Fighter Within Review
Written : Friday, November 29, 2013
By: Dan Webb
I love cheesy 80s fighting movies, I do. I grew up with the likes of Karate Kid, Kickboxer and Big Trouble in Little China. Movies full of crazy fighting moves and chock full of terrible – but awesome – fighting one-liners. Mere moments into the ‘Initiation’ mode in Fighters Within, I felt that same kind of vibe I had once embraced. When one of the fighters told my pugilist, “You come, you see, you conquer, this makes you a conqueror,” I knew that the nostalgic feeling that had originally washed over me was nothing but a ruse.
Unluckily, I had the pleasure of reviewing the infamous Fighters Uncaged back when Kinect launched in 2010, and when the third-party review stack rolled in this week, eyes turned to me. Eyes full of expectancy. Eyes full of pity. It would be me who took on the sequel. Luckily, it’s not as bad as the original and does have some redeeming qualities. Yes, it actually works... somewhat, but that’s about it.
"Are you sure this is good for my neck, doctor?"
In case you hadn’t gotten the gist, Fighters Within is the follow-up to the 2010 abomination that is Fighters Uncaged – a Kinect controlled-fighter that barely worked. Actually, it was the worst game I’ve ever played. Ever. And I’ve played a lot of games. A lot. Probably 1,000 or so, at least. Anyway, I digress. Fighters Within, yes, it’s better, much better than Fighters Uncaged.
Fighter Within shifts perspectives slightly, taking a more side-on view akin to Street Fighter, rather than the slightly awkward over the shoulder perspective adopted in Uncaged. From a control perspective, it’s rather simple, but it works. You jab with the left, your on-screen combatant jabs; you block your face, your player blocks their face; you kick, they kick. The fact developer AMA has got those fundamentals right is a win already, something the studio didn’t do with the original. For the most part, the inputs actually work as well. It’s not perfect, and a few moves like the finishing move are difficult to execute, but for the most part it works.
The problem is the game’s depth. There is none. Don’t get me wrong; there is a game there, and you can’t just flail like an idiot as you’ll soon come unstuck. You have to time hits and moves, and work out how to best your opponent. With only a series of punches and kicks, one throw, a handful of special attacks – called Ki moves – some environmental attacks, some blocks and some counters, there’s literally no depth to it, so it doesn’t take long to master. It’s like a fighting game in the vein of Killer Instinct only having four inputs.
There isn’t much to the game's content either. There’s an ‘Initiation Mode,’ which is a story mode for one of the game’s pedestrian characters, Matt, with a plot so unbelievable that you’d expect it to be an amusing parody. It’s not. If it is, they disguise it with the most po-faced, stupid dialogue in the history of video games. Let it be known, it’s possibly the worst script ever, that if it's intention was to be terribly bad or cheesy, it could have been amusing, but it takes itself way too seriously. In case you were wondering, the “plot” involves two rival gyms – the Phoenix and the Dragons – who fight in a tournament in order to get a book of “ultimate power.” Then there’s some double crossing and something about Genghis Khan and a book of evil moves. It’s all a load of codswallop, if you ask me. Maybe that’s the point. Whatever the point is, it’s hilariously bad and extremely cringeworthy.
Other than that insipid tripe, there’s an arcade mode, a duel mode – i.e. versus the CPU – and local multiplayer. No online, unfortunately, which means there’s nothing to give the title any longevity. Sure, you could say there’s local multiplayer for that, but if you’re like me, I respect my friends too much to put them through the palaver that is Fighters Within. There’s only 12 characters too, who control no different from one another, so it’s not like there’s much to master either.
The worst thing about the game though, by far, is the menu navigation. Not so much the main menu as you can use a controller, but the in-between fight menus. Those, my friends, are the game’s boss battles. Just selecting that ‘continue’ button with the new Kinect’s push-to-select option is as painful as sliding down a razor blade and landing in a tub of TCP – for the non-UKers out there, that’s an antiseptic solution, so ouch. Seriously, I’ve have had less painful colonoscopies. Coming a close second to that is the inordinate load screens. If you’d have told me a month ago that next-gen would have such long load times I’d have punched you in the throat.
Saucy upskirt action. Phwoar.
As for achievements, well, it’s a mixed bunch. For one, there’s 99. For two, some are really easy. For three, others will take an absolute age. 300 local multiplayer fights? No thanks, I’d have no friends left after that one. Win 300 fights in Solo mode by KO, and then 300 by Ring Out? Well, if I complete the arcade mode for every character (13 achievements there – 1 each, and 1 for all) and the Initiation mode, that’s only 115 fights. Times that by 2 for the 2 rounds per fight and that’s 230. Whatever happens in those fights, you’re only 370 fights short of those figures for the achievements. Prepare to replay and replay then. Ugh. There’s a load of boring by-the-numbers achievements for moves too. It’s all a bit shit really, and there’s not much else to be said about it.
The dev team learned a lot of things from its original Fighter game, it seems. They a.) learned how to make a game; b.) learned how to make a game that worked with Kinect, so I guess they should be commended for that. The truth is that it might be a game now, and work for the most part, but its distinct lack of depth and any real value is now what holds back Ubisoft's Fighter franchise. I had a bit of fun – eventually – for an hour or two, but that’s about as much as you’ll possibly get out of Fighter Within.
Horribly delivered dialogue and music that is… well, it’s just there.
It looks alright, I guess. The only good thing is the slow mo hits, but they happen once in a blue moon.
It works. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s about as deep as an episode of Two & A Half Men.
You’ll get two hour’s worth of content out of it if you’re lucky. One “story” mode, one arcade mode and some local multiplayer. You’d be better off fighting school kids in the street, not that we’d condone such behaviour.
Microsoft’s lax achievement policy now means that devs can really exploit the system and create really lame-ass lists that consist of 99 achievements. No creativity, no depth, tons of grind… a lot like the game actually.
Better than Fighters Uncaged, but that wasn’t too hard. Fighter Within works, and that’s the only positive thing to say about it. For £50, you’re best off paying for a session of S&M with your local masochist. It’d last longer.
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