Genre: Fighting Developer: EA Canada Publisher: EA Sports Classification: M15+ Release Date: 4th Sep 2008 Platforms:XBOX360
Login to submit your review score
The Good bits
Looks amazing and the animation is a joy to behold.
The Bad stuff
Jabjabjabjabjabjabjabjabjabjabjab (get the picture?)
Calm people. We all know them. Teflon-coated gits who slide through life without any visible signs of stress or angst. House on fire? They’re the ones on the footpath holding the small satchel with their essential paperwork in it while you’re plunging into the flames to rescue your Mario and Luigi paperweight collection.
The worst thing about calm people isn’t what they are – it’s what they make the rest of us feel. Play games with one of them and no matter what the score – you lose. Every celebration or commiseration you make after something happens they just look at you as if you’re some kind of psycho.
Which is why Facebreaker may be the ultimate test of patience for us angries. As a fighting game it breaks the core gaming rule: reward skill. Not in the long history of fighting games has one game relied more on spam. Not during the post Super Street Fighter 2 “vs” era nor even in the dark days of Killer Instinct and Mortal Kombat 3’s stupidly endless combos has a game relied less on intelligence than this.
Here’s our four word guide to you achieving success in Facebreaker. Hit the jab button. Occasionally change things up with the low jab button. Don’t bother blocking as 99% of the time it’s not worth the effort, especially against a human. When the opportunity presents itself, press the “breaker” button. This unleashes a special blow whose power is dependant on the the jabs you’ve strung together before it. But really, that’s kind of weak – what you want to be doing is hitting the jab button more.
Think there’s more to it? You’d be wrong. Unlockable characters? Hit the jab button. Special moves? Hit the jab button. Career mode? Hit the jab button. Multiplayer? Hit the jab button faster.
Post-game you’ll get a nice screen breaking down the number of blows. You can utterly dominate the “strong” blow category – hooks and breakers – and still get smoked by the jab-happy monkey facing off against you. Simply put: he (or she) who jabs the most – wins.
Fighting games have long been plagued by the killer move that made things too easy, but rarely has it been this obvious and accessible. And if you think maybe there’s some hidden subtlety in there – think again. You can mess with parries and blocking, but your jab frenzied partner will eat your lunch for you. About the only finesse comes in the form of dodge counters, but seeing as these involve holding and releasing the jab button, there’s not much incentive to move your fingers away from the two. Hell, half the time the flow of blows reverses is from someone accidentally pressing the button long enough for it to be counted as a dodge.
With enough jabs you too could manage this.
In action, it’s a recipe for a Niagara falls-scale molten lava explosion of rage. Don’t get me wrong, Hyper Olympics was the bomb but playing it on my Xbox 360 in fighting game form doesn’t enthrall. Winning and losing is utterly arbitrary – pick a fast combatant and pray your furious spam times out better than your opponent’s. When your best tactical and movement skills fail in the face of a nonstop barrage, you’re likely to initially tell yourself you’re missing something, that some strategy must be at work to help you counteract the cheese. Indignation starts to set in when you realise there isn’t any real angle here, you just run in and keep pressing until someone falls. I defy even the aforementioned calm person to take this in stride.
Compounding the issue is the game’s presentation. It looks superb. The animations will keep you playing and laughing for awhile. The blows impact modelling is brilliant, and whoever did the art direction for this game deserves an award as there’s no point in which the game doesn’t look utterly in top form. If I was to nitpick I would say the stamina bar (yes, a trifling gauge) doesn’t match the visual excellence, but beyond that it is a masterpiece. If only all games looked this sweet. The problem is it just frustrates you more, knowing the effort and love that has obviously gone into so many parts of the game except the most important part – the combat modelling.
Don’t think Facebreaker’s simple, streamlined play mechanic means it’s mainstream friendly. It’s not unless you equate borderline autism with “mainstream”. Casual gamers too will not find constantly hammering a couple of buttons and hoping for the best to be a rewarding experience.
There are only two outcomes of introducing your non-gamer friends to this game – here they are. Option one,:they will thrash you without knowing what they did. By the third time this happens you will likely descend into a full blown Exorcist-level eye-rolling/speaking in tongues demonic possession routine guaranteed to ice your friendship. Option two: you win and then can’t answer exactly how you won. If you say you used the complex blocking and parry mechanics – you’ll quickly be exposed as a fraud. If you tell the truth and say you mashed better, your friend will likely wonder what the fuss is about these games anyway. Either way - you lose.
Coming in the aftermath of the excellent Soul Calibur 4 Facebreaker is even more insulting. Looks great, is super fun for about five minutes, then every second you play beyond increases the chance that somebody is going to get hurt. If you need to see some terrific visuals and brilliant animation, rent it out then breathe a sigh of relief you didn’t pay full dollar.