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Facebreaker is the first EA Freestyle game to hit the Wii. Previously released as Facebreaker 360, it offers a Boxer brawling game with strong characterisation and accessible move sets aimed squarely at the casual gamer. The Wii version works in motion controls although without changing the gameplay substantially.
Fighting games revolve around the interaction of two or more characters in some form of physical combat. Players learn to control characters through either memorisation of button combinations to access more advance moves, or by their reactions and accurate timing.
Fighting games usually require complex button combinations or strict timing requirements that are prohibitive to more casual players. Facebreaker on Wii provides a simplified approach where the player uses a small set of offensive and defensive moves against their opponent.
The Wii version takes the original Facebreaker 360 games and maps moves onto the Wii's motion controllers. This works well in some instances, adding a sense of physicality to the boxing, although in other areas it can feel a little arbitrary.
The game provides a set of different cartoon style boxers that are accessed as the player progresses through each level. In the match these boxers are slowly turned black, blue and swollen as each punch takes its toll. This certainly communicates the physicality of this sport, and makes the unavoidable connection between winning and damaging the opponent.
The main downside here is the arbitrary use of the Wii's controllers. Compared to Boxing on Wii-Sports this is a lot less about the tactics of movement (hitting, ducking and weaving) and much more about button mashing and shot selection. As such this delivers on the Freestyle casual gamer ethos, but caters less well to casual gamers looking for a more nuanced or serious experience.
Players will be attracted to the Pixar style characters. Each boxer is well voiced and animated with a clear understanding of characterisation. Stringing together a variety of high/low hits along with a smattering of parries and blocks is really satisfying. Those comfortable with the titular face breaking nature of these fights will delight at taking opponents to three knock downs, and finishing them off with a bone splintering special move.
As its Freestyle causal label suggests, Facebreaker is a game that can be thrown on for a few minutes fun whenever the need takes you. Although repeat plays, and progression through the belts can extend these sessions, the player who dips in and out is only at a minimal disadvantage.
Facebreaker's aggressive take on boxing, even with its cartoon overtones, may be problematic for younger players - particularly for parent's concerned with keeping reducing the number of fisticuffs in the household.
Older and intermediate players will enjoy the exuberant visuals. Such is the graphical hyperbole, it could almost be taken as a tongue in cheek dig at what some see as an outdated sport. This kind of thinking though is to miss what Facebreaker does well - deliver a simple fighting experience with strong characters and physical sense of injury.
Expert players are more likely to miss the frame-counting combo-memorisation requirements of other fighting games. The barrier to entry is internationally low for Facebreaker - but this takes away the need for practice on the part of the player. Good fun for games parties but not for those who want to pursue a more professional fighting experience.
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