Review by suitcoatavenger

"The first rule of Fight Club is... give it a chance."

I've been a fan of Fight Club since the first moment that I saw it. With it's impressive blend of stylish visuals, pitch-black humor, psychological subtext, and no-holds barred violence, the film managed to create a unique, somber vision of our current society. For those of us that totally "got" the film, the message was nailed right home. Fight Club, though often lambasted by the critics, is without a doubt one of the most important films of the last decade.

That being said, it may come to a surprise to some of you that a die-hard such as I was actually looking forward to the video game. There has been much complaining regarding marketing a game based on a movie that was anti-consumerism, but I never saw the video game tie-in as being such. Sure, there's money to be made out of it, but more or less, I was simply excited at the prospect of diving headfirst into the world of the movie. I wanted to re-enact my favorite scenes, see the world through the eyes of these characters. I wanted to destroy something beautiful, too.

So now the game is here. It's been plagued by bad reviews as of late, but I still picked it up the second I could out of loyalty to the film. So what's the verdict?

The short answer is, what we have here is an enjoyable, albeit flawed, game. It has all of the basics that should make a fighting game worthy of owning; interesting characters, decent fighting mechanics, balanced play. When merged with the world of the film, for some that will be more than enough to enjoy the game from beginning to end. For others, well, it may be hard to swallow. See, how much you enjoy this game seriously is tied into how much you enjoy the movie. The novelty of the game is playing the film, as it were. Once that novelty wears off, the flaws may become more evident.

On the pros, the game has surprisingly good and detailed character models. Musculature is perfectly rendered, and bump-mapping and liberal light sourcing brings the characters to life. Unfortunately, due to the inability to snag the actor's likeness', the game seems to be filled with "stand-ins". Comparable stand-in's, but stand-in's nonetheless. Secondly, the backgrounds are more than decent, if not decidedly lifeless. It's cool to fight through Lou's Tavern and in the high-rise office where the finale of the film takes place, but the environments are usually quite sparse save for a few pieces of furniture and onlookers. Also, speaking of backgrounds, why no parking garage? Surely you would have though they would have included the set for Tyler and Jack's no-hold's barred throwdown? Sadly, you'd be mistaken. Lastly, you've probably heard of the stylized, violent effects that result in your fisticuff carnage. Yes, it pays off. Brutal punches result in a spray of blood that peppers and streaks across the screen. Bodies react accordingly to damage; noses are broken, teeth are knocked out, bruises develop. This game, hands down, features the most realistic damage texturing ever put to code. Finally, there's the x-ray effect. During particularly nasty grapple moves, the game cuts to a slo-mo, x-ray camera shot of bones being wrenched and snapped violently. It's an effect that never really gets old, and will continue to result in the uttering of wicked chuckles upon usage. Wish there could have been a greater variety, however.

The negatives are more copious; firstly, the play mechanics, whilst usable, are not polished. The fighting is far too mechanic, and the ability to pull off certain moves is pretty give-and-take. Many environments feature sections that you can throw your opponent's through, thus openning up a new area. Unfortunately, the ability to do this is seemingly pretty random and unforgiving. And against a constantly moving and dodging CPU opponent, it's nearly impossible to pull off. The lack of a giving nature to this otherwise cool feature unfortunately shoots it in the leg before it gets out of the barn. On the same note, the fighting system relies too heavily on the Tekken-style "tap-tap-tap" combo. It breaks down the fluidity of the fighting. Most of the animations ae more than servicable, but the button combinations are rather complicated at times, so you might get through the whole game without seeing some of them. Also on the negative is the soundtrack. Whilst the Dust Brothers do indeed make an appearance, the soundtrack is also filled with the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Queens of the Stone Age. It's fine if those are your favorite bands, but they seem disgustingly out of place in the world of Fight Club. Also, the absence of "Where is my Mind?" by the Pixies is a rather large disappointment.

So, as you can see, the game can be enjoyable if you flow with it. Expect something as refined as Tekken, and you'll be very upset. It's unfortunate, because I still firmly believe that there is potential for an enjoyable videogame within the source material. Here are some suggestions for a possible sequel..

1. More organic fighting. Use a control scheme similar to the UFC games. Fight Club is not about style, it's about brutality. The game should reflect this. Lots of lunging punches, lots of rough throws and tumbles.

2. Better character designs. Sure, the models are fine, but multiple costumes beyond pallate swaps would have been so much better. The lack of a "Space Monkey" Tyler costume is baffling.

3. More forgiving play mechanics. I want to throw Bob through that window, but I have to wait for him to be in precisely the right place, and then I have to hit precisely the right button combo, all in the span of a split second. Not fun. A "whip" command similar to some wrestling games would make this technique a whole lot easier.

4. A story mode that isn't crap. Not really much more to say about that.

These are of course simple musings, but dreams nonetheless.

Bottom line: Decent game, but it really depends on your love for the cult classic film. Purchase should be based upon that fact alone.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 11/18/04

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