Fighter Within Review
Fighter Within Box Art
System: Xbox One
Dev: Ubisoft
Pub: Ubisoft
Release: November 22, 2013
Players: 1-2
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Blood, Mild Language, Violence
Why Do We Keep Fighting
by Angelo M. D’Argenio

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.

Fighter Within Screenshot

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.

Fighter Within Screenshot

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.

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