|Electronic Arts has discovered the popularity of wanton destruction with the success of its Burnout series of crash-based racing games. Now it's going to find out if the obliteration of a human face holds as much appeal for gamers as a pinwheeling sports car.
He's no King Hippo.
The publisher today announced its newest intellectual property, FaceBreaker. An arcade-style take on boxing, FaceBreaker will be developed by the same team behind its other pugilism property, the Fight Night series. Until recently, that team was based at EA Chicago.
While no real-life, licenced boxers have been revealed so far, two characters have been: Romeo, a "Latin lover known for his pelvic thrusts," and Molotov, "an oversized Russian demolitions expert with a penchant for fighting dirty."
For gamers who want to see what their deformed faces may look like without going through the effort in real life, FaceBreaker will support photo uploads. The game will be available on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii sometime in 2008. More details will be available on FaceBreaker's official Web site starting February 1.
|The first thing you're likely to notice about FaceBreaker is the eccentric stable of boxers shown pummeling each other in any number of prerelease videos and screenshots. We certainly can't fault you for that--each character is dripping with style, from the Jack Black-inspired faux kung fu artist Steve to the suave lady killer Romeo. It's not until you get your hands on a controller that you discover FaceBreaker's hidden depth. Lurking behind two simple attack buttons is a stacking tier of increasingly effective special moves, a ping pong-like parry system, and the ability to simply fight with one arm behind your back when you've mastered it all. We recently took part in our first hands-on session with FaceBreaker, getting a feel for these control mechanics while taking a look at the interesting boxer factory character-creation system.
A variety of interesting levels are offered, like arcades, trailer parks, zoos and insane asylums.
Our time was spent playing the PlayStation 3 version, though the game will also be released on the Xbox 360. Your two basic attacks go like this: X to land a low punch on the opponent's torso and square to throw a high punch at his head. You can hold R1 to block, and if you time it right with a punch, you can parry the attack to respond with your own counterpunch. The fun part about this system is that each boxer can keep parrying as long as he continues to time the punches correctly, so theoretically, you could see a dozen failed punches exchanged until someone finally flinches and takes a jab to the face.
Landing a series of uncountered punches will build your FaceBreaker meter, which is the game's system of special attacks. These are triggered by hitting the triangle button. The first level is the GroundBreaker, which is a slightly more devastating punch than the basic high and low attacks. The next level is the SkyBreaker. This one derives its name from the savage uppercut you give your opponent, lifting him high into the air, and if you time a second triangle press correctly on his way down, you'll land another punch to add insult to injury. After the third level, the BoneBreaker, is the final step in the meter, which is the titular FaceBreaker. This is basically your finishing move. Each character will do away with his opponent in his own unique way, like Molotov the Ivan Drago-esque Russian doing push-ups on someone's face or Voodoo the overweight shaman jumping from the turnbuckle to land posterior first on another person's face. Notice a theme? They're called "FaceBreakers" for a reason.
If you find yourself underwhelmed by the quality of your opponent, you can hold the L1 button to keep one arm behind your back and fight with a bit of condescending panache. There's no tangible reward for fighting like this-- only the look on your buddy's face when you continue to beat him despite your showboating. With an arm behind your back, your move set will be changed to mock your opponent. One of your moves is the ability to simply shove your opponent down to the ground, while another will see you landing a solid kick to the nether regions. It may not be the most practical of attacks, but it helps reinforce the game's focus on multiplayer zaniness.
This is probably illegal in most boxing leagues.
Overall, we had a lot of fun with FaceBreaker. The controls are simple and easy to pick up, with each character's personality adding extra appeal to the simplified style of boxing presented in the game. But while it may be simple, we picked up on certain areas where strategy is a must. The most notable area is with FaceBreakers. When you use the first or second tier, you'll drop your FaceBreaker meter back to zero. What that does is knock away a substantial portion of your opponent's health, but you'll, then, need to build it back up all over again for the next special move. This adds a fun risk-reward element to the fighting. You're constantly at odds with your instinct to pummel your opponent as savagely as you can right at that moment, but in the back of your head, you know you can guarantee yourself a victory if you patiently build that FaceBreaker gauge all the way up to the top.
When not abusing the ability to fight with our hands behind our back, lead designer Todd Batty was kind enough to walk us through a few of the game modes. FaceBreaker is, without a doubt, a multiplayer game. The ease of controls and eccentricity of character movement lends itself very well to having fun with others. One of the ways the developers are looking to encourage you to play this way is with the Couch Party mode, which essentially allows you to create a pool of players and have them swap controllers between each round. The winner stays on while the loser has to hand over the controller, but it becomes increasingly difficult for the winner to stay on with each passing round because he only gets three knockouts to carry over through each match.
The other interesting feature we saw is the boxer factory. Here, you can design your own Frankenstein's monster and throw him into the ring. You can either download photos from your hard drive or a USB camera to create the face and then choose body-shape templates based on the actual cast of boxers. You, then, adjust more than 60 sliders to tweak the look of your boxer to change his hair, shorts, and other visual characteristics. To cap it all off, you can upload your design to a content-sharing service that houses 30 boxers per user. Boxers will be promoted through a YouTube-style system that ranks and features various designs to help you sift through the muck to find the real gems.
The SkyBreaker requires careful timing, but it's a lot of fun to pull off.
We also had the chance to take a look at the Wii version, known as FaceBreaker: K.O. Party. It plays very similarly to its PS3 and 360 brethren, but with a few notable differences outside the obvious inclusion of motion controls. As a way of mixing up the way you throw punches, characters will have their own handedness to take into account. That means characters, not players, will be either left- or right-handed, and you need to focus on their dominant hand while boxing. The actual fighting has been slowed down a tick to reduce any chaotic flailing. There won't be a Boxer Factory, but there will be a few unique multiplayer modes. And finally, the Wii version has the leg up on other versions in character selection; you can choose from the same cast of characters, plus a few extras unique to K.O. Party.
FaceBreaker is looking like a fine introduction from EA's new Freestyle brand. The appearance is slick and comical while the controls offer accessibility and enough light strategy to keep you involved. We'll be sure to bring you more on FaceBreaker as its release draws closer.
FaceBreaker is fine if you want to mindlessly mash buttons, but if you want a deep boxing game, look elsewhere.
By David Ellis 09/03/2008
> Reviewer's Blog > Review Crew Profile
At first glance, FaceBreaker looks like a spiritual successor to cartoony arcade-boxing games like Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! or Ready 2 Rumble Boxing. They all feature diverse casts of eccentric boxers with bombastic moves that you've gotta learn how to counter in order to move up the ranks and win title belts. That's pretty much where the similarities between FaceBreaker and its predecessors end. FaceBreaker is more casual fighter than pugilist-laden spectacle. Basic attacks -- high punch, low punch, throw, and the all-powerful haymaker -- can be charged up for more powerful blows, and each character sports their own variation on this move set. Steve, the bulbous Karate Math-lete, eschews the haymaker punch in favor of a crane kick, and his ninja abilities allow him to teleport. Fights are a button masher's dream: The action unfolds too fast for any serious strategic play, and attacks follow a rock-paper- scissors approach (jabs beat haymakers; haymakers stop throws).
Click the image above to check out all FaceBreaker screens.
If you grow tired of beating down the available characters, though, you can create your own fighters. The game stitches together a reasonable facsimile from photos uploaded to your system; the process takes a long time, but it's worth the effort. Pounding your buddy's virtual doppelganger -- then laughing at him while he sits next to you -- is pretty damn satisfying. Several included custom characters make perfect sense (like EA Sports head honcho Peter Moore), while other inclusions (The Hills' Heidi and Spencer and Kim Kardashian from Keeping Up with the Kardashians, among others) are completely baffling.
Despite FaceBreaker's simplistic fighting mechanics, the computer-controlled characters get pretty relentless. Even at the lowest difficulty, winning the higher-rank championship belts borders on impossible. It's frustrating to watch opponents suddenly block, parry, and counter almost any attack, making for a minimal chance of victory. FaceBreaker is fine if you want to mindlessly mash buttons and beat the hell out of friends, but if you want a deep, balanced boxing game, look elsewhere.