Matt Keller
06 Oct, 2005

Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance Review

PS2 Review | Beat Down makes you feel like you've been on the receiving end of one.
The beat 'em up genre is in a bit of disarray on current generation consoles. Recent efforts to revive the old fashioned style of game have failed miserably, especially the recent Spikeout: Battle Street, with only small elements of this once popular genre making their way into other games, like Dynasty Warriors. These problems can be traced mostly to the failure of developers to adapt their games into the climate of the current videogames market – no attempts have been made to increase the variety offered in these games by giving the characters more moves, providing interesting or even coherent narratives and in some cases, the developers couldn't even be bothered making sure the games look up to scratch.

Cavia have decided to do something about this problem with their latest title Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance. Known for solid efforts such as Drakengard, Dragon Ball Z: Super Sonic Warriors and Resident Evil: Dead Aim, the Japanese developer has tried to incorporate many of the features lacking from beat ‘em ups into their latest title. Try as they might, Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance falls short of the mark, feeling like a turkey that would have been good if it had a few more months in the developmental oven, with poor execution, a bad camera and some absolutely despicable voice acting ruining what could have been a good game.

The setting in Beat Down is much like that of the cult classic film The Warriors. Raven, Aaron, Jason G, Gina and Lola make up part of an elite team within gangland ruler Zanetti's group. Going to what was meant to be a routine drug deal at the docks, the group finds out that they've been set up, with the deal having been crashed and everyone killed before Raven and his team arrived. The group is ambushed by a rival clique within Zanetti's group led by a chap named Eugene (ooh, tough name there buddy!). No more than a minute after this melee, the group realises that everyone from their gang, the rival gangs and the police wants them dead. It's at this point that the group decides to split up – you get to choose one of the five members and go on your quest of brutality through the streets of Las Sombras.

Upon hearing Eugene's name, Lola laughed so hard she wet herself

Upon hearing Eugene's name, Lola laughed so hard she wet herself
Beat Down does its best to integrate some of the latest and greatest gameplay ideas into its own unique style. After selecting your character and playing through the initial scenes, you are set loose into the city and can pretty much do as you please. Unfortunately for your character, everyone wants a piece of him/her, so you need to build up some allies. Using a local bar as your base of operations, the patrons and owner will give you missions, either story or supplementary to complete, and in the process you'll be able to buy new outfits, learn new moves and recruit new members to assist in your cause. Outfits aren't just cosmetic in Beat Down – gang members and the police will be able to recognise you by what you've been wearing, so if you cause some trouble and want to get away with it, it's best to change your duds.

It's unfortunate that Beat Down begins to show its problems right from the get go. After a lengthy load time, the game goes into a barrage of awful real time cutscenes which set up the game's premise. It's not that the story is bad as such - it's the way it's written and presented in these scenes. The dialogue in the game is ridiculous, with plenty of curse words thrown in, just for the sake of cursing – and then there's the hilariously bad acting, with Raven represented as having some sort of bastardised Irish/American accent and delivering classic lines such as “What the shite was that shite?” For the first fifteen minutes of the game, your ears and eyes are subjected to this tripe, with stacks of load sequences in between, and then you actually get to play the game.

There are basically two things to do in Beat Down – walk around and talk to people, and then beat them up. Walking around the sections of the city is made rather annoying by the game's camera, which haphazardly decides to position itself wherever the hell it feels like. There are about seven or eight different sections to Las Sombras – the game thankfully does not require you to traverse the entire city, with travel between sections accelerated, though separated with a lengthy load screen. People will be scattered throughout each section, and you'll be able to converse with them – most will give you a handy tip, while others may take exception to your character and give him a little lip. You have the option to use your fists to communicate, rather than your mouth, which is useful for aforementioned punks. Start a fight, and any surrounding thugs will run to your location and join in on the proceedings.

I didn't steal this move from Ryu, Miss - honest!

I didn't steal this move from Ryu, Miss - honest!
There are actually two types of fights in Beat Down; the group fight and the one on one fight. The group fight puts you (and any of your gang members) up against several thugs. Beat the thugs using your hand to hand attacks, any weapons lying around, and even the environment. These bits could have been quite good, but the number of hand to hand moves available to your character is quite limited and the camera can hamper things – often you could be fighting on the street and lose a stack of health after being hit by a car you never see coming. Your fellow gang members don't do a lot for you in these fights; they mainly stand around absorbing a beating that would have otherwise been given to your character. The one on one fights are far superior (excusing the lengthy load between the declaration of intentions and the actual fight), giving your character access to a much vaster move set, yet at the same time letting you do anything you could do in the larger fights. This is a rather odd design decision – the multiple opponent fights would have benefited greatly from a larger move set. The big problem is that despite the bigger move set, opponents can be easily disposed of using the most basic of button mash combos. In certain one on one fights, you need to beat the life out of your opponent, while in others you just need to hurt their pride. Once you've caused enough damage to their tender ego, a menu will give you a bunch of options – you can rob your opponent, haggle them for information (which is unfortunately misused within the scope of the game, with only game hints given, rather than information vital to the plot), ask them to join your gang, or give them the beat down. The beat down is a rather unnecessary inclusion, which basically details your character brutally murdering your opponent with whatever he can lay his hands on. Capcom could expect a harsh frowning upon from Jack Thompson and his cronies if they catch wind of this.

Provided you can deal with the lesser parts of the experience, Beat Down actually has some length to it, granted you'll have to replay the game several times to see it from all aspects. Characters have RPG-style level ups, which give you points to increase their power, and as levels increase, new moves (for the one on one fights) will become available. There are about 50 side missions on top of the regular story objectives, most of which are fetch quests or beating someone up, but they do give you money for building your wardrobe and such. Your character also has a criminal reputation that increases during the game, allowing you to improve the dynamics between your gang members and recruit more powerful ones. As the relationship between your character and his underlings improves, you'll be able to execute double-team moves, which are pretty cool. Multiplayer is non-existent in the main game, instead being relegated to a Vs. mode that only allows you and a friend to play the one on one fights, using any of the gang members you've unlocked in the game, which is disappointing.

Raven's voice actor is so bad that he caused Scorpion to start vomiting blood

Raven's voice actor is so bad that he caused Scorpion to start vomiting blood
Beat Down is not the prettiest of games, combining a gritty appearance with rather plain, cramped environments and wildly variable character models. The game's five main characters look quite good, with a decent level of detail which includes some facial deformation after they've taken a beating. Some of the main enemies have the same distinct damage features, while others are kind of like the ugly looking ginger haired kid on the playground at primary school, who got teased for having nits and owning a Spectrum – they've been ignored almost entirely, or just look outright crap in comparison. The game's environments are more cramped than a cabin on a cruise ship, and feature bland textures of a very low quality. Fortunately, the game features a 60 Hz mode. Aurally, Beat Down is an absolute travesty, with a very short technosynth soundtrack that features only a handful of 20-30 second tracks which loop endlessly. As mentioned earlier, Beat Down's voice acting is the most painfully bad experience we've had to endure this year, due in part to both the actors and the hilariously bad script. Characters will let out strings of cuss words in a nonsensical manner, often adding cuss words to cuss words. The actor who played Raven wasn't sure if his character was meant to be Irish or American, with his dialogue often altering between the two accents mid-sentence. The number of reactions your player has to a situation are also seriously limited – it's bad enough that they're terrible to begin with, but hearing them over and over is kind of heartbreaking. For the masochistic, you can enjoy this torment in Dolby Pro Logic II.

Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance could have been something. The game looked good at E3, and showed signs of promise within this review. Unfortunately, it seems like the game needed a lot more time for polishing of both the gameplay and graphics, and the game's sound needed to be scrapped and redone entirely. The premise of playing a gang member, building your own gang and trying to take over a city is quite good – and Cavia were on the right track, but by completely botching this opportunity, you can bet that we'll probably never see anyone try to make these ideas work again.
The Score
Beat Down makes us feel bad - we wanted it to be good, Cavia put in the ideas that could have made the game good, but failed to deliver on the execution - the despicable quality of voice acting just seals the deal. 4
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
8 years ago
the article wrote
The setting in Beat Down is much like that of the cult classic film The Warriors.
given there's a game coming based on this film, doesn't make a whole lot of sense trying to emulate it in a knock-off fashion.

pity though, nothing of the genre for ages, then suddenly a flood of sub-par ones.
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