Game Over Online ~ Beatdown

GameOver Game Reviews - Beatdown (c) Hot-B, Reviewed by - Wongmo

Game & Publisher Beatdown (c) Hot-B
System Requirements Pentium 90, 16MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 39%
Date Published Friday, April 23rd, 1999 at 04:03 PM

Divider Left By: Wongmo Divider Right

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 enjoyable.


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