Review by Topless Grandma

Reviewed: 11/10/08

While it has some faults, FaceBreaker is still an enjoyable game.

Facebreaker is the first title to come from Electronic Arts' new EA Freestlye publishing brand of video games. Hoping to become the next arcade boxing title with a fanbase of casual players, Facebreaker laces up the gloves and dives head-first into the bout. Not exactly the greatest idea, but Facebreaker proved to be a determined contender, going 5 rounds with successors such as Ready 2 Rumble and Mike Tyson's Punch Out. If only it could have toned down the single player difficulty, then forum posters across the globe wouldn't have bitten its ear off and punched it straight out of the arena.

I hope that this review will help influence what you choose to do about the game; whether that be giving it a rental, making a full purchase, or using an advertisement of said game as toilet paper.

Graphics
One area where Facebreaker definitely succeeds is in its graphics department. Punch animation is fluid, the cartoony cast of characters look as gorgeous as they possibly can, silky smooth and ready for pleasure.... The bone-crunching punches actually connect almost 100% of the time that they should (no more will you see your fist fly through your opponent's abdomen without delivering a fatal strike!), though if viewing fight highlights in certain camera angles, clipping will unfortunately occur.

The rather brutal breaker moves are very stylish and you can actually get the feel for just how much pain you're inflicting upon the other rejected saturday morning cartoon character from hell. The facial deformation caused by a well executed Facebreaker will leave you in stitches, back-up just how much of a serious game EA did NOT want Facebreaker to be, and depict agony quite nicely.

While the boxing arenas included in Facebreaker may not receive all that much attention from your average player, as they frantically try to balance their defensive and offensive abilities, they are worthy of a positive mention. At first they don't seem like much, just boxing rings with stylized canvases in varied locations-yeah, it's been done before. However, all the subtleties are what make the arenas shine. One example would be crabs boxing each-other around the outside edges of the ring, and then there's the in-game characters seen training at the gym arena. It's the little touches in the environments like these that help give Facebreaker a slight edge in this category.

Sound
There isn't a whole lot that can be said about the sound in Facebreaker. It's just like any other EA game when it comes to the soundtrack; AKA, it leaves a lot to be desired. The songs they chose aren't even used for much as each boxer's introduction when a bout starts only lasts a few seconds. Most of the music you hear will be the same two or three recycled tracks provided by From First to Last in the game's menus.

Apart from the actual 'music' included on the Facebreaker game disc, the sound isn't too bad. The characters you'll face in Brawl for it All! (Facebreaker's single player mode) all have something interesting to say and the voices match their wacky personalities quite well (well, okay, maybe not Spin...). The sound effects used for each breaker combination and powerful blow also get the point across, and other little sfx scattered throughout the match-ups will help instill that cartoon feel of the game. I just would have preferred to see more variety in the sounds used for the Facebreaker moves that instantly win fights. Yes, we can see the pain, and it is beautiful, but I want to actually hear that jaw extend a few feet. I want to be able to play with surround sound and feel the sweet destruction of cheekbones and other facial features shake the floor below me! Well, a gamer can dream...

Gameplay
Now this is the part of the game that is constantly being slammed by forum posters until it's lying in the fetal position, teeth knocked down it's throat, urinating all over itself. I agree that having the gameplay, the thing we actually buy these expensive discs for suck is not good, but "suck" isn't the right word to describe Facebreaker's gameplay with. So lemme break it down for you.

Facebreaker is comprised of a minor feature for uploading fight highlights, a boxer creator using the photo gameface feature notorious for botching up any creation, the single player Brawl for it All! mode, a Fight!! mode (for both facing the CPU and a buddy), a Couch Royale mode (which plays like a tournament, turning this into quite the amusing party game), and your typical Xbox LIVE matches.

Before leaping into any of these modes though, the game advises you to watch a tutorial video or risk getting your ass kicked. Through watching this brief cinematic, you'll learn that your punches have been mapped to the X and A face-buttons, as well as your defensive abilities. Hold down a punch and release to hit your opponent with a haymaker, or keep on holding that button down to dodge a corresponding punch. The right trigger is used to block, and if held with one of the punches, can be used to parry a thrown fist. Your Y button is used for breakers which are powerful moves built up in a meter that increases as you land more punches without being touched (increases by multiples of 2, until you reach the Facebreaker, which is a very brutal instant finish). You can also dash in and out by swiftly flicking the left thumbstick, and toss your opponent into the nearest ring-post with the B face-button.

Unfortunately, the tutorial stops there and doesn't really expand upon the mechanics of Facebreaker. It's like the devs just assumed you'd read the instruction manual to learn about punk'ing and each character's stun technique. I think that this may have a little to do with new players becoming so frustrated with the single player experience: the gameplay simply is not explained in depth. It is a little strange that things should be this way, considering that the gameplay is essentially a violent, fast-paced game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, wherein fast punches defeat slow breakers, which in turn defeat defensive opponents that defeat the fast punches.

The Brawl for it All! single player mode has three difficulty settings (and a message that actually calls you a wuss, to boot!): Fierce (easy), Truculent (medium), and Impossible (hard). Though in reality, Fierce is the game's medium, Truculent is the hard setting, and Impossible is well, impossible! The mode pits you against different characters from the game as you try to clear out arenas filled with 1-3 boxers and win their corresponding belts.

Your opponents, much more like in Punch Out than in R2R, fight with patterns. They will utilize their various stun techniques and have set combinations of other attacks that they will try to whip out on you. That is where the hardest part of this mode lies: trying to discover the pattern. Once you do that you'll find that the single player mode is a piece of cake (for the most part). So contrary to what others would have you believe, when playing with yourself, the game is less of a button-mashing frenzy, and more of a "spot the pattern" type of game, only with violence and broken faces.

If you are finding yourself in the boots of the annihilated whilst playing Brawl for it All! then not to fear. The unlockables are granted for playing rather than skill, so in this way, the game is actually a little forgiving, even if your opponents are not. The devs even give you hints if a certain character whoops you enough times.
Before jumping into multiplayer beatdowns, you'll likely want to create a character of your own. Facebreaker is yet another game to implement the photo gameface feature, and it actually works quite well, if you upload an image or two to EA Sports World.com. While frustrating if you have trouble lining things up perfectly in-game, the result is often times quite amazing. Not liking how your face turned out though? No problem! You can use a metric ton of different sliders to change the structure of your facial features, and even turn your boxer into a caricature of yourself or make it look closer to the "real deal".

After the face construction, you will be able to choose one of several simple patterns for your shorts, boots and gloves (or shorts, top, boots, and gloves if you're a female character) and alter the color, as well as choose your fighting style, hair, and eyebrow & facial hair options. The way the styles work is quite unique in that they're divided up into how each in-game character fights, and upon choosing a style, your character's body will change to fit the mold of the in-game character's build. So yes, you can give a guy the body of a woman, or be a lanky little midget, monkey creature.

The created boxers also add a nice touch to xbox LIVE ranked matches, because if you go toe-to-toe with a created boxer, and then land a Facebreaker, you'll collect his distorted face and add it to a trophy room! Ever lose a good bit of fights online and want some comic relief? Go to your trophy room and giggle it all away. Even greater so that these boxers can be shared with the rest of the community at EA Sports World, which means that yes, you can destroy these three evils, OR pound some faces in as them.

May I also add that when it comes to multiplayer, you don't always need to be strategic, as the game then becomes better suited for fun, casual play that anyone can just pick up and run with. So maybe it does go down the path of mindless button mashing here, but it is still fun.

Replay Factor
Facebreaker's single player will either frustrate you to no end in harder difficulties, or end up feeling tedious on the easier setting(s), stopping you from going back to Brawl for it All!, unless of course you're an achievement monger and want to tackle the Impossible difficulty setting. While the developers were generous with the easily frustrated and handed you unlockables for playing, this also destroys one form of incentive for playing by yourself. However, entertainment can still be found via the Couch Royale tournament brackets if you're chilling with friends, or xbox LIVE bouts with some buddies in distant lands. This game most certainly will not last you as long as your typical FPS, but if you're willing to adjust, you can still dust it off for some good time spent with a couple friendlies.

Final Verdict: 6.0
A moderate title with a few drops of hot sauce. Rent first if interested, and if it keeps its hooks in ya, purchase the game and try breaking my face!

Rating: 6

Product Release: FaceBreaker (US, 09/05/08)

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