IGN Review of Final Fight: Streetwise
Can Final Fight's pedigree of being one of the best-loved beat-em-up arcade games of the early 1990s remain intact with Streetwise? No, it can't. The latest release of Final Fight attempts to dress up its action core with absurd and occasionally infuriating mini-games, an inane storyline and an oppressively small game area. Furthermore, the game suffers from a camera that seems to have penchant for making things as difficult as possible.
Here's the setup: you're Kyle, Cody's brother. Cody, along with Haggar and Guy, were all playable characters in the first Final Fight, and all make appearances here. As Kyle, you play through the game in search of Cody, who eventually got mixed up with a deadly drug known as GlycoLauric Octanol, or just plain glow. On the way you meet up with Haggar, Guy, several recurring bosses like the Stiff, who appears in normal and glow-ed out forms (lightning bolts included), a porn store owner named Weasel and the knife-wielding Dino.
Instead of progressing strictly stage-by-stage, Final Fight's setting of Metro City is broken into Four districts: Little Italy, Japantown, the Pier District and Kyle's Hood. First off, what kind of name is Metro City? That's like calling a smaller residential area Town Ville. Between each story mission you're usually given the ability to run around and complete various side quests for cash. By talking to NPCs with bubbles over their heads, you'll be able to play 3-Card Monte, darts, a card-flipping memory game as well as various other quirky tasks. While the option for these kinds of diversions is welcome, it becomes a problem when they're made necessary to progress through the story.
For instance, there are several moments in the game where you'll have to squish rats and cockroaches underfoot while silly music plays. Sure it's different than what you might expect, but fun? The glow-ed out rats were kind of funny, but it was far from fun to play. There are a few more sequences requiring you to manipulate a nine button pad to eventually make the whole thing light up after three presses. The first time I completed it to open a hotel's back door, my reaction was, "wow, that was one of the most annoying mini-games I've ever played." Then the same puzzle popped up several times later. It didn't get any more bearable. If these types of mini-games were confined to the realm of optional side quests, it wouldn't have been as much of a problem.
Building on that criticism, some of the sequences that add extra gameplay devices beyond the actual fighting totally don't work. I'm speaking specifically of one stage where Guy and Kyle are escaping a house before it explodes. Never mind that the time limit was way too short. The greater problem was that some of the fires didn't go out when you blasted them with an extinguisher. I had to put one fire out by shooting foam 90 degrees away from it. Also, Guy's A.I. was highly erratic. In one attempt he got stuck standing in a fire, and in others he got distracting fighting enemies 20 feet away from me when I was trying to douse flames. Given that you drop your fire extinguisher when you're knocked over, the constant stream of spawning enemies, and the strict time limit, this sequence pretty much required Guy to get my back at all times.
Final Fight is still a beat-em-up at its core, and the fighting can actually be entertaining. Kyle has some effective dodge moves, a cool counter-attack system and a nice variety of punches and kicks. When taking down enemies, bigger combos result in more tension (the blue bar under your health) which you can use to power up attacks. Against some of the harder enemies, this can actually lead to some enjoyable fights, especially against some of the pit arena opponents. The main motivation behind amassing money is to buy new moves, of which you can learn quite a few. However, as long as you keep upgrading your attack power, you'll never really need anything beyond the basic punches and kicks.
In many cases, the game's many battles are made unnecessarily difficult by a camera that can't seem to stay still. At any point you can swing it around behind your character and zoom in or out. That's fine for wandering around Metro City. When you're slamming every other button on the controller to try and kill guys, however, it's not really feasible to have to simultaneously adjust the camera. It's mostly indoors where the camera runs into problems, often erratically shifting so only the shoulders and above are visible on your character. Needless to say, this makes fighting a hassle. In outdoor environments when the camera shows more of the battlefield, some alcoves and areas will remain hidden from view, and at other times it doesn't feel close enough to the action.
For players looking to avoid the story and mini-games altogether, there's an all-fisticuffs arcade mode for up to two player with a stage progression similar to the arcade original. For some reason, hardly any of the new fighting system changes were included here. There's no tension meter, no dodge move and I couldn't lock on to opponents. Though some may appreciate the more consistent action, I was able to make it through two entire stages only using Cody's double-kick combo. Unfortunately, the camera proves to be just as distracting in this mode as well.
Through both modes you'll battle common street thugs, mafia goons, sword wielding warriors and zombie-like glow addicts. All of these enemy types suffer from A.I. issues. Sometimes they get stuck staring at a wall and at other times you can literally spend ten seconds standing right next to them before they attack. When you do actually engage a foe, the system of punches, kicks and counters control well. In a crowd, though, the lock on system proves woefully inadequate.
For completing side quests and killing bad guys, your respect level increases depending on which zone you're fighting in. However, even if you murder all the innocent NPCs you can find and gain the worst reputation possible, you're still able to get side quests, buy items and complete story objectives. The only difference I saw between a great and abysmal reputation was the color of the icon over NPCs' heads and the compliments they'd give when I was highly respected.
Like Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance, Crime Life: Gang Wars and 25 to Life, Final Fight: Streetwise tries for a realistic, gritty urban look and fails to create anything visually interesting. Colors in the environments range from brown to gray to more brown. Everything looks washed out, each environment is sparse to a NyQuil-like degree, character models animate well but there's far too little variation in enemy models. Though a few enemies stand out as unique, you'll often fight five or six of the exact same model type at once.
The sound is definitely one of the best parts of the game, specifically the soundtrack. Songs from the Dub Pistols, Slipknot and MF Doom help round out a diverse set of listings which will keep your ears even awake though the rest of you may fall asleep. Voice acting isn't great, but isn't terrible either. Despite its adequacy, it suffers from the same kind of overzealous swearing that drains the authenticity from the dialogue like so many of this genre's ilk. The sound effects for punches and weapon fire range from generic to forgettable. The snippets of character dialogue during fights could have benefited from a larger pool of options.
There's no reason to come back if you can make it through once. You can eventually access a version of the original Final Fight as well as a few music videos from Shadows Fall and Fear Factory. Are these enough to warrant a purchase of the game? Not really, unless you're the biggest Final Fight fan ever. It was also interesting to note that some of the original's environments had livelier, more diverse detail than Streetwise. One last thing, if you for some reason do decide to purchase this title, remember to quit your game before turning off your console; it's the only way to save.
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