|System: X360, PS3, 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: Sept. 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: TBA||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
May 7, 2008 - At the very end of summer 2008, EA's going to release an arcade-style, over-the-top boxing game that's full of interesting characters and bone-crunching combinations. FaceBreaker is being developed by EA Canada for all three of the current generation consoles. The team at EA Canada is comprised of the same key members of the now defunct EA Chicago that brought us Fight Night: Round 3. This time around the developers have left boxing simulation by the wayside in favor of an animated look and feel that's reminiscent of the Punch-Out! and Ready 2 Rumble series. Moreover, FaceBreaker promises a larger group of characters, HD polish, and a slew of online features to enhance the casual formula.
FaceBreaker was originally slated to be called Fight Night Big, but the working title was soon scrapped for one that was far more descriptive. The developers also wanted a title that would serve to distinguish the new game from the former series of simulation boxers.
One thing the development team didn't do away with is its expertise in incorporating real-time face deformation and quality collision animations. FaceBreaker pits goofy characters, drawn in a Team Fortress-like way, against each other in brutal battles. As such, throwing blistering combos will pack a serious wallop as your opponent's face will comically deform around the sting of your unforgiving glove. This feature was hyped up by the media in the months before the "next-gen" release of Fight Night: Round 3, but it never seemed to fully capture the imagination of fans of the series. The team at EA Canada feels that incorporating such comical jaw-crushing visuals into this arcade boxer will be far more appropriate and extremely satisfying.
Along those lines, combat in FaceBreaker will be stylized not simulated. Depending on which one of the many characters you choose, specific signature moves and fighting styles will be employed. In other words, players won't have to worry about fancy footwork or setting up the hook with the jab, rather they will engage in heated contests that place a premium on punishing and stylized punch combinations that often don't end even when the opponent has already hit the canvas. If you're expecting FaceBreaker to satisfy your tactical boxing sense, guess again! Combat will be much more whimsical and party oriented.
Because of this "unrealistic" approach, FaceBreaker has already caught its fair share of flak. Adoring fans of the Fight Night series applauded the simulation feel and hard-earned victories of the former fighting series and have, perhaps prematurely, turned their backs on the cartoon-like boxer. No one can deny the success and fun gamers have had with other titles in the arcade boxer genre and EA Canada is succeeding in improving upon the tired conventions of past games. For example, there will be loads of characters each with their own backgrounds and storylines. There is no confirmation on just how many characters will make the final cut, but it will probably be close to eighteen total. Furthermore, it is rumored that character customization, including fighting style, will be included and thus allow players to develop their own badass.
Some of the characters that have been fleshed out include Molotov, a Russian demolitions expert; Romeo, the Latin lover; Voodoo, the obese part-time pirate and witch doctor; Spin, the British DJ; Tokushu, the sweet little angel who knows how to use her fists; and Steve, the self-taught kung-fu boxer who still lives with his mom. This list of characters sounds pretty cliché, but the developers promise that players are bound to have a love 'em or hate 'em relationship with various members of the cast. In either case, they'll all be challenging and should polarize gamers into either wanting to select them or give them a serious beat down. In an interview posted with the art director, Greg Juby, he made it clear that the development team sought to make characters that gamers would find attractive, cool, and interesting. "When I invest in a game character, I want someone who makes me feel cooler, funnier, tougher, or prettier than I am ( which sets the bar pretty low for me.) So we came up with the Action Figure Litmus Test. We constantly asked ourselves, "Would this character make a cool action figure?" Hopefully, this will allay the fears of overly formulaic character designs many forum posters have had.
Unquestionably, the visuals are going to be phenomenally crisp. The HD polish should go a long way to winning over fans, and the character animation style is very interesting indeed. Finally, the online component should breed a community of quality human fighters that will raise the challenge bar far beyond that of Bald Bull or Afro Thunder ever could. Hopefully, gamers will be willing to leave memories of the Fight Night series behind and accept FaceBreaker for what it is. EA Canada seems to be lavishing a good deal of attention upon the title and is very excited about the outrageous gameplay. I for one have been craving a goofy boxer to share with friends, but I also wouldn't mind seeing FNR4 in the near future. We'll be sure to bring you developments as they come to us via press releases, hands-on time, and the full review that will precede the September release assuming there are no delays.
CCC Lead Contributor / News Director