Platforms: Xbox One
Oh Kinect. When you first emerged we were so excited. Well, sort of. We dreamed of 1-1 connections between our physical bodies and the virtual simulacra that appeared upon the screens before us. Imagine, we thought to ourselves, if we could do a Hadouken and have our avatars do the same with no delay or lag or hideous crashing. Wouldn't that be great?
And then Fighters Uncaged came along and slapped us in the face with a hard dose of reality by being utterly horrible and quite possibly the worst fighting game ever made, and yes that includes Clayfighter 63 1/3. Kill it, we cried. Kill it with fire.
Still, here comes Daoka with another swing at things and, guess what! Fighter Within isn't awful.
Much of this has to do with the superior power of Kinect 2.0 and the Xbox One's extra crunch. The flurry of punches I begin with feel like they're 1-1, and I'm rewarded with a nice little combo where the game takes over, the camera zooms in, and my character -- the Muay Thai-disciplined Chayan -- lands a powerful blow that looks far cooler than anything I've been doing. I stick out my leg like I'm kicking a rock and Chayan delivers a meaty roundhouse kick. This is nice, the game appears to be super responsive and taking my own physical inabilities and the limitations of the space into consideration.
We like to throw ourselves into these things as anyone who's seen our dancing videos will testify, and so it's not long before I'm bobbing and weaving, throwing out flurries of high and low jabs, and occasionally sweeping the leg. Land five hits in the same spot and you'll do a combo. Block your opponent's punches and kicks repeatedly and you'll perform a counter. I quickly learned that ducking under high jabs and working the body led to a high number of counters for me. Of course, then the rep who was taking me through the game delivered a high counter as I was ducking, kicking me in the head and sending me flying.
It's not quite perfect -- though the leaning backwards to move away worked relatively well, I found moving forward by leaning that way to be a little unresponsive. The game, though, works best when both fighters are in close proximity and trading blows. Best of all, you can thrust your arms out to your sides and take a power stance to power up your Chi, which then allows you to perform some rather powerful moves that are highlighted in instructional boxes at the bottom of the screen. And yes, one of the characters does have a grin-inducing Hadouken-esque fireball.
There are a few little context-sensitive features as well, such as jumping into the air when you're near a pole to swing around it and kick your opponent in the face, or picking up bludgeoning tools that are lying around on the ground. When your health dips below a certain level, you can perform revenge moves that are rather more powerful than regular moves and attempt to even the odds a little. Similarly, if you're the aggressor, you might have a chance to finish the fight in cinematic style with an aptly named "finisher".
I worked up a sweat rather quickly and it's clear that Daoka have benefitted from working with a motion control device that works, and works well, though there were a few times when it seemed to lose track of things. Given that I've been mightily impressed with the new Kinect sensor, I'm not sure if that isn't more adevelopment issue than a hardware problem. In any case, the key here is not to expect miracles. I can see Fighter Within being a fun title for blowing off some steam with a chum, but don't expect the nuanced depth and strategic combat that you'll find with most controller/stick-oriented titles.
Still, at least it looks shiny enough to be a next-gen game.