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FaceBreaker Eyes-on

23 May 2008

If FaceBreaker were a cheap PlayStation Network title, then we’d be gung-ho, but as of right now, the game lacks depth and caters only to the frantic button smashing newbies of fighting titles.

Earlier this month during the EA Sports event, PSU.com was given a first look at the new flagship title for EA’s Freestyle brand, Facebreaker. According to EA, Facebreaker is an arcade boxing title with the goal to bring back pick up and play social gaming.

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Presented by Senior Producer Dean Richards and Producer Cyrus Irani, FaceBreaker was shown running (alpha build) on an Xbox 360 at 60fps. The developers began by showing the game’s opening main menus and character selection screen, stating that the menus are stylized after comic books. This gave the characters and game a more reminiscent feel to action figures. As the developers flipped through the list of boxers, we were told that all the characters will have unique fighting styles and several uniforms (some of which will be unlockable) inspired by their diverse backgrounds.

Here is the list of characters shown:
- Romeo (the latin lover)
- Steve (Jack Black meets Chris Farley from Beverly Hills Ninja)
- Kekoa (surfer dude)
- Tokushu (dancer)
- Ice (tough Samuel L Jackson type dude)
- Spin (British DJ)
- Sparrow (ex-fighter pilot)
- Molotov (demolitions expert)
- Socks (mystery insane guy)
- Brick (typical 5yr old mind in giant’s body)
- Voodoo (witch doctor)
- Tiki (monkey)

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There are several environments in FaceBreaker, ranging from a gym to an insane asylum. During each fight, boxers who are not in the match, will appear in the background partaking in various actions. For example, in the Trailer Park level, Romeo may be washing his car during Round 1, but then in Round 2, he might be hitting on women or being arrested by the police. Most of the game’s characters will appear throughout the fight if you take the time to watch for them.

The way the fights work is simple. Either beat up the opponent enough to have them collapse three times, or perform enough combos to fill your breaker meter and perform your special Facebreaker finisher. However, one of the downsides to FaceBreaker I felt was the lack of variation in attacks. Each character has only one FaceBreaker knockout punch, which after playing the game for an hour, could get old quick. Also the basic attack system is simplistic, having a button for a high attack, low attack, and stun attack. During your combos, players can use their breaker meter at certain levels to perform different super moves varying from upper cuts to tosses.

Once the player has won the round, the loser's head becomes collectable in the winner’s trophy case. If players get bored of gathering the heads of the default characters, take the game online and collect the heads of your friends.

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One interesting feature that Richards and Irani showed was the ability to use custom photos to create your own boxers. Whether you download the photo onto your hard drive from the web or take your picture with a USB camera, players can import their custom avatars into the game when creating new boxers. For this demonstration the developers used an image of Peter Moore to create a custom Peter Moore boxer.

Once you have the face, players can customize everything from the players fighting style and body type (selecting one from the default characters of the game) to a FaceBreaker move. Also mentioned was the ability to clip videos of your fights and share them with your friends online. Although with the combat system being limited to only a certain amount of moves, sharing videos of the same punches over and over probably won’t be very entertaining.

Overall the game feels only half complete. The graphics are crisp, animations are smooth, and the characters are amusing; however, with a lackluster combat system that leads to just button mashing, the game falls short. If EA were for some reason to release this as an XBLA and PSN title, we’d say it would be worth keeping an eye on, otherwise hold out for better titles like Fight Night Round 4.


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