Platform: Xbox 360
Developer - EA Canada
Publisher – Electronic Arts
Number of Players: 1-2
HDTV: 720p, 1080i, 1080p
7.26 MB to Save Game
Xbox LIVE Vision Camera
Fight Night Round 3 (FNR3) for the Xbox 360 stands as my all-time favorite boxing game while Mike Tyson's Punch-Out comes in at a close second. So when I found out the makers of FNR3 were working on an arcade style boxer, which was drawing comparisons to Midway’s Dreamcast release Ready 2 Rumble, I was excited. In the months leading to FaceBreaker’s release there was a lot of hoopla, and as such I was quick to download the demo which arrived on the Xbox 360 only weeks before the release date. Unfortunately, the demo left me a little concerned and as I was not impressed with how it played. Nevertheless, I wanted to suspend judgement until I had a chance to really sink my teeth into the full version. Well after exchanging some blows and several knockouts with the Xbox 360 retail release I am left with the feeling FaceBreaker could have been much better. That being said, it is not that bad of a game as it does offer gamers some enjoyable moments.
Although FaceBreaker falls short in the overall execution the game does manage to excel in terms of the visuals. For starters the characters are all uniquely shaped and offer up lots of variety. There are not as many in-game fighters as I would have liked but being able to make a customizable boxer with the Xbox LIVE Vision camera makes up for this in someways. The fighters themselves are arguably the best selling feature of the game and they do really pop out on the screen as the detail that went into them is truly impressive. Their facial expressions and overall movements are solid. During your fights punches cause some serious damage and your fighter looks increasingly worse as the fight wears on. Granted many of the animations are pre-rendered meaning the damage appears to look the same from one fight to the next, however it looks good. That being said I found that it was somewhat hard to notice the damage as the pace of the fights is lighting fast, so you only get a good look during those slo-mo knockdown sequences. It is not nearly the blood curdling smash mouth effects you get in FNR3 but it does the job and suits the game.
The fighting venues and crowds included in the game look decent. Overall they suit the style however the game lacks a large selection of venues. You would think such an EA Sports game would offer a countless number of settings; however this is not the case, but what you get looks good though. I would have liked to have seen far more environments to fight in. The lighting and other in game visuals all look solid too.
FaceBreaker for the Xbox 360 runs very smooth and quite fast. I did not notice any slowdown or major framerate issues. I did notice that some of the punches did not connect, but the action is so quick you hardly notice. This is not a major issue but more of an irritating bug. Last but not least, the in-between round ring girls have to be mentioned. They are a nice touch but some more variety here would have been nice. The girls do look sexy but as with the venues and AI fighters I would preferred more.
As far as the sound is concerned FaceBreaker is a mixed bag. The game's sound effects are a great complement to the fantastic graphics. For starters the punches are very bang-on, and given the source material of the game they sound very over the top. For those of you who have a 5.1 Dolby Digital Sound System the punches will rock your home audio system especially when turned up. The other sounds in the game are far fetched but they are perfectly suited for the game’s action and add to the entertainment value of FaceBreaker.
The soundtrack found in this title is good, but we have seen better from EA Sports. Wolfmother and the Hives are nice additions, but for the most part I found the tunes pretty forgettable as they just didn’t leave that lasting impression as some of the tracks from FNR3 did. After several fights there is no doubt you will find the soundtrack repetitive which is a bit of a letdown.
The voice work is also a little disappointing. I found it simply annoying and quite cheesy. For many this style may work but I expected a little more in this area. There is also no in-game commentary and you don’t get advice from your manager in-between rounds. So on that note, I am disappointed with some of the games audio omissions.
Sadly, this area is where FaceBreaker suffers the most as it really is a button masher in disguise. In no time my hand started cramping like a ‘son of a gun’. There is no question I enjoyed knocking some fighters down but overall the game got old in a hurry. Simply put I had far too many frustrating moments than enjoyable ones. But before I get ahead of myself, let me dissect the good and the bad aspects of the gameplay.
For starters, there is not a great deal of game modes to play. There is your typical quick play mode which is very basic and self-explanatory. It is great for jumping into a game right away and is a feature included in nearly every single EA Sports title to date. There is also a tournament option where you can assemble some buddies and play in a ladder style tournament competition with each other. This is a great mode for those university or college students who live in a dorm and have their Xbox 360 in their room. There is also a career mode but it severely lacks in the depth department. Simply put, the career mode in FaceBreaker amounts to nothing more than squaring-off with the games fighters one by one through four different levels. Once you beat all the fighters you win the game. Your fighter does not progress through an in-depth ‘rags to riches’ story and you do not have to train for fights. It is just not what I expected at all. I recognize the developers wanted to stay true to that arcade experience however some kind of a levelling up or build-up to the fights would have been appreciated.
One of my biggest issues with the game is the controls. Unlike most boxing and fighter games, the control scheme in FaceBreaker is mind boggling due to having the block and punch on the same buttons. Let me explain by providing an example. Punching the opponent in the head is done with the ‘X’ button while punching low is with the ‘A’ button. To dodge high punches you hold down the ‘X’ button and to dodge low you hold down the ‘A’ button. There are also the parry buttons but I won’t even go there. It just makes for an unnatural experience and in no time flat you are left hammering away at the buttons in an effort to do anything. Once you see you are getting nowhere with one particular combo, you throw in some blocks and try a different set of buttons. Granted, part of the FaceBreaker experience is figuring out your opponent’s weaknesses, and the AI does adapt to your fighting style especially if you choose to beat his ass with one particular combo, but yet it gets old real fast and I just did not get that sense of satisfaction as I did with FNR3 when knocking out an opponent. That being said, I do try to remind myself that this is an arcade title, but yet even some arcade titles have been known to be deeper.
Another issue I had with the game is the AI difficulty. After getting my butt kicked all over the ring on the normal difficulty, I had to knock it down to the equivalent of the easy. Even in this difficulty I struggled. Some fighters are easier than others; however some will have you launching your controller in a fit of anger as you make repeated attempts to beat them, if you are lucky to beat them at all. Overall, it seems quite unbalanced and lacks the natural difficulty progression that boxing games should have.
One of the great aspects of the FaceBreaker is the use of the face-maker mode. Similar to Tiger Woods 09 create a golfer you begin by taking a picture of yourself using the Xbox LIVE Vision camera. You can also opt to choose a digital photo of yourself, or anyone else for that matter, and upload it to EA's website. Using the tool, you place points on your picture in specific spots for nose, eyes, chin, etc. The game then creates a 3D rendering of your image. I was amazed at how well it worked and you can tell a considerable amount of time was spent on this aspect of the game. After you get your face uploaded, you select a body and costume. Unfortunately, the body types and outfits are rather limited.
The online gameplay is enjoyable but I did experience an unrelenting amount of lag on the night I took the game online. Perhaps it was just that particular night, or maybe it was those ‘laggy’ EA servers at it again. Nevertheless, it was brutal. I also noticed a considerable amount of delay from when I hit a button to when the character performs the action on-screen. On a positive note, the Online Gallery is a cool feature as you can pump up your status and post your biggest beat downs with the video upload on EA Sports World. Also you can download a created boxer and/or their head to add to your collection.
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