Fighter Within - Xbox One
Kidding aside, I went into Fighter Within completely open-minded, expecting to have at least a bit of fun experimenting with the new Kinect 2. Based on my experiences with the new hardware with every other launch game I actually quite liked the tech, and it's vastly superior to the 360's camera counterpart in every way. Sadly, Fighter does nothing to sell the new technology -- in fact, it will scare people away.
First off, the menus are extremely poor, forcing you to "punch" to select different options. Rather than let you have the option of using a d-pad like Kinect Sports Rivals, Fighter Within is content with having you aim up a jab, then having the cursor wildly swing in another direction as you're attempting to select something. The game is frustrating even before you get to play it.
Once you get past the headache-inducing menus, Fighter nudges you to complete the "Initiation" to learn how to play, which doubles as the goofy, poorly-executed story mode. Simply put, the plot is convoluted, silly, and a complete waste. If the developers wanted to go for a campy action film, they could have had something unique, at least -- instead, they opted for a disjointed narrative featuring a completely uninteresting protagonist (who looks like a knockoff of DmC's Dante, someone you don't want to knock off in the first place), who randomly meets a collective of equally uninteresting characters.
To make matters worse, the story is littered with lazy cutscenes that feature still animation rather than actual interaction between the characters -- if you can call them interactions. It feels rushed, which is disappointing considering the rest of the Xbox One launch lineup is particularly solid. This 21-mission campaign will last you under two hours on your quest to recover an "epic book" -- but you likely won't make it that far.
The moves that are available to you are as follows: punching, hooking, kicking, leaning, blocking, and throwing. All of it operates just how you'd think with the Kinect, putting up your hands either high or low to block, actually ducking in real life to dodge, and leaning forwards or backwards to dash. Most of it actually does work some of the time, but the problem is this is a fighting game -- you need the controls to work all of the time.
There's also another holdup that transcends the control issues, mainly due to direct design flaws and a lack of balancing. Should you wail a few times high or low, you'll initiate an instant "combo" that triggers a cutscene. If you block a few attacks the game will instantly trigger another counter cutscene. If you duck, then throw a punch -- you guessed it -- another cutscene. The problem here is that the game not only lacks any sort of impact when beating on your opponent, but everyactual skill-based hit is diminished in favor of gimmicky mechanics.
This is especially evident in the "Ki" power system. Holding back your arms to charge a Ki move is novel at first, but quickly grows tiring. It's also completely broken, and a surefire way to beat every single enemy in the campaign. This gameplay mechanic sums up Fighter Within in a nutshell -- it's like a team had all these great ideas for a fighting game, put them all in a blender, and didn't bother to actually balance them in any way.
After completing the story, you can "look forward to" a small training mode, arcade CPU fights, and local multiplayer. Out of all these modes multiplayer is the only one worth playing once or twice -- if only just to have a good laugh with the person standing next to you. The fighters themselves also have no real discernible differences between them outside of statistical changes.
Fighter Within is a lazy tech demo with a poor story, unimpressive fighting engine, and a forgettable cast. Maybe one day we'll have a cool Kinect fighting game, where everyone at EVO is flailing around with some semblance of strategic value. But this is not that day.