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ups: great fighting system, great gameplay, racially diverse
downs: long load times

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Beatdown: Fists of Vengeance
review
game: Beatdown: Fists of Vengeance
three star
posted by: Laurie Taylor
publisher: Capcom
developer: Capcom
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ESRB rating: M (Mature)
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date posted: 09:53 AM Tue Sep 13th, 2005
last revision: 05:16 PM Tue Sep 13th, 2005



Click to read.Beatdown: Fists of Vengeance offers an enjoyable and interesting gaming experience. It's essentially a modern street brawler-if the old Double Dragon on the NES was developed today, it would look a great deal like Beatdown. Personally, I loved this game for a variety of reasons. I doubt all gamers will feel the same way, but I'd highly recommend at least renting Beatdown, or buying it once the price drops.

The main mode in Beatdown begins with five mobsters being betrayed during a drug deal. Players choose one of the five betrayed characters to play. From there, players explore a relatively small town, picking fights, taking jobs for money, changing clothes to avoid detection by the mob and the police, earning new skills and fighting major battles for plot advancement. In game play, Beatdown literally functions as a child born from Def Jam: Fight for New York's fighting segments and GTA's city exploration.

As a fusion of part GTA, Beatdown's game play opens with players running from the disastrous drug deal. While trying to clear their names, characters are first directed to a bar, appropriately named "The Hole." The Hole functions as the players' home. Here, they meet a well-connected bartender-he sells healing drinks, offers jobs, and has a changing room so characters can change their mob-colored clothes-an informant who provides information and plot direction, and a reporter who offers information and the ability to save game progress. Once here, some of the game's subtleties become apparent. First, the game operates like GTA in that players can take missions, can change clothes to avoid detection, and most of the game can be spent exploring, and talking to other characters or attacking them.

As a fusion of part Def Jam, Beatdown's fighting segments freeze the exterior space of the game so that players fight in a small area of the street or building, such that the player cannot chase an enemy as can be done in GTA 3. Instead, players are fixed in the fight during the fighting segments that occur on the street. This is like the way random encounters in games occur on game background, but where player's can't easily run during fights and the same way the side-scrolling Double Dragon would freeze the screen for different battles. Each character in Beatdown has a different fighting style, and each can then learn new moves and level up to become a better fighter. Players can also find or purchase different weapons like brass knuckles, boards, and knives for different fighting styles. For more important battles, players fight against enemies destroying both health and pride. Once an enemy's pride has been beaten low enough, players can choose to negotiate. In negotiation, players can interrogate enemies for information, rob enemies for money, recruit enemies to join them, or can Beatdown and kill the enemy. Players gain experience for each of these options, and can repeat the fights-as enemies thankfully respawn unless killed-for even more experience from each negotiation. The fighting style, which combines basic moves, combos, and weapons with the negotiation tactics, is thoroughly enjoyable. Beatdown also allows for blood and bruising to be turned off or on for the male or female characters. I left blood and bruising on, and the bruises that would appear on the characters' faces and bodies are really impressive and visually fascinating.

As the combined parts of GTA and Def Jam, Beatdown forces players to change their appearance to avoid detection, and it allows them a variety of options for doing so. Players can travel to the barber shop for hair cuts and colors, to several clothing shops for new shirts, pants, and shoes, to a specialty shop for new jewelry and hats, to a clinic for new tattoos, and to a hospital for plastic surgery. Each item of clothing is cleanly grafted onto the characters-so even a tshirt on Lola looks as though they modeled her wearing the tshirt and not as though a tshirt could just be stuck on top of her character. The total customizability for clothing and appearance feels extremely rewarding, which is good because players will need to change often to avoid constant fights.

For the fights, players can also recruit criminals from the police blacklist to fight with a group of characters. The party fighting is basically the same as the single player, except that the party will fight during group fights. While the party fighting isn't really interesting, players recruit the other members and build their own gangs to become better criminals as part of the game. This isn't terribly well developed, but it is an interesting aside within the solid overall game.

Since Beatdown seems like the love child of Def Jam and GTA, players might expect the music to be good. For players who enjoy music like the epic rock found in Dynasty Warriors 3, Beatdown offers a similar take on various music styles-it's all a bit too melodramatic and too repetitive. Overall, the voice acting ranges from decent to quite good, an impressive feat that so many games seem unable to accomplish. The graphics employ a washed-out look that isn't visually spectacular. However, as a backdrop to the immaculate character designs it works quite well.

Despite the well-crafted union of elements from Def Jam and GTA, Beatdown falters in the load times. Even with the good voice acting, the characters repeat the same taunts after each fight. This wouldn't be a problem, but the taunts can't be skipped and they're the same after each and every fight. These are part of the overall larger problem of load times, which are constant as players travel from different parts of the rather small city. The load times aren't short, sometimes over 10 seconds, and they occur almost constantly. This is the single biggest problem with the game.

For replayability, Beatdown offers a versus mode in addition to the main game. The versus mode seems tacked on as an afterthought and simply isn't very good. In it, players can choose up to three characters to fight against another team. The mode doesn't do much more than that. However, players can choose to play using characters from the main game, complete with all of the characters' abilities. This could be very interesting if Beatdown were to become incredibly popular and individual players fought each other using their developed characters. Unfortunately, it looks like the most the versus mode will accomplish is to be an afterthought.

Beatdown offers solid and truly enjoyable game play despite these problems. One of the best aspects of Beatdown is in its successful combination of different gaming styles. In fact, it could be an example of possibilities for a fusion of girl gaming with normal gaming styles because of its easy to learn play style and because of its customizability. Currently, girl games normally mean boring games of petting horses or changing Barbie outfits, and Beatdown is nothing like those. But, Beatdown made me do something I've never really done-play dolls. I treated my character, Lola, as a doll in some senses because I actually liked changing her clothes to see how she'd look while fighting, mainly because I liked seeing which bruises would show based on what she was wearing-a low cut top meant more chest bruising when she'd been in more fights. Most studies of "girl gamers"-girls who aren't typical gamers, who just happen to be girls-show that they prefer games that are easy to learn, that can be picked up for quick play, that can be explored without much penalty, and that can be customized. Beatdown does all of these things, and it does so in within a format that typical gamers can also enjoy.

In terms of girl gaming, for the initial character choices Beatdown offers two women and three men; one of the men is African-American and one of the women is an African-American Latina. Despite the press surrounding games like GTA: San Andreas and Def Jam, diversity is still a pretty new concept for video games. The racial diversity in Beatdown is even more impressive than most because it includes a primary character that is a non-white woman. Choices-as the doll aisles in toy stores teach us-are pivotal for getting more girls playing games, and Beatdown offers many choices for game play that will interest typical gamers and, hopefully, the atypical ones as well.

Sometimes our rating system presents an ethical quandary for me, as it does for Beatdown. Personally, I've enjoyed this game for its combination of brutality and innovation in a way I haven't enjoyed since GTA 3. I really think Beatdown deserves a 7/10 rating. But on a 5 star scale, 4/5 is inflated. If Beatdown had been priced at or under $30 to start, I would gleefully have given it four stars. As is, it falters in key areas while managing to do many things right that many gamers will enjoy.

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