||Fighting Force 2
Punch, punch, kick, kick, etc. - Review By Subskin
The pre-release hype for Fighting Force 2 promised an innovative twist on the old school beat-'em-up style of games like Final Fight and Streets of Rage. Not content to simply recreate those games with 3D graphics, Eidos announced it would utilize puzzle-solving and item-hunting side quests like those in Tomb Raider. Needless to say, I've been waiting to get my hands on this game for a while now. Was it worth the wait?
First off, Fighting Force 2 is fun. Before fighting games took over, beat-'em-ups ruled consoles. Fighting Force 2 offers an updated run through those familiar games. I spent hours on Double Dragon and the Streets of Rage series, so that blast-from-the-past style of gameplay is perfect for me. On the other hand, if you didn't enjoy those 2D beat-'em-up games, you probably won't enjoy FF2. The simple fact is that FF2 borrows so heavily from the early beat-'em-ups that the same folks who enjoyed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Arcade Edition are the some ones who will enjoy Fighting Force 2.
Unfortunately, fun is the only thing Fighting Force 2 offers. It's instantly apparent that the game was designed for the Sony Playstation and ported directly to the Dreamcast. The graphics are horrid - characters are so poorly modeled that most of them look identical from a distance. All of the levels appear the same, with the only differences being slightly different colors on the walls. Throughout the game you basically see the same four or five enemies inside a massive square room. One of the most difficult tasks in the game is determining which wall is a door - usually identifiable only because the doors are a darker color than the rest of the walls. It's like The Blair Witch Project: running scared through a huge repetitive forest until you're lost. Only it's not a forest, it's a building. And it's not fear; it's boredom.
FF2 looks and plays a lot like a Playstation game. Not good.
The bad camera angles only serve to make the graphics seem even worse. At times the camera will get stuck behind a wall and other times it will zoom in so much on the back of your head that you can't see anything else. You can activate a first-person view by holding the L and R triggers, but all you can do in this mode is aim at targets.
The actual game tasks are much easier than figuring out what the blocky models are supposed to be. The AI in FF2 is so bad that you can actually shoot someone three times without them realizing they are being attacked! Similarly, enemies with guns simply stand still and fire once they've spotted you - even if you're standing behind a wall. If you get within six feet of an armed enemy, they hit you with the gun rather than shoot you.
Each level has a boss character that is generally easier to kill than some of the in-level enemies. Although you cannot take weapons from dead enemies, Fighting Force 2 provides you with an arsenal of "hidden" items. These weapons are "hidden" inside crates, ventilator shafts, and other storage locations. After you kill all enemies in a room, you have unlimited time to punch and kick all of these spots to recover fire axes, grenades, shotguns, sniper rifles, and missile launchers. By the time you reach the level boss you should be armed to the teeth, and a powerful weapon can kill most of the bosses within five seconds.
Oh boy, a room full of crates! Get used to "exciting" locations such as this one.
The weapon pick-ups aren't the only grossly overrated attack methods. Level three is an attack on a tank factory. Inside the factory you find the actual tank assembly line and are instructed to destroy all of the tanks. Each tank can be killed with less than six kicks! That beats out Independence Day's computer virus for the lamest assault of all-time. Well, maybe it's a tie.
Kicking, punching, and jumping are the three main button controls and are easy enough to execute. Unfortunately, the instruction manual fails to cover such "advanced" topics as climbing a ladder and changing weapons (FYI: to use a ladder you must face it from the right angle and press punch). The manual implies that you can carry as many weapons as you find, but this is completely untrue. Fighting Force 2 allows you to carry only one handgun and one shoulder mounted weapon. If you pick up another of either type you must keep it equipped. Trying to change weapons at this point will make you throw it away. This is a pain-in-the-ass since "punch" and "fire weapon" is the same button - if you pick up a missile launcher early on then you can only kick or fire missiles at mid-level enemies.
Another major problem demonstrates what happens when a company simultaneously releases a game to the Playstation and the Dreamcast: they don't use analog controls. Fighting Force 2's controls are purely digital, most likely to accommodate the Playstation owners without Dual Shock controllers. This means you must sprint across a narrow bridge instead of walking. Likewise, you have no extra burst of speed to avoid an enemy. The digital controls also make it difficult to rotate. Hawk Manson, the main character, spins around incredibly slow. Eidos used the D-Pad to make Hawk turn 180 degrees. However, if an enemy is attacking you from the side, it can take a long time to turn 90 degrees to attack them.
Controlling Hawk is difficult, you'd think a covert-ops dude would be able to turn 90 degrees in less than ten seconds.
I have no idea where the pre-release hype came from, but it was wrong. Fighting Force 2 adds nothing innovative to the beat-'em-up genre - if anything it takes away from it, since this is strictly a single player game. The gameplay in FF2 is a simplistic as can be: kill everybody in the room, take a key card from the last enemy, and use it to open the next door. Although you are occasionally instructed to destroy an object or retrieve an item, this is accomplished simply by killing everyone and breaking everything in a room. Metal Gear Solid it is not. Fighting Force 2's gameplay is even simpler than Doom; at least in Doom you had to activate certain elevators and doors to recover the key cards. Fighting Force 2 allows you to "use" computers, but basically all you do is read somebody else's e-mail (sample: "E-mail: Pick up groceries."). Then you kick the computer and break it to find an Uzi inside.
Wow! Reading other people's email is so much fun! *yawn*
The sounds in Fighting Force 2 are extremely limited. You cannot hear enemies' footsteps, but you can hear your own. Your own footsteps sound the same on every surface, so that fails to inspire any mood. Weapons do have sound effects, and enemies grunt when they die, but neither the weapons nor the enemies sound realistic. On the plus side, FF2 features some decent ambient environmental sounds. The second or third stage reminded me of the sounds from Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back - a definite bonus. On the whole, though, the sounds suck.
The Final Word
So why do I rip virtually every aspect of Fighting Force 2 and then proclaim that it's fun? I have no idea. Perhaps because FF2 has such limited competition - Dynamite Cop and Soul Fighter are only other games of its kind for the Dreamcast. Fighting Force 2 won't be winning any awards, but something about it keeps me playing. If you're hungering for a fix of old school punch-punch-kick action, turn on FF2 and turn off your brain.
Developer: Core Design
Highs: Fun action game, easy to play.
Lows: Poor gameplay, 32-bit graphics, too easy to play.
Other: 1 Player, VMU compatible (for saving), Jump Pack compatible.
(out of a possible 10)
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