Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance PS2 Review

It’s a bit bewildering that scrolling fighting games from the 32 bit days and onwards have been unable to match the overall playability of such 16 bit classics as Streets of Rage and Final Fight. Perhaps the larger environments that came about with the third dimension has resulted in this formula feeling a bit more restrictive than their 2D counterparts ever did, or quite possibly many gamers of this age have become so much accustomed to additional complexities in games that they simply no longer care for such simplicity.

The solution, of course, is to make things deeper by perhaps integrating the ever popular RPG and stealth elements into the mix, including a story that contains plenty of swearing (as that always helps to sell a few copies) and finally, not forgetting a level of violence that will leave Daily Mail types ready and waiting to pounce. All in all, a bit like Capcom’s Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance then.

The story goes like this, Zanetti is the strongest force in Las Sombras and when he learns of a rival groups drug deal, he sends out five of his best mercenaries to intervene, though upon arriving at the scene, the five discover that their targets have already been eliminated and are ambushed by none other than members of their own cartel. Sadly this is about as exciting as the plot gets and the awful voice acting certainly doesn’t help matters either. Then again, I don’t usually play games like this for compelling storylines and interesting characterization, but rather to beat a lot of people up. Beat Down certainly doesn’t disappoint with this all important element.

you’ll be wandering around the fictional living city of Las Sombras, which much as I tire of saying it, is comparable to the seminal Grand Theft Auto in that you get some degree of choice of where you go and what you do. If you wish, you can beat up random pedestrians and take their money as well as any other goodies they may have. It’s just a pity, that the city is split into several small areas, all of which requires much loading, meaning moving around can on occasion be frustrating. If GTA can do a much more impressive representation of a city with very few loading pauses, we can’t see why the developers couldn’t have done the same here.

The fighting is simple, which is hardly a surprise, but it looks satisfyingly brutal and there’s surprisingly more to it than just mindlessly hammering the buttons, with the Dead or Alive style one-on-one fights particularly requiring considered thought. These have your opponents blocking your attacks to a shocking degree and also on occasion actually offer you a pretty stiff challenge, not to forget that they conclude with gratifying slow motion sequences, which shows the loser dramatically dropping to the ground complete with bruises, blood and a pained expression on their face.

In a nice touch, you are able to persuade former opponents to join your side by mostly beating them up, of course. It’s a bit like the 108 stars of destiny in Suikoden in the way that there’s many possible allies around the city, but is still nowhere near as compulsive as the character collecting in Konami’s classic RPG. Once fallen opponents join you, you are able to take them with you for assistance.

By constantly changing your characters appearance, much of the fighting can be avoided. You can alter everything from clothing to hairstyles and even get cosmetic surgery to radically change your facial features. This results in you getting into much less fights as you wander the streets, meaning not only an easier time but also the potential of repetition is avoided.

There’s a two player mode, but frustratingly it takes the form of a one-on-one fighting game rather than a coop mode. It’s still fun though, and there are plenty of characters to choose from, but it’s in no way a rival to the fantastic DOA, but then again I didn’t expect it to be. Another frustration is camera problems. Generally it’s my friend, but in the tighter spots it can be horrific, showing me everything but my character and opponent, it’s extremely frustrating.

Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance is not as good as the best of the genre from the 16-bit days. However, it’s certainly the most fun I remember having with such a game in recent years. Beating up people in games can still be fun after all.