Beatdown: Fists of Vengeance Review
Just like the movie industry, the game industry often saves its "less than stellar" games for the end of the summer. People are bored and still want to see movies or play games, so a catchy demo or trailer is often enough to catch their interest. Beatdown: Fists of Vengeance had an interesting demo, and it has an intriguing concept, but it's a downright lousy game. Long, frequent loads times, a poor camera, pitiful voice acting, and boring gameplay are just a few of the many things wrong with Capcom's brawler.
The game 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 people 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. Wanted by the police and framed by their former employers, each member of the group goes their separate ways, but each one is hell bent on vengeance.
Fists of Vengeance has five playable characters, each with their own unique endings and their own clichéd back story:
Raven - a rough and tumble rebel with a short fuse and penchant for
Jason G - an orphan whose second nature is fighting for survival and places high value on his friends.
Gina - a stunningly beautiful assassin who's been scorned by a secret lover and is out for revenge.
Lola - a professionally trained assassin from South America with a strong military background.
Aaron - the Machiavellian bastard love child of Zanetti, the head of the most powerful cartel in Las Sombras.
As you progress through the game you'll see what the others in the group are up to, and eventually the whole story is revealed to you. It's too bad that the story really isn't worth investigating.
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 head 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, and there are tons of moves, 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.
If you get tired of pounding on opponents, you can hit the circle button to "negotiate" with them. This brings up a menu where you can rob them, try and get them to join you, interrogate them, or just kill them with a pointless and excessively violent attack. Since it's pretty easy to get your butt kicked, you'll want to recruit some backup. Usually people 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.
Your home base is a bar where you can save your game, get jobs, listen to gossip, and learn new moves. It's pretty pointless, because you have to walk across the city enduring countless load times to accomplish your missions anyways. You have a cell phone, so why can't someone just give you a call and let you know that something is going down across town, instead of going to the bar every time? The town layout is terrible. It's hard to navigate, shops and locations aren't labeled on the map, and you've got to load new areas every couple of hundred yards. It wouldn't have been hard to fix these problems, by streamlining how missions are assigned and god forbid, putting up some signs on buildings, but none of that happened.
Load times are everywhere. Here's a short list of things that have to load in just your first few minutes each time you want to play: game settings, profile, game, going out the door, leaving an area, fighting someone, taunting someone, talking to someone selling something, pausing the game, navigating menus, entering a building, putting on clothes... the list goes on and on. Even if the load times were fast this would get annoying, but they're quite sluggish, making them all the more intolerable.
Changing your clothes and getting plastic surgery to hide from foes might at first sound like a decent idea, but in reality it's tedious and just another way the game manages to bring itself to a screeching halt every couple of minutes. I will admit that after becoming disgusted with the game I had a good time dressing my male character up in a purple halter top, green jean shorts, and giving him wavy silver hair though. If that's not intimidating, nothing is.
In addition to the single-player story mode, Fists of Vengeance includes a couple of vs. modes, but the game's so bad that you're not going to care. 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.
Beatdown's characters look realistic and have numerous animations and fighting styles. They also all look as generic as can be, like they were taken straight from the pages of "So You Want to Design a Brawler?" The city is drab and desolate with very few people walking around and only the occasional car or train passing by. The vehicles seem there for the sole purpose of pissing you off because you didn't realize one was coming due to the awful camera. As mentioned a couple of times, the camera is horrible, and often renders the game nearly unplayable. It will get stuck on buildings, won't let you look around much, doesn't focus on who you're fighting, and swings around wildly causing you to get disoriented. Whoever designed this camera system rode the short bus to game design school, there's no doubt about that.
The dialog is terrible for a number of reasons. First off, the game uses
profanity for no real purpose. There's nothing wrong with gritty dialog, but
cursing just because you can serves no point, as this game proves. The voice
acting isn't too bad, but the script is horrible. It takes itself far too
seriously and it's extremely wordy. People can't just spit out what they need to
say - they need to expound on it endlessly. They also move their mouths well
before speaking, and often quit while they are still talking; the result of some
half-assed localization. The fact that the game's minor characters don't speak
at all doesn't do much for the whole experience either.
The music is very reminiscent of early brawlers like Streets of Rage and Final Fight, but it's nowhere near as good as Streets of Rage (at least how I remember it on the Sega CD). Sound effects are standard fare and punches and kicks sound just like they should in a game.
Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance looks like a great idea on paper, but it fails to be even mildly entertaining past the first hour of play. There's no excuse for the game's camera, and the long load times and slow pacing are just icing on the cake. Even at $39.99, the game's not worth a purchase, but if you're into mindless fighting and can tune out a horrible camera it might be worth a rental.
9/22/2005 Aaron Thomas