Fighting games have remained notably stoic over the years. The odd roster change or skill adjustment is the semblance of change, but most remain set on the same 2D planes they’ve been housed on for over a decade, using attacks that are beyond iconic. Fighter Within aims to reverse that trend.
The Xbox One exclusive title uses the new Kinect sensors improved motion tracking to create one the most realistic fighting experience short of rolling up your sleeves and engaging in fisticuffs. However, like any motion controlled title, there is plenty of potential to still end up battered, bruised and feeling like you’ve been robbed.
Unlike the feeling you get from a lot of previous Kinect-based fighter titles, most notably Fighters Uncaged, there are a couple more options than just throwing your fists in front of you in a blind fury and hoping to win. Players can round their fist for a hook, throw out a straight jab or try and pull off an uppercut. Chaining 5 hit triggers a combo, a flurry of attacks that chunk a fair amount of your opponents HP.
Fighter Within doesn’t restrict combat to just your hands and those feet of yours are just as viable a weapon, varying the games pace by throwing a couple of Chuck Norris styled roundhouse’s into the mix. OK, perhaps I was over-exaggerating with the Norris-level of leg flinging just a little, but Fighter Within is definitely one of those games that demands space. To get the most out of the game, it requires high mobility and in an enclosed area you’d be likely to throw a foot into a vase, punt a cat or something.
Once your opponents Kung Fu fists are flying, it’s time to go on the defence. Players can duck when their opponent aims high to avoid the blow, and take advantage by following with a will timed punch to counter. Raising your arms in front of your face blocks incoming attacks and chaining blocks consecutively allows you to perform a defensive combo, putting you back on the offensive. The required actions are fairly instinctive and flow together in combat quite well.
Certain attacks will stagger your opponent, leaving them vulnerable for a few crucial seconds. Take advantage of this downtime with a couple of cheeky blows or by raising your arms in a Dragon Ball Z styled stance to get that power level over 9000. Pop culture references aside, you can trigger a special attack by throwing both palms forward. Two bars will appear on screen and both players must rapidly throw their palms forward to fill the bar. Success is measured by the height of the bar and if the attacker manages to beat the special attack, triggering accompanying tonnes of damage.
These aren’t the only special moves in Fighter Within. You can “swap” sides with your opponent by criss-crossing your arms, disengage from a duel with a strong kick and even bend the environment to your advantage, though these instances seem few and far between during my playtime on the game.
Each character has a unique finishing move, prompted when your opponents HP falls to a critical level. I’m not sure as to whether or not taking down the remnants of the enemies HP would also end the match, but I do know that the other characters finisher was far easier to pull off than my backwards kick, though I give props to the improved Kinect sensor for picking up on that one.
Despite all these fancy moves the new Kinect sensor suffers from some of the failings of its predecessor. Movement is controlled by leaning forward and backward, which makes navigating the battlefield tough and re-engaging at that crucial gap in attacks nigh impossible.
Obviously being an Xbox One title, you’re going to want to know how it looks. Animations are fast, fluid and satisfying to watch during the brief respite pulling off a combo offers. Character models are a little unresponsive to hits, mostly because they’re also trying to process the flailing arms (think button mashing for Kinect games) of those trying to out flurry their opponents. A lot of detail has gone into the character models and environments, crafting an iconic landscape and what I’m sure Ubisoft hope to become memorable characters.
Fighters are easy to pick up and infinitely complex to master and once you’ve got your head around the control scheme, the Fighter Within is a pretty unique and enjoyable experience. Whether it has the depth to succeed in the long run remains to be seen but being a Kinect controlled fighter title, I’d be surprised if the fighting community flocked to this in droves.
Fighter Within is scheduled as a launch title for the Xbox One later this year.