October 30, 2008
Are you looking for an awesome boxing game to enjoy for hours on end? A game that will sooth that itchy arcade boxer rash you've had since the last time you played Ready 2 Rumble on your Dreamcast? A brilliantly executed entertainment experience to keep you tapping those buttons until your thumbs are numb? If so, this isn't your game.
What EA have done here is taken an admittedly cool aesthetic, some pretty neat mechanics, and a relatively interesting interface and somehow managed to make it a total crapfest. This means, of course, that the aforementioned "good" qualities are really just illusions beneath a broken, poorly-executed mess.
Now, let's begin with what FaceBreaker does do right; namely, the graphics, which are obviously inspired by old-school arcade boxing games. The character models are fantastic and there's an option to create a character, at which point you can use a picture of your face and the game will automatically apply a decent cartoon version of it to your virtual clone. A somewhat disappointing thing to note, however, is that as you pound your opponents' faces they will receive the same pre-rendered bruises each time. It's very easy to overlook and it's really not a big issue, but when a game is based around mutilating your opponent's face, it'd have been nice to see a better job done here.
The majority of FaceBreaker's good qualities stop with the crisp, lively graphics. The control scheme is an absolute disaster, putting the punch and dodge moves on the same damn button. This goes for blocking and parrying too, which as you can assume, makes trying to control your character more of a press-and-pray event; however, this layout is still simplistic. For a high punch you press the X button, and to punch low you press the A button; to dodge you simply hold said buttons. The rock-paper-scissors mechanic that the developers assumed would be interesting just ruins this whole aspect of the game. You have about a 50% chance of actually dodging the attack when you hold down the button, which also builds up a hook that you can unleash as soon as your opponent tries to punch you. Dodging is pretty essential in the game, but it often devolves into what feels like an hour-long dodge-fest between you and your current opponent. To add insult to injury, the blocking is just as broken as well, considering you can only block light punches and you still take damage regardless. So, dodging is always the better bet.
So, if you can overlook such a broken control scheme, what else will you find to do in FaceBreaker? Well, you've got a quick play mode, tournament mode, and career mode. However, the career mode is hardly so, because it's basically like any basic arcade fighting game, where you face each opponent in a series of fights until you beat the game. There's no training or any type of franchise addition, so you're not going to find any real depth whatsoever.
The matches happen in three round fights with the goal being obvious; knock your opponent down all three times. So, you'll begin building up combos as you fill your meter which allows you let loose with "breakers", which is obviously where the game got its name from. When you use these breakers, prepare for a nice dose of carnage; bonebreakers, groundbreakers, skybreakers, and facebreakers give you the ability to lay into your opponent pretty heavily. Unfortunately, this is also a let-down due to the fact that if you get punched even once you lose all of your breaker meter. Which brings me to another point being that this game is brutally difficult. One moment you'll find yourself laying into your rival and doing well, then the next fight comes along and you'll be lucky to get a punch in before you're beaten to a pulp. This kind of broken difficulty makes it so that only masochists need apply.
Two things that are hardly worth mentioning are the multiplayer and the sound. The multiplayer is basically the same as the singleplayer, but obviously allows you to take on some buddies and considering just how bland the singleplayer is, you can expect that to carry on over. The second thing; the sound, is also pretty bare-bones and truth be told, there's not much to say about it except that there's very little commentary and the sound-effects work decently enough.
Lastly, I'll touch on the achievements the game has to offer. There's not very many achievements at all actually, but the ones offered all give you nice amounts of points each, so running through some of the easier ones wouldn't be a bad idea for some gamerscore boosting. Sure, they're kind of generic, but I've definitely seen worse, and at least FaceBreaker has a little variety and challenge (albeit a bit too much of a challenge) in its achievement list.
There's not much else to say about FaceBreaker unfortunately, because in reality it's a relatively simplistic game that would've been better off as an Xbox Live Arcade title. If you're looking for a little bit of quick fun and aren't expecting much depth, have an ache for masochistic difficulty, and want to plaster your face on a virtual boxer, you might enjoy FaceBreaker as a rental. Just don't go into your local game store and throw down any money on this "reduced price" game. You'll more than likely be disappointed.
The sound effects work fine, but there's really nothing to work with here.
Crisp visuals that suffer only because of the repetitive carnage display on you and your opponents.
A broken game with a broken control scheme. Do you really expect it to fare well?
Aside from the pretty graphics, this is basically just a game for masochists and people who don't mind a horrendous control scheme in a game so clearly trying to be something it's not.
A small and somewhat generic collection of achievements to tackle if you have the patience. Otherwise, it's really just not worth it. A few interesting achievements balance things out.
It's a broken game that aimed high and hit low. Had it been released on the Xbox Live Arcade for $10, I'd recommend grabbing it just for the initial enjoyment you'll get during the first 20 minutes of play. However, don't go spending your hard-earned cash on this bundle of junk. It's an arcade fighting game in a boxing aesthetic that just doesn't hit that sweet spot. Avoid.