Version tested: Xbox One
There are so many things wrong with Fighter Within it's impossible to keep count. The first thing you notice is the gesture recognition. Kinect struggles to comprehend the most basic of hand movements. Performing simple actions requires gargantuan amounts of perseverance and luck, and frequently leaves you frustrated, furious and exhausted. And that's just the menu screens.
So that's thing one. Thing two: the characters. Perhaps you thought that now the next generation is here, we could say goodbye to fighting game rosters populated by tedious racist caricatures and women who have decided the most practical thing to wear when engaging in vicious hand-to-hand combat is metallic hotpants.
But no! Say hello to DJ Joao. One of two black characters in the game, he fights not only with a pair of headphones attached to his belt but while wearing a pair of earbuds, just in case anyone forgot for a moment that he is a DJ. I suspect he lives in fear of an opponent one day discovering he is listening to Mumford and Sons.
The other black character in the game can "communicate with voodoo spirits". Her biography reveals she lost her family in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. No, not too soon, perfectly appropriate, well done.
Don't worry, white people, you get stereotyped too! Meet kilt-wearing ginger thug Feargas (sic). "A ruined Scottish aristocrat and blacksmith, he divides his time between renovating the family castle, playing rugby and boxing." There's also a blonde Russian woman who dresses like a prostitute, the usual collection of assorted ethnic minorities sporting shaved heads and vaguely tribal tattooos, and a cockerny twat who pronounces dojo "dodgo".
Best of all, each character utilises the exact same fighting style and has more or less the same special moves. So choosing who to play as feels arbitrary, and comes down to things like who has the best haircut or looks the least 90s.
But a bigger problem with Fighter Within crops up during the actual fights. The best thing that can be said about these is that Kinect recognises basic punches and kicks, some of the time, and the characters on-screen react accordingly, some of the time. Following a slight delay.
Issues occur the minute there is any attempt to perform more complex moves such as throws, combos and counters. Sometimes you can pick up a pole to unleash a "Stick Attack". There's some nonsense about building up your "Ki" meter, which is achieved by standing still with your arms out. Ki can be unleashed to powerful effect, theoretically.
The problem is it's impossible to perform the majority of these moves deliberately. Pulling one off always feels like the result of luck rather than skill. It's as if the Kinect can't cope with complex manoeuvres, so the game chucks in special stuff at random to create the illusion of layers of complexity. There are layers in a s*** sandwich, but it's still a s*** sandwich.
Even worse are the "cinematic" moments within every fight; in-game cut-scenes, basically. One minute you're punching away, the next a video camera icon appears on screen and you're forced to stand back and watch, motionless and powerless, as something exciting unfolds on the screen. This ruins the flow of fights and reinforces the sense of being an observer rather than a participant.
That feeling persists even when playing against a human opponent. "Brawling with your friends will never feel the same!", promises the back of the box. This at least is true, unless you and your friends' concept of brawling involves standing side-by-side and flailing about like a pair of camp kittens trying to climb a wall of butter.
All the issues affecting the single-player mode are present here. The random nature of the way fights unfold means there's no feeling of victory for the winner and a vague sense of injustice for the loser. Both of you will be too knackered and fed up to attempt a rematch.
So that's at least seven other things. Here's one more: the dialogue. Sample:
"I gotta run... Someone's waiting for me."
"Yeah... My knuckles."
Spectacular stuff. But these are all relatively minor issues. The biggest problem with Fighter Within, the thing that's actively depressing, is the fact we've been here before. This game is not the product of a failed but bold experiment. It's the sequel to Fighters Uncaged, which launched with the original Kinect back in 2010. That game was terrible, infuriating and almost unplayable. This game is terrible, infuriating and almost unplayable, but with slightly better graphics.
Ubisoft should be ashamed of itself for trying to peddle more of this nonsense. And Microsoft needs its giant cyborg head examined for thinking this is a great way to show off the capabilities of its new hardware. It's like Tampax launching an ad campaign fronted by Danny Dyer.
Which brings us to a total of at least 18 things, plus about seven thousand more I've forgotten to mention. I can't be bothered to count them all up, so let's just finish with a nice round number.
1 / 10