Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Canada
Release Date: September 5, 2008
EA Sports, the people that brought us the Fight Night franchise and massively popular sports titles like Tiger Woods and Madden have brought us Facebreaker, an "over-the-top, arcade boxing world." They really, really shouldn't have.
I love Fight Night, and Fight Night 3 was one of the main reasons for my purchase of the Xbox 360 console. Boxing and fighting games in general are one of the genres that I really love, so when a game, especially one from EA Sports, delivers so little and so poorly, it hurts me and makes me curse an awful lot.
The genre for Facebreaker should technically be listed as boxing, or possibly even sports, but it isn't. It's a fighting game, and I use that term extremely loosely. Not since Dead or Alive 4 has there been a game so utterly devoted to its own art style and overinflated ego. I even hate calling this game a "fighter." Soul Calibur? Now that's a fighter. Facebreaker is a button-masher.
You have a high punch, a low punch, your special Facebreaker button, a grapple/throw button, a block button, and a taunt button. You can string together a loose sense of combos, but in the end, it all boils down to button-mashing and interspersing the punching with blocking.
The game features a character creator that, while fairly decent in its own regard, does zilch to improve the gameplay. Those that have read my past reviews know that I love character creators, especially ones that let me put my pretty face in the game. The creator, unlike something as clean as Tiger Woods, for example, condenses all of the controls into one massively long list of facial attributes. It's all slider bars as far as the eye can see, and tweaking one setup will force another set of bars to go down. It takes a lot of fiddling and scrolling back and forth to get things to look the way you want, but in the end, it does a fairly decent job.
After I created my "boxer," I picked a random fight in a random ring. The computer pitted me against Kiriko, a punkish Japanese girl. I can honestly say that I didn't lay a single hand on her, and not due to a lack of trying. Every time I attempted any kind of punch, the computer would dodge and counterpunch me. I'm not exaggerating or being facetious when I say every single punch. And that is when the swearing began.
It's this kind of haphazard, completely nonexistent form of character balance that will have you cursing and swearing the entire time you're playing Facebreaker. It's a farce. When one character type absolutely has no chance against another character type simply because of a trick, that's poor balancing. I tried a second random fight and ended up against Romeo, whom I soundly beat, so it's not as if my button-mashing skills were poor. The balancing is just that absent.
I played Facebreaker over three different days on several different sessions. It took so many days and so many times playing it because each time I would hit a part that was just so utterly over-the-top unbalanced that I would again begin screaming and cursing at the TV, nearly crushing my controller in anger in the process. Seriously, how can a company that developed such an innovative and detailed franchise as the Fight Night series even put their name on a game this bad?
And while I'm throwing rocks, let me call EA Sports out on this right now. You know what your "over-the-top, boxing arcade world" really is? It's Ready 2 Rumble, except worse in every way possible. Yeah, I get the cartoony graphics and fake physics, and I get the stereotyped Japanese girl and big angry Russian man, so I see what you're doing there. Don't be smug because smug only works on games that are good. Facebreaker is not good.
That's the other thing. Be prepared, and so help us all if you so much as even rent this title because Facebreaker can be so unbelievably smug and tongue-in-cheek that it'll make you want to slap the person closest to you. Everyone knows that one guy that tries too hard to make himself look cool, who espouses rehearsed lines to sound clever and witty, and who inevitably ends up looking like the tool that he is. That, personified, is Facebreaker. From the manual to the menus to the commentary, everything about this game is trying so hard to be cool and hip that it falls flat on its face.
If you actually manage to play the game for any duration, you'll see the typical game modes available: Arcade quick mode, a Brawl For It All tournament-style gauntlet fight, as well as Couch Royale (with cheese, as the sub-menu so gleefully and smugly says, which is evidence of it trying too hard to be cool ... again), which allows you to collect trophies with your fighter.
The graphics are decent enough, if you're into non-realistic cartoon representations of people. Again, it's Ready 2 Rumble with a new face. That, coupled with the character creator, allows for some pretty unique and interesting results, and sadly, that is one of the few redeeming qualities of Facebreaker.
The audio is average at best. The music is forgettable, and the sound effects are exactly the kind of random punch and hit sounds that you'd expect. Everyone knows that with any kind of character-created game, at best you get to pick from a list of nicknames that are pre-recorded to refer to your player. While Facebreaker does not give you that option, it fills in the blank with random phrases that are actually funny. A standard match opening would have the announcer broadcasting Molotov's name while showing him posing in his corner. When the camera pans to your character, any of a dozen different things will be said. During my brief swear-filled matches, I was introduced as "the ugliest guy in town," "this guy," and as "I …I'm honestly drawing a blank here." In a way, it's sad that this is also one of the title's few redeeming qualities.
Unfortunately, I barely have anything good to say about Facebreaker. The clever audio commentary and the decent character creator are the only positive things about a game that tries way too hard to be hip, edgy and cool — but just ends up disgracing boxing games, fighting games, and EA Sports in general.
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