Regular readers will notice that the following article is a slight departure from our usual preview style. For gamescom 2010 we've adopted a streamlined structure, allowing us to cover as many games as possible while giving you the important juice and info. In many cases we'll be running longer, more detailed previews upon our return to the UK.
What is it?
Forced into an illegal underground fighting tournament, players surrender their body to a character known as Simon Kay, who - via Kinect - will pummel his way through a series of intimidating opponents. Not only does it let players beat the stuffing out of 12 characters inspired by real world fighting styles, the game also promises that it will teach players actual Muay Thai kickboxing techniques - a bold claim indeed. Luc Verdier, project manager on the title boasted that it was not only the first Kinect enabled fighting game, but the first game aimed at the core audience too.
What was shown?
The first scrap we were shown was against an opponent known as Robert E. Rider; a bald, incredibly sturdy looking man who has been modelled on a Hells Angels biker. The camera hangs at a very strange angle over Simon's shoulder, which although gives a good view of the fight, feels incredibly unnatural for a fighting game of this type. Graphically speaking the game wasn't much to talk about either, it certainly wasn't bad, but some ropey character models and a general lack of artistic flair gave the game what can only be described as a dull quality.
On the other side of the screen, the Ubisoft rep demonstrating the game was unleashing a variety of moves into the air in front of him, including punches, kicks, elbow jabs, roundhouse kicks, and skull thumps. Considering how exaggerated these movements were in the real world, it was surprising to see the character in the game struggle to replicate them accurately. At times the movements were indeed matched faithfully, but more often than not the game failed to distinguish between a punch and an elbow, or a dodge and a head-butt.
At one point during the demonstration, the chap playing the game let out an exaggerated 'Hoo-Ha!', for no apparent reason whatsoever. Ubisoft seemed oblivious to the bewildered glances flitting about the room after this embarrassing outburst, but I've since learnt that it was intended to unleash a special move of some description. Once again, this is a game that simply fails to respond to the commands it's been given.
Shortly after this, we were given the opportunity to try the game out for ourselves, and I didn't hesitate to jump in front of the camera to see if the game would fare any better with me behind the camera. I wasn't surprised to discover that it didn't. Despite thrusting my fists into my imaginary opponent in a variety of ways, the same string of punches would play out on the screen. Evasion was problematic too: even though in the real world I was leaning so far back I thought I was going to topple over, my character refused to dodge the barrage of punches coming his way in the game.
Fighters Uncaged has done little to soothe my worries concerning Kinect; quite the opposite in fact. Not only was the game plagued with unresponsive controls, the move list felt horribly restricted by my physical actions. The game features just one playable character, but given the controls, it wouldn't work with any more anyway. Think about it: if you had more than one, they'd have to have exactly the same moves as each other - a character can only use moves the player is capable of executing. This leads me to my second problem; due to a lack of moves, the same thing will play out fight after fight. There's still time for improvement, but based on what I saw at gamescom, there's no reason to be even remotely excited about Kinect's 'first core game'.
Fighters Uncaged will be available for Xbox 360 in November