Facebreaker: K.O. Party
Never take for granted, or underestimate a person’s partiality to beating someone up and leaving a fist shaped indentation on their forehead. Yes: even those casual gamers that you’ve mollycoddled and pampered with a stream of fluffy, feel-good games for the family, Nintendo. Even ol’ Mrs. [insert second name] wouldn’t mind getting into a scrap with her granddaughter from time-to-time. And why not? What with the Wii’s motion sensing controls, you’d think creating a satisfying, intuitive boxing game would be like expecting Microsoft to shelve out at least a handful of decent First Person Shooters in a twelve month period for their Xbox 360. Right? Well yes: that is right, but anyone expecting an arcade boxing game to rival that of Punch Out!! (or even Ready 2 Rumble), can untie their gloves and throw in the white towel now.
Facebreaker’s biggest problem is that it just lacks any sense of weight or sentiment to the fighting (a criminal offence for a boxing game you will agree). As expected, the Wii remote and nunchuck control each hand, and swinging them in any fashion you see fit corresponds to a punch on the screen. For players wanting more than that, you can also hold certain buttons on the controller to throw body or head shots; both feel identical. There are also charged punches and Facebreakers, which is the game’s equivalent to a Special or Super and for the fleeting moments at the beginning, are rather entertaining. With that said, it’s not unfair at all to expect motion controls to create a realistic feeling of landing a blow to an opponent’s kidney, for instance. But punches seldom fell as if they’re actually making contact; ultimately, it just looks like a piece of wet paper punching another equally wet piece of paper.
The offensive approach also better be you’re only port of call if you’re to gain headway in Facebreaker; any thought of a plan that extends beyond the letter A is completely fruitless. It’s an “attack or get knocked out” ultimatum, and this stems from the terribly implemented defence, which gives players the choice between dodging and parrying a punch. Both require swinging the arm up or down depending on where you’re about to get levelled, (the latter asks the player to hold the block button at the same time as well). And it’s not that this system just falls on its arse, it’s that the action is so frenetic and fast paced that knowing when to stop an incoming haymaker is almost impossible. So fighting fire with fire really is the only form of defence, and the computer will happily reciprocate. What you regularly end up with is two fighters that look like they belong on the playground of an expensive all boys private school, and not a boxing ring. This button mashing, arm flailing, or whatever the Wii counterpart is, removes all tact from a bout. OK, perhaps expecting a battle of wits in a game called Facebreaker is pushing it a little far, but the lack of a stamina metre or a larger selection of punches just diminishes the boxing experience, and relegates it as nothing more than a game that doesn’t know what it wants to be.
Facebreaker outside of its single player aspirations, however, may provide a somewhat pleasant distraction with friends, and it’s clear that this game was intended to be an all-human affair. EA has given players a number of nearly identical game modes to plough through, but they really don’t offer anything different to the aforementioned happy-slappy, gung-ho mindset cast in stone from the offset. No matter what mode you find yourself in, you’re still swinging your arms with very little notion as to what is actually going on. But who knows: with company around, you may actually get to hit someone.
Visually though, Facebreaker is not a bad looker even after a few rounds. Shoddy environments aside, the actual fighters themselves are well designed. None of them are even faintly memorable (I’m damned if I’m called to name one of them), but their faces are wonderfully malleable under the strain of a fist and even though it never feels like you’ve done any permanent damage, seeing your opponent’s car wreck of a face after the bell has rung is unquestionably fulfilling.
But when it comes down to it, Facebreaker is just one glove short of a set. It’s a 5th round fighter at best. It’s a ring announcer shy of a main event spectacle. It’s any other boxing related pun or play on words you can muster up. Facebreaker shows some promise at the start; it’s plucky, full of spunk, and mildly charming. But play it more and it becomes apparent that it’s nothing but a one tricky pony. That charm and dazzle soon withers away along with your enthusiasm, and Facebreaker ends up punching itself in the face.