Fighter Within Review (XBox One): The Bad Fighter that’s Actually Good (For You)

Fighter Within certainly looks and moves great- at least, on the screen.

My Xbox One is about a couple of months old. I have two games on it, both downloaded from online. One is Killer Instinct, which I feel as of right now is an incomplete game so I won’t be reviewing it (although I do agree it’s pretty cool). The other title in my XBOne’s HD is Fighter Within.

Many have already given their say on this ‘fighter’, and a lot of it isn’t very good. In fact, it’s perhaps one of the most panned games on the XB1 Lineup. But still, I got the game for my next-gen console wholeheartedly, and without regret. For starters, since my console comes with a Kinect2 out of the box, it gives me a reason to use the motion control device. Then there’s the other reason, which I will get into later. Anyway, let’s move on.

Fighter Within is ostensibly a mainstream fighting game, but with a BIG caveat- it’s a KINECT fighting game, and that should pretty much be a big flaming sign to beat ‘em up fans that reads, ‘ABANDON ALL HPE, ALL WHO ENTER’. Also, this is from Ubisoft, whose first foray into Kinect-based fighting was the similarly-named Fighter Uncaged (heck, FW is probably the spiritual sequel) which was, to put it nicely, a piece of shit.
ANYWAY, at least Fighter Within is a mainstream fighter-esque title, whereas Fighter Uncaged was a sausage fest MMA sports thingie, which made it about as sexy as, well, real-life all-male MMA. Ugh. That means at least FW has female fighters, more exciting moves than just punches, kicks and man-hugs, plus it has license to have a chopsocky story aside from the generic rise to the championship plot. Streetfighter this ain’t- it’s a martial arts title more into melee, close-in combat with no fireballs or super combos, putting it more in line with Virtua Fighter. That being said, comparing this to VF is like comparing a deep dish pizza to a piece of toast with some ketchup and bit of Cheez Wiz.

You get thirteen fighters (one you unlock after finishing Story mode) to use, all of which LOOK unique, and can play through either Single Player modes or multiplayer with a friend. Like all fighters, the object is to beat your opponents until they don’t get up no more, with whatever way you can involving your chosen fighter’s body parts, the odd stick lying on the floor, random poles to swing off of, and the arena borders- outside of which are apparently rigged to render anyone stepping outside them unconscious.

Who will prevail, blonde or brunette? Only their iron will (and your flapping arms) will decide!

Giving the game credit where it is due, the game looks quite good. The graphical highlights of the game are of course the fighters themselves with large and very detailed character models. Costumes are well-done with realistic textures and nice flappy parts, even if design-wise a lot are on the generic side (bought that from the Lin Kuei Ninja Shoppe, eh?).

Fighters boast of realistic skin, and they get sweaty or bruised depending on hits they get (this is no MK so it never gets too bloody). I particularly like the way the characters have a bit of an edge to them- such as Van, the cute Chun-Li female who is pretty but still looks like she can kick your ass.

On the other hand, some characters are a bit too over the top, particularly the kilted Faergas who looks so brutish I think he came from Mordor instead of Scotland. The stages in the game are also very well-detailed with tons of clutter to smash into, adding once more to the gritty feel of the fighting.

Animation-wise, characters move well and smoothly, and the special techniques and attacks are well-animated and pretty much the highlights of the game’s action. Regular attacks, specifically kicks, look kinda awkward though as they follow the movements of the player- who is most probably flailing about like crazy. So in short, the game looks quite good- a bit on the generic and derivative side, but good.

Every stage has a musical score that more or less fits the environment or sets the mood. Character voices are decent, I guess, as well as the yelps and grunts. Most of the voice work in the game is in the story scenes during the Story or Initiation mode, which is fully-voiced. What can I say? The VOs are decent. Not amazing, not too over the top, but decent. Sound effects of hits and punches are also properly hard-hitting.
The worst part of the sound part of this game? The Announcer. Yeah, he’s not really BAD, but since the characters don’t shout out their attacks, the announcer does it for them. Ad he does it a lot. Couple that with the fact that there aren’t so many attacks anyway, you’ll be sick of the phrase ‘HIGH STRAIGHT COMBO’ very quickly. No, he cannot be toggled off.

Did I say that this game was kinda like Virtua Fighter? I lied. It’s more like the original Mortal Kombat in that about 80 percent of moves are shared by EVERY SINGLE FIGHTER. This means that everyone punches and kicks the same, whether they’re a kung-fu chick from Vietnam, an American MMA fighter or an Haitian Voodoo priestess. They all fight like kickboxers. The difference is in that every fighter has their own unique ‘Power Slam’ or ‘Power Attack’(more on that in a bit) and some attacks are accessible to only a few. So females can do agile, female-type attacks like swing off poles and flip kicks, while the hard men can do headbutts. Not many moves means the fighting is actually pretty basic and you’ll see everything everyone can do in a while. A bit more moves really could have helped this game’s depth or replay a lot.

To KO an opponent, you use punches and kicks, but the most powerful moves in the game- such as the Power Slams and special techniques- can only be done by charging up your Ki Meter (done Dragonball Z-style by striking a charging-up pose IRL). The funny thing here is that the meter doesn’t charge up in any other manner- unlike in more quality fighters like Streetfighter or Soul Calibur. So really- there is no reason for any fighter with a brain to NOT charge up as soon and as often as you can to finish the fight quickly and interestingly.
Yes, Charging up leaves you ‘open’, but there’s really not much an opponent can do save punch or kick you, while the attacks you can do with Ki are far more devastating. So a fight between human players invariably turns into who charges up first, does their attack, they the other guy retaliates, until one is KO’ed- rendering fights into cutscene slap-matches (and that’s basically what special Ki techniques are- cutscenes).

This basically means that Fighter Within really isn’t a serious fighter since it lacks depth, technique and a good system that you can learn and master. It’s all pretty dumb, system-wise.

Single Player content is more pronounced in this game, with an Initiation mode (Story) where you play through a lengthy plotline as Matt AKA Mr. Generic. The story is told through fully-voiced talking head screens with static character art- man, it could have been tons better with at least real-time animated cutscenes, but nope. The story isn’t bad, but it’s a bit silly and a bit too long. Once you play it once, you’ll never need to play it again.

Then there’s Duel Mode, where you can set up a fight between your chosen fighter and any other character in the roster. Arcade Mode lets you play through a string of fights as any of the characters, but no endings await at the end.
So what replay is there? Not much, just the kinda-cool animations of the attacks and finishing moves, which actually are pretty well-done and worth seeing. That’s about it.

So, with all that, IS there any value to this Ubisoft-made Kinect fighter? Well, at least- it actually controls well. Get used to the Kinect and pressing buttons on the screen (just leave it to muscle memory) and you’ll at least get this game to do what you want. Fighters will indeed respond relatively well to your gestures, from punches to kicks and special techniques.
I’ve heard or read some talk online that this game would have been salvageable IF it had an option to be played WITH a regular Xbox One controller instead of the Kinect2. I say, NOPE. As it is, playing this with a controller would be pretty boring and basic, and would negate the game’s best aspect- that playing it makes you SWEAT.

What ultimately saves this game for me- no actually what makes me happy that I got this game is that it gives me my money’s worth from the Kinect2 attached to my XBox One… and in doing so, it gives me a really good workout.

If you’re a gamer like me who doesn’t get to regularly do outdoor sports or go to the gym, this is probably a great way to work up a sweat. Play through the Arcade mode or do some Duel Matches and you’ll be sweating up in a while. Do that regularly and you’ll probably shed some pounds while pounding on the CPU enemies’ faces.
It’s perfect for me since I hate Rhythm games and can never be caught dancing if my life depended on it. But beating in someone’s face? I’m game.

So this game may be a crappy fighting game mainstream-wise, but it can be something that gets out of shape gamers the exercise outlet they need. With that considered, I say that if you get an Xbox One (which has Kinect2 included anyway), Fighter Within should be a MUST GET. The only hurdle there is that instead of it being packaged in the box, it’s a separate title you have to buy (and admittedly the full price of 59.99 is pretty steep). But look at it this way- you get healthy and the investment in the pounds shed playing this game is worth that little amount.

So that’s why I say, while Fighter Within will never be a serious beat ‘em up, it’s also probably the single fighting game around that can get you healthy! Play this regularly and you’ll get live AND play more games longer- great deal if you ask me!

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