Review by Heretic9

"The elder of 3D beat-em-ups isn't getting much respect..."

Fighting Force is one of the grandpas of 3D beat-em-up, and it was given pretty good advertisement as well. However, it would soon be panned by critics, and fall into obscurity. With a crappy sequel following it, Fighting Force was doomed to become an underrated 3D beat-em-up. However I believe this particular game is often misunderstood, and quickly bashed by people who don't appreciate it for what it is. And hell, I'm not even sure why that 2/10 review was accepted. It's obviously biased and all the reviewer did was bash the game developer constantly. He even admitted that his review was basically one big flame towards the developer. Why did that get accepted..?

One such complaint is the storyline. One of the reviewers for Gamefaqs (I won't say who) said that it SHOULD have had a good storyline. Err... Why? It's a 3D beat-em-up. There's no need for a storyline. So naturally, the plot that IS there is terrible. But what I can't understand is why a bad story is suddenly a flaw for this particular game. For any other beat-em-up, no one would care about the story yet mysteriously for this one, everyone expects a riveting plot and are quick to put it down for lacking one. Nonsense, I say!

There is a storyline however, but it does in fact suck. Apparently some nutcase thought the world was going to end that year, it didn't, so he decides to make it end himself. Oh great...Yes, it's stupid, and there are no story scenes in the game other than pointless scenes showing you your next location or something of that sort. But it has no impact on the gameplay, and considering the type of game this is, it would be unfair to really hold it against it. Especially since other games in this genre are often forgiven for this same flaw.

Another complaint is that the characters supposedly have no variety in how they perform. Err.. What? That's just lying. All 4 characters deliver different amounts of damage, attack at different speeds, and have totally different movesets. Smasher for example is slow, but damaging and has the ability to use some weapons the others can't. Mainly car motors. On top of that some of his running attacks and grapples are VERY effective and damaging. Alana on the other hand, does little damage, but is much faster. Her jump attacks are some of the most effective in the game and her quick combos allow her to move from one enemy to the next with minimal risk. Also, being the fastest makes her the best for taking good positions (more on this later) against your foes.

It's even been bashed for being repetitive. Are you serious?? Do people even know what genre this game belongs in? it's a beat-em-up, of course it's repetitive. The genre is NOTORIOUS for being repetitive, almost to the point of being mindless in some cases. And believe it or not, it's even been bashed for having limited ammo in the guns. Again, IT'S A BEAT EM UP GAME! What do they expect? Some of the complaints I've seen this game get are just senseless. Where are these complaints for other beat-em-ups like Streets of Rage 2? Why does this game alone suffer these IDIOTIC cries of woe?

One of the few complaints that are legit is that the game is indeed a bit slower paced than some games in the genre. But this flaw is often exaggerated with terms like "slow as snails", which is not true. You really don't move that slow in this game, but you DO move slower than most games in the genre, especially if you're using Smasher. It's nothing serious, but it is there.

The game is littered with enemies to thrash and weapons to use, and here lies one of the games most hyped features. It was often said in advertisements that the environment itself was your weapon. While this turned out to be more limited than we may have originally thought, it's still a fairly accurate statement. Need a weapon? Pry a the metal handle off the walls. You can even smash up a soda machine and guzzle down a few cans of cola, which restores health. And hell, the soda machine even gives you a metal bar to clunk enemies with. Axes, bats, even bottles are all at your disposal. You can even bust up a car and rip out the engine as Smasher! I remember a magazine referring to this and saying "Someone had their Wheaties!". Bad joke I know, and unless you were around in the 90's you may not even get it.

While it may sound like a braindead button masher, later on in the game it gets MUCH MORE challenging, and there lies yet another sob from bashers. They claim it gets too hard at the end. Honestly, it doesn't get that hard. Credits are limited, healing items become more rare, enemies become stronger and smarter AND in larger number. The most infamous being the level right before the final boss. The last few levels are where you will be required to use your brain a little. If you just run in there and start punching all willy nilly, of course you're gonna take massive damage and perhaps lose. This is why it becomes important to learn to position yourself properly. Care and consideration must be taken to ensure you take the best possible position when battling your foes. Otherwise you'll quickly become surrounded because later on the enemies will make a deliberate attempt to surround and slaughter you. You gotta think fast. Sometimes this may be as simple as holing yourself up in a corner and taking the enemies on head one where they can't surround you, while other times this may mean dash-attacking your way behind an enemy force in order to take an ideal position. Keeping the enemy in front of you becomes almost mandatory on the last level in fact, so you'd best be sure to keep a close eye on your position.

There is however a few things about the enemies that are cheap. For one thing, they can block. It becomes annoying when they start blocking constantly especially considering the player themselves cannot do so. While it's not uncommon to lack a block function in these type of games, it IS annoying no less. But the most annoying of all, is that the enemies can cancel out your attacks. Basically what this means is, you could have landed a perfect punch on them, but they will have been in the middle of an attack themselves and their attack takes priority over yours. It may not sound like something that happens often, but it does. And later when you face enemies with giant robotic taser arms that can knock you down in one punch, it really becomes annoying. This is even more reason to fight as effectively as possible. Use your moves to their maximum effectiveness and overcome the cheapness! The bosses are the worst about this but luckily most of them have weapons lying around for you to use. Even the final boss! The final boss of course will take a little bit of strategy to beat, unless you have enough health to go at it head-to-head. Mostly all you need to do is smash open a few of those boxes, grab the weapon inside, and unload it on him. There's even a few grenades if you can manage to lure him into the explosion.

The three difficulties are VERY different as well. Easy is... Well.. Easy. By selecting Easy, the entire game is gonna be a breeze. Ideal for those scared of a challenge. Normal however is where the game starts to get tough. It starts out easy, but by the last few levels you better be taking my advice or you'll be finding out how life on the floor feels. On hard, the game pretty much says "No more screwing around" and it'll be one intense battle for survival after the next. Once I got good enough, I cranked the game to hard and enjoyed some intense bouts. If you have a 2nd player, I recommend picking Hard. The game is simply going to be too easy on normal for two players, unless one of you (or both of you) really suck at it.

While the controls are often sobbed about, they work just fine. They do require getting used to, but there's no reason you shouldn't have the controls down by the time you reach the first boss. They're far from outlandish. One button runs, another jumps, another attacks, etc.. The throws do require a little practice, but otherwise these are simple controls. I've seen people claim they're unresponsive, but personally I think that's just an excuse for not knowing what the hell they're doing. I've never had any response problems with the controls, outside of a few mistakes I made on my own.

The game also has its variety. With branching level paths, 4 characters, and 3 difficulties (one of which is VERY difficult. It basically renders every single level as challenging as the infamous last level) there's plenty of reason to come back to the game again after you've completed it. You also have high scores, and there's a 2 player, albeit the 2 player mode has an iffy camera at times.

The sounds and music aren't too impressive though. The sound effects sound good enough, everything sounds as it should, but man the music is really generic. They're just generic unimpressive beats that you can barely hear in the background. Clearly, the music is overshadowed by the sound effects and the action itself. It's not bad, just bland and average.

The graphics are also a bit unimpressive, though they fare much better than the music does. Fighting Force suffers from the same flaw as many early 3D games. The graphics are blocky, the enemy designs tend to be to too similar to one another, (the infamous palette swap was pulled strongly here) and the environments fail to impress. The coloring however was done well enough to fit the overall mood of the game. The colors help give off that grainy effect that you expect a game of this nature to have. When you smack enemies, red blocks shoot out, obviously supposed to be blood. Some of the main characters seem like they got palette swapped too. Driver, the first boss, looks strangely similar to Smasher. In fact, so does Exo. The female assassins that you only fight once in the whole game also seem to bear a resemblance to Alana. Overall, I wasn't impressed. I also found it strange how a lot of enemies are only specific to one level. The female assassins, the blue skinned human experiments, and the robot arm guys only appear in one level of the whole game. This is a bit of a let down, since the blue guys and the robot arm guys actually fight differently from the rest of the enemies.

In a nutshell, this game was tailored for fans of the beat-em-up genre. It plays like a 3D version of classics like Final Fight, and you know there's even a rumor that the game was originally going to be a sequel to Streets of Rage. The game is fairly old by now, so if you're interested, you should be able to find it for a fair price on Amazon or Ebay. But I only recommend it for people who are big fans of the genre.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/15/09

Game Release: Fighting Force (US, 10/31/97)

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