Gamescom 2013: Fighter Within Fists-On Preview - Kicking and Screaming
Written Saturday, September 07, 2013 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
This is ostensibly a preview of Fighter Within, the semi-sequel to the much maligned Fighters Uncaged, but what it also turned out to be was a bit of a question mark regarding the abilities and capabilities of the new Kinect 2.0 itself. Certainly when you are forcing gamers to own a bit of kit, regardless of what it can or can’t do to compliment gaming, then you would hope that said piece of kit is at least capable of working properly in the long run. Alas it doesn’t seem like that is the case, but before we get to that, on with the game itself.
The team behind the new fighter, Daoka, were at pains to demonstrate that its latest game would use the full power of Kinect. “It’s what we wanted to do with the first game and what Kinect first promised a long time ago,” Luc Verdier, the game's Executive Producer, told us, “It’s closer to 1:1 recognition fighting that takes full advantage of the Kinect 2.0.” Certainly that would be a major step in the right direction as the problem with most fighting games - scratch that - most games of any type on the Kinect, was the fact that all too often the camera would misinterpret what you were trying to do.
The improved technology and power of the new Kinect is certainly making the dev's job a lot easier, both in terms of its tracking capabilities and the features they can provide. “You can play in a smaller area and the Kinect picks up movements in a wider angle,” Verdier explained, as his colleagues gave a brief demo, “Plus, you can have two people play much easier than you could with the original Kinect.” So yet again there will be more chance for you to drag unwilling friends and family into the arena.
Fighter Within certainly looks the part, with a nicely animated array of brawlers and well-crafted arenas that have destructible elements and objects of opportunity that allow you dish out some extra damage. As with all fighting games though the key is in the fluidity of the controls, and it’s a really a make it or break it scenario. “You’ll be able to use jabs at different heights, hooks, defensive guards high and low, you can throw your opponent and you can do combos. These are the rock, paper, scissors of any going fighting game, like Street Fighter and so on,” Verdier added. And citing Street Fighter is a bold example to use. You can also charge up Ki energy by posing like a Dragonball Z reject, and then use that energy to unleash special moves or swap places with your opponent and throw them off balance. Of course your opponent could step in and smash you in face while you were attempting such a move, but such is the risk of badassery.
So time to step up and play, so we can actually see whether these lofty claims have borne fruit. At least it would have been if the Kinect hadn’t shut itself off, and it seems like this has been a common occurrence throughout Gamescom, at least according to studio director Guy. “We’ve lost Kinect again,” Luc says with a chuckle, as he bustles over to reset it.
With Microsoft only a few months away from a major console launch the last thing they need are potential hiccups, especially among one of the most maligned hardware decisions they’ve made so far. “The Xbox One is still not final and there are still some issues of course,” Guy tells me, as we wait for the console to fire itself back up, “This problem is a Microsoft problem, not one with the game. We keep telling them.” The game boots up yet again, but barely loads the fighters up before Kinect, once again, decides enough is enough. If such an early title can cause it to spectacularly overheat, after only a few hours use too, then it seems that Microsoft may have its work cut out to deliver a top notch product. Could the red ring of death have spread to their vaunted camera too?
Third time is, mercifully, the charm. So we take our place on the floor and proceed to try and thrash our opponent. When the game works, it works very well indeed, and punches and kicks are picked up with far more regularity than on the original Kinect. Chaining together combos is easy enough and you can use weapons scattered around the area, or swing from poles to deliver a massive kick, all by following easy on-screen instructions. There is a certain satisfaction to be had when you bust out one of the special moves, hit your opponent with a finishing move or crack them over the head with a giant pole (that’s not a euphemism). If players play the game as it was meant to be played then this could prove to be a major step up from last-gen titles on Kinect.
The problem, as with most Kinect games, is that combat can soon devolve into both players rapidly flailing at the screen until someone keels over. The developers proved you can play tactically, with clever use of blocks, throws and strikes, but it remains to be seen whether most regular players will ever evolve beyond the random throwing of punches and kicks. It’s also disappointing to see that some tracking issues and latency still persists, as often moves would fail to register or your on-screen persona would carry out a command that you were sure you’d never attempted. The game also struggles to be a fluid fighting experience, as certain moves would culminate in the game resetting (for want of a better word) both players so they were once again stood toe to toe. No chance for kicking your opponent while they are down it seems.
As an example of the future of Kinect and the Xbox One this was decidedly more miss than hit. The hardware problems alone are a major concern, and the technical limitations in terms of move recognition still persist. On the plus side Fighter Within looks great and can be fun once you let yourself go, not to mention that two players can stand effectively side by side and still be tracked fairly effectively which is more than the old tech would ever allow. For every step forward though it seems like some of the same old Kinect problems are still with us, and this is still not quite the motion-controlled vision that we were promised a few years ago, despite the seeming advancements. You can also only hope that the hardware is fighting fit as well, and woe betide Microsoft if it isn’t, once Fighter Within lands in November this year.