FaceBreaker

Heads will roll.

The world of sport is full of well-known faces that have, over the course of a reckless career, been battered, bent, chipped, chinned, mashed and mangled well beyond Mother Nature's original design. Footy defenders, rugger buggers and, of course, boxers all proudly wear their disfigurements as if they'd wandered into a plastic surgeon's office clutching a photo of Sloth out of The Goonies.

The rest of the world, meanwhile, is full of distinctly unmolested visages that have somehow survived the swings and elbows of outrageous fortune, even when all the available evidence suggests they are more than deserving of a slap. FaceBreaker, from the team behind the disfiguringly meaty Fight Night series, aims to change all that.

We'll get onto that in due course. First, the basics. Unlike the realistic simulation of its stablemate, FaceBreaker is 'arcade boxing', following in the tradition of stylised fighters like Nintendo's Punch Out and, more relevantly, Midway's Ready 2 Rumble. EGTV has the trailer for you, so check that out.

It's seven and a half years since the release of Ready 2 Rumble: Round 2, a series which sold pretty well back in the day, and EA freely admits it is exploiting a cartoon boxer-shaped gap in the market. (Incidentally, 10Tacle Studios now owns the rights to Ready 2 Rumble and is supposed to be working on a new instalment).

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Romeo's special move involves feeding people boiled sweets, by the look of it.

"It's really about bringing the old-school gaming experience with the new-gen look and feel," reckons senior producer Dean Richards, who's demoing us the PS3 version in a faceless room deep inside EA Canada.

And by old-school he means a balanced line-up of fighters sporting a range of styles to suit players' tastes; offering a classic one-on-one fighting experience, as the team sees it, certainly without any of the stat-honing and (frankly, tedious) training rituals of Fight Night. "It's very balanced gameplay - you have to learn what all the characters are about," Richards chips in.

This clearly isn't Virtua Fighter 4, however. FaceBreaker will be the first title to release under EA's new Freestyle label, announced just over a week ago by our old friend Peter Moore. Freestyle replaces the equally cheesy 'BIG' brand, casting the net wider to target the equally elusive and terrifying Casual Gamer.

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A bit of showboating while the other guy's down. Or CrowdLOLsing(TM) as it's probably called.

But don't you dare say "dumbed down!" - it upsets Peter, for one thing. Rather, Richards claims it's a "simplified, easy to pick-up-and-play gameplay experience that really allows the chance for discovery and to get into more depth of how you fight".

On PS3 and 360, face buttons are used to administer light and strong attacks, with the shoulders employed for defence and combos. The game uses a "rock, paper, scissors mechanic" to even out the odds, where "light beats strong beats defence beats light". You can also dash, parry, throw and dodge.

Tactical depth is introduced via the Breaker Meter. Tucked into the bottom-left of the screen, this has four segments, each of which you can fill for increasingly devastating and outrageous attacks. Fill one for a Bonebreaker, two for a Groundbreaker, three for a Skybreaker and, finally, the full four bars for Facebreaker: "the ultimate finishing move!" enthuses Richards. Pull off a Facebreaker and you'll win the fight instantly (it's three knockdowns otherwise); but fully charging your Breaker Meter is tough, we're assured.

The only way to build it is through landing consecutive hits. "We want you to be constantly on the offensive. If I start to build up this meter and stop - it immediately goes away," explains Richards. That also happens if you get smacked back in the midst of your onslaught. "It becomes a risk/reward mechanic. Do I get to the first level and cash it in?"

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