Once in a great while there comes a game that challenges
everything we hold sacred. A game that shatters our feeble
concepts of creativity and logic and replaces them with something
deeper and richer, that reminds us why we love video games in
the first place. Beatdown is not that game. Brought to you by
Hot-B, the wunderkinds of the fishing game genre, Beatdown is a
radical departure from any of their previous efforts. As their
company webpage says, "HOT-B IS THE FOUNDER OF THE
FISHING GAME INDUSTRY!" and I'm not prepared to dispute that
fact. Unfortunately, their years of experience with the gritty kill or
be killed lifestyle of the average fisherman seemed to be of little
avail when they made a game based on the gritty kill or be killed
lifestyle of the stereotypical gang member.
Beatdown takes place in a generic 'hood in the US, and the overall
aim of the game is to gain wealth, power and turf through a series
of real-time missions. This isn't a bad idea on the whole and I was
hoping that even if the game was terrible it would still be good for
a few laughs. In hindsight this was a bad position to take, as it
involved actually playing the game. To put it another way: bleh!
no play bad game! no play bad game!
Have you ever played Fallout? Have you ever played X-Com? Take
those two styles of graphics, morph them into a cohesive whole,
then hire a bunch of 5 year olds with crayons to dumb things down
a little and you have the graphics to Beatdown. To the gaming
illiterate out there, Beatdown takes place from a 2/3 isometric
viewpoint, which means that while its technically 3d its basically a
2d game. The backgrounds are hand painted and rather bland on
the whole, with various shades of brown and gray making up most
of the landscape. By itself that isn't so much of a problem, but the
game uses dynamic lighting which only lights up the areas
immediately surrounding your characters, resulting in an
environment that is not only bland but also impossible to see.
Probably the weakest part of the graphics are the character
designs and animations. While the animation is all smooth, its very
jerky and unrealistic. It feels like you're controlling a bunch of
robots rather than actual characters. The characters themselves
are for the most part boring. They have very little life to them, and
are wholly uninspiring. The only character I liked at all was the
"Illinator", which uses his empty 40's to throw Molotov Cocktails.
For a game like this to be any fun it has to be totally over the top,
and its lack of creative insanity is one of its biggest downfalls.
The sound is better than you might expect from a no-name
company releasing their first non fishing game, but there’s nothing
new or particularly good going on here. Clever sound effects could
have elevated the game from the level of insipid to enjoyable, but
that probably goes for every aspect of the game.
Ahh, the holy grail of gaming, gameplay. To put it simply: What
the hell were those crack-smoking bass fiends thinking when they
designed this industrial sized canister of bile? The graphics are
irrelevant. While they most certainly could have been more
exciting they don't really ruin the game. The sound is nothing
special, but it isn't embarrassing. But the gameplay, oh precious
gameplay, sweet mother of Aunt Jemimah that’s some bad maple
syrup. The controls are simple in a pathetic way. Basically, all that
you can do is select a unit or group of units with your mouse, then
click somewhere to move them, click on a person to mug them, or
ctrl-click on something to attack it. While it claims to be a strategy
game, there's very little strategy involved. For instance, there’s no
way to set waypoints or control formation. Its just walk or attack,
nothing else. Of course, even with a bad interface its possible for a
game to still work if the missions are exciting and cleverly
implemented, but once again Beatdown attacks this problem in
the most predictable of ways. The missions essentially all fall into
the category of trying to get to some place on the map without
dying, trying to kill a specific person, or trying to kill every
opposing gang member on the map. That last type is particularly
annoying, since in later levels the maps start getting extremely
large and you can wander around them for a half hour without
ever finding that elusive last enemy. For every slightly neat thing
in the game there are 10 things that will annoy the hell out of you.
Of course, if they totally redesigned the interface along with the
mission structure, character design and combat style this could be
a really rocking game.
Beatdown supports multiplay over the Internet and over LANs. The
only real benefit to playing multiplayer though is that you know
someone else is sharing your pain. Being on a fast connection I
would have no idea how the lag is for modem users, but a poor
connection would probably be a blessing as it would cause you to
stop playing faster. I realize that its in bad form to not even
describe the multiplayer experience, but honestly, its in worse
form to release a game like Beatdown.
I view Beatdown as a sort of idiot step-child to Grand Theft Auto.
Although the actual gameplay and styles are quite different,
they're both games from small companies that have mediocre
graphics and awkward controls. The big difference is that GTA
nailed the intangible fun factor square on the head, while
Beatdown hit its thumb. I would rather play The Old Testament
Spelling Adventure all the way through than be forced to spend
another minute playing Beatdown.
I would truly like to give Hot-B props for attempting something new
and straying from its regular style of game, but I can't, since they
did absolutely nothing creative or unique. I'm always preaching
that companies should try something new, but I think its time to
amend that thought: Try new things, but please put an effort into it.
It feels like Hot-B made this game purely because it was "new"
and had the whole project ride on that single fact. And that’s
worse than making a rip-off of some game that’s at least