Fighters Uncaged is, on the face of it, an appealing recipe. It’s street combat reminiscent of the likes of Fight Club, albeit without a bar of soap in sight – a bloodstains-and-teeth-on-the-floor, no-holds-barred beat-’em-up. And not counting Kinect Sports boxing, which is more of a mini-game, this is the first full fighting game to use Microsoft’s new motion-sensing games controller. That’s the most exciting part – you actually get to duck, counter-punch and roundhouse kick for real. To a certain extent…
Fighters Uncaged doesn’t read and execute your movements directly. Rather, it detects your motion and translates it into a pre-scripted punch or kick. While that might sound a bit disappointing in some respects, it does simplify matters, and means that the less athletic amongst us can pull off a roundhouse kick to the head, because it only needs to be delivered at waist height in reality.
A spinning heel kick, which if we attempted for real would probably result in a broken vase, smashed TV screen – or perhaps a very high-pitched noise and a trip to hospital – is executed via a simple soccer back-heel motion. These ‘dumbed-down’ moves do reduce the game’s immersiveness – but then there’s no way that most players could ever hope to even approximate them in real life. Perhaps expecting the player to actually turn around for a spinning heel kick might have been an idea, though.
However, you can forget all that for the moment. A lack of realism isn’t the biggest drawback where Fighters Uncaged is concerned. The real problem that makes the player look more Jackie Chump than Jackie Chan is that the game doesn’t always detect your moves. While simple blows, such as a straight jab, are picked up most (but not all) of the time – provided you extend your arm fully – other moves prove far more troublesome.
Pulling off a backhand punch was a 50-50 proposition for us. And as for attempting a head butt, the player seems to be required to do some manner of limbo dance (for the wind-up), followed by a full-on football header. A swift and natural ‘Glasgow kiss’ just doesn’t get picked up by the game.
And the movement woes don’t end there. Sometimes an attack is misread as another move. A number of our hooks to the midriff ended up as backhand punches, for example. At times, the mistakes are far more comical – you throw a punch, and your on-screen avatar performs a leaping forward kick. Even the tiniest movement, such as a twitch of the leg, can set off a spinning heel kick. When you’re doing one thing and the avatar is doing another – often seemingly at random – any sense of immersion you may have felt swiftly flies out of the window.
Throw in a bit of delay – this is the first Kinect game in which we’ve encountered a noticeable time lag – and the frustration levels kick into overdrive. Ducking, in particular, seems to happen very slowly. Not very useful when you’re about to get smacked in the chops. The cumulative effect of all these problems is an unconvincing virtual combat experience.
It’s also worth noting that Ubisoft’s brawler is a one player-only game – there’s no multiplayer mode at all. And the single-player campaign itself is highly unimaginative. It consists of a simple list of fighters to tackle in linear fashion, with no effort made on the presentation front. Furthermore, it uses a poorly conceived scoring system that means it’s not enough to merely win against an opponent. If you’re not quick enough, or you lose too much health in gaining your victory, you must square up against the same opponent again. As you can imagine, repeatedly fighting the same bruisers soon gets painfully tedious.