Fight Club, a new fighter from the developers of the poorly received Tao Feng, is looking like quite an interesting game. I had heard of it, but since fighting games are not normally part of my milieu, I hadn’t really looked into it. While making my way through the crowd clogging the Xbox area, I came face to face with a BenQ screen showing Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in all of their fight club glory; broken teeth, shattered noses and orbits, and large, colorful contusions. As anyone who has seen Tao Feng can attest to, the character models are a good way beyond your standard 3D fighter. The station had just recently been vacated by a poor sap who had apparently tried to face the adversarial developer in the knee, which resulted in a nicely broken nose and swiftly broken arm which ended the match.
Now breaking an arm won’t end the match, that’s usually accomplished by emptying their life meter through repeatedly striking them across their body with your feet, fists, head, or by tossing them about. Usually. But we’ll get to that later.
They also treat damage in an interesting way, by way of shock damage. When you get hit, your health bar changes in two ways. The solid part of the bar drops a certain amount, but a transparent portion stays a bit more full. If you manage to not get hit for a few seconds, the transparent part slowly fills back up and your character basically ‘recovers’ from the shock of the last hit. This means that you have to push your advantage while you’ve got it, otherwise you will have to hit them more to do the same amount of damage. So the incredibly detailed character models reflect damage in a very convincing manner, but we know now that it takes more than well modeled characters and liberal blood to make a compelling game. Genuine Games is taking this game a step farther than any previous fighter has ever dreamed of.
When I first saw the trailer for the Fight Club movie, to say that I was skeptical is like saying Einstein was pretty good at mathematics. I mean, come on, how good could a movie that obviously shallow be? I went and saw it because Edward Norton is a brilliant actor and I couldn’t believe that he would make a bad movie. He didn’t. I know that you all have seen the movie, so I don’t have to tell you how good it is. That is kind of how I approached the game. Okay, so you have a fighting game based off of a movie in which fighting took a backseat to discussions about the meaning of masculinity. Sure, they are going to have over ten characters from the movie that you can use to not talk about Fight Club with, but the game is deeper than that. Games these days seem to want to push genre boundaries as much as possible, almost as if sticking to merely one gametype were as savvy as saying that you were going to merely re-release Dai-Katana, minus the textures, weapons, and sound (which, upon second thought, might improve the game). Fight Club definitely has a slash in it’s name and the suffix is probably not the one you were expecting (actually, it probably is; now RTS would have caught you off guard), Fight Club is a fighter/RPG.
The RPG aspect comes from the fact that players earn experience for how quickly and effectively they deal with their opponents, and will still gain experience even if they lose. This experience allows you to buy better stats, more moves, and to heal yourself after online fights. Wait, online fights? Why yes, you can fight online, and in a much deeper mode than currently offered by anyone else. We’ll get back to online fights in a second, there is still a bit of base gameplay that we have to cover. Levels are an incredibly important aspect of any fighting game because they allow the player to feel a sense of immersion. Once fighting games went 3D, Team Ninja took the idea of stages a step farther and introduced traversable levels, where you could kick your opponent off of a cliff and then complete the fight at the base or from the inside of a building to the outside. No one else has really tried to follow Tecmo, but Genuine Games has decided that they will pass Team Ninja and see what is on the other side.
The level I got to play took place in the parking lot outside of Lou’s Bar. After the developer was nice enough to put my head through several car windows, he backed me up against the bar window and triggered a nice little cinematic where he kicked me through the window and jumped in after me. He then proceeded to pummel my head against a pool table, the bar, and a crowd, and then kicked me through the front doors back out into the parking lot. The fight can travel all around the levels, and we still have no ideas how big they are going to make them.
So, you’ve gotten really good at beating the computer. Your character is maxed out and you feel like the game exists as merely an extension of your already over-inflated ego. Then you log online and some little punk beats the living hell out of you. Not only that, you don’t tap out in time and your character gets killed. Oops, time to start all over. The developers struggled with a way to work tapping out into the game, and I think they figured out a pretty interesting way to do it. As I said earlier, it is possible to end the match before you completely expire by tapping out since living to fight another day can be more fun than … not. It is possible to break your opponent’s limbs only once they are weak enough, which usually brings them right to the point of no return. This limb breaking is a great way to end your fight with a bit of flair and take the rest of the fight out of your opponent. If you get a limb broken during combat, you will have to visit an ER afterwards and use hard earned experience to get it healed. They also plan on implementing betting and in-game lobbies.
Altogether I was very impressed by this game. The team seems to have a lot of really great ideas and they all seem to actually make sense. The brutal, realistic combat and the great implementation of play should really elevate this title. We’ll hopefully be getting at least one interview and some other goodies, so be on the lookout for it.