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Fight Club

Review By:  J. Michael Neal

Developer:  Genuine Games
Publisher:  Vivendi Universal
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Fighting
ESRB:  Mature
Online Play:  Yes
Accessories:  Memory Unit, Custom Soundtracks, System Link, HDTV 480p, Xbox Live (Content DL, Scoreboards)
Date Posted: 

1-23-05

You have to give credit where credit is due - Genuine Games has captured the gritty brutality of bare-knuckle fighting like you’ve never seen. This is real pain we’re talking about here. Playing Fight Club is like being punched in the brainstem. It’s pure agony, from start to finish. Ever wonder what it feels like to get worked over by a 300-pound man with pendulous breasts? Well, after about 15 minutes with this one, you won’t have to!

Let’s start by stating the obvious – the mere idea of a Fight Club game made most of us uncomfortable. It almost sounded cool, almost, and there was a slim chance it could have been respectful to the source material, but a few months into development it became clear that this one would settle on the palette somewhere between Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Bob Dylan’s Victoria’s Secret deal. Well, it’s here and whatdoyaknow, it does suck as hard as we all feared. I am Jack’s total lack of surprise.

If you’re unfamiliar with the license Vivendi Universal desecrates, allow me a moment to explain. Fight Club the game is loosely based on a film of the same title. The film, directed by Se7en’s David Fincher, was a commercial failure. It was falsely positioned as a movie about guys punching on one another and, along with The Matrix, received tremendous negative press after the Columbine tragedy. These did a disservice to the film, as anyone who’s seen it can tell you it’s not a movie about fighting. Bloodsport is a movie about fighting. Fight Club is a dark comedy about the obsolescence of masculinity in a post-modern world of disappointment, isolation, and white noise.

It wasn’t until its release on DVD, in a spectacular double-disc loaded with extra features, one of the firsts of its kind, that Fight Club found an audience. The film spread like a brush fire among cooler circles and quickly gained a legion of fans. This transformed its author, Chuck Palahniuk, into an underground celebrity and the “voice of a generation”, a moniker he was quick to shake off. Somewhere between then and now, Vivendi decided it would be cool to cash in on Palahniuk’s anti-imperialist opus by turning it into a watered-down version of Pride FC. We don’t need a watered-down version of Pride FC; UFC: Sudden Impact was already the watered-down version of Pride FC, and we sure as hell didn’t need a watered-down version of Pride FC with the Fight Club name stamped all over it. 

To cut to the heart of it, Fight Club plays like a buggier version of UFC: Tapout 2, minus the ground mounts. Fighters lurch around levels that vaguely reference locations from the film (Lou's Bar, the Pressman Hotel, 1888 Franklin Street, though none of them are properly identified), pounding out pre-programmed combos on unresponsive controls until someone goes limp, taps out, or turns off their console in disgust.

Genuine Games is quick to tout the supposed selling points of the fighting engine – interactive environments, bone-breaking finishing moves, real-time bruising, and injures that carry from match to match, but in actuality, those do little to lift this turd out the toilet. The bruising adds nothing to the game and amounts to little more than bloody faces and the occasional black eye (yawn), there’s more level interaction in Pit Fighter, and the whole bone-breaking thing is implemented terribly. They only ever work against you, since player injures are the only ones that mount, and although the first time you see it you have to admit it’s kind of cool, there are all of three, maybe four, different variations on the move. That’s not a selling point, that’s just sad.

If there’s anything resembling depth in this game, it comes from the “Hardcore” character creation aspect. Unlike “Normal” player created characters, Hardcore characters can be built up using CDPs (Character Development Points) earned through the Arcade, Verse, Story, and Survival modes. While this is nothing new, too many injures forcing a character into an early retirement is. This could have been used to great effect if created characters had any personality whatsoever, or if they survived more than just a few hours, but since they don’t, what ends up happening is as soon as you start to get a feel for your generic-looking fighter, it’s time to retire. Let this happen twice, and you’ll lose all remaining interest in Hardcore characters.

If you have an overwhelming urge to communicate with the twelve other poor saps that bought this game, you can take it online and fight to earn CDPs, but really, why bother? The game’s not fun. The fighting is terrible. Characters react so slowly to commands you’d think it was a frame rate issue. It’s has enough balance issues to make Ed Boon wince. The combo system is terrible. There’s only three fighting styles, five modes, a Story mode that was obviously designed by someone with no familiarity with the license whatsoever, oh yeah, and music by Limp Bizkit. Did I mention that?

If you are a die hard Fight Club completist, you might get some tinge of pleasure from seeing Tyler and Raymond K. K. K. K. K. K. Hessle, Detective Stern, the flooded Paper St. basement, a split-second of the synapse loading screen, the burned out smiley face, things like that, hearing snippets of The Dust Brothers’ amazing soundtrack, but it’s more akin to identifying the body of a loved one than having dinner with a good friend. The license is misused and misrepresented coming and going. Characters who totally weren’t involved in Fight Club are members (like Lou of Lou’s Tavern or the aforementioned Detective Stern), no less than four characters violate rule six, the cut-scenes seem penciled in by someone who skimmed the Cliff’s Notes for the story, dear God, even the cover art is hideous! You want a Fight Club game? Just pick up Def Jam Fight for NY and pretend. 

Highs:

  • “Hey look! It’s the Fight Club font!”

  • “And, like, Tyler and stuff. That’s kinda cool…”

Lows:

  • “Ah! My eyes! The goggles! They do nothing!”

Final Verdict: 

I can’t think of anyone to recommend this game to except for sadists and collectors of the macabre. Just… just pretend this never happened.

Overall Score: 1.2

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