I have never been a fan of EA in any of their incarnations. Therefore, when I heard of their switch from "Big" to "Freestyle", I basically thought to myself, "so what?". I don't exactly feel this way because of the companies checkered past or something, instead, I was never really a fan of any type of sports games, and those type of games have been known to be their staple. Despite it being a sports game in some way, I came across Facebreaker and became interested in the premise due to the similarities of Ready to Rumble Boxing, which was an arcade style boxer by Midway that was released back in 1999. I really took a liking to that wacky style of boxing, which was obviously influenced by Nintendo's Punch-Out series. I came into this game expecting great things, and I find it unfortunate that I would rather go back to re-playing games that out dates this between 10 to 25 years.
EA seriously dropped the ball with this fighter, which was bursting with so much potential. I'm not exaggerating when I say that Facebreaker is pretty damn near close to being unplayable. And it's definitely the worst game I played for the PS3 so far.
Facebreaker is a two player arcade style boxer, that features a total of 12 playable boxers once they have all been unlocked. I no longer remember how many are playable from the start, but it could be around 5 - 8. The boxers are unlocked simply by playing the game. After winning several matches, I began to unlock boxers and different arenas. But don't think for one second you're diving into this head first and beating characters, for that is a lot easier said than done.
The matches in Facebreaker are set up in rounds, with the goal being whichever player to score three knock downs wins. There are three rounds and one sudden death round should the fighters fail to meet the criteria. The game features some playing modes: Fight, Practice, and Brawl for All. In the first mode, the player can choose a fighter plus an opponent, and then set the difficulty. I think this is a great place to get a feel for the game. Practice mode is actually located in the fight mode. Instead of selecting a difficulty for the opponent, the player can just select practice and begin pummeling the dummy to learn the different aspects of the fighting engine. Brawl for All is the main game, where you select a fighter and begin competing for belts.
There are a variety of moves to learn; from forming basic chain combos, to parries, dodges, and blocks. The main focus in the fight engine is to build up the gauge to pull off devastating moves. In the bottom left corner, there's a breaker meter that builds up whenever the player or opponent lands two consecutive punches. As the blows land in succession, the meter builds another level. At these levels, the player can press an additional punch button to end combos in style. The highest level is called the "Facebraker", and this ends the fight instantly, with a character pulling off a sick finisher to break the opponents face. However, gaining a "Facebreaker" feels almost like threading a needle while someone is playing with the light switch, because one punch throws a monkey wrench into the whole system, then you will have to start from scratch, and believe me, the computer is going to almost always land that one punch.
The learning curve is very steep, and it's going to take quite a bit of practice and many beatings before you can get around to mastering it, and the beatings you will take leads me to the biggest problem in this game, which happens to be the AI. The AI is incredibly cheap and very off balance, as it has an answer for everything. There is almost no chance to really learn anything, and the more impatient players will find themselves button mashing in hopes of pulling off a miracle but will eventually quit. Now speaking of button mashing, that's exactly what this game is since there's barely no strategy to be used. Even after learning how the fight engine works, it's almost impossible to find any type of rhythm. And it's very possible that the player will start to rely on cheap tactics just to get a win.
The characters are made up of a charismatic bunch though, which draws great influence from Ready to Rumble Boxing. Unfortunately, their looks and personalities are all overshadowed due to the lack of depth in the game mechanics. Excluding them having different methods to earn an instant dizzy on an opponent, they basically all play the same. Facebreaker only has one real strong point, and it comes in the two player mode. Here, this is the only time you will find some type of balance in the fight engine. The story is basically getting your boxer to the championship match and winning. Outside of that there's no real story to speak of.
The instruction manual is very helpful in breaking down the game and revealing tips. But at the end of the day, it all depends on how much patience you have to power through all of these beatings. And to even back up the button mashing claim, the manual even advises to do that when following up a certain attack. How could EA put out a game like this where button mashing is encouraged is beyond me.
Despite the learning curve, the controls are very responsive as it's pretty easy to perform combos, dashes, dodges, grabs, and parries. But it's the off balanced game play and very cheap AI that overshadows the controls completely. Facebreaker is indeed a wasted effort in this area.
The character models have a good amount of detail, and they utilize that comedic and cartoony look found in the other over the top boxing games I previously mentioned. Their faces are mangled during the fight, and you can get a good look at them in between rounds. The more severe the beating, the more they wobble around dizzy and it can be very funny. There's also one small detail in the animation that stood out to me, and it's how the ropes shake when the characters hit them during a fall. The backgrounds are pretty nice for the arenas, and they capture the energetic feel of the game.
I think the sound effects are pretty good for the voiceovers and blows. The music is also a stand out, as each character has their own entrance theme. The songs for the fights sound more like techno tracks that capture the mood well.
After beating this game and unlocking all of the arenas, I don't bother with the main game at all anymore. This is only decent for the two player mode, and that is the only reason why I don't rate this any lower. It's a fun game for those group gatherings and that's it. Also, I don't know how true this is because I don't care to find out. But supposedly, EA eliminated the on-line feature for this. I really don't blame them, because I couldn't find many matches for it awhile back. I only recommend this to the most hardcore fighting game fans out there.
Pros: -Music, Visuals, two player, great for parties
Cons: -Incredibly cheap AI, steep learning curve, very, very close to unplayable
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FaceBreaker (also titled FaceBreaker K.O. Party for the Wii version) is a fighting game (contrary to popular belief of it being a boxing game) created by Fight Night developers, EA Canada. It was released for the PlayStation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360 and was announced on January 30, 2008 by 1UP.com. The game was released on September 4, 2008. As of October 2008, the game has sold 52,000 units in Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 combined.. EA announced in January 2010 that they will close down online services for this game on 2 February 2010.