When the Kinect was first released, it was with the promise of a slew of games that would use the new technology to do what all of us had dreamed of: flailing our hands in front of the TV screen and affecting our favourite game. However, while in theory that kind of gaming experience did materialise, it wasn’t precise enough to be truly enjoyable. Games such as Fable: The Journey were marred by terrible input, constant misinterpretation of actions and generally poor gameplay.
With Kintect 2.0 and the Xbox One, the promise came back. A device that could capture body movement much more accurately, as well as performing all of the actions that the first model should have done from the beginning. With the release of an updated Kinect model, we were obviously going to get some Kinect-only video games to play on it. Fighter Within, from Ubisoft and AMA, Ltd, is just such a game. A 3D fighter that tasks you with throwing punches and kicks into thin air in order to hit your opponent and empty their health bar. For a guy with a less than slender build, this is already sounding less than appealing.
When Fighter Within starts, you’ll be given the basic tutorial type mission that we’ve come to expect from any fighter. You’ll be walked through a series of fights which teach you how to throw straight punches, hook punches, kicks and blocks. That’s all you’re going to need to know in order to get to the top of the pile in the game. There are no real combos to learn – the ones included are performed by literally flailing your fists into the air until one of them trigger. There are methods to perform them tactically, but you’ll trigger them so easily just by waving your arms that most players won’t even bother to figure out how to do them.
The combos themselves are another aspect of Fighter Within which can get extremely frustrating, extremely quickly. Whenever you perform a combo, the over-enthusiastic voice-over will announce which combo you’ve managed to do. Whether it’s a “straight punch combo” or a “straight hook combo” it will be announced to the world every single time. Couple that with the previous statement about how easy they are to trigger – even by accident – and you’ve got a recipe for something that could make you want to hit your TV instead of just the thin air in front of you – and that’s just after a couple of matches.
The controls within matches aren’t the only aspect that can get a little bit annoying either. The menu system feels downright broken, for the most part. In order to choose an option from the menu, you have to hold your hand in front of the option you want, but instead of just holding your hand there for a certain length of time – as you would have done for most last-generation Kinect games – you have to push your hand forward and then bring it back, as if you’re pushing a giant, invisible button. This would be all well and good if it wasn’t for the fact that if you don’t push straight forward and then straight back, the option doesn’t select. If your hand moves even slightly outside the path of a straight line, you’ll have to do it all over again.
There were lots of instances where I selected options I didn’t want, or just took longer than I wanted to select something. There’s a way to control menus with Kinect and have it feel like you’re in Minority Report, but Fighter Within is so far from it that it just feels nothing but frustrating.
There’s one saving grace in Fighter Within, an aspect of the game that ensures that it will almost always come out when I have friends around for a few beers and some video games, and that’s the multiplayer aspect. The second iteration of Kinect is surprisingly good at detecting, and tracking, two different people at the same time. Couple that with the fact that it can now “see” things in a much smaller room and you’ve got the potential for some pretty interesting multiplayer gaming. Once you’ve started a multiplayer match in Fighter Within, and both selected your characters and arena to fight in, you’ll be let loose to punch your way to victory against your closest friends. Beating them in a fighting game has always been satisfying, but there’s a whole new level to it when you’re the one throwing the punches. There has already been a number of disagreements settled through virtual fisticuffs, and I’m sure there’ll be many more to come.
VERDICT: Fighter Within could have had potential, if more work had gone into the gesture recognition and making the Kinect actions translate into the game world, but as it stands it feels like a lazy game that’s been rushed out to hit the Xbox One’s launch date. The multiplayer is fun, but a lot of that is due to the fact that you’re playing with another person in the same space. Any attempt at online multiplayer would have failed as miserably as the single player campaign, especially as you can’t see the look of disappointment on their faces as they fall – yet again – to your flying fists. I can only hope that something else comes along soon to show us what Kinect 2.0 is truly capable of, because if this is it, we’re in for another generation of shockingly disappointing movement-controlled video games.
POOR. Games tagged 4/10 will be playable, perhaps even enjoyable, but will be let down by a slew of negative elements that undermine their quality and value. Best avoided by any but hardcore genre fans.