Why Do We Keep Fighting
Fighter Within is the newest motion-controlled fighting game for the Kinect… seriously? Are we doing this again? Haven’t Fighters Uncaged , DBZ Kinect , The Fight: Lights Out , and Wii Boxing all taught us that motion-controlled fighting games are just bound to be awful? Aren’t we all sick of the hand flailing and shin kicking? Do we really want to walk down this road again and go over the same reasons why the same motion-control flaws exist in the same poorly misguided attempt to make fighting-game fans get off their couches and get active?
You’re still reading this, so I guess the answer is “yes.”
OK, so Fighter Within is basically Ubisoft’s attempt to make a Kinect fighting game that works, and it all looks good on paper. Characters can use a variety of punches and kicks to mount their offence. Punches and kicks have varying strengths, speeds, and ranges, and you have to play an intricate footsie game in order to get inside your opponent’s defenses. Characters can also move, dodge, throw, create combos, and even use powerful Ki attacks. It sounds like it’s just a motion-controlled version of Street Fighter , right?
We wish! Fighter Within , for all of its great ideas, runs headfirst into the same problems that just about every other motion-controlled game on the market has. First of all, the motion controls are just way too unresponsive. Now, I’m a big guy, and at 6’ 4”, most Kinect games are unresponsive to me, but I decided to make sure. I invited all my friends of varying heights and builds over to try this game, and it worked for absolutely none of them. It’s unclear whether or not the problem lies in the Kinect or the software, but regardless, the poor motion controls absolutely ruin this game.
As you can expect, the game basically relies on real life punching and kicking in order to determine what moves you are throwing. Throw a punch straight out and you will jab your opponent. Punch low and you will deliver a body blow. Punch across your body and you will perform a hook (or at least that’s what the game says will happen). In reality, punching straight causes you to jab, punching across causes you to jab, punching low causes you to jab, trying to grab your opponent even causes you to jab! Heck, if you do anything with your arms, the game thinks you are trying to jab!
This isn’t the worst thing in the world, as jabs are incredibly overpowered. It’s so easy to just rush at your opponent and flail your hands like a madman in order to put them in a simple hit-stun lock. Hit your opponent enough times and you’ll trigger a combo with a cool finishing move, and you can just keep doing this until you win just about every fight in the game.
Except, you aren’t actually performing any motion to make this finishing move happen. Granted, these moves consist of flips and other acrobatic moves that you probably can’t perform (let alone pull off in your living room), but it would have been nice if you did, I don’t know, something to aid in executing them. As it stands, the general pace of the game tends to go like this: flail wildly–take a break during cutscenes–repeat.
This makes the single-player mode pretty boring, as every single opponent can be spammed to death. If jabs don’t work, then a couple Ki special moves will, each one practically unblockable, and they drain a sizable chunk of your opponent’s life. There’s no real challenge here, and even if there was, it wouldn’t amount to anything, as you can’t control your character well enough to feel like you are actively choosing the correct moves for the right situations.
The horrendous story doesn’t help matters. You play as Matt. Just Matt—a martial artist who has to join a dojo and get a magic book and blah, blah, blah, fight a whole bunch of stereotypes, blah, blah. Who can forget the epic fights against big black brawler with dreadlocks, cookie-cutter ninja warrior, and all of the many scantily clad women, who, for some reason, feel the need to fight in thongs?
The game’s story is told through still images, and I have no idea why Ubisoft made this decision. The one thing Fighter Within has going for it is its graphics. Character models look really sharp, and attacks feel like they have real impact. Throws and holds and special moves all cause you to interact with the opponent in a believable way, which is impressive, since every other motion-controlled fighting game tends to look like two burly men are trying to gently caress each other with their fists. Stages are also very cool, with tons of detail going into the backgrounds. Whether you are getting lost in the fire ring that marks the boundary of your brawl or just watching the sun reflect off wet temple rocks, Fighter Within does a great job with the Xbox One’s graphics capabilities.
Yet Ubisoft basically kicks all these neat graphical advancements to the curb in story mode. They literally have one of the coolest-looking fighters on the market, and the whole story is told through still images on fuzzy backgrounds that actually obscure the cool graphics that the game has to offer! Not only that, but the poses that the characters take in these still images are either corny and overdone or just plain weird. It feels like you were punted straight into the uncanny valley without a parachute, and the horrendous voice acting doesn’t help.
Of course, we all know that story mode is just an afterthought in fighting games. It all comes down to the versus play–except no one wants to play this game. The control issues, once again, cause people to lose interest after a few matches. When you don’t feel like you are actively taking action to win a match, you just can’t be invested in the match’s outcome.
The fact that most characters have the exact same move-list also doesn’t help. It makes sense from a control perspective, but it makes character choice moot. You aren’t playing the matchup. You are just trying to flail harder than the other guy, and that’s not compelling at all.
Speaking of flailing, if you want to play this in versus mode, make sure you have a lot of space because the game actually requires you to punch and kick and flail. It’s very easy to accidentally hit your friend in a versus match. Getting a wicked bruise on your arm or a sprained ankle all because you tried to play this game with friends just adds insult to injury.
There just isn’t anything fun about Fighter Within . The story is bad, the controls are bad, the characters are uninteresting, and if you aren’t using a controller, it’s nearly impossible to even navigate the Kinect-controlled menus. Ubisoft has done so much better with so many other franchises, but Fighter Within is flawed right down to its very concept. Motion-control fighting games simply don’t work, period. I’m a big fan of fighters, and while it was obvious that Fighter Within was never going to be the next big, hardcore title on the EVO tournament floor, I wouldn’t even suggest it to casual fans. Go play Smash Brothers or something– anything is better than this flail fest. The only thing you will get out of Fighter Within is a pair of sore arms and a bunch of disappointment.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
The Fighter Within has some of the best graphics on the Xbox One platform so far, even better than Killer Instinct . 1.0 Control
Nothing in this game works aside from rapid arm flailing. 2.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The Voice actors are abysmal, but the story doesn’t give them much to work with. 1.0 Play Value
You will get bored with this game incredibly quickly. Good luck trying to find people who will play this with you. 1.5 Overall Rating – Avoid
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best