Developer – Think and Feel Inc.
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment of America
Memory Stick Duo – 768 KB
Wi-Fi Compatible (Ad Hoc Only)
I have only been a fighting fan since the days of the Sega's Dreamcast and Soul Calibur opened my eyes to gorgeous graphics and great gameplay. We are now in an era when handhelds have more processing power then one could have imagined, and the leader of the processing pack, the PSP, finally gets a fighting game that could show what the machine can do. The game is called The Con and after some extended gameplay I have to say that it is a good effort with innovative ideas and gameplay, but it just doesn’t hit the mark this first time around.
I had big hopes for this 3D fighter on the PSP, but it is evident that it doesn’t push the hardware. The colors are not as bright as I would expect on the Widescreen of the PSP and it actually has kind of a blah look to it as it didn’t seem to jump off the screen. The characters are quite large, something that communicates that this is a brawler. On screen they animate pretty well and generally look good, but they just don’t have the oomph that one would expect on the PSP. The various enemies that you will come across seem very generic as well and nothing really stands out about them. The environments themselves are ok, and there are a few cool ones, but overall it isn’t as impressive as I had hoped, especially given the fact that there is really no interaction within the levels. Maybe it was that the developers spent all their time on making the fighting system itself that they didn’t put as much effort as they could have into the levels or just didn’t have the time. Overall I would say the visuals are of average fair and I would warn those who read this review to keep any expectations realistic, that way you won’t be disappointed.
As I sit in front of my laptop writing this review I can’t help but think of the following descriptors for the sound in this game, they are: Simple, Generic, Par, Average...I think you get my point. All the sound effects seem to be taken from a general library of code for sound. The hits, kicks, smacks and all else associated with this fighting game sound ok, but as seems to be the way lately they don’t take advantage of either the storage medium of the PSP or the hardware inside. The music is basically a ‘funk’ type and it will be hit or miss if you really do like it or not. I didn’t have any issues with it, but as I played I knew that some may just hate it. Oh well, I guess with a game that has average graphics maybe it is expected to have average sound, and that is the case here for The Con.
Right off the hop gamers must be forewarned that this is not your typical 3D side scrawling brawler. So for those who are expecting the game to play similar to Tekken, or any similar fighting game, you should look elsewhere. This game is basically an all out brawler which hinges more on a boxing game then a traditional fighter. This is evident from the behind-the-back view that one takes as they fight. There is no doubt that most will get reminiscent of the classic game Punch-Out. The view is original but does have some problems. During the many fights you will face during the game your player does become transparent when the camera dictates the angle of the fight is blocking your view, but it still can be hard to gauge the distances of your opponents and the punches/kicks that you must counter. It make the game more of a guess in terms of when to act or not.
As this game seems to get away from your typical fighter, the controls have been designed in an original fashion allowing for control of where you place and direct your attacks. There is left and right attack buttons and these buttons, which are assigned the four face buttons, will land specific types of attacks depending on which of the five fighting styles your fighter utilizes (Street Boxing, Jeet Kune Do, Wrestling, Tae Kwon Do or Kickboxing). To further the fighting you can also link up combos and use special moves. You also have control over your body during your battles. This is handled using either the analog nub or d-pad. Here you are able to dodge and sway left or right, which adds to some slight strategy to the game, as these moves are used to avoid attacks and then counter your opponent’s moves. I found that this control concept was quite good; however the actual execution was not up to snuff as it was not as responsive as I thought it should have been. It seemed as though there was a bit of ‘lag’ between hitting the buttons and the move actually occurring on the screen. I can’t explain why this was the case, but whatever the reason it did seem to affect the overall gameplay as it did seem to knock the timing of moves off.
The developers have added a feature to this game that is reflected in the title The Con. During gameplay there is button assigned to allow you to ‘con’ the crowd during a fight. Here you basically fake attacks or act like you are taking a beating from your opponent. If you put up a good act without the crowd catching on you can make a lot of money betting on your opponent. This is just fun and seems like its own game within the game as you try to put on a good show during the fight. I found myself attempting to put on a better ‘con’ from the previous one that I had just done.
For those looking for some individuality, there is a pretty good character creation mode, allowing you to choose from characteristics such as sex, size to fighting types of your character. During the game you can train or rest your fighter for time period leading up to your scheduled fight as well. Also of interest is that you can dress up your fighter with specific power up items (e.g. necklace charm providing more health). I should note however that these items may not be as desirable in terms of looks for your fighter but you may want to overlook this as many of these items are necessary as they do help you make a better fighter.
Multiplayer is included in The Con. This is only done through the ad-hoc mode (PSP to PSP). I wish I could comment on this in detail but no one else on our crew has a copy of this game, so I am left to tell you that it is there. The developers have included a game sharing mode. Here the ability to load data from one PSP to another is allowed. Players are limited to who they can fight and the style that the fighter has. If you do not have a friend with this game you can play against each other in a limited mode. I tried this a couple of times is it provided a taste of what multiplayer could be like.
The Con had a lot of prospects, but it seems that the developers just couldn’t wrap it all up in one clean and tight package. The average graphics and sound, and the slow responsiveness of the control, manage to bring this game down a few notches in score. I have no doubt that die hard fighting fans will enjoy this game, but not immensely, and anyone else may want to give this a rent. Sony has the potential for something good here though and an improved sequel may just be what the good doctor ordered.