Uunlike games like 'Dead or Alive' or 'Street Fighter', the lack of iconic charactersi in 'Fighter Within' really pulls the whole experience down. We don't have a firm grasp on the personality of the game and it hurts just about the entire experience in the long run.
When it comes to classic genres, nothing can defeat the 'beat 'em up' basher.
'Fighter Within' on the Xbox One is a motion based fighting game that makes special use of the Xbox Kinect in order to get its players engaged with the hectic combat. Developed by Daoka and published by Ubisoft on the Xbox One last year, 'Fighter Within' came to us with a host of promises on its back cover. When we loaded up the game everything looked good, too. Smooth graphics, nice textures, and an interesting controller scheme? We're in! It isn't often that fighters seek to change the status quot of their genre, so we were suitably excited to dive in. Keep on reading to see if you should start getting your virtual hand wraps ready.
A capable experience, that is dully realized.
Sporting full traditional martial arts wrapped up in a glittery and glamorous blanket, we were fully prepared to go fanboy on this title. It has been so long since we experienced a revolutionary fighter that we had begun to worry that there wasn't going to be one. Mixing in the next gen Xbox One Kinect controls alongside the XB1's impressive hardware should have been a slam dunk. But it just wasn't. We quickly found ourselves yearning for a reason to step away from the game.
If you had been one of the lucky guys or girls to miss out on 'Fighter Uncaged' back in 2010, then you won't know that is is a follow up title. 'Uncaged' was the original motion based fighter that we were told would change the baseline for motion fighting gameplay. It changed our opinion on the genre, that's for sure. 'Uncaged' was barely playable and we couldn't wait to frisbee the game disc into the ocean. So we had our reservations with 'Fighter Within' despite how good it looked on the cover.
When we put in the game the first thing that we realized was that the perspective of the action had changed. In 'Uncaged' we were forced into that awkward 3rd person, over the shoulder camera mode that just doesn't work well for clumsy fighting games. Instead 'Within' puts us in the more traditional side view that 'Street Fighter' and 'Mortal Kombat' made so popular. So before we even threw our first punch we were ecstatic to see that there were some improvements.
Before we dig into the controls and how the game handles we feel obligated to talk about how pretty the whole experience is. The different characters are all skinned gorgeously and they each look unique. From the classic ninja outfits of the Asian fighters to the business suit looking costumes of some of the other brawlers, everyone has something cool going on. Faces look detailed, animations are tight, and sweat and blood goes flying with every well aimed punch. The backgrounds are gorgeously realized, if a little bit forgettable, and the colors on screen poop. This is a good looking game that makes solid use out of the technology available for the Xbox One.
Alright, now that we've managed to say some nice things...
Controls in the game are pretty simple, even if they don't execute properly once you get going. If you want to send out a left handed punch then jab with your real life left hand. The same goes for your right, as well. Protect your characters face by pulling your fists in front of your own. Send out dangerous kicks by snapping your own feet. You also have a variety of 'special attacks' that you can initiate, called Ki moves, that are deployed by performing the right combination. On paper this is what we always wanted out of a video game. We wanted the immersion of sending out our own virtual attacks with the movement of our own limbs.
Is the Fighting effective in 'Fighter Within'?
As you fight you'll start to learn different ways to attack your opponent effectively. Devoid of the real life controller you cannot resort to simply button mashing. You have to think at least somewhat tactically as you throw out a flurry of hits toward your enemy, AI or otherwise. As you can guess from our descriptions you will need plenty of space in order to properly play this game. If you are playing local multiplayer than make sure not to actually start a fight in your living room either.
So what's the problem? The fact is that the fundamentals of a good motion based fighting game are there. We can swing and kick and block and the game usually recognizes what we are trying to do. That's a pretty big technical achievement in and of itself. The problem crops up, though, that the game simply isn't that interesting. There isn't any depth, no real campaign, and no real reason to keep pushing on. Sort of like the technical demo for 'Wii Boxing' that released with the console: sure it works, but why play it that much?
What game modes there are can be comprised of 'Initiation Mode', which is the story mode, as well as the multiplayer fighting. In the story mode you take on the role of 'Matt' in a fairly pedestrian campaign. The dialogue is poorly written, the story downright laughable, and the whole experience more superficial than we'd ever expect to see out of a larger audience release. The story essentially revolves around two rival gyms as they fight in a tournament to gain the 'ultimate powers'. It's pretty rough. But it's something.
For those of us that can get past the thin experience, you are likely to find a capable fighting game with little replay value. There are only so many times that we can match up and kick our buddies in the face before the shtick wears thin. Unlike games like 'Dead or Alive' or 'Street Fighter', the lack of iconic characters really pulls the whole experience down. We don't have a firm grasp on the personality of the game and it hurts just about the entire experience in the long run.
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