Fight Club could have been a cool game. The movie featured an intriguing, chaos-infused plot, bare-knuckle fisticuffs and a handful of quirky, unique characters – all of which could have been worked into a clever mishmash of Grand Theft Auto and Virtua Fighter to great effect. Sadly, it didn’t happen. Fight Club sucks and it sucks bad. This is one of those games that you play and wonder, “how did this ever get green-lit?” Did nobody stop during the development process, look around at adjacent cubicles and cry out, “what is this &$#@ on my computer monitor!?” It’s not that the game is unplayable or fundamentally broken – it’s just so amazingly uninspired. It’s the bare minimum of what you’d imagine a Fight Club game would play like and nothing more.
The mediocrity becomes obvious right out of the gate when you realize that neither Brad Pitt or Edward Norton gave their endorsement to the game (smart lads). The voice actors that play Tyler Durden and “Jack” sound nothing like their big-budget, big-screen counterparts, and that rips a huge chunk of the game’s authenticity right out. On top of that, developer Genuine Games didn’t even bother to model the in-game characters to resemble any of the movie’s actors. Tyler in the game looks absolutely nothing like in the movie – if nobody else referred to him by name you’d likely never guess his identity. They did manage to make Bob pretty easy to identify, but chalk that up to his massive man-breasts as opposed to any actual skillful detailing on the developers’ part.
Things look even bleaker for Fight Club when you realize that the game is basically just a versus fighter in the vein of Tekken or Kakuto Chojin, only without interesting characters. Sure you have Tyler, “Jack,” and Bob, but beyond that you’re left with guys like Raymond, Lou, and Ricky – no name, generic looking throw-aways that play similarly and have no discernible personalities. This blending together of fighter personalities is only worsened by the Sixth Rule of Fight Club: No Shirt, No Shoes. Well, at least some of them have different colored pants – you always have that for variety. In all fairness, that was how it was in the movies, but the least the developers could have done is flesh out the back stories of some of these other guys so the player actually cared enough to select them.
And that’s a perfect segue to Fight Club‘s next glaring flaw – the terrible Story mode. Initially promising due to the fact that you can tinker around a bit and create a personalized fighter (though your options are heavily limited), the Story mode quickly implodes after watching the first couple of cut scenes. Not only is the plot poorly told (and shockingly short), but all of the exposition is done via rudimentary CG stills that look like they were crafted sometime during the first PlayStation’s early life cycle. And who is really going to care about a plot that can be summed up like this: random guy wants to meet Tyler Durden. Random guy goes around picking fights while looking for Tyler. Random guy finally meets Tyler and realizes he’s crazy. Game ends. The dev team strained to make connections to the movie, but between the horrendous cut scenes and inane story arc, they completely failed to break new ground or even keep the player interested.
OK, so Fight Club has serious issues, but is the brawling itself at least entertaining? Not really. The fighting system is not broken (completely) or horrendous, it’s just too basic for its own good. You have four attack buttons (two for kicks and two for punches), a block and a taunt – not exactly groundbreaking for a fighting game. This simplicity is paired with noticeably sluggish controls and remarkably dumb AI. Basically, if you want to beat the computer, just mash the buttons at random and keep alternating high/low and you’ll come out looking like a champ. There is actually a counter system in place, but the risk/reward value for using it is weighted so heavily on the risk side, you’ll never want to use it. Probably the worst problem with Fight Club‘s fighting system, though, is the shoddy collision detection. Punches and kicks will collide with opponents even if you whiff through the air one entire character’s length in front of them. It’s amusing to go into the game’s Practice mode and see just how badly you can miss on an attack and still connect with your sparring partner.
All of that said, sometimes Fight Club almost seems decent. Maybe you just finished someone by breaking their arm (complete with a dramatic x-ray shot of the bones breaking) or put together a rare brutal string of attacks where the collision detection actually seemed accurate and thought, “wow, I could almost see the beginnings of a solid game here.” Unfortunately, those moments are so fleeting and utterly soiled by the surrounding muck that you’ll certainly never actually mistake Fight Club for a game worth playing. Genuine Games and Vivendi Universal could have taken this widely loved IP and created something truly special, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe Tyler Durden really did say it best when he announced the very first rule of his underground gladiatorial escapades: You Do Not Talk About Fight Club. Amen, brotha.