The once noble sport of boxing has gone through a gamut of changes in the past 20 years, from the change in styles and presentation, to the influx of large quantities of money. Videogame boxing, however, has largely only become better and more diverse. Never hampered by the constraints of reality, there’s greater scope to have fun with the sport. Enter Electronic Arts’ Facebreaker – which is about as far from real life as it gets.
Beaten to the punch
While it’s not the first to take boxing and dress it up in a cartoon style, Facebreaker certainly goes the distance in terms of making the sport pretty (ironically enough) and very presentable. Its animated appearance is distinct and polished, providing an attractive and often flashy look to the bouts which are full of pyrotechnics emitting from fighters’ gloves and the entertaining incidental detail of the background areas, which include unlikely settings such as a video arcade and a trailer park.
The boxers themselves are equally lavished with attention. Intentionally walking into a ring of comedy clichés, each fighter is given a personality and style to match. From the geeky faux martial arts stances of the fearsomely named Steve, to the Spanish Lothario that is Romeo (who wants to make love to you… with his fists), no one is spared a humorous turn.
What makes it even funnier is that as the fight progresses your character’s face deforms, blooming in bruises from the pummelling. Given the over the top style, this takes a more whacky appearance as eyes roll around in heads, ears resemble cauliflowers, lips take on an abnormal size and teeth become conspicuous by their absence. It’s quite amusing to see the victor spouting bravado when s/he looks just as beaten up as your losing character.
Time for a break
Thankfully, Facebreaker isn’t just all looks, deformed or otherwise. An intricate fight system rests beneath its muscular shell, offering a host of moves that work on a Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanic, where each punch has a reflex dodge or counter attack, as well as giving you the ability to parry and block.
This is all just as well, because the action is so fast it takes a moment to adjust to it. Punches fly in with swift vigour and with the meaty sound effects, dynamic camera angles and slow motion shots for the big knockdowns, you feel every blow. Once you get used to the pace of it, each bout becomes a tense but swift affair of attack and counter attack, looking for openings and mistakes in your opponents’ strategy.
Spicing things up is the breaker meter, which builds up after consecutive blows, each breaker becoming more savage and spectacular as the meter gets higher. Use it at its zenith and you can perform a Facebreaker, which instantly ends the fight with a devastating knockout punch.
Punch drunk with choice
There are tons of other extras and features in Facebreaker which makes it all the more entertaining. Some are just frivolous fun, such as fighting after the bell has gone at the end of a round and forcing the invisible referee to break things up, while others are great little additions such as creating custom characters and then adding your own face to them using the Photo Game Face feature and a PlayStation Eye camera.
You can also watch a reel of the fight highlights from various camera angles and upload them to PlayStation Network – just before you take the fight to others with the online multiplayer, naturally. Those not wanting to play online shouldn’t worry, though, as you can also go head-to-head locally and break your friends’ faces while they sit right next to you. Isn’t that sweet.
Facebreaker is furious fighting fun. It may not adhere to the time honoured rules of the sport it’s based on, but that just means it can go to places more realistic boxing simulations can’t… namely, an alien infested hanger. Or a pirate ship. Or any of the other bizarre locales you can duke it out in. And if you think that’s all a bit warped, just wait until this game gets its gloves on you – then you’ll see just how twisted your face can really get.