"Punch to start" it says, so I throw a mean left hook. The screen shatters into a thousand pieces, which fall to the ground to reveal the main menu screen. My brain registers a twinge of satisfaction, and I make a mental note to say something pleasant about it in my review: it was quite fun punching the screen to start the game. With that out the way, I can move on to the rest of this autopsy of Fighters Uncaged - the worst example of Kinect technology I’ve had the misfortune of experiencing.
The tutorial takes an eternity to complete, insisting on explaining each and every move in the game before forcing you to repeat it three times. Even against an enemy that doesn’t fight back the game is finicky, with punches translating to kicks and kicks often translating to nothing at all. It’s at times like this you become aware how annoying it can be playing without a control pad – there’s nothing to throw at the wall in a fit of rage. There’s a painful lag accompanying each action too, meaning what you’re doing in real life isn’t even loosely in time with what’s happening on screen. This is less apparent in the tutorial than the game itself, but with problems like this surfacing so early on, you know you’re in for a bumpy ride.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; we haven’t even got in the car yet. Just when you think the tutorial might have finally finished (a longer-than-usual loading screen is responsible for false hope), you’re forced into a sparring match to make sure you’ve been paying attention during each lesson. I very nearly stopped playing at this point, happy to bash out a review based what felt like eighteen hours worth of play (it was probably about half an hour, in normal-person time), but I persevered. After winning the sparring match, I breathed a sigh of relief - but quickly tried to re-inhale after realising I had to fight another one. Even a second win isn’t enough to progress, and by the end of the third sparring match I was at the end of my tether.
Snapping out of the catatonic state of boredom the tutorial had left me in, the game proper eventually begins. There are no cutscenes, introductions or explanations about who the hell you are; you’re just taken to a screen where you can select your first fight. After a bit of research since playing the game, I’ve learnt that you play as a chap called Simon, whose father has been taken hostage by a crime lord of some description. By infiltrating the underground fight scene he’s associated with, Simon hopes to win the tournament and rescue his father. None of this is so much as mentioned in the game itself, however, so it’s only natural to assume that Simon simply enjoys picking fights with random thugs.
The menu screen presents a selection of six fighters, with puzzling street names such as "Rider", "Mover" and – best of all - "Rat Face". The character roster covers pretty much every social stereotype going, with everyone from bikers and rockers lining up to get their arses kicked. It turns out the opposite happens more often than not; Fighters Uncaged is hard - not because it requires high levels of skill or physical aptitude, but because the game is both unresponsive and badly designed.
Combat itself is the primary cause of trouble. It’s like a convoluted version of rock-paper-scissors, and feels just as dependant on blind luck. Depending on your distance from the enemy, a certain type of attack will be most effective. At short range you’ll want to use elbows and uppercuts, mid-range you’ll want straight punches, and it’s all about kicks at long range. That’s the theory anyway. 90 per cent of the time your enemy is able to avoid or block the attack, and the other 10 per cent Simon just stands there like a lemon, refusing to acknowledge the command.