Cartoon style boxing titles aren’t anything new. Punch Out, released way back in the 80s was a major hit for Nintendo’s NES console, and I’m sure most of you will fondly remember the Ready 2 Rumble titles of the late-90s/early-00s.
After the success of the Fight Night series for EA during the last decade, it’s strange to find them suddenly eager to snack into their own slice of the boxing pie. The analogue stick based boxing play of the aforementioned popular series fails to make an appearance, with a more traditional style of beat-em-up control inserted in its place.
Things are horrifically simplistic. You can throw either high or low punches, go for a powerful haymaker, or throw your opponent. Each attack can be charged to make a more powerful hit, but charging leaves you wildly open for a quick smash in the mouth.
Where some titles thrive on a simple control method allowing for strategy to be the major plus point, FaceBreaker fails to cling onto the same hope. Though you can indeed block punches, it’s much more rewarding to simply mash the face buttons and throw in as many punches as you can within a few short seconds of time. Certainly not much fun when the way to victory is simply smashing your palm on a control pad time and time again.
The simplicity continues with the number of rounds stuck firmly at three. Knock your opponent down three times and you’ll be proclaimed the winner. And that’s that. If no-one is down and out by the end of the third round, you’ll go into a standard death match mode and the first to hit the canvas is the ultimate loser.
There are moments you’ll find yourself stringing together fantastic punches, apparently outwitting your opponent, and having a damn good time. Sadly these moments last mere seconds when you suddenly realise that the AI is completely broken.
Opponents fall into one of two categories. The first, namely the daft ones, will happily show you’re their weak spot for you to exploit time and time again before they’re left in a bloody pile on the floor. The second, namely the irritating sods, will back you in a corner and simply bash you until you toss your controller through the nearest window. And never the twain shall meet.
EA have provided us with some good looks. Its class A presentation all the way as you’d expect from any EA title, and customising your own character is a real treat. If you’ve a real keen eye you’ll notice that each punch lands realistically, with the receiver’s face contorting in a suitably over-the-top manner. Great, if you’ve the kind of spectacular eyesight needed to notice it every once in a while.
FaceBreaker simply doesn’t offer the fun and thrills that EA had hoped for. The AI is either stupid, or brain surgeon-esque, leaving you with a gaming experience that fails to be enjoyed even one ounce.
EA had the right idea to give us a nice simple brawler to waste a few hours with. Shame they went and stuffed it right up.