Facebreaker KO PartyESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Number of Players: 1-2
Wii Remote and Nunchuk Compatible
Fight Night Round 3 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 Fight Night were working on an arcade style boxer, which was drawing comparisons to Midway’s Ready 2 Rumble for the long departed Dreamcast, I was excited. Having recently played and reviewed FaceBreaker for the Xbox 360, I was left a little underwhelmed. It had great promise, but the execution ultimately disappointed. A couple of months later, along comes FaceBreaker KO Party for the Wii. After exchanging some blows and several knockouts with KO Party I am relieved as some of the issues plaguing the Xbox 360 version of the game have been addressed. Nevertheless, I can't help but think this one could have been a tad better.
(***Pics courtesy of Electronic Arts website***)
KO Party truly does 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 makes up for this in part. The fighters themselves are arguably the best selling feature of the game. They really pop out on the screen as the detail that went into them is truly impressive. Their facial expressions and overall movements are solid too. 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 does look 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 Fight Night 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 that such a sports game from EA would offer a countless number of settings; however this is not the case, but what you get looks good. I would have liked to have seen far more environments to fight in though. The lighting and other in game visuals all look solid too.
Overall FaceBreaker KO Party for the Wii 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 seem to connect, but the action is so quick you hardly notice. This is not a major issue but more of an irritating bug.
As far as the sound is concerned KO Party 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. They truly pack a punch and if you have your Wii connected to a home audio system you will definitely be impressed. 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 did some of the tracks in Fight Night did. After several fights there is no doubt you will find the soundtracks 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.
The Xbox 360 version of FaceBreaker was a fast paced button masher, but in order to progress in the game timing and learning your opponent's weaknesses was critical. My hand often cramped and there were several occasions where I just wanted to throw the controller as the game was not as forgiving as I would have hoped. The gameplay in FaceBreaker KO Party for the Wii is much different, and thankfully much more forgiving than its next-generation counterparts. But before I get ahead of myself, let me dissect the good and the bad aspects of the gameplay.
For starters, there are not a large number 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 it 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 with each other. There is also a career mode but it severely lacks in the depth department. Simply put, the career mode in KO Party amounts to nothing more than squaring-off with the games fighters one by one through four different levels. Once you beat all the fighters, including a bonus mystery fighter at the end, 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. Simply put, KO Party is a basic pick-up and play 'cartoonish' style arcade boxer.
Facebreaker KO Party uses the Wii Remote and Nunchuk for all the fighting motions. You do not have to punch like a boxer as simple flicking of the Wii Remote and Wii Nunchuk will suffice. Nevertheless, the game is far more enjoyable when you square up like a fighter and simulate boxing motions with the Wii's controls. Punching, dodging and parrying are all done via the same controls and the responsiveness is surprisingly good. The game still moves lighting fast and often I seemingly just flayed my arms about, the but punches did connect when I wanted them to. The fighting is not incredibly sophisticated and it is clear the game was aimed at a younger audience. Nevertheless, there are plenty of enjoyable moments as Facebreaker KO Party manages to maximize the use of the Wii's motion controls with some positive results.
Despite some pretty positive and responsive controls the sense of satisfaction from winning a fight was missing. Granted, part of the Facebreaker KO Party experience is figuring out your opponent’s weaknesses, and the AI does adapt to your fighting style, especially if you choose to beat his can with one particular combo, but yet it gets old real fast. I just did not get that sense of satisfaction as I did with Fight Night 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.
One of the main issues I had with Facebreaker for the Xbox 360 was the games 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 and it made for a frustrating experience. Facebreaker KO Party has addressed this concern and has made the game far more forgiving. I was actually able to progress through the various levels with ease on the easiest difficulty and no longer did I feel like throwing controllers. As such, younger gamers will be able to fully experience the game and unlock all those fighters in a jiffy.
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