Fighter Within video review – not the showcase Kinect game it could be

We’ve been hammering away at Ubisoft’s much hated Xbox One Kinect based fighting game and sequel of sorts to the rather poor Fighters Uncaged on Xbox 360 which also used Kinect as its primary method of control. Fighter Within is a game that offers a reasonable workout for the less active, and isn’t as bad as we’d been led to believe in its basic form and when it works.  However, is it worthy of your time and money as a budget release and first Xbox One Kinect only game? Take a look at our Fighter Within video review for the full picture.

Fighter Within review:

Today we’re putting on the gloves and getting down and dirty with the Xbox One exclusive Kinect based fighting game from Ubisoft, Fighter Within.

To begin, the game offers a simple tutorial Initiation mode which introduces the characters by way of a story. It’s here where players get to learn the basic moves through 2o or so encounters with the motley crew of male and female combatants.  The story is told through static images and offers no animations from the characters which feels a lacking, to use a better word. Once players have mastered the basics, they can then chose to  practice against a programmable dummy, fight a series of 8 fighters in the Arcade mode, square up to a single fighter in Duel mode, or take the fight to another player locally. Frankly, for a fighting game the modes are limited, and with no real story mode, there’s little to see and do outside of the basic fighting. In a nutshell, it seems because the game is Kinect based, developers have opted to not include many of the standard features expected of a fighting game which is shame. What also has to be noted from the offset is how terrible the Kinect interface is when navigating the menus. It simply does not work very well and thankfully allows for a controller, which then defeats the purpose of a hands free Kinect experience.

As it stands, the game’s mechanics are fairly fluid…when Kinect is working properly.  When it’s not and crashes there’s a distinct loss of control where the on-screen combatant simply doesn’t respond very well to inputs and makes playing feel like a complete waste of time. Testing ones patience to its limits and it’s perhaps easy to dismiss the game entirely if Kinect has issues with the environment or is simply not calibrated properly. But, the game should work out of the box, and mostly does — unfortunately, because this is far from flawless isn’t the best example of what Kinect can supposedly accomplish.
That said, jabs and hooks work as intended, and it’s possible to rain punches (in a controlled manner) using rapid flurries which are tracked well and provide a combo bonus to boot. Kicks are also responsive catering to roundhouse and front kicks with some solid precision. Ducking also works where counterattacks can be performed. The alternate “arcade” moves which require a charge up posture work as and when the action is performed, leaving the only real negative being the two handed throw move which is problematic at times.

After investing quite a bit of time with the game and using it primarily for a fun workout, it’s clear the game wants players to adopt a more controlled method of play rather than flailing one’s arms wildly and kicking into oblivion, although the later can and does work. With some self control, the game is pretty precise, but lacking in moves expected from a fighting game.  A bit more variety would have benefited here and perhaps a more counter attack opportunities when special moves are performed – as these are effectively unblockable attacks.

Having reached black belt in the solo game and upping the difficulty, there’s a distinct difference between playing on default and hard.  Hard mode sees the AI using the environment and special moves a bit more effectively, to the point of offering suitable challenge across the themed stages. The game is rather easy on any of the other settings and not really much of a challenge.

In terms of looks, the game’s small environments are fairly competent, albeit a little uninspiring, and the fighters themselves look decent enough. There’s lots of cinematic close ups during fights where sweat can be seen alongside cuts and bruises. There are even some neat slow motion animations when special moves connect making for a visceral experience.

The audio is a bit lacking as the music is low in the mix and the voice-over work is stereotypical and  poor. Not much effort has been placed in this department outside of a few spot sound effects and abysmal script and delivery making for an uneventful aural experience all round.

In terms of longevity there’s not much to see and do here once the basic fighting game has been bested. The achievements might keep some players coming back for more, but aside from this there’s no unlockable content aside from special one time powers used in fights called totems. Solo  players can continue onwards for a workout, but beyond this there’s little to no incentive to keep player over the longer term.  The local multiplayer is fun, and does well to track two players simultaneously, but with the mode  simply being one versus one and nothing else, is devoid of features to warrant longer term play. It’s a shame the multiplayer achievements weren’t tied into the game a little more and offered some reward for those putting the time and effort in.

To conclude, Fighter Within is an improvement over the last game, but as a game in its own right is simply too bare bones and lacking in charisma to make it a stand out fighting game. When Kinect works, there’s some solid tracking going on which feels somewhat accomplished, but due to some issues cropping up, isn’t as flawless as it could be.

If you like fighting games then you’ll probably be disappointed with the lack of features on offer here but will find a fun to play game in smaller doses.  If you’re looking to show off the all new Kinect on Xbox One, then perhaps this isn’t the showcase game it could have been. It simply screams low budget and can only be recommended for those who are bored or like rummaging through the bargain basement bins. The basics are here and prove that a Kinect based fighting game can work, it just needs a bit more emphasis on actual content and consistency to make it a worthy purchase. Here’s hoping Ubisoft can get it right in a third game if one is ever made.

Score – 4/10 -Review by Robert Cram


Written by: Rob Cram

Rob Cram has hundreds of video game reviews, thousands of articles under his belt with years of experience in gaming and tech. He aims to remain fair and free from publisher/developer influence. With his extensive knowledge, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement with his views are entirely optional. He might have a bias towards cyberpunk.

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