|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Canada||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 13, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
This issue greatly affects the multiplayer modes, which tend to devolve into flailing matches. It's fun for a few minutes at a party (we suspect they chose the game's subtitle carefully), but it's hard to learn the game on any deeper level. There are three multiplayer modes: "Punch-O-Matic," a collection of weird mini-games that include matches with bent rules (only a certain kind of attack will work, or the game will speed up and slow down) and some bizarre contests (such as shooting a bird with the Wii-mote pointer); "T.K.O.," a team knock-out tournament; and "Arcade," a one-off battle. Punch-O-Matic and T.K.O. work with two to four players, but two is the max for Arcade.
Fatal problem number two is the A.I. in the single-player modes, which comprise Arcade and "Brawl for it All," a season mode of sorts where you try to win belts. Arcade has four difficulty levels (practice, easy, medium, hard), Brawl for it All has two (lightweight, heavyweight). With the exception of the practice and easy levels of Arcade (in the former you're just punching a dummy), it's just really, really difficult to win. You have to find enemies' weaknesses by trying to note how much damage each of your attacks does, while they pummel you mercilessly at 100 miles an hour. Even knowing the weaknesses, it's hard to land a blow at all half the time. Players would be able to content themselves with Arcade's easy mode, but that one's too easy, with the opponents pretty much waiting around for you to hit them.
It's a testament to the bad position in which the Wii finds itself with third-party titles that we're almost tempted to forgive these sins. EA, to its credit, put a whole lot of effort into this game, making so many adjustments from the Xbox and PlayStation versions that it felt compelled to change the name (the other incarnations are just called FaceBreaker). In fact, the other versions' reviewers have complained about many of the issues that bothered us in the Wii title, so they're flaws in the game itself, not the fault of a lazy porting process. Aside from the boxing game in Wii Sports, this is certainly among the best motion-controlled fighters the Wii has to offer. So kudos to EA for not leaving Wii owners out to dry.
We can almost forgive it all, but not quite. For someone who absolutely must have a new fighting game at his next Wii get-together with friends, sure, FaceBreaker K.O. Party is the way to go, and it's only 40 bucks. But for anyone looking to fight a friend for hours at a time (on one console, of course; the Wii version did lose online capabilities), or to enjoy a robust and reasonably challenging single-player mode, this just isn't comparable to something from, say, the Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, or Soul Calibur franchises. If you want to punch with your Wii-mote and love it, you'll have to stick with Wii Sports for at least a little while longer.
CCC Freelance Writer