Fighters Uncaged Review (Xbox 360)
First rule of Fighters Uncaged: Don’t buy Fighters Uncaged.
That’s about the extent of the advice needed when it comes to Fighters Uncaged, the sole fighting game that was available at the Kinect’s launch. If you bought this hoping to justify the purchase of a Kinect, you will be sorely (literally and figuratively) disappointed.
Fighters Uncaged is billed as an underground fighting game that attempts to use the freeing technology of the Kinect to mirror real-life fighting. It features a wide variety of moves that can be used, like a traditional fighting game, to reduce the opponents health bar to zero.
Unfortunately, like a standard button-controlled fighting game, your physical moves really only serve as analogs to on-screen animations. In other words, you are not freely punching in a one-to-one manner like with Kinect Sports or Wii Sports boxing. Instead, your "punches" simply indicate to the game that a punch should be thrown, and then animates accordingly. There is not any bobbing and/or weaving to speak of either; instead your timed leans simply communicate that your character should do the same. It's all about artificial timing, not delivering quick and instinctual blows.
This, for me, strips away the beauty of the Kinect, and leaves a game that could more effectively be played with a controller (not an option). This game plays less naturally than even Wii Sports boxing, a game almost five years old. There is also a convoluted range system (obviously elbows can’t be thrown from far away), but it is much less intuitive than a true fighting simulator would be.
Tactical Strategy, Poor Commands
Certain moves drive your character away from or toward your opponent, so it’s up to you to know how to strategically use them. Should you find yourself fully understanding this system of close/medium/long-range attacks, technically you should do well. However, this game has severe movement-recognition issues, to the point where I was sometimes most effective by wildly flailing my limbs.
A steep learning curve alone is not inherently a bad thing, but with the inconsistent motion recognition, most gamers will tap out before investing the time to master the strategy. At the very least, the game does try to help you early on with both a guided tutorial and in-game assists. Still, these aids aren’t enough to compensate for the control problems, which leads to another issue.
Because the game does not always recognize your actions, and because there seems to be a limit to how quickly you can input movements, you will find yourself wasting a lot of punches and kicks. This can drain your (real-life) stamina, to the point that playing multiple fighters in a row is a physical chore. Remember, each fight is the best of three rounds, so it’s not like you can end the fight quickly with a knockout. I suppose it’s a good way to get in shape, but it’s a bad way to enjoy a fighting game.
Graphically, the fighters look good, but the characters also tend to be uninspired stereotypes. Stylistically, Fighters Uncaged is also fairly cliched, with a Saints Row-like urban art style that seems about five years too late.
While other urban games like Saints Row were full of satire, it’s hard to know whether Fighters Uncaged takes itself seriously or not, as there is a severe lack of story. You begin as a trainee under the tutelage of your coach, Sparr (groan). There isn’t any customization to speak of, nor are you given a choice of fighters. The only speaking of note is cringe-worthy inner dialogue that accompanies fights, such as "He blocked my kick." Altogether, the game is at once generic and unintentionally humorous.
Without a story, you are just a guy trying to advance through the ranks of various fighting organizations. The game progresses through leagues, but it’s not simply about beating fighters. You have to earn "crowns," similar to stars in Rock Band. Earn enough crowns by grinding your way through repeated fighters, and you have the chance to move up. As soon as the smallest bit of novelty wears off, you’ll start to see how repetitive this game is. What’s more egregious is that there is no multiplayer at all, which might have saved the game from becoming such a bore. Basically, even if this game were technically proficient, it would not be much fun to play.
All of this is really unfortunate, because the Kinect seems like the perfect platform for a fun fighting game. But Fighters Uncaged isn’t it. This game is a shallow mess that does very little very ineffectively. It seems to shoehorn motion controls into a traditional fighting game, that with or without Kinect support, is not very fun.
In the Ring: Clunky gameplay accompanies poor motion recognition, and makes for a frustrating and tiring experience.
Visuals: Decent enough, but the character design and style are cheesy.
Audio: Often unintentionally funny, but the hits sound good enough.
Learning Curve: There is strategy involved, but I’m not sure most users will put in the time to truly master it. Even when you have an idea of what to do, the controls may belay your strategy.
Entertainment Value: There is not much here: no customization, no multiplayer, no bonus modes or mini-games.
Online: No multiplayer doesn't make much sense in a fighting game.
Score: 3.0 (Terrible)