Fists of Vengeance takes place in the fictional city of Las Sombras, which is being overrun by the criminal underworld. Zanetti, the most powerful person in Las Sombras learns of a rival clan's drug deal, and dispatches five of his top mercenaries from his inner circle to intervene. When they arrive on the scene, they find their targets have already been executed and they are ambushed by members of their own cartel. Outnumbered and pursued by both their previous cartel and law enforcement officials, the five go their separate ways and begin their quest for vengeance.
Fists of Vengeance has five playable characters, each with their own unique endings and their own clichιd back story:
Raven a rough and tumble rebel with a short fuse and penchant
Using the character Raven, the game starts with a short warehouse level where you learn the basic moves. The standard beat'em up controls punches, kicks, and blocking are all done with the face buttons, and R1 grabs an enemy. You can use either the analog or d-pad, and you might want to use a combination of both, depending on the situation. When you're fighting head to hear with someone, the d-pad works the best, because the camera swings down lower and moves to the side, like a traditional fighting game. The game controls well, but the camera can be a chore to maneuver. It also tends to get behind objects when in the "fighting game" view, and even though the objects it gets behind are translucent, it's distracting.
You can pick up weapons lying on the ground, or disarm foes and use their own weapons against them. After you knock someone out, you can check the body and take their money, which will later be used to upgrade moves, buy clothes, and bribe people. The environments aren't fully destructible, but some things, like glass, crates, and other small surrounding objects can be smashed sometimes revealing health or weapons.
Since you're taking on a whole cartel, it's important to recruit some backup. After exiting the warehouse, you can talk with various people outside a gas station. If you want to, you can rob them, or you can try and get them to join you. Some will join if you simply ask, while others demand money. The stubborn ones have to be beaten a little bit before deciding to help the cause, so you've got to challenge them to a fight. If you befriend the right people you can gain access to cars, money, connections and more, so it's not always best to start brawling right away.
After getting a group of people together, Raven heads downtown where he's immediately jumped by a large number of goons. Later, at the bar that you'll use as a base, you learn that your clothes gave you away as a member of a gang. Changing your clothes (there are clothing stores) will actually have an effect on how easily people recognize you kind of like the different camouflage in Metal Gear Solid 3. At the bar you can learn new moves, get information on your rivals and recharge your health. Your new informant sends you to the Police Station where you run across corrupt cops, and end up getting locked up. You do end up escaping from jail, after beating up an overzealous warden, and that's where the demo ends.
In addition to the single-player story mode, Fists of Vengeance includes a couple of vs. modes. In Vs. Mode Normal you can battle against characters in the game, and Vs. Custom Mode allows you to battle with edited characters in your own customized team. You can then also store your custom team on a memory card to pit them against a friend's.
Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance hasn't gotten a whole lot of press, but it's shaping up to be a pretty entertaining game. It's only $39.99, has a lot more depth than your average brawler, moves along at a fast pace, and doesn't take itself too seriously. We'll have a review of the game later this month, so check back for the verdict.
8/16/2005 Aaron Thomas