Fight Club is almost based on the excellent film of the same name that was released in 1999. If you havenít seen the film, I highly recommend it. Great acting, visceral thrills, brilliant editing and storytelling. Of course, Iíve not actually mentioned the plot, and if you play this game, you would be forgiven if you think the movie is about a series of bare knuckle fights and a building inexplicably exploding. In fact, itís a pre-requisite that you see the film as the plot of the game makes no sense at all otherwise. Each level of the story mode runs along the same lines:
HIM: Who are you.
1UP: Iím looking for Tyler Durden.
HIM: I donít know you.
1UP: I want to joint Fight Club.
HIM: Rule 8 of Fight Club: your first time here, you fight. Fighting ensues
HIM: Ow...Ouch! you beat me up, you can fight, go to >insert random US city name here<.
Repeat until you find Tyler Durden and fight him.
The generic character design is pretty bland and, other than some familiar names, the character likenesses are nothing like their actor counterparts, even the interestingly-proportioned Bob is only a shadow of his Meatloaf-likeness. The player character in the story mode is unnamed, and the fighting style he uses is determined at the beginning: grappler, brawler or martial artist. Other modes available are the usual arcade, survival and training modes. In these modes, you can use any of the characters in the game, some unlockable, but other than slightly different physical differences (excluding Bob), there are essentially three types of fighter: the aforementioned grappler, brawler and martial artist. The moves are different between these groups, but two martial artists, for example, have mostly the same moves and combos (just a few ďspecialĒ combos differ). This seriously put me off wanting to bother unlocking extra characters. To add insult to injury, the character moves list is only available in the training mode, so you will have to memorise them before starting any other mode.
Unfortunately, things donít get better when playing through the fights. The control scheme is generically beat Ďem up, with two punch and two kick buttons. A shoulder button can be used for block and one for a (frankly useless) taunt. There is no jumping and the side-step is lacklustre, as you canít evade any punches or kicks by doing that. Pressing two buttons at a time creates context-sensitive hold or throw moves, which is one of the better-implemented elements to gameplay. There are roughly two per character and some good countermoves to grapples punches and kicks. Some of these moves can result in bone breaking, which can obviously give you an advantage if your opponent can fight only one handed. Unfortunately, these opportunities are rare Ė annoying as at least one of the story missions needs you to break an opponentís arm. In all, the controls are wooden and, as demonstrated by a non-gamer friend, button bashing is as effective as a controlled, technical approach. You can expect to complete the Story mode game in under two hours, including the cut scenes. The game does feature network play Ė good luck with that, we had several attempts at finding a game with no success and even arranged a game with another website reviewer, but despite him assuring me he was online and searching for a game we didnít seem to be able to link up. When I finally found some other desperate Fight Clubber online, I beat him in the first round and he disconnected half way through the second, never to be seen again - fun or what?
The arm-breaking and general fighting is accompanied by the one trick of this small horse. Gore. This is an 18-rated game, and the splattering of blood on the screen is plentiful. When bones are broken, the graphics perform a gorgeously brutal x-ray closeup of the break, with a distressingly audible crack. Facial damage is shown as well, although there seems not to be a general increase in damage, its either bloody nose or clean face. The graphics offer some nice detailed backdrops that resemble many of the movie locations and some of the scenery is destructible. All of the game is set at night and dimly-lit with lots of greys and browns, and effects like rain on the camera in the outside levels are pleasing. The animation of the fighters is reasonable, but I detected several skips in long cycles (such as taunts). Another niggle is the (seemingly) cheap trick of using static images behind the spoken script for the cutscenes. This smacks of laziness in my book. Not that they would be much more interesting at all if they were fully animated.
The sound in the game is also a bit shabby in some areas. Some licensed metal tracks from bands such as of Korn are included, but generic thrash/techno music dominates the fight scenes. The moves donít sound like they connect at all, and frankly, the budget was probably spent on getting that broken bone crunch and pop just right, and inconceivably, there is no sound during some of the victory sequences Ė although clearly some of the characters are speaking. The small amount of voice acting is reasonable, with a bit of hamming up here and there.
Fight Club could have been so much more. This game is basically based on rule eight of Fight Club, and not much else. Even an interesting presentation style to reflect the direction and editing of the film would have given it some substance. Itís a case of too little, far too late, I am afraid.