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Author: Daniel Pearse
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Xbox 360 / PS3

Any boxing game arriving from the same publisher responsible for the fantastic sim Fight Night Round 3 is cause for celebration, and while EA offer a bruiser of an altogether different kind with FaceBreaker, it delivers wholeheartedly and is a far more complex animal to master than its satisfyingly on-the-noise title would suggest.

Graphically it’s an absolute stunner: a stylised cartoon world of combatants who despite a quirky appearance prove to be infuriatingly tough sons of bitches, getting their kicks from beating you to a pulp until you have the sense (or lose the consciousness) to stop protesting.

You’d be forgiven for dismissing this as an arcade-style experience where button bashing is the ultimate route to ring glory; nothing could be further from the truth. While the basic controls allow for an extremely accessible experience – low punch, high punch and throw being your initial bread and butter – make no effort to master FaceBreaker’s many intricacies and even on the easiest difficulty setting you’re likely to get your arse handed to you.

The secret is in the timing: utilising blocks, parries and stringing together the combinations that’ll build up your power meter and ultimately lead to each character’s trademark ‘FaceBreaker’ signature move. Do so and you’ll be rewarded with a visual pain-feast as you witness your opponent’s slippery slide towards reconstructive fascial surgery. And with the ability via an Xbox Vision Camera to capture and paste your own face atop the game’s hulking brutes, the potential for hilarity when pissed and squaring off against your mates is gold.

If you’re so hungry for violence you literally need someone’s head as a trophy, the ‘Couch Royale’ mode also gives you a round-robin tournament and with it the ability to collect mounted craniums to adorn your wall. This isn’t Mortal Kombat though, kids: you don’t get to yell ‘Fatality!’ and actually rip ‘em off in a torrent of crimson.

The ridiculously high AI level will clearly trip many up at the first hurdle, but grow a pair and soldier on; the rewards are greater than you think.