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Posted by eddierichards on Oct 1, 2011
Review: Fighting Force / Core Design / PSN

Review: Fighting Force / Core Design / PSN

Oh, Lord.

Meet ‘Hawk, Alana, Mace… And Smasher. They may sound like rejects from the TV show, ‘Gladiators’ – but don’t underestimate them. This lot will kick your arse. No, really.

Here, we have us four badasses, ready to fight in a game that was originally meant to be Streets of Rage 4, but thanks to a dispute with the developers, Sega thankfully pulled out. There is still a heavy nod to SoR here, though – which is evident in character design, environments and your choice of weapons. But not in fun.

You pick one of the ‘Faceless Four’ as I like to call them (Characters literally have about 3 standout pixels and little else, in an area where their faces should be.) and tear your way through the city, and ‘Dr Zeng’s army. All four fighters have a personal problem with Dr Z but at the start of the game, it’s  not clear why. In fact there is no indication as to why they’re fighting at all, for that matter. All you know is that a bunch of chunky musclehead thugs are suddenly appearing in the distance via accidental teleportation and running towards you with the intention of messing you up. Early on you meet up with this doctor dude who’d hired out Mr X’s office for the day (See the Streets Of Rage series). He then runs out the window to a helicopter, leaving you to fight a bunch of faceless chicks.

After that, you keep fighting, which amounts to little more than hitting the punch or kick button like a nutter. There are other commands – like ‘Jump’ and ‘Back Attack’ (Doubling as a grapple command, which is never mentioned.) but none of them are of any great use. In fact the  jump button is rarely used for anything other than to combine it with punch for an energy depleting special move. The punch button also allows you to pick up one of many weapon types in Fighting Force; Baseball bats, bottles, knives (Sound familiar?) boxes, car engines – and you can also rip bars from walls and steal axes from compartments labelled ‘FIRE’. The variety of weaponry on offer is impressive and well implemented.

Sadly, the game fails miserably in just about every other department. Even taking into account that this was a PS1 title, the graphics are hideous and just about manage to be bearable. Some stages look a lot better than others, but all are poor by today’s standards. The ‘perfectly-formed’ characters onscreen appear as little more than the polygon-ridden strings of programming that they are, and they all have a love of denim and leather. Many were created to look exactly the same as Streets of Rage’s 2D sprites, but don’t look any better for being in 3D. Also – why office workers and what look like delivery men (with guns) are fighting and fighting so well, is anybody’s guess.

Fighting Force may have a lot of visual nods to it’s spiritual predecessor, but as far as music goes, it’s nowhere near Streets of Rage’s excellent dance catalogue. In fact, the dire effort here is not enjoyable in any way. All the tracks feel totally half-assed, and any tune that plays is too short, thus cutting off mid-stage and leaving you to fight in total silence, with nothing but repeated grunts and the odd explosion to listen to.

A neat gameplay feature allows you to occasionally choose which direction you want to travel in, at the end of a stage. It adds a little extra dimension to the game and is a nice touch.

But wherever you go, it’s all the same fare there are simply no surprises here. What’s more the game is bugged with glitches too. One of the best ones will see an enemy waiting behind a door for their cue to come out and fight. Sometimes you can spot one of his (or her) limbs moving through the door and it’s possible to take the git out by punching right through the solid door. Also more often than not, an enemy will stop everything they do, to allow you time to go through the animation of picking up a weapon.

Fighting Force has not aged well and to be honest it was ugly when it was released in ’97. It’s painfully boring to play through (even in 2-Player Mode), and it is no wonder Sega cut their ties with it. It always feels like a chore to play, and the dumb-as-bricks A.I. is beyond belief.

The selection process as to which PS1 games get selected for the Playstation Store is perplexing at best. We get a bum deal over here in Europe (Probably one  PS1 release every three months), whilst the Japanese and US stores have so many great classics to choose from. Whoever decided to put Fighting Force up for sale online was having a laugh.

Do yourself a favour – stick with the true Streets of Rage games, or even check out the recent PSN release of Final Fight: Double Impact.

 

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