Microsoft is determined to make games more interactive with their Kinect peripheral. With the introduction of Kinect 2.0, we were promised a ‘smarter’ Kinect that could detect the user’s heartbeat, monitor body temperature and even track the person’s movements more efficiently, among other features. In retrospect, we were promised a better Kinect experience overall.
Fighter Within by Ubisoft is one of the first games to take advantage of Microsoft’s Kinect 2.0 peripheral, but it’s difficult to determine the audience it is trying to attract. On its surface, Fighter Within is a fairly basic fighting game where you play the role of Matt, a young amateur fighter looking to prove himself. As the story unfolds, he becomes wrapped up in a conspiracy to recover an ancient book of fighting techniques written by Genhis Khan. While the story isn’t compelling, it sets the stage for all the excessive arm swinging, leg sweeping and yelling you’ll experience later on.
Fighter Within starts by having you complete the ‘Initiation’, which is basically a tutorial that shows you how to play. This process also doubles as a ‘story mode’ that resembles a B-movie from the early 1990′s. Each encounter begins with a still frame cinema of Matt and his adversary discussing pre-battle banter. The voice acting is mostly tongue in cheek one-liners that will leave you scratching your head. The entire presentation feels rushed, which is disappointing for a launch title.
The campaign is comprised of 21 missions with roughly about 2 hours of actual gameplay. The fighters you encounter along the way are the same ones you can play via Arcade mode and Training. The gameplay is like any Kinect game; the player must make certain gestures to interact with their on-screen combatant. You begin by learning the basics of combat – punching, kicking and blocking, which work relatively well in the beginning. As the complexity of combat ensues, you are taught more advanced ‘gestures’ that include leaning, hooking and throwing.
Special Attacks require the player to charge a ‘KI’ meter by holding their arms back. By charging the meter to three different levels, you can perform jump kicks, energy blasts and flips, to name just a few. The only drawback to the KI system are the cutscenes that interrupt the gameplay (more on this in a moment).
It’s not so much the game, but the person playing – combat is an exhausting affair that can cause muscle cramping in your legs, back and arms. As you battle your opponent, you have to anticipate their blows and either put your hands up high or low to block. There are times when you have to lean forward or back to avoid being thrown or struck by a kick, while also trying to counter your opponent’s moves. The Kinect doesn’t always recognize your movements either. Despite playing in a well lit environment, there were times when a throw would register as a punch. It’s difficult to discern whether the Kinect or Fighter Within is to blame.
Fighter Within likes to interrupt the gameplay with flashy cutscenes that tend to disrupt the flow of combat. These cutscenes would be a welcome addition if they occurred during pivotal moments (i.e. like when you’re close to defeating your opponent), but even simple maneuvers like blocking an attack and then landing a counter punch triggers a cutscene. Charging up the KI meter and landing repeated blows on your opponent will also trigger a cutscene. It happens so often that it becomes distracting
Arcade mode is where you can play any of the twenty-one fighters from story mode and battle against AI controlled opponents. The selection of fighters is varied enough to keep you interested for a couple of matches, but none of them stand out like some of today’s more iconic fighting game characters.
Local multiplayer matches happen to be Fighter Within’s best feature. The Kinect does a relatively good job of mapping two people during a match. The issues mentioned earlier still apply, but the entertainment value increases when you and a friend get to stand side by side, punching and kicking into thin air. It arouses more laughter than competition, but it’s a novel experience nonetheless.
Fighter Within isn’t necessarily a bad game. There are issues that affect its gameplay – like the cutscenes and Ki system – but there are other factors to consider as well. First, I am no Jean Claud Van Dam or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Playing Fighter Within was not only painful for me, but there were times when it was difficult to perform moves because my arms and legs ached from constant movement. It wouldn’t be entirely fair to blame some of my shortcomings on Fighter Within. The Kinect is also a sensitive piece of equipment that requires proper lighting. While a bright environment was used to review Fighter Within, there could have been an element that went unnoticed.
With that said, Fighter Within is best served as a mere curiosity for casual gamers or for people looking for a good workout. Gamers bold enough to play Fighter Within, though, will find themselves reaching for a bottle of aspirin in the morning.
Platform: Xbox One
ESRB: T (Teen)
|Beautiful next-gen graphics and smooth animation.|
|Average sound effects; your typical grunts and moans.|
|Unbalanced combat with disruptive cutscenes.|
|Fighter Within is best served as a mere curiosity for casual gamers or for people looking for a good workout.|