Fighters Uncaged Review

By Matt Cabral - Posted Nov 23, 2010

While it provides an alternative to all those Mii-flavored fighters, Ubisoft's Fighters Uncaged is a prime example of a rushed-for-launch offender, delivering sub-par visuals, broken controls, and an overall experience that serves up more frustration than fun.

The Pros
  • Offers an alternative to family-friendly fighters
  • Voice-activated attacks
The Cons
  • Mechanics are consistently unresponsive
  • Last-gen visuals
  • No multiplayer

Fighters Uncaged Review:

Following the flying fists of PlayStation Move’s The Fight: Lights Out, Ubisoft enters the ring with the similarly gritty Fighters Uncaged for Microsoft’s Kinect. Like Sony’s effort, this brawler offers more mature fight fans an alternative to all those Wii-wannabes vying for the motion-controlled crown.

Unfortunately, Ubisoft’s take on underground boxing is as bare-boned as it is bare-knuckled; sparse modes, stripped- down visuals, and broken gameplay should quickly doom it to the bottom of bargain bins, where it’ll still cost more than it’s worth.

Broken Promises

In theory, Fighters Uncaged looks like a perfect fit for the buzz-generating, controller-free hardware: Mimic punches and kicks--thanks to Kinect’s leg tracking tech--and witness an on-screen avatar follow suit, laying the smack down on an increasingly challenging line-up of scumbags. Even cooler, the title boasts 70-plus combo moves, hinting at the sort of depth usually reserved for a dedicated gamepad-directed fighting experience. Throw in a pulpy tale, supported by seedy environments, and you’re one step closer to starting your very own fight club. Sadly, Fighters Uncaged back-of-the-box-bullet-point promises are as empty as the heads of its AI opponents.

For starters, the so-called story is relegated to a short, painfully generic paragraph in the manual that‘s never built upon in the actual game. Admittedly, this isn’t a big deal; if you’re searching for narrative depth in a fighting game, you’re in the wrong place. However, the half-baked approach to storytelling serves as an accurate representation of the entire experience--everything in Fighters Uncaged smacks of launch-day laziness. The visual presentation is uninspired, looking like a 360 launch title at best, but more often comparable to a last-gen offering. Sloppy and unrealistic animations are delivered by generic character models sporting the expected menacing tattoos, freaky facial hair, mohawks and, every tough guys’ wardrobe staple, the black leather vest--only to be worn over a bare chest, of course. Equally generic environments--docks, warehouses, alleys--don’t help, providing little more than static backdrops to the been-there-beat-up-that action.

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Broken Game

If Fighters Uncaged’s mechanics made us feel like momma-said-knock-you-out badasses, these criticisms would be kicked to the curb. Sadly though, the controller-phobic gameplay serves as the title’s most glaring flaw, crossing the line from annoyingly unresponsive to frustratingly broken. Basic moves register pretty well, so sticking to straight punches, hooks, and uppercuts can almost fool you into thinking the game works as intended. But once you exit the tortuously long tutorial and begin unleashing combos in-game--the defining feature separating it from other me-too motion-mimicking fighters--the experience becomes about as fun as a kick to the crotch. Most moves require some combination of kicking, crouching, or leaning, but the Kinect controls don’t pick-up your actions accurately. You’ll spend half the time wondering why your moves didn’t execute, and the other half marveling at how you managed to pull some awesome, but unintentional move.

When you do land a round kick or head-butt as intended, it admittedly feels pretty awesome; however, this is a rare feat usually replaced by attempting to execute something that accidentally puts you in harm’s way. While sticking to simple punching and blocking generally works, it’s not how the game was meant to be played, nor is it much fun. Plus, doing so won’t allow you to progress very far, as matches must not only be won, but beaten by a point-designated margin. This frustrates even further because you’ll be forced to fight the same thugs multiple times in order to navigate a point path that’s never clearly defined.


Thank God, It's Over

If you’ve read this far hoping I’d say Fighters Uncaged redeems itself with kick-ass multiplayer modes, you’re out of luck. There’s no option to fight friends on- or off-line; you heard right, this a 100% single-player fighting game. If there’s a single bright spot on this one’s bruised facade, it’s a modestly novel use of voice recognition to execute especially brutal attacks. Too bad occasionally yelling at the screen while delivering your foot to some sap’s face isn’t nearly enough to keep this one from going down for the count. If its face-pummeling you crave, stick with Kinect Sports boxing until a real contender comes along.