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Destructoid review: Facebreaker

2:00 PM on 09.26.2008 // Brad Nicholson

Years ago I was convinced that Punch-Out! was a dead concept. I believed that over-the-top cartoon boxing was never to be revived in this generation. Naturally, I was surprised when I first read about EA Canada's Facebreaker. As the surprise wore off and I read more about the title I started anticipating a joyous experience.

And that anticipation was stripped immediately upon fighting my first match in Facebreaker. Instead of giving away all the juicy details before the page break, I’d rather busy myself talking about something good – blueberry pie.

Blueberry pie has to be the best pie ever invented. It has blueberries, crust, and even sugar. I often busy myself on the weekends by making blueberry pie and I think I have it down to a science. If you use margarine, Splenda and a brown sugar crust you can get the entire pie around 1,750 calories. That means you can eat half a pie and still not even be breaking the majority of diets out there. It’s beautiful.

Oh yeah I forgot about Facebreaker. Hit the break for the full review.

Facebreak (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 [reviewed])
Developed by EA Canada
Published by Electronic Arts

EA Canada’s Facebreaker is an atrocious title that isn’t worth a second of your time. The core of the game is composed of mashing two buttons with little recourse in the way of combinations. The AI in the game is manic at best and the online play does nothing but punctuate the already dreadful experience that is Facebreaker. The only redeemable factor in the game is its visuals. The game has a very unique over-the-top cartoon flair with the bonus of head deformity as you take punches in the face. The animations are fairly flawless as well. The big problem is that the game is devoid of everything past its own style.

Facebreaker has five buttons, all of which can be mashed quite joyfully to produce decent results. There is a high punch, low punch, block, super punch (called a “breaker”), and throw command at a player’s disposal. I suppose EA Canada wanted the point of the game to be to knock an opponent down three times over the course of two rounds. What really happens is an endurance match, where two players vie in an external competition of who can hit buttons the quickest. Which, by the way, is actually encouraged in the game’s user manual. Often after matches your hands will hurt and so will your ego because it’s quite possible that your grandmother could best you. Especially considering in the third round initiates a sudden death mode, where the first player to be knocked down loses the match, regardless of domination in the prior rounds.

There is another reason why your grandmother could best you as well. Facebreaker is ridiculously simple. Its premise revolves around using the two punching moves and smacking the opponent while occasionally tossing in a throw or using the breaker button to do a crude, quick combo. Yeah – it’s that simple.

There are blocking moves, which are vital against the schizophrenic AI in the game. By holding down the block button and pushing the proper attack button that your opponent is using (it’s a 50/50 chance) you can perform a parry move which will stop your opponents flurry for a sliver of a second so you can start doing the same thing the opponent was doing to you. Dodges are initiated by simply hitting the corresponding attack button the opponent is using as well, so it’s a win-win. Just drill buttons.

Allow me to elaborate on the worthless AI with a fantastical metaphor. Imagine you’re playing the first level of Pitfall and it’s only five seconds long. All you have to do is swing across a moat with an alligator in it. After accomplishing that you would move on to the second level -- which looks exactly like the first. Once you start swinging on that vine again a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Rambo, and Robocop jump out of the moat and start shooting you with lasers. Defenseless, you die. Shortly after a few attempts you realize that only random chance will dictate if you can make it across safely and avoid laser fire. Facebreaker’s tournament mode is exactly like that. The first belt is easily won with enough button presses, but then the difficulty ramps up to a spectacular level where luck is the predominant factor in winning. The AI is ridiculously brutal after the first three bouts in the game. Instead of lasers (which makes complete sense) behemoth characters with massive reaches enter into the fold and bludgeon you to death with complete ease.

It’s annoying, frustrating, and those hand cramps are all for naught. I was actually surprised to see that a game as brutally simple and dreadfully mundane as Facebreaker dared to have an online component. It’s an EA game, so before jumping online you have to sell your soul. After the soul has been given away, you’re free to do a few things. Firstly, you can upload a created character, download characters, and compete in matches online. There’s really no reason to do any of these things considering how terrible Facebreaker is. Online matches service to do nothing more than bring out the frustrations with the game that are readily apparent in single player (with a good bit of lag to boot) and downloading and creating characters can be fun, but what’s the point if the core gameplay is as terrible as it is? That’s the question I had to keep asking myself as I booted up the character creator for the first time and took a nice picture of my face to be scanned onto one of the preset bodies. My face was rendered spectacularly well, but outfitting myself was abysmal. Only a few body types, hair, and boxing trunks are available. In fact, I still wonder why EA Canada decided to busy themselves with a character creation device as opposed to varying the action in the game.

As much as I wanted to enjoy Facebreaker, I couldn’t. The game is a bad experience through and through and I’m not even sure if inebriation helps. If you’re looking for a decent fighter, it appears as though Don King’s offering or Fight Night are still the only valid options out there.

Score: 1.5 (Epic Fail -- 1s are the lowest of the low. There is no potential, no skill, no depth and no talent. These games have nothing to offer the world, and will die lonely and forgotten.)


Brad Nicholson,
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