a few new additions. His combos feel taken straight from the Battletoads games, as his blows enter the same progression as they did in the classic titles. Rash also uses his long tongue to swing all over the stage, which can be very annoying for opponents to keep track of. 

Rash's specials also call back to the NES days, as he can turn into a wrecking ball and morph parts of his body into deadly objects. Adding to more frustration of fighting him, Rash is able to call his hoverbike to come out and run over opponents without any notice. Playing against Rash, I had to constantly be on my guard as he is fast, agile, and unpredictable.

The Battletoad also has a hilariously long taunt where he thrusts his hips in the air for a humorously long time and ends with a "ta-da!" pose. I doubt you'll ever get to see that taunt through to the end in a real match, but it still made me laugh.


When I first mention Tusk to Iron Galaxy's Adam Heart, the first word he uses to describe this gargantuan viking is "bully." "What you're going to enjoy with this character is making the opponent feel like everything they've done is a mistake. If you like making people feel bad about themselves, this character is for you," he tells me. I immediately see what he means, as Tusk's punch attacks aren't cancellable into specials. Instead, Tusk's standing and crouching medium and heavy punches deflect incoming attacks and cause staggers. When Tusk throws any of those four attacks, he flashes white. During that time, his giant sword will deflect attacks coming his way and deal extra damage to his opponent. The timing has to be just right and takes some getting used to, but it's an amazing tactic to launch straight into a massive combo.

Since Tusk is built around frustrating opponents, Iron Galaxy has also given him the ability to sneak in for grabs using quarter-circle toward + light kick. This is not only an effective way to get close for a grab, but it also lets projectiles pass through him. This attack can launch into unique combos, as doing this rush move into a kick results in a slide, while doing it into a heavy punch sends Tusk into an overhead slash. Tusk's regular standing heavy punch is also a very strong anti-air attack, as it clips enemies attempting to jump over the sword slash, while his crouching heavy punch sends his opponent flying almost like a Mortal Kombat uppercut. Tusk also has the single hardest hitting move in the entire game in his forward + medium punch attack from a distance.

Tusk is a fun character to play as, but I really didn't like playing against him. Based on what Heart told me, that is somewhat by design. Getting cornered by a Tusk player is no fun, thanks to you having no ability to punch your way out of it thanks to Tusk's powerful deflection frames in the beginning of his medium and heavy punches.


Killer Instinct is set to hit Xbox One and Windows 10 PC on March 29.