Fighters Uncaged Review
Posted by Jon Wahlgren
Bad to the bone
Ubisoft's Fighters Uncaged sounds like a good idea on paper: a full-body fighting game where you can unleash a variety of punches, kicks and combos by actually performing them. But oh so much goes wrong in the execution that the end result feels like an abhorrent mess.
The first sign of trouble is in navigating menus. This is the first title we've come across so far that has had severe issues tracking your hand movement, frequently flaking out and misunderstanding where it actually is. Menus employ a lock-on technique that snaps you to your selections, but getting to the correct one in the first place is a chore. But hey, first-gen software is bound to have a few kinks, right?
We can forgive a few poor steps here and there in launch titles for new hardware, but not when those steps dance the core of the game off a cliff. At its heart, Fighters Uncaged feels closest to Punch Out!!: opponents have specific attack strengths and weaknesses for you to exploit, and it's up to you to figure out how, largely based on manipulating your range through certain types of attacks. For instance, if one is poor up close then it's in your best interest to throw an elbow to get close and pummel from there.
Performing attacks is, on paper, simple enough: punch to punch, kick to kick, lean back to dodge, etc. But good luck getting the game to recognise what you're actually trying to do, when you want to do it. Detection lag is very severe and is not at all suitable for fast reactions, and quite often we found our fighter misreading our moves and executing ones we didn't at all perform. Hitting and getting hit enough will fill up your Super Strike gauge, which is supposedly executed by shouting and doing a certain type of attack dependent on your range. We found ourselves Super Striking all over the place when we didn't want to, and combinations of yelling "Super Strike!" and "Xbox ahraghragsjrgadshjgrjhdasgrhsaj" failed to execute it on command.
It doesn't help that the rest of the game is built in such a rigid and repetitive fashion. For one, you can't actually choose your fighter, so you're stuck playing as the guy on the box. Nor can you fight a human opponent, not even over Xbox Live. Career progression is laughable at best: there are three leagues, and to advance to the next you need to earn enough Crowns, doled out based on fighting performance. There's a pool of six caricature opponents to start with, and if you don't have enough Crowns by the time you defeat all six of them then you'll just have to fight them again until you do. Advancing to the next league adds three more opponents to the pool, and you fight everyone again until you've got the requisite Crowns to advance.
While some fighters might be better or worse at certain distances, the differences aren't too huge and each fight plays out largely the same. The novelty of it all is fairly strong up front, but after a few bouts it becomes abundantly clear that you've basically seen everything the game will throw at you. The only things to give the game legs are online leaderboards, and it's just bizarre that no form of two-player is included. While Punch Out!! didn't really benefit too much from multiplayer, the move and combo set here is significantly larger and more fitting to competitive play.
There's potential in the ideas laid out by Fighter's Uncaged, and had the controls functioned properly then we could have possibly recommended it just for the experience of playing a fighter without a controller. Unfortunately, Fighters Uncaged is riddled with detection issues and repetition, making for a very poor Kinect launch game. You're best off waiting for someone else to crack the fight code, as all you'll find here is your head banging against the wall.