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FaceBreaker Hands-on

Facebreaker. It’s a word that many gamers know so long as they’ve been following anything EA related over the course of the last two months. While it hasn’t been given a great deal of marketing at present (certainly not in the same capacity as Madden or NCAA), Facebreaker is well and truly alive. It’s sitting, waiting, watching the hyped up titles of 2008 garner all of the attention while slyly preparing to take videogame fans by storm when it hits store shelves this September.

Describing Facebreaker as simply a “Ready to Rumble” knockoff or a lame attempt at arcade boxing is not only disrespectful and 100% incorrect, but it does nothing but show a lack of knowledge of the game itself. If I could choose a slogan for Facebreaker and the impact it had on me at E3 2008, I would undoubtedly label it the Sleeper Hit of the show.

I say this as a shocked individual who walked into the EA booth to see titles such as Mirror’s Edge, Mercenaries 2 and Dead Space. However, even I couldn’t see this coming, as I ended up spending roughly 40 minutes of time playing Facebreaker, consuming everything the game had to offer. After scanning through the game’s character selection screen – which believe me, is nothing short of unique - I found myself setting up to utilize Sparrow; a fast-paced chick fighter decked out in black with a mean street look to herself that just screamed, “Try me.”

My competitor, a fellow journalist from a foreign site I believe, chose Ice. This guy was powerful with a stone jaw that would stun anyone in place. As the match started, I began button mashing due to having no clue as to what to do exactly. This left me getting my ass handed to me throughout the first round, but that didn’t last for long. Thanks to an EA Employee rattling off instructions and tips of what each button does, I managed to make a quick note of them in my mind and turn the fight around, letting off some combo punches to the mid-section followed by some beautiful jabs to my opponents face. All of this came before an over the top haymaker to the top of Ice’s skull, sending him down towards the canvas. As Ice bounced up, I kicked him into the corner of the ring and went to work on his chiselled yet tired body.

Out of nowhere, I accidentally triggered my Facebreaker finisher. With my opponent going soaring into the air from my latest flurry of attacks, I gave one more swift attack and before the incredible finisher took place. Sparrow soared through the air, like her bird counterpart, and came crashing down feet first, directly onto Ice’s face. It was over. The knockout was complete and Sparrow was victorious. From this moment on, the fast-paced action and over-the-top excitement had me hooked to the television screen.

It was abundantly clear after talking with several EA reps that they were very passionate about the title, and indeed extremely proud of what was sitting before us. Visually, the game was nothing short of impressive, with each character meticulously detailed and sporting a unique look, making it easy to differentiate between each fighter and determine what particular assets they’d offer in a brawl.

Whether you wish to use an insane asylum character that uses sock puppets for gloves or an obese ninja that could use a smoke screen to show up behind you, Facebreaker has it all. The hilarity doesn’t stop there. Each character has specific strengths that can be used to their advantage in order to stun their opponents to go in for the kill. One of the coolest stuns was a Voodoo fighter that would hypnotize you with his long-range attack shot. This particular stunner causes you to punch yourself in the face to snap out of it, and if you’re low enough on health, you’ll inevitably knock yourself out in the process.

Fortunately, however, this quirky mechanic isn’t necessarily as unbalanced as one may perceive. Each stun can be countered, and while the title does offer a distinct pick up and play approach, at its heart the game offers an incredibly well balanced experience that is ultimately more dependant on skill rather than the character you use.

Much like the Facebreaker, there are three other levels of breakers you can utilize. These involve air breaks and ground breakers. Each one is unique to the style of character you’re using and once again adds to the overall experience that EA has created for users.

On top of all of this, the developer has also added an awesome feature where you’ll be able to record various accomplishments. For example, if you knock someone out in 8 seconds, you’ll see this record added to your profile and the characters head will be awarded as a trophy. Needless to say, this feature added an entire dimension of bragging rights to the game, which also extends into the game's online component, allowing you to take the title online and actually claim the heads of your fallen opponents through this mode as well.
Overall, I couldn’t believe how impressed I was with Facebreaker. With its unique character line-up, seamless controls and hilarious list of maneuvers to learn and perform, EA has come up with something truly unique in a market abundant with sequels. Whether you want to beat on your buddies or rack up the victories online, FaceBreaker has it all and is shaping up to be more than worth the wait come its release this fall.