E3 Feature: Fighting Games Focus
Once the king of the gaming hill, the beat ‘em up has had to evolve – everything from extreme gratification to artistic edge – in order to survive. So check out what fighting styles will be blooding your knuckles on the showfloor…
WWE – badder than ever
It’s no surprise THQ has a new version of WWE SmackDown vs. RAW in development but the 2007 edition promises to be much more than just another wrestling game. For one thing, this is first time the franchise will be available on nextgen hardware with versions for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Expect plenty of eyecandy as cinematic effects such as motion blur, heat shimmer and depth of field focus are included to emphasis the action-packed bouts. The resolution of the superstar wrestlers is upped as well with each clocking in at 20,000 polygons, and details will include scars, bulging muscles and eye-popping veins.
But hey, WWE games aren’t just about looking pretty/ugly. There are plenty of enhancements when it comes to piledriving opponents into the canvas too. One is the ability to take the fight outside the ring and use the environment as an offensive weapon, such as using scaffolding for mad diving attacks, throwing opponents into the TV crew’s electrical equipment. Crowd members will get involved as they’ll hand over weapons such as crutches and chairs for you to whop sweet mercy out of the opposition. More control comes with the new analog grapple moves, where players can choose to hold for maximum damage or perform taunting motions while an opponent is in their clutches. (For more details check out A New Way To Grapple.)
Mortal Kombat gets personal
Another long-running success story treading the tightrope between reinvention and pleasing its millions of existing fans is Midway’s Mortal Kombat. There are two games available on the showfloor with Mortal Kombat: Armageddon marking the franchise’s final PlayStation 2 and Xbox appearance, while the series also makes its handheld debut.
Bringing all the expected MK goodness to PSP, Mortal Kombat: Unchained has a new endurance mode so players can build up their skills before going head-to-head with their friends via the PSP’s Wi-Fi. Meanwhile Mortal Kombat: Armageddon is certainly ending its current generation existence with a bang. One big improvement is the Konquest mode. Previously a simple training option, it’s been expanded into a complete adventure with its own story. Another addition is the option to create your own fighter; something series co-creator Ed Boon is really excited about (see Create-You-Own-Mortal-Kombat).
Hold Tekken in your fist
Handheld battles are on the cards for another renowned beat ‘em up as Namco brings Tekken to PSP. Tekken: Dark Resurrection is based on the arcade game of the same name. Linking into the game’s customisation, players can to use their money to kit out the fighters with plenty of bling available. New characters include the fast-moving Russian Dragunov and cute-but-deadly Lili, boosting the total number to 30. More hardcore however, Tekken: Dark Resurrection will offer the game’s first online mode, albeit in the shape of the two player head-to-head via PSP’s adhoc Wi-Fi connectivity.
Ringing the bell for Fight Night Round 3
Braced for a PlayStation 3 launch bout, EA’s Fight Night Round 3 comes out of its corner with all fists blazing. Already gracing the canvas of Xbox 360, the photo-realistic boxing game has 32 pugilists available ranging from stars of the 1950s through to the hardmen of the 1980s such as Marvellous Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran and current champs such as Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor. And with the rivalries between such fighters playing a big part in the gameplay – everything from fights breaking out in press conferences to news footage of other boxers’ achievements – Fight Night Round 3 is sure to pack a mean punch.
Taking the action onto Tokyo’s mean streets comes Sega’s Yakuza. A gritty brawler set in an urban environment, ruled by the gangsters’ traditional system of honor, respect, and loyalty, it combines a deep storyline from award-winning novelist Seishu Hase, with stylish fighting mechanics. Available for PlayStation 2, it follows the path of former gang member Kiryu Kazuma, finally out of prison after a 10 year stretch. Thankfully, there will be plenty of available action moves so you can simultaneously take out multiple enemies with combos, as well as smashing them into walls and tables, and picking up scenery to use as weapons. Kiryu also increases his strength, stamina, and skills the more successfully you fight, while his heat gauge provides an adrenaline boost to get you out of any tight spots.
Balance of old and new in The King of Fighters 2006
Continuing the theme of reputation and respect, comes SNK PLAYMORE’s PlayStation 2-bound The King of Fighters 2006. A favourite amongst hardcore beat ‘em up fans, the series has been steadily building up the plaudits for over a dozen years. A sequel, in terms of The King of Fighters’ timeline at least, to 2004’s KOF: Maximum Impact, it builds on the radical move to 3D graphics, with the commitment to action that’s as smooth as its 2D heritage. “Our fans expect our fighting games to be fast, whether they’re 2D or 3D, and KOF 2006 is not going to disappoint them. It will be a perfect mix of speed, beauty and an all-new storyline,” reckons SNK PLAYMORE USA president Ben Herman.
Capcom’s bash to the future
With one of the best fighting games back catalogues, Capcom’s mining its past when it comes to whopping some ass this E3. First up, Power Stone Collection comes out of its corner ready to lamp you with anything that comes to hand. One of the best beat ‘em up series on Sega’s ill-fated Dreamcast console, the two games have been combined to provide the complete package of easy-to-play brawlers. Redesigned for Sony’s PSP, the games are linked with characters from Power Stone 2 introduced into the original, bringing the total up to 15. Up to four players can duke it out via Wi-Fi multiplayer, and there’s the addition of the Bomber Battle mini-game for those with explosive tendencies.
Capcom’s other title on show is the all-encompassing Street Fighter Alpha Anthology for PlayStation 2. A monumental compilation of the entire Street Fighter Alpha arcade series from Street Fighter Alpha, Alpha 2, Alpha 2 Gold and Alpha 3, an added bonus is Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix (previously released as Pocket Fighter).