FaceBreaker K.O. Party – WII – Review

“What are you doing?!”

She was taken aback as she entered
the room, watching my arms flail as wildly as a quivering flag clinging to its
pole amidst a howling gale.

In a grueling battle, I couldn’t
stop to provide much explanation.

“I’m playing a new game,” I told my
girlfriend as she blankly stared and I ferociously swung. “I’m trying to dodge
this guy’s punch.”

There was silence for a moment.

“You’re doing all that,” she said,
“just to avoid a punch?”

It’s not that my nonsensical
gyrations are the required gesture for a dodge. But a few minutes into FaceBreaker, the disparate waggling blended together into the sad display that
left my girlfriend baffled.

The blandly subtitled K.O. Party is
a Wii adaptation of FaceBreaker, Electronic Arts’ new fighter disguised as a
boxing game. Don’t be fooled by the gloves; this is more a UFC event than a
boxing match.


The premise is simple. Choose a
fighter from a roster of zany stereotypical caricatures including a Latin
romantic, a muscular dimwit named Brick, a loud-mouthed British hip-hopper and
more. Then step into the ring and prepare for war; knock down your rival three
times to win.

That’s about it. There’s really not
much to it.

Other than style, that is, which
FaceBreaker: K.O. Party drips like perspiration. The characters are
well-designed, the menus are slick and the graphics are polished. Sharp models,
impressive lighting and visual effects make FaceBreaker one of the
better-looking games on Wii.

FaceBreaker draws style from more
than graphics alone. It implements a brutally fast combat system focused on
stringing together creative combos to eventually land a “facebreaker,” a
match-ending special move that does precisely as advertised to a by-then
listless opponent.

The matches not only look good
because of the graphics, but because of the action itself, which is smooth, fast
and appealing to watch.

Given the system’s inherent benefits
and limitations, a quality Wii game necessitates style and originality. FaceBreaker has both, but unfortunately, it controls like a first-generation Wii
title too focused on the novelty of motion and left me yearning for a GameCube
controller.

To throw a punch, swing the remote
and nunchuck. To recover from a daze, shake the remote and nunchuck. To dodge,
pull back on the remote and nunchuck. An obvious pattern develops; FaceBreaker’s irritating control scheme is built around constant controller
waggling.


 

There is a fundamental flaw with
motion control as implemented in FaceBreaker. It’s just not necessary,
immersive or beneficial.

Swinging the Wii remote like a
baseball bat works so well in Wii Sports, for example, because it matches your
motions, leaving you with an immersive gameplay experience. Conversely, FaceBreaker simply replaces button presses with excessive gestures, and it does
so inefficiently.

This is hardly “revolutionary” game
control, nor is it realistic in a game this fast-paced, requiring speed and
efficiency simply unattainable with this kind of motion control.

When opponents are on the offensive,
the constant waggling often causes unintended results. Shaking the remotes to
charge punches and dodge blows, you’ll often blow your brief opportunity for a
parry, which leaves you vulnerable to more pummeling. It can be frustrating.

I would’ve preferred jabs simply
mapped to buttons. Controller swings could’ve been saved for only the most
devastating moves, similar to the satisfying combat system in Ubisoft’s seminal
No More Heroes.

Swinging for deathblows feels
right. Constantly waving your arms doesn’t.

For players who can deal with
mimicking Soul Train to engage an opponent, though, FaceBreaker is a
no-brainer. Modes are thin and online multiplayer was skipped, but the game is
much better with friends, and its irreverent humor will keep you smiling even
between rounds.

I don’t mean to be too hard on EA. FaceBreaker is hardly the first Wii game to miss the point of the Wii
remote. It’s telling of many developers’ apparent inability to grasp motion control that
dodging a punch and chopping an onion require the same gestures on Wii.

But this casualty is perhaps more
unfortunate than others. FaceBreaker’s ever-waggle ethos scars an otherwise
solid Wii game.

A better control scheme might’ve
crowned it one of the year’s best on the platform, but as it stands, FaceBreaker
is a hapless reminder of the fragile balance between forcing and benefitting
from motion control.

Review Scoring Details
for FaceBreaker: K.O. Party

Gameplay: 4.5
Swing, waggle and flail wildly about
to execute almost every move in the game, proof that sometimes a simple button
press beats motion.

Graphics: 8.0
It may be mind-numbing to play, but
at least FaceBreaker looks good. It oozes plenty of style, great lighting
effects and character models.

Sound: 7.0
Over-the-top boxing sounds accompany
licensed music from artists I imagine people somewhere care about. Dialogue is
often funny.

Difficulty: Hard
FaceBreaker is one of those Wii
games that is more difficult than it should be because the controls are so at
odds with the player.

Concept: 8.0
EA has created a fresh take on the
fighting genre with style and originality, and brawling with eccentric new
characters beats playing a rehash. The game-ending “facebreaker” move also adds
an explosive dynamic.

Multiplayer: 7.5
As with many shallow celebrations of
Wii waggle, FaceBreaker is most enjoyable when played with a group of friends
who don’t necessarily care.

Overall: 6.0
EA’s stylish brawler floats like a
butterfly, but plays like a full-on seizure.