Friday, December 24, 2004

Review: Fight Club (Xbox)
Posted by Ryan :: 8:10 AM

President Abraham Lincoln must be rolling over in his grave right now. Why you ask? President Lincoln, the man who ended slavery, the man who put the country back together during one of it’s toughest times, is a hidden character in the Fight Club game. The only thing that could make things worse is the fact Lincoln has to share time with Fred Durst, who in the game appears to have come straight from a Bow Flex television ad. These are only minor complaints in regards to this awful game, but you want in on a secret? It didn’t have to be this bad.

I will say that I was surprised at how nice the game looks. Characters are nicely sculpted, with the exception of Bob of course, facial hair looks good and those with tattoos are nicely detailed. The damage your character sustains throughout a match looks nice too, but you’ll occasionally have blood “splatter” onto the screen when someone receives a nasty thump to the face that looks more like cherry Kool-Aid was poured onto your TV set. Backgrounds look great and are interactive, nothing like Def Jam Fight for New York, but still nice none-the-less. There are also good weather effects, moving people and cars and nice use of lighting, especially in the airport level. Some levels have secret rooms that can be fought in, but nothing like what you would see in the latest Mortal Kombat or Dead or Alive games. You’ll recognize some of the levels from the movie, while others seem to have been plucked out of thin air. The same could be said for most of the characters in the game as well. I’m not sure if the developers were trying to expand the Fight Club world, but you’ll run across many a character in the game and wonder just who the hell they are. Much can be said for those who do exist in the movie, too; what the actors and their digital selves share is in name alone. Sure Tyler has spiky hair and Bob is fat, but that’s where the similarities end. In fact, Jack looks much like your character in the story mode, which becomes even more confusing during the cut scenes between the two characters.

Ah, the glorious cut scenes, what a fine place to start taking a dump on this craptacular game. When you begin the story mode you get a cut scene to kick things off, which is then followed up with another when you complete the mode, but nowhere in between does one exist. The meat of the story, if you want to call it a story, is told with the use of rough draft storyboards that appear to have been colored in at the last moment. Of course this wouldn’t be complete without the B-movie level of acting that is so full of pointless swearing a thirteen year old boy would think it’s the greatest game next to Grand Theft Auto. The Brad Pitt, Jared Leto and Meatloaf impersonators aren’t too far off from the actual thing, but the Edward Norton voice is nowhere near to the real thing. There are so many inconsistencies between the storyboards, cut scenes and in game action. People who wore clothes before fights lose them during and then show up with them after the fight is over.

And if that weren’t bad enough, the story is completely pointless. You’re a random white guy with a goatee who’s trying to track down Tyler Durden, either to capture him or ask to join Fight Club. So you track across the globe looking for him all the time without wearing a shirt or shoes. How he got through security at the airport I’ll never know. At one point your character thinks about painting the inside of a bar with his medulla oblongata because his girlfriend is banging someone else, but it’s only a passing thought. You eventually meet up with Tyler/Jack, doing their best Smeagol/Gollum impersonation, and defeat them. Problem is, Tyler/Jack still goes through with Project Mayhem, blows the crap out of some buildings and that’s the end. So what was the point again?

I do have one nice thing to say, the original Dust Brothers music from the movie remains in tact, along with music from Limp Bizkit, Korn and the Queens of the Stone Age. There are also generic instrumental songs that sound like cheap knock-offs of the Dust Brother music, but you can use custom soundtracks in the game. There is one major issue in regards to the music and sound. At the default settings, the in-game music drowns out all of the effects. I thought this would be a simple problem to fix, simply turn down the music, up the effects and I would get a nice, even mix. It didn’t happen. I went so far as to turn the music to zero, up the effects as loud as I could and even then I could barely hear the sounds of people landing punches and falling to the ground. To make matters more confusing there are three volume controls in the options menu, but only two from the in-game menu (I assume this is ambient and effects combined). Oddly enough, menu and cut scene audio are mixed well, with one not over-powering the other.

Now I could look past all of that if the gameplay was good and what we get, sadly, is a garden variety fighting game. A majority of the modes available are your standard fare; arcade, story, survival, vs, training and online, but nothing that resembles a team battle or time battle. A create-a-fighter mode exists within the online portion of the game, but nowhere within the game itself. It’s not a big loss however, your options are limited to sets of threes. Three different fighting styles, all of which play the same, three body styles, three skin tones, three hair colors, three shirt colors, three jean colors, etc. For anyone renting this game, like myself, chances are you’ll be without an instruction manual. No problem, I thought, as I went to the training mode in hopes to find a listing of the moves and the button combinations that would execute them and much to my surprise, not really, there was none. Much to my surprise the fighting system is deep, to a certain degree, of course. Your character is capable of grapples and throws, countering moves, combos and ground attacks. One big innovation that was pimped upon release of the game was the ability to break bones, rendering an opponent’s appendage useless for an entire match. Even I thought this might be cool, but the way in which it was executed left me disappointed. When you execute the move the game cuts to slow motion and zooms onto the area in which the bone will be broken, but before you go through with the action you gain x-ray vision and get to witness the snap, crackle, pop. The problem is the slow motion is too fast, so fast that you have no chance to “ohh” and “ahh” at a moderately neat feature. The game introduces another interesting concept in its online mode, almost Sims-like. You can modify your character’s abilities, which can be built up over time, but if he receives too much damage in online play he will be taken to the pasture and shot. One last thing I found odd was the fact no timer or score exist, only health bars, but after some thought I realized they never would have served any purpose.

Is anyone surprised that I managed to hammer out this review after spending less than an hour playing the game? I completed story mode, played through arcade once or twice, survival a few times and messed with the training and online modes. This game has zero replay value, four hidden characters, a thin online mode and unlockable videos. Want some evidence to support the claim that this game was rushed out, look no further than these videos. From what I can figure they are available one at a time after you finish the story mode. The videos are one to two minute interviews with the voice actors that also include snippets of cut scenes that don’t exist in the story mode. We’re not talking storyboards, we are talking full motion cut scenes, with voices intact that might have added some depth or point to the story mode. I was tempted to play the story mode more in hopes I’d unlock videos to help flesh out the story, but I couldn’t bring myself to it. I love the movie and book, and if done right the Fight Club license could have made a decent fighter, nothing like Dead or Alive or Soul Calibur, but there are a few fresh ideas here. If you do receive this game for Christmas, try not to break down and cry, the case made reference to a twelve month Xbox Live subscription being included, which in turn you can use to play Halo 2, or Project Gotham Racing 2 or any other game that ever existed.

(Edit: I had a second look at the box the other day and noticed it's not a 12 month Xbox Live subscription, but a 12 month XBN subscription, so if you bought the game with the thought of a year long Xbox Live account, well you're screwed.)

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