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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
et’s not dance around the subject any more than we need to: “FaceBreaker” is a clear frontrunner for Worst Game of the Year. As the first title to be released under Electronic Arts' new Freestyle label, you'd expect the arcade boxer to be a little rough around the edges, but this is ridiculous. It's not even a boxing game at all, but rather a button-mashing fighter that relies on about as much skill as a game of rock-paper-scissors. Perhaps even worse, however, is that this is how the game is meant to be played. Some might enjoy drudging through the same match over and over until they're lucky enough to win, but most gamers just don't have the patience.
"FaceBreaker" is a pretty straightforward affair. You’re given seven unique characters to choose from at the start, while another five boxers are unlocked as you play the game. Additionally, a handful of real-life characters are preloaded onto the disc, including Peter Moore and reality stars like Kim Kardashian and Heidi Montag. Since there’s no campaign mode to be found, the closest thing to a similar experience is Brawl For It All, where you’ll box your way through four tiers of title bouts to become the ultimate champion. Good luck even winning the second belt, though, as you’ll be so busy getting the living shit kicked out of you that you won’t have time to retaliate.
Even if you do get an open shot at your opponent, it’s not like you have many options. X is high punch and A is low punch. That’s it. You also have the ability to throw your opponent with the B button (despite the fact that it doesn’t do any damage), but you’d be wise to not even bother. The same goes for blocking, since those can be easily broken with a breaker, the game’s big gimmick move. These are executed with the Y button, and vary in damage based on what kind you’re using. The most basic form is a Haymaker, which can be performed any time your breaker meter isn’t filled. The other four breakers are determined by this meter, which is filled with each consecutive hit you land. The higher the meter, the better the breaker, and if you’re good enough to completely fill it up, you can then unleash a FaceBreaker on your unlucky opponent, which automatically ends the match.
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, yes, but that doesn’t include the use of dodges, which is essentially what turns “FaceBreaker” into one large game of rock-paper-scissors. Any punch can be dodged by holding down the corresponding button, so if an opponent attacks you with a low punch and you’re holding down A, his punch will miss, and you will counter with the same attack. Now, this may sound good on paper, but it’s an absolute mess, as it can lead to long strings of dodging between players. The computer AI is especially stingy about allowing you to counterattack, and since it’s virtually impossible to get a read on what their next move is, they always come out on top. Every game has a learning curve, but “FaceBreaker” doesn’t even give you the time to learn. Instead, your opponent forces you into a corner and pummels away, causing you to lose over and over again. And then you lose some more, only to have the in-game instructions remind you that things are going to get worse before they get any better. Gee, thanks.
I can’t remember a more shallow or unbalanced game as “FaceBreaker.” The whole purpose seems to be to find an opponent’s weakness and exploit the hell out it, and if that wasn’t bad enough, some characters have major advantages – like Steve the Ninja, who uses a smoke bomb in order to sneak up and stun you. It’s simply not fair, and it will quickly wear on your patience, causing even the most Zen gamer to pull out his hair in frustration. Although the ability to create a boxer using a photo of yourself yields some pretty realistic results, the fact that only LIVE Vision Camera users can do it sucks. I mean, was it EA’s plan to create a game so bad it practically begs you to hate it? Because if that’s the case, they certainly succeeded.