Ubisoft have stuck true to their own company remit in recent times, supporting every major videogame format at launch with a selection of both new and the readdressing of existing titles. Xbox One is set to be no different, with Watch_Dogs, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and The Crew providing the multi-format crossovers and Fighter Within being the title built from the ground-up for Xbox One. Set to arrive alongside the console itself, Fighter Within takes the honour of being the only Kinect HD exclusive retail release at launch.
Some of you may remember that Ubisoft delivered a similar title at the launch of Kinect for the Xbox 360, Fighters Uncaged, which at best was an example of what could be accomplished with the device had the team been given more time, wildly falling short of expectation in itself. Fighter Within, sadly, doesn’t seem to have evolved from this basis very much. In fact, it’s such a similar proposition that Electronic Theatre would be willing to bet that the videogame has been built on the exact same framework.
Unlike many gamers the Electronic Theatre team is unanimous in our desire for a deep motion-control beat-‘em-up experience. Sadly, despite having some good ideas, Fighter Within does not seem to want to be this videogame. The input detection is accurate but far too slow in it’s on-screen interpretation for a videogame concern entirely with action and reaction. To counter this the team has developed an interesting combo system in which five successfully landed punches or three kicks will execute an animated sequence to finish the combo. Successful blocking will do the same in reverse, giving the defending player the advantage after a counterattack. It’s an interesting design decision in principle but in play it simply feels like much of the action is being taken out of the players hands; this isn’t so much performing a special move as it is using a virtual autofire pad.
Another mechanic seems to have been borrowed from the Dragonball Z Budokai videogames, but is easily forgivable considering it’s fitting delivery here with Kinect. Players can build their special bar naturally as the fight continues or they can strike a pose to speed up the gain considerably. Upon reaching a full meter stage (three stages available, each performing a different manoeuvre) the player can execute a high damage attack that again initiates a cutscene, but not at the expense of the player’s own skill.
Atop the basic punches and kicks and these two special elements Fighter Within also features a number of contextual attacks. Players can use the environment to their advantage, leaping to and off a telephone pole for an unblockable side attack for example, and can also reach out and pick up weapons. Items that you can use against your opponent do have a limited lifespan – seemingly a single combo – but they will inflict great damage during their lifespan.
The character design of Fighter Within is rather generic – in that of the two combatants seen thus far, at least – though the stages are of a better quality with their vast interactivity. It’s quite a stretch to see how Fighter Within will go from this lukewarm preview build to a ‘must-have’ Kinect HD launch title, despite Ubisoft’s assurance that the hardware now ‘delivers on the motion fighter promise.’ Fighter Within has a long way to go to become interesting, let alone exceptional.