The King Of Fighters XV is the newest entry in SNKs long running fighting game franchise. It is the sequel to KoF XIV which released back in 2016. It released 17th February 2022 for PC, Xbox and PS4/5. With an all star roster and fancy new rollback netcode, KOF XV hopes to get the series back to the top of the fighting mountain.
The games story mode takes the classic arcade mode approach to the gameplay, you choose a team, fight a few AI battles until you reach the tournament finals then fight a boss to get the ending for the team you chose. Unfortunately, outside of the ending, the game doesn’t offer much variety between teams so playing through each team one by one can feel like a chore sometimes.
The endings themselves are great, ranging from setting up future story events to comic relief scenes. I personally would have preferred a more cinematic approach to the games story mode rather than it sticking to the basics. Despite this, I think the endings for each team are worth getting if you’re a fan of KoFs story and characters.
One of the main complaints with KoFXIV was that the visuals felt dated. Thankfully, the jump to Unreal Engine 4 gave the visuals a huge overhaul. The character models look fantastic and the games colorful artstyle really makes characters and moves pop on screen. I’ve always loved how the stages look in SNK fighters and this is no exception, the stages look great in the new engine but don’t distract you from the action, giving a nice balance. Each characters special moves look great and animations are smooth.
The games soundtrack is excellent with a huge number of tracks with unlockable albums from other games in the series. The soundtracks are very upbeat and fit the visual style of the game very well and really adds to the game. Overall, the developers took the lukewarm reception to the visuals of XIV and massively improved them and the game feels a lot more in line with other recent releases in the genre in terms of its presentation.
KoF XV plays out as a 3v3 team fighter. The games roster is huge with 39 different characters at launch with an additional 12 planned as DLC over the rest of the year. This gives the game a lot of team combinations and you’re bound to find some characters you’ll like. The characters all feel fairly balanced, without any characters that are overly powerful which means you can play characters you enjoy without having any disadvantage against players picking the best characters. The gameplay itself feels like it’s the most accessible the series has ever been and is much easier to pick up than other games in the franchise. This doesn’t mean the game has no depth thankfully, the game still has complex mechanics like max mode and quick mode and high execution combos while having more accessible features like the ability to do auto combos by pressing the same button multiple times.
The game has a great tutorial to help you figure out how to use these more complicated mechanics which really helps newer players to the franchise get their bearings with the game. The game has several online modes with Ranked Match, Casual Match, Room Match and Online Training with Online Training being a mode I haven’t seen in a fighter in years. The inclusion of rollback netcode makes the online experience feel great and relatively lag free. All of this goes together to make the game a joy to play.
Overall, The King of Fighters XV really takes the previous games criticisms on board to deliver a fantastic fighting game with a great online experience and much improved visuals. However, a lacklustre story mode and single player modes as a whole means that the game can feel more geared towards the online competitive audience of fighting games rather than casual fans at times. Having said that, the KoF series has made a great comeback and can hang with the other huge games dominating the genre.
A great fighting game that’s easy to pick up yet has a huge amount of depth with a great soundtrack and vibrant visuals but is slightly let down by a lacklustre story mode.